When I go abroad, it is very important to me to be able to speak a few words in the language of the destination that I visit.
In my opinion this shows respect for the culture and the people. But it also puts a smile on people’s faces when foreigners try to pronounce certain words and get it wrong or sound funny. At least we are trying! 🙂
But speaking another language also opens up doors for oneself. This can be meeting new people, but it can also help you in your job. Especially nowadays as the world is becoming smaller and smaller and we have the chance to meet and interact with lots of people from all over the world.
Therefore, I have decided to learn a new language: Spanish.
I tried Spanish courses and Rosetta Stone and they were great. However, I did not extend my Spanish course as life got too busy at that time and the Rosetta Stone licence expired and I did not extend it. I did start learning a new language several times, but never really stuck to it. Enter Duolingo.
WHAT IS DUOLINGO
Duolingo is a language learning platform, both website and app based. The company offers over 20 different languages and around 90 different language courses.
The platform is free to use as it is sponsored through advertisement. However, users can upgrade to premium plus for a fee to avoid the adverts.
HOW CAN I JOIN?
Signing up is straight forward and super easy. All you need to do is go to their website and create a user account. This can be through Facebook for instance.
Once you are signed up you are good to go!
HOW DOES THE PROGRAM WORK?
After you signed up it is time to select the language you are interested in. You can also select multiple languages if you want to learn more than one.
Next, you would select your language goal/target. Basically how much time you are willing to spend each day to study or how many XP (Experience Points) you want to earn. These should be achievable as the aim is to get you to commit to that time you set every day. You can always start low and increase your target later.
The language platform has several sections that are important to understand in order to make the most of it.
First we have the Hearts. They are your life points. The maximum number of Hearts you can have is five. Every time you make a mistake you lose one Heart.
On the free version, you are not allowed to continue practicing unless you have a minimum of one Heart. If you run out of them, you need to wait some hours for them to be refilled or you can sometimes earn some more to continue by purchasing a Heart through using some Gems or doing some extra practice lessons.
As you can see from the Flag, I am studying Spanish at the moment. The Flag indicates the language you are currently studying.
We have the Crown. The Crowns show you how many levels you have completed in total. I have completed 37 levels so far. Each module such as Travel is made up of 5 levels.
The Gem indicates how much “money” you have earned. You earn Gems when you complete lessons and when you have reached your daily goal/target. You can purchase certain extras with those Gems such as extra lesson content for instance Flirting, Streak Freezes, Hearts etc.
Lastly, we have the Fire, which is referring to the Streak Freeze. I am on a seven Day Streak at the moment, which means that I have studied every day for seven days in a row. You can purchase a Streak to earn more Gems.
Here is an example of how the modules and levels look like for Spanish:
You can see there is a variety of modules such as Restaurant, Family etc. You need to finish five full levels to complete one module. I have completed the modules Restaurant, Family and Shopping. They have five Crowns, but not School, People and Idioms. Sometimes you have to complete certain modules first before you can unlock another one.
Once you have completed all the modules in one lesson (for Spanish there are seven at the moment), there is a Checkpoint challenge that tests everything that you have learned in that lesson. When you complete this Checkpoint successfully, you move on to the next lesson. This of course builds on the previous lesson, but also adds new content to it.
Overall the way Duolingo works is very easy. You complete lessons to finish different topic modules. When you complete modules, new once are unlocked. For every mistake you make you lose a Heart. The more you study, the more you learn and hopefully the better you get.
HOW ARE THE LESSONS SET UP?
There are different lesson formats. Sometimes you have to pronounce words or repeat sentences. Sometimes it is a listening exercise. Below is an example.
Other times you have to listen and write down words or a full sentence. The more you progress the harder and more complex the sentence structure gets.
Another learning exercise is to pair words, the English with the Spanish equivalent, or put words in the right order to form the complete sentence that you just heard.
There is a lot of variety and sometimes you can amend the exercises a little as well. For example, when you are on the bus and not able to speak, you can mention this and the exercises will be adjusted accordingly. You might get more listening content in this case.
Duolingo has several motivational components to it. You can earn Gems to unlock extra learning content as I already mentioned, or you can purchase extra Hearts when you run out of them to continue studying.
But there is also a Leader Board every week that you can participate in. As you can see from the below, I am currently on rank 28 and I have earned 89 XP. The more experience I get and earn, the more I move up on the Leader Board. The top 10 of each week move up to the next league. I am a very competitive person, so this really motivates me to learn more and longer to get those XP and move up a league.
Another way to motivate people is the Achievement Board. These achievements differ and are not linked to the Leader Board. For instance, you can earn achievement points for completing your first five full levels in one module. Or you earn achievement points for completing lessons in a row without making a single mistake.
These are fun little activities in my opinion. If you are like me and do not like things to be incomplete, you will do everything you can to get all those achievements.
Lastly, you have the option to track your progress. I get reports send to me every week that show how much I have studied in that week and the previous weeks. This way you can really track how much time you have invested and maybe spot where you need to invest more possibly.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT DUOLINGO
- Easy to use
- Fun to learn with
- Easy to register and set up
- Competitive nature (eg. Leader Board)
- Progress tracking
- Reminders when you have not completed a lesson yet
- Very visual and interactive
- Can study anywhere with the App
- Repetitive so the vocabulary sticks in your head
- Motivational – makes you want to study more
- Introduction of Podcast
- Provide you with some study tips
SOME OF THE DOWNFALLS OF DUOLINGO
- Sometimes the system is buggy
- You cannot study offline with the free version
- Once your Hearts are used up, you sometimes cannot study anymore
- You have to wait for lessons to be unlocked that you are interested in
- Occasionally it can get a bit repetitive
FINAL THOUGHTS …
I really enjoy learning Spanish with Duolingo. I study every morning on my way to work and sometimes in the evening on my way back home through the App. I am looking forward to this every day.
I find the App very user friendly as it is easy to use, visually appealing and a lot of fun.
The Leader Board as well as the Achievement Board always push me a bit further to study more. And this is great for me as I am learning more and more every day.
I would recommend Duolingo 100% to anyone who is keen to start learning a new language. I love this language learning platform!
There are plenty of other language learning programs out there, I already mentioned Rosetta Stone and if you are looking for one I can recommend checking out Consumer Advocate for reviews on some of them including Pimsleur, Rocket Languages, Babbel and of course Duolingo. They have a really useful article Best Language Learning Software Based on In-Depth Reviews that describe the programs, show how the interface looks like and what they are well known for.
Start learning a language today!
What are your thoughts on online language learning platforms and apps?