Duolingo: A New Way to Learn a New Language

I have an inherent love of electronics and video games that comes from being the youngest of the Gen Xers or the oldest of the Millennials, depending upon which time frame you use. This love has not always been a good thing nor has it been confined to my childhood. I have wasted hours (read: years) of my life enthralled by this pixelated crack as evidenced by this week’s obsession: Duolingo.

To be fair, Duolingo is not so much video game as it is a language learning site with a game-like feel. The Pittsburgh-based company has been around since 2011. It has a website and an app for both Android and iPhone. This free site is mainly geared toward native English speakers who can choose from the below languages. There are also a smattering of languages available to native speakers of other languages.

Spanish

French

German

Italian

Portuguese

Russian

Japanese

Dutch

Swedish

Irish

Turkish

Norwegian

Danish

Polish

Hebrew

Korean

Greek

Vietnamese

Esperanto

Chinese

Ukrainian

Welsh

Hungarian

Romanian

Swahili

High Valyrian (from Game of Thrones)

Coming Soon…

Czech

Klingon (from Star Trek)

Hindi

Indonesian

Arabic

 

Mobile ImageWhat’s great about Duolingo is that it makes learning a new language a lighthearted and fun experience. Not that you would expect anything less from a site that includes two fictional languages in its repertoire. It breaks down learning into bite-sized lessons that can be completed in about five minutes.

img_0443Users gain experience points (XP) for completing lessons and advance in levels based upon XP. Mastery is measured by the Fluency Score. This score increases with consistent practice and as new skills are learned. With multiple ways to measure progress, users finish each lesson with a sense of accomplishment.

There are also several social elements to Duolingo that users may choose to take advantage of. Users can connect with real-life friends through Facebook. They also have the option of joining virtual groups with others who are learning the same language. Finally, there is an events feature that gives users the option of meeting in person with fellow language learners.

img_0442Lingots are Duolingo’s virtual currency. Users earn them each time they complete a new skill or reach a new level. Lingots can be used in the shop to purchase power-ups, bonus skills, and outfits for Duo, the mascot who guides users through their studies.

They are constantly improving the site and adding new features. This is part of what keeps me coming back. As I was flipping through the site in preparation for writing this post, I noticed that they added discussion boards, stories, and podcasts. There is always something new to explore – a definite plus to those of us with short attention spans.