October 1, 2014

Duolingo - Comprehensive language-learning in your pocket

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Duolingo finally brought their web-favorite language-learning software to Android, and it is easily the best way to start learning a new language on the go.  Duolingo brings all its web features to our smartphones including broken hearts, trophies, and a sleek interface.

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It is no secret that learning a new language takes a lot of practice, memorization, and time as languages are subtle, loaded with nouns, verbs, and adjectives to memorize, and can completely take you out of your element.  Duolingo’s service offers a scientific way to study words, their meanings, and the multiple ways a language uses them in and out of context.  There are plenty of barriers to stop you from learning a new language, but Duolingo attempts to break down the most-pressing issues like price and availability.

I have used Duolingo on the web previously to learn German so syncing up my profile was a priority.  Fortunately, Duolingo’s sign up and sync were easy, and I was able to quickly get started where I had previously left off.  You can finish levels on your computer then get started on the next level almost instantly.  This was a necessary feature, and it pays off brilliantly.

Starting a lesson or a language is just as simple.  In the top banner, Duolingo has a semi-holo interface where a drop-down menu allows you to select the language you want to learn on the right side or, on the left side, you can look at your profile or practice within your selected language.  As you finish levels, more are unlocked, and you can choose which levels you want to learn before others, which lets you tailor your lessons depending on if you are ordering food or buying clothes.

Levels include listening, writing, speaking, and reading.  As you progress, these will become intertwined, but the first few levels are fairly easy.  The listening aspect is difficult on a mobile device as you want to give it your full attention, but outside sounds may influence what you hear.  The same can be said for the speaking aspects as your voice may be drowned out.  I still find it a little strange to speak to my phone when not on a call so I would like to be able to pause or skip these sections for a later time.

Reading and writing, on the other hand, are accessible and surprisingly quick despite having to read and judge your answers while having pictures and other options on the screen.  Writing is as easy as reading a sentence and translating it, though I would have liked the additional characters in a language to be on-screen instead of you having to find them within your keyboard.  Reading is similar to writing, although there are multiple-choice quizzes as well to help you visualize the vocabulary.

[pullquote1 quotes="true" align="center" textColor="#000000"]Duolingo is great, useful example of gamification.[/pullquote1]

Like the browser version of Duolingo, the mobile version gives you tokens and points for completing levels.   You also have to complete levels within five attempts or your hearts will break, and you will have to start the level over.  This idea of positive reinforcement with a bit of a challenge can be a great motivator in finishing a challenging level.  Duolingo is great, useful example of gamification.

If you are at all interested in learning a language, Duolingo is the first place you should look.  Not only does it create a challenging but rewarding atmosphere, but Duolingo adds the ability to learn on your computer and on your smartphone so that you will never have the excuse that you cannot get to your lesson.  The Duolingo mobile app is excellent in every way, and for being free, you really have no excuse not to brush up on your high-school Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, or Italian.

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What we liked

  • Great design and UI.
  • Immersive and fully featured.
  • Challenging and rewarding experience.

What could be improved

  • It would be nice to be able to skip the speaking/listening exercises and come back to them later.
  • Additional characters not standard on an English keyboard should be added to the screen when you have to type words.

[download_link link="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.duolingo&feature=nav_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDMsImNvbS5kdW9saW5nbyJd"]Download Duolingo (Google Play)[/download_link]

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