Duolingo is a free website and mobile app that helps you learn foreign languages. Using it, you can learn and strengthen your skills in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, or German.
How it Works
First, of course, is to make an account on Duolingo. I believe you can sign up through Facebook if you want; if you’re like me, you can just sign up through email. Then, you can choose what language you would like to learn. As of right now, there are only the Romantic languages and German available for English speakers. After you have signed up, you can immediately begin learning.
Each lesson has a focus on a certain aspect of the language. The lessons focus on your reading and writing abilities, with a bit of aural as well. The web version tends to not have exercises where you practice speaking the language, but the iOS app does (though I’m not sure I trust its veracity, having definitely mangled a few words and still getting a checkmark).
The lessons themselves are primarily exercises. Sometimes you get a sentence, in either English or the language you are learning, and you must translate it into the other language. Words that the lesson is focusing on are yellow, and if you can’t determine what the word means through context clues, you can always click on it or hover over it to get the translation. Other exercises have you listen to a sentence in the language you are learning, and you have to transcribe what you are hearing. The lessons are rather quick paced, but they have a lot of practice in them so you will be sure to learn the words from that lesson.
If you have some knowledge of the language and you don’t want to go through the elementary lessons, you can always test out of the lesson – sometimes you can test out of several at a time. It’s not necessarily a fast way to fastforward to where you’re at, but it definitely is faster than going through each individual lesson.
I’ve only been using this app/website for about a week, but I feel like I’ve learned way more in that amount of time than that same time spent in a classroom. I really like the way the lessons are structured, so you have plenty of opportunities to see the words used in sentences rather than just learning the words for vocab and having little to know knowledge on how to use them.
I think the pace you can learn the language is much faster than LiveMocha, another site that can teach you languages for free, and I really like that, because I often learn fast and get bored if I don’t see new material. However, there’s still a lot of ways you can review, as the words you learned in previous lessons show up in later lessons, and you can also choose just to review the words you know.
Once you get comfortable at the language you’re learning, you can go to the immersion page of the website to practice. It has various articles, from Wikipedia pages to different web articles, that are in the language you are learning and need to be translated to English. You can translate sentences and vote up or down other people’s translations. I think that is by far the coolest feature on this site, as you can actually witness the language in action and test how you are really doing.
The only real downside to this website and app is the lack of languages to choose from. However, the people behind Duolingo are working on getting other languages into their website – a few of these include Dutch, Russian, and Polish. However, all of these are not even close to being ready, and I probably would expect those languages to become available for at least a couple years, though I could be wrong.
Even so, the lessons are very thorough, and I hope they do as good of a job on those languages as they did the current languages they have.
If you’d like to learn a Romantic language or German, this is a really cool, really fun website to use. The app is extremely easy to use as well, so you can even learn on the go. I hope you all check it out!