Duolingo is a website and app that lets you learn languages for free. The application is simple enough for anyone to use and is highly effective for picking up a new language or practicing if you’ve gotten a little rusty from lack of practice.
This is the greatest app I’ve come across for learning a new language. The fact that it is free is rather incredible, considering that the industry leader, Rosetta Stone, has a minimum price price of $169 for a 6-month online subscription. Beyond just being effective, it’s fun to use and is built in such a way that you are constantly challenging yourself.
Duolingo offers a total of 40 different courses. English speakers can choose from Spanish, Danish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Irish, Swedish, Turkish, Hungarian, Russian, Esperanto, Ukrainian, Polish, Romanian or Dutch. According to the website there are over 50 million users of Duolingo around the world.
Based on a study conducted by the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina it takes the average person between 24 and 49 hours to learn the content that would be included in a single semester of college level Spanish using Duolingo. Since a semester course of Spanish would typically involve more than 34 hours of course work they have deduced that Duolingo is more effective than learning a language in a classroom setting.
Whether or not your learning style is better suited to Duolingo or a college setting, I can certainly say that using Duolingo has many benefits. First, it’s free. 100% free. Good luck finding a college class that is free.
Having the option to use your Duolingo account from multiple devices (computer, iPad or an app that you can download to your iPhone or Android device) makes it easy to stay on top of your goals.
After setting up your account you can take a quick test to determine what skill level you are currently at with the language of your choice. You can then also decide what your goals are. This includes passing tests each day. Each ‘test’ takes only about 5 minutes to complete. In order to complete your test you have three chances to fail; after failing three times you are required to start over.
The tests consist of vocabulary questions where you must match a word to it’s meaning or a word to an image that depicts the meaning. There are also pronunciation questions (where you must speak the word or phrase), and comprehension questions (where you must listen and type in what you’ve heard).
Based on your performance some words will be rotated back into questions in order to review and test your long term memory. This is a feature of huge importance, as typically when learning a language the process of memorizing words in order to pass a test or quiz doesn’t lead to full understanding and long term retention of the new vocabulary.
Beyond the regular training within Duolingo, as you progress you have the option to translating real articles from the internet based on category and level of difficulty.