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Duolingo.com: A Free, Fun Site for Foreign Language Enthusiasts

Duolingo provides free foreign language instruction. Its current offerings include Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish and Swedish.

Nine languages are currently offered, with more on the way.

In addition to the above, 19 courses are in development, including Ukrainian, Vietnamese and Polish. Courses are created by “Incubators” who develop and contribute instructional content. Each course includes a little background about the language and the people who contributed to the course.

The About page contains interesting facts about your chosen language.

Selecting a language to learn is the first step. There is a brief optional tour which currently does not feature any useful info. Skipping the tour won’t negatively impact your experience. The site seems to be aimed at adult learners, but school-aged children would likely be able to navigate the site as well.
Users can set daily goals from four options.

Choose a goal to help you set the pace.

If you’re coming in with some knowledge of your chosen language, you’ll have the opportunity to take a placement test and bypass some of the early lessons. Otherwise you’ll begin with the basics.

Advanced learners have the option to test out of basic lessons.

You’ll find a “Tips and Notes” section on the lesson home page, which is helpful, and it might be worth printing out to have on hand, as it will help with parts of speech and verb tenses, as well as other key things which will differ by language.

A Tips and Notes page provides useful information.

If you’re the kind of person who likes those endless Facebook quizzes, you will enjoy Duolingo’s approach. You’ll immediately jump in to answering questions on basic vocabulary. There’s very little actual instruction, in the traditional sense of the word, but pictures accompanying the vocabulary will help you along.

Images help learners identify new words.

You will also get to hear the words as you learn them, which is a helpful feature. The lessons are fast-paced and fun, with an emphasis on repetition. However, it’s not boring and the repeated exposures to the new words will help you learn them. You’ll be identifying and translating new words quickly. Keeping a notebook on hand will help you keep track of new vocabulary.

Learners translate basic words during lessons.

As you progress through your chosen course, you’ll encounter more challenging vocabulary and sophisticated grammar. You’ll also be exposed to terms related to culture, business, politics and other topics tied to your language of choice. When you finish each lesson, you’ll be able to see your progress represented on a chart.

A chart helps you monitor your progress.

Though you will work through the course content independently, you will have the option of connecting with Facebook friends who might want to learn a language with you. An active discussion board also gives you the opportunity to connect with fellow language learners.

A Discussion page allows you to interact with fellow language learners.

When you’re ready for additional challenges, you can select documents to translate from the Immersion page. A filter helps you choose topics and the desired level of difficulty. Some documents are in need of translation, while others need to be checked. Both options will give you the chance to apply your skills. Finished documents are available for reference as well.

The Immersion page features texts to translate.

Mobile apps are available for a variety of devices, making Duolingo a great choice for on-the-go language learners. Helpful tips for using the mobile apps are located in the Discussion section.
Duolingo is a good choice if you’re interested in learning a language at your own pace and don’t want to shell out for an expensive course or pricey software. It’s easy to use and has abundant content to help you master the language of your choice.

Written February 23, 2015 by Tracy Derrel


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