Why I love Duolingo and why you should too
It may be no surprise to people that my favourite language learning app is Duolingo and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
The popularity of Duolingo is incredible and everyone I talk to who uses it feels a similar way to me. And let’s face it, it’s fun, addictive and the interface is beautiful.
Duolingo is so large now, that there are 300 million active language learners using the platform. There are 21.8 million English speakers learning Spanish alone and 12.7 million learning French.
The app is almost cultish.
What is Duolingo?
For those of you who haven’t encountered Duolingo before:
Duolingo is a free app with courses for up to 29 languages (and 3 in beta stage) at the time I am posting this. They are developing new courses all the time so I wouldn’t be surprised if this number changed quickly.
There are courses available to native speakers of other languages besides English, although the selection isn’t as large.
Duolingo also offer conlangs as well. These are fictional languages, that are usually created for Television, movies or books. The conlangs Duolingo currently offers are Klingon, High Valyrian and the most famous constructed language: Esperanto.
How it works:
Each language course is set up in modules, which you have to complete before you can progress to the next one.
If a module is too easy for you, rather than work your way through all of the lessons, Duolingo offers you the option to test out. I tend not to use this as I like the practise but it comes in useful if you’ve already done the material before or if it’s just too easy.
You work your way through the lessons to complete the module. Once you’ve completed the module the little circle changes colour. You can then redo the module four more times until the circle turns to gold.
The lessons themselves comprise of different components, to help you practise the four fundamental language skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing (or in this instance typing.)
The lessons start easy and progress with difficult. My favourite aspect of this is that it gives you the tools to construct sentences.
Duolingo encourages you to practise, which I’m a big fan of. If you’ve finished a module and redone it until it’s gone gold but you still want to practise that language, you can! It’s very easy and it helps you to go back to vocabulary and grammar that you’ve already learned.
Duolingo motivates you
The reason I like Duolingo so much, is that the app is designed to motivate you to keep learning.
When people learn a new language one of the main problems they find is after the initial motivation, they get bored, or they forget to practise and they end up stopping or giving in.
Duolingo has been designed to help combat that and keep you motivated, which is definitely something I need!
It manages to do this through a variety of ways:
Firstly the use of gold circles. When you have completed a module five times, the module turns gold. This may sound like a silly thing but the use of gold makes learners more likely to complete the module
Secondly, Duolingo tells you how many days streak you’re on. There are people now who have been doing Duolingo for over 1000 days and this number is shown to them everytime they log on. No one wants to break a long streak so you’re more likely to do your allocated daily learning.
Duolingo can send you reminders to encourage you to do your learning for the day. This is completely up to you. If you don’t like reminders and emails you can choose not to receive any. But if you’re forgetful and want to take your learning seriously you can choose to receive reminders through text, email, the app or push notifications.
You can join clubs with people you know or complete strangers who are learning the same language as you. In the club there is a leader board with all the members and the xp they’ve done that week. This competitiveness really encourages you to do more exercises. Each week this leader board refreshes and the race begins again.
If you’re not a competitive person then don’t worry. Some groups are set up to see who can do the maximum amount and other groups are a lot more laid back. You can search to see which one works for you.
The best part of this is that you feel like you’re in a community.
Duolingo plus enables you to access added features for a monthly subscription fee.
The main feature that cause people to download Duolingo plus is that it allows you to download lessons for free and complete them without internet connection.
I can understand why this is appealing especially if you have a long flight or you don’t want to use up your data, but as someone who is always around wifi, this isn’t so much of an issue for me.
My aunty however is a huge fan of this!
Other Features of Duolingo
On the website Duolingo has some really cool additional features that are also free.
Discussion – the discussion section is a useful forum where you can ask questions and talk to people who are learning the same language as you. You can also share ideas and book recommendations.
Podcasts – Duolingo have released a series of bilingual. I think these podcasts are probably most suitable for intermediate learners but with the English sections you should be able to follow most of the content.
Stories – The Duolingo stories might be my favourite thing about Duolingo. Duolingo have released a series of interactive stories, which are accessible for any level of learner.
Events – Duolingo events allow you to connect with other language learners in your area. I haven’t personally used this function so if you try it out, please comment below with your experiences!
Drawbacks of Duolingo
For me there are two main drawbacks of duolingo, one which I believe won’t take long to be rectified and one which is unfortunately a feature of the app.
Firstly, Duolingo is better for languages with romantic alphabtets. Personally I only enjoy learning duolingo for languages that use the roman alphabet. I feel the design is best for this and have found the lessons that learn kanji or Chinese characters a bit clumsy.
However Duolingo is constantly being developed and I’ve already talked to people who believe the courses for languages that use other writing systems are improving.
One of the features of the app that I don’t like is the ability to lose lives. It takes five hours to regain one life, or you can do a practise exercise to regain a life. For me this is a problem because if a module is hard
Alone it’s not going to help you achieve fluency, but no language learning app should be used alone. Duolingo makes language learning fun and accessible and helps you build your vocabulary and grammar so you can go out and use the language.
My experiences with Duolingo
I started my language learning journey five years ago when I downloaded Duolingo and started to learn Spanish. Before that I’d never learned a foreign language and thought it just wasn’t for me.
Duolingo didn’t make me fluent but it gave me the confidence and vocabulary to begin learning properly.
Since then, I’ve used the app for French, Portuguese and I’ve started learning Italian.
For me Duolingo is a fantastic way to start your language-learning journey, but like most people say, you do need to do more to become fluent in a language.
No one should use just one app to try and achieve fluency, you need to speak and live the language.
Final thoughts on Duolingo
I would never have learned Spanish, French or Portuguese if it hadn’t been for Duolingo and for that I will always sing its praises.
In my opinion it is the best language learning application currently on the market and I love that it’s free. I have even thought of paying for a subscription to Duolingo just to support it.
I would definitely recommend this app to anyone wanting to learn a language but remember Duolingo alone is not enough.
If you want to learn a language read books, watch movies, talk to people. You need to engage with the language and you need to love it.
Best of luck with your language learning journey!
There’s a polyglot in us all.