Duolingo – The best app free for language learning
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Duolingo is a free language-learning and crowdsourced text translation platform, currently offering 5 language courses to English speakers (Latin American Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Italian), as well as a variety of other courses (mostly American English, but also Spanish and French) to native speakers of other languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and many more.
Duolingo launched for the general public in mid-2012, and as of early 2014 it has a whopping 25+ million users. The program is completely free to use, with no ads or hidden fees: as mentioned on their About Page, Duolingo can sustain itself by letting its users translate real-world documents while they’re learning languages. Third parties that need their websites translated, for example, could pay Duolingo to do that.
How Does It Work?
Choose your level on DuolingoAfter you choose the language you wish to learn, you have the option of starting right from the beginning (Basics 1), which presumes you have no prior background in the language. You also have the option of “taking a shortcut” and directly jumping to later lessons in the app version, or passing a short “placement test” in the web version, to see what Level you might best fit in.
Different levels in DuolingoThrough Duolingo, you get to learn languages in a more “traditional” way, in the sense that you learn vocabulary in stages, starting with things such as the present tense, animals, food, plurals, possessive, clothing, conjunctions, etc. Within each of these levels, you have anywhere from one to 8-9 or more lessons, which in turn comprise a number of exercises. As you progress, the phrases you practice in the lessons/exercises get progressively more complex. Additional verb tenses are introduced much later as you progress through many levels.
There are dozens of sets of lessons at Duolingo called Skills. Some of them include the following: Basics, Phrases, Food, Present, Adjectives, Plurals, Family, Questions, Numbers, Household, Colors, Comparison, Qualifiers, Measure, Clothing, Animals, Prepositions, Dates & Time, Nature, and Medical.
The lessons include images, text, and audio, and sometimes has you speak into a microphone (if you have one) to test your speaking and pronunciation skills.
You can take each lesson one after the other to gradually move into more difficult concepts, or you can choose to test out where you take one quiz that combines a little of each lesson into one big test. A couple test out options are available for a handful of skills. If you pass a test out, you can pass over all of those lessons and start somewhere a bit more advanced.
Because Duolingo has a test out option, it can be beneficial for both someone who needs to brush up on their language skills as well as someone who’s brand new to the language.
There’s also a section at Duolingo called Stories that’s perfect for intermediate and advanced language learners. You can red mini-stories in the language you’re learning and then take a quiz over the story to find out how much you understood. Right now Duolingo Stories is only available in Spanish and Portuguese but more language should be added soon.
Duolingo’s Discussions is a message board where you can chat about Duolingo in general or visit a language section and discuss the lessons as well as practice your language skills with other Duolingo members.
A user account isn’t required to use Duolingo, but it’s recommended if you want to keep track of your progress.
Duolingo also has free mobile apps for learning a new language so you can take the lessons with you wherever you go.
Duolingo is available to use on the main devices you own, from your desktop, tablet, and smartphone. All you have to do to get started is to create a free account, and choose the language you want to learn.
1. Test your language skills:
Duolingo offers an optional, free placement test that allows you to evaluate what language level you are. Keep in mind that it may not be a 100% accurate, since it’s algorithmic based and you’re only being tested for your grammar and vocabulary skills.
For example, you could be an B+ Spanish speaker, but your grammar skills could be C-.
2. Start with the basic vocabulary:
If you’ve chosen the beginner route, you’ll start by learning the most basic vocabulary through a multiple choice format. These include learning words like gender, animals, man versus woman, etcetera.
3. Start putting sentences together:
Once you’ve progressed to a deeper level, you’ll be asked to complete more complex tasks such as putting sentences together and translating them. Duolingo also has ‘hearts’ that represent the number of chances you get before you’re asked to start over. This is where the gamification comes in.
4. Level up until you complete the course:
Duolingo requires you to level up progressively, and you cannot skip levels until you’ve completed the previous course.
My Thoughts on Duolingo:
Duolingo’s website and apps are both super user-friendly. The simple design ensures you aren’t confused when using them, which is great because learning a language can be difficult in and of itself.
I like the keyboard shortcuts because they let you quickly submit your answers, play audio, move through lists, choose multiple choice answers, and more.
I think Duolingo is one of the better places for learning a new language. The mixture of audio, images, and text, coupled with your own voice input makes you put more focus into the learning process, which is more than you can say for traditional language learning resources like textbooks.