By Emanuel Ortiz
Duolingo is a free app available on iPhone and Androids with the purpose of teaching you a language. It’s even available on your computer. Being free, there are certain areas it fails at, but overall, it is an amazing app for people getting started in a language and to those looking for help in one they’re currently learning.
You can use the app casually and slowly pick up words or you can rigorously practice a language using this app. There are different levels in the app after picking a language. You can say that you know nothing about the language and start on beginner or take a mini test to see how much you already know and get placed according to how well you do.
The app is divided into different skills, starting with basics, food, animals, and so forth. Assuming you start a new language, you’ll be starting with the skill stated as basics (you have to go in order from lowest skill to highest). Within each skill, there are several lessons (again available starting from lowest to highest). The number of lessons vary from skill to skill. The lowest amount of lessons is 1 and the max is 8. Each lesson takes about five to ten minutes to do depending on whether or not you want to take the time to completely understand what is being presented.
Within each lesson, there are a variety of exercises. Some exercise introduces a word and ask you to click on a picture with the translation to whichever language you’re learning. Other exercises give you a sentence that you translate or want you to vocally say so you get the pronunciation right and so forth. There are so many different exercises which is just great because they really do help you learn to read, write and speak the words that you’re given. There are times, however, that you might be confused with verbs. There are different conjugations, meaning different ways to pronounce and spell these verbs based on the pronoun before the verb. We don’t have this in English. In English, for example, if you want to use the verb run, you would say I run, you run, they run, we run and so forth. It would only change for the pronoun he/she where you would add an s to the end of the verb, like he runs, she runs.
Unless you know or have studied more than one language, this isn’t something that you necessarily think about. However, once learning a new language like French or Spanish, conjugations are really important and Duolingo doesn’t really address these conjugations. It sorts of throws it in the exercise and you are left wondering “why does that verb has ‘ent’ at the end and for what pronoun?” Without knowing how to conjugate these verbs, it’s difficult to form sentences which is what you ultimately hope to achieve by using such an app. That being said, you can click on the words you don’t know (if It’s the first time you’ve seen it) and it will tell you the meaning. This is what I meant earlier by the time taken to complete a lesson depends on how much you want to understand. Of course, it’s best if you actually take notes so you can remember the words and conjugations of verbs.
Besides this little misstep, I believe Duolingo is an amazing app for learning a language. I tried it over the summer to learn some French before my French class and it has honestly helped a lot. Returning to Duolingo after the class, I understand the verbs and pronouns more than I did without the class. The app taught me a lot of vocabulary but I feel as though the class was still essential to my learning of French.
Now, Duolingo is technically a game. That being said, after completing 3 lessons a day, you get a streak. If you miss a day, your streak ends so it essentially encourages you to keep on using the app to practice the language. If you keep up the streak however, you get more lingots which you can think of as the game’s currency. There isn’t a whole lot you can buy with them which is sort of a letdown. there are two skills, two outfits for your character, which you don’t even see when doing lessons so there’s that. Also, there is the option to freeze a streak in case you don’t use the app for a day and the option to “double or nothing.” With this, you can double the amount of lingots you get if you maintain a seven-day streak. The game aspect is a cool add on to a language learning device, but doesn’t add much.
All in all, Duolingo is an amazing app that helps those starting a language or continuing one. There are so many language learning programs that cost quite a lot to learn. This app is free which is really refreshing and it is, in all honesty, an amazing app for those learning a new language.
For those of you that are interested, here is their webpage: https://www.duolingo.com/