Level up and learn a new language at the same time with Duolingo – now on iPad
Languages can be tricky things, yet at the same time they are something that most of us wish we were better at, it’s a frustrating combination that often leads to impatience and ultimately giving up on trying to broaden your lingual horizons. Duolingo is trying its best to make this thought process a thing of the past – an already successful web program it has now found it’s way onto the App Store and Google Play.
Why is this different from any other language app? Well, for starters there are few occasions while submerged in the app that you ever feel like you’re in a learning environment, or stressed by what’s in front of you. The clever thing about Duolingo is that it has made the process of picking up a language feel wonderfully light-hearted through its memory game set-up, multiple-choice questions and interactive quizzes. The little pangs of joy you get from each right answer echo those you feel playing through a game – it never feels like you’re learning.
The structure of Duolingo is very straightforward, with five languages to choose from, each one is built around a tree system of sections, from the basics at the top, working your way down through common phrases and themes. The idea is you can’t move onto the next section until you’ve completed the current one, giving you the incentive to do so.
Another incentive is the competitive nature Duolingo is able to place on your learning by including a points system, as well as keeping tabs on the number of words you are confident on as it increases. These scores are measured against your friends in the Duolingo community to see who’s on top when it comes to being bilingual.
The sections themselves are very simplistic in look and functionality, with a mixture of typing, word-tile dropping and translation questions to answer. There are sentences to translate using the keyboard as well as Scrabble-like word tiles, but also more difficult questions that ask you to listen to audio of complete sentences and then translate it perfectly. The competitive side is also brought out by having a limited number of lives available per section, run out by answering questions incorrectly and you have to start the section again.
Duolingo certainly does a great job of making things feel light-hearted even when you’re in the depths of committing words and phrases to memory, and there is a strict teacher side to the app too, with email nudges to remind you of the course you’ve started should a fair amount of time pass between visits to the app. Not that coming back to the app is ever really a problem thanks to the overall structure of the lessons. Each one consists of no more than ten questions, meaning you can speed through a section fairly quickly, makes the size of the central tree diagram seem a bit less daunting.
Another thing that can be daunting with some language apps is the price, but that simply isn’t an issue when it comes to Duolingo, because the app is completely free. There aren’t even any in-app purchases to worry about, just the difference between nous and vous when you’re practising your French.
The only real criticism we can level at Duolingo at this stage is the range of languages on offer, with only five for now. Of course this has the potential to be expanded over time, and hopefully it will be to include some more far-flung dialects than the mainly European languages that are currently available.
Apps that give you that feeling of ‘achievement unlocked’ tend to be the most memorable and Duolingo most definitely fits into that bracket because of what it offers you. The memory games and variety of ways to interact – whether it be tapping, typing or speaking – all make for a genuinely fun experience, and there are plenty of professional educators out there who will tell you that is the way to teach, no matter the age or interests of your students.
As far as learning apps go, this is up there with the very best for experience and enjoyment in use.
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