We originally wrote about Duolingo two years ago for another website, with the caveat that you still needed an invite back then. Well it’s 2015 and things have changed!
Duolingo is a free website to learn a language. Currently, you can learn Spanish, French, German (deutsch lernen online here), Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Swedish, Danish, and Turkish. You can also learn Norwegian (Bokmal), Esperanto, and Ukrainian, but these are in beta. I’m learning Esperanto right now. (There are actually a lot more ways to learn, if you want to learn English as a speaker of another language. There’s even a test to earn an English certificate!)
We love Duolingo, whether we are logging on to pretend to finish learning the language we chose 3 years ago or picking a random made up language in Beta. Read on for all the highlights of this great, free, useful website that makes language-learning into an awesome game.
Even though Duo the Owl no longer pesters you at each and every wrong answer, he appears to still be on the right side, crying over me not reaching my daily goal. Be good to Duo. He is there to help you on your journey.
To start, make a profile and choose a language! I recommend connecting to Facebook, so that you can see if your friends use it too. It’s 2015, so the app probably won’t even require permissions to post to your Facebook, thank goodness.
Once you choose your language, you come to your skills tree. Esperanto has 43 skills, for example. Each skill consists of a few lessons. To complete a skill, you have to complete the lessons associated with the skill, usually about 3 of them. You can also always go back and redo lessons to refresh yourself. Over time, it will recommend that you go back to older lessons.
The skills start out very easy and fun. It will always start you with pretty basic sentences and useful vocabulary, with common words such as man, woman, girl, and boy. All the lessons generally include both grammar and vocabulary. You can read a bit about the lessons on the lessons page, but once you start, you are basically jumping into a quiz.
The site teaches you by having you complete various exercises, which include transcribing foreign audio, translating foreign sentences into English, repeating foreign audio into the microphone (which is optional if you don’t have one), identifying photos in the language, translating new vocabulary words to English, and choosing articles to match the nouns. It takes a little getting used to, but it starts off real clear and simple. It is genuinely helpful and progresses in a very intuitive way.
The site adds more vocabulary and grammar rules as you go forward through the skill tree. Different languages of course look a bit different, as for example Esperanto has one tense. As you answer questions correctly, the progress bar fills up. You answer questions until the bar is full. That’s great because if you are getting some wrong, you basically review them over and over until you get them right.
Every time you complete a part of a lesson, you get XP. With this, you level up and stuff. This is one of the best parts! Instantly easy to compete in! You get XP based on how many questions you answered correctly, usually. You can also set goals for yourself based on the amount of XP you want to earn per day. You can even get the site to email you a daily reminder.
You can follow your friends and enemies and when viewing your homescreen, it will automatically list what place you are in among them. It is fascinating. It is also much better than getting points for harvesting crops and shooting zombies. Each and every point will make you definitely smarter and everyone wants to be smarter! Points. To prove that you are even learning anything, Duolingo gives you little trophies and announces your level advances with much fanfare and exclamation marks.
Plus, there’s an app for that! The Duolingo app is nice to have on your phone if you want to refresh. Although, honestly, I don’t think it’s too useful overall. Most of the exercises require listening or speaking, and you may as well wait until you are on your computer with some quiet to focus on learning your new language.
Learning a language is a great skill and experience. Even only learning introductory phrases lets you understand a little more than you might have. It also helps you understand English even better, because of the sheer number of borrowed words! Being bilingual, the ultimate potential of Duolingo, basically makes you a superhero.