App Review: Learn A New Language With Duolingo



The details of the English language are something that I have always been very good at, and consequently, I had always had an interest in other languages. Especially interesting to me is the language of my ancestors, specifically German. I had taken two German language courses in college, but had always found the pace too rapid to learn the language effectively. Sure, I’d gotten some key base knowledge down, but the courses weren’t at a pace that suited me.

Duolingo-1Recently, I’d taken up learning German again, this time with the goal of finally becoming at least moderately fluent. Enter Duolingo, to date the easiest way I have found to improve my foundation of the German language. But it’s not just German that’s supported – Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and English are all supported languages as well. Not only that, but the developers of the software are constantly adding support for speakers of other languages to learn the previously mentioned languages with lesson plans.

Awarded PC Magazine Editors’ Choice for Language Learning, Duolingo allows users to take their lessons on the go. The best part? It’s totally free. No ads, fees, or annoying, gimmicky click-throughs before you can get down to learning.

After using Duolingo during my spare time for about a month, I’ve noticed that I’m really enjoying learning German. This applies not only to learning new words and phrases, but also the nitty gritty details like word genders and tenses. Some lessons have a status bar that degrades over time, which acts as a reminder that your previous knowledge needs to be revisited from time to time because, as the adage goes, if you don’t use, it you lose it. The interesting thing about Duolingo is that even going back to refresh your prior knowledge is fun, and after you spend a little time with the app, you’ll begin to figure out why.

Duolingo-3Most of us like to be challenged, but not to the extent that we see it as an unfair fight. Duolingo excells at making the user feel challenged but rewarded. Every lesson is slightly different every time you take it, even the ones you’ve already completed or are redoing because you’ve failed them. Duolingo changes the lessons up ever so slightly so that the user exercises their knowledge and is willing to think outside the box. The trick here is that but the user never realizes that they’re working a bit differently because the situation still feels comfortable and familiar.

Duolingo gamifies  learning a different language, which keeps the user engaged and stress-free. Lessons include word/image selections, pronunciation drills (which can be turned off if necessary), multiple choice questions, and translation drills both from and to your native language. Each lesson has a certain number of allowed incorrect answers, designated by hearts. If you run out of hearts, you have there do the lesson over again, but remember that it won’t be the same questions as before! There are a number of lessons in each section that must be completed before moving on to the next tier, though if you already have knowledge of a particular set of tiers you can select the “take a shortcut” option and test out of it.

Duolingo-5Don’t think that just because the app is free, you’re getting jipped out of anything. As of this writing, there are 37 tiers of lessons for the German language alone, and around the same number for all of the other supported languages. Things start simple, but if you look ahead at the later tiers of lessons, you’ll see that you’re going to learn much, much more. Formalities, comparisons, adjectives, travel nouns, feelings, dative pronouns – you name it, you’re getting a lesson on it. Hard to feel shorted with that sort of deal!

I really can’t recommend this app enough – it gets 5 stars, hands down. Duolingo has brought legitimate language learning lessons to mobile devices at absolutely no cost to the user and without sacrificing much of anything. Duolingo couples this with an ever-expanding library of languages and continued support through a program called the Incubator, where users and language experts can go assist in creating new language courses. This app is a no brainer for folks who want to learn casually.

Duolingo is available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.


Image Sources: Wikipedia

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Last Updated on July 4, 2014.


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