Game you way to a new language with Duolingo

Ever wanted to learn an new language but found lessons boring or couldn’t afford the software? Duolingo has the answer.

Duolingo is a free language learning tool that teaches you one of a number of languages. Right now you can learn Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Esperanto, Turkish, Norwegian and Ukrainian. More languages are planned for the future.

What began as a way for Central and Southern Americans to learn English to improve their lives rapidly expanded to enable any of us, anywhere, to learn to speak another language. It is a very effective way for anyone to widen their world view and learn something new at the same time.

Why is Duolingo so good?

There are two reasons why Duolingo is our top pick for learning a new language. First, it uses gamification to entice you to learn and secondly, it’s free.

Gamification is where something uses game mechanics and psychology in its design. In Duolingo’s case it uses the concept of levels, unlocks, lives and achievements to make you want to learn more. Anyone who doubts that this philosophy works should try Duolingo and see for themselves. We found out first-hand how effective it is!

One you sign up and choose your language, you are presented with a home screen. This shows your learning roadmap. Each lesson has to be taken sequentially and once completed, will unlock the next. Much like you gain levels in a computer game, you gain levels to access more lessons in Duolingo.

You also have “streaks” which increment every day you log in and complete a lesson. There are also “hearts” as lives that decrease every time you get something wrong. All combine to create a compelling environment that encourages you to learn.

Now to that second part. The part about Duolingo being free. It is free to use, forever. One of the many ways the tool is so clever is that it makes money by offering translation services to businesses.

Once you achieve a required level, you will be offered the chance to help translate the web. You will be given a choice of some text to translate at your current level to help out. The genius is that you give your time for free by helping Duolingo make enough money to continue, but you also benefit by supplementing the lessons with real life translations. It is a very clever way to work as everyone gets something out of it.

The lessons

The lessons in Duolingo are similar to those in other language learning platforms. They include learning by listening and repetition, reading and using new words in sentences, reinforcement by repeating works in different contexts and by continuous use throughout succeeding lessons.

The learning curve is very gentle, with the early lessons being very easy to build confidence and ability and to get you used to learning. Once you’re hooked and into gaining your levels, the difficulty gradually increases.

The pace and lesson content has a nice balance and enough variety to keep even the most jaded learner interested. We think Duolingo is currently the best free way to learn a new language and uses the right levels of challenge and reward to keep you interested. If you’re interested in learning something new, we thoroughly recommend it!

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