In English speaking countries we often take it for granted that many other nations choose to learn English as a second language and that many international affairs are conducted in our mother tongue. It makes it easy for us and, as a result, languages are generally not as favoured in education (at least from my experience).
Learning a second language really can be a great asset and Duolingo aims to make that process as easy as possible.
Duolingo “gamifies” the language learning experience by incorporating things common in games like achievements, levelling up, losing lives and so on making using the app fun and challenging. Duolingo also promises that the service will be “free now and forever” which is great for people who would like to learn a language in their spare time but don’t want to commit to an expensive online qualification or one with an educational establishment.
The Duolingo app is available on iPhone and iPad, as well as on Android and accessible online, and currently offers the opportunity to learn French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
In the app, you work through different categories, unlocking further categories as you complete them with each new category increasing in difficulty.
Categories contain reading, writing and speaking tests in order to help you gain a well-rounded knowledge of the language you’re learning – these must be completed, without losing all of your lives, to move on to the next category. Each test is short and can be completed in your free time, especially good for commuters who could even learn a language on their daily trip to work.
Using the app really is fun and can be completed in your own time and at your own pace. It starts off pretty basic and feels a tad repetitive but I guess this is essential in solidifying your knowledge. As you unlock more categories, and your vocabulary expands, it becomes increasingly difficult.
The gamified nature of the app really does keep the experience interesting as well as enjoyable which is something missing from competing products and the user interface is well-designed and easy to use. There’s also a social element if you link up Duolingo to your Facebook account with leaderboards allowing for some friendly language learning competition with your pals.
If you’re seriously considering learning a second language in your spare time, Duolingo could be worth a try before you shell out on a more expensive alternative.
TiP rating: 9/10
iTunes link: Duolingo