DuoLingo: more on learning another (spoken) language

I wrote a blog post last week about some different resources for learning a new language. However, after exploring these some – there is one I’ve been using every day for a week now – DuoLingo. In particular, the FREE iPad app they have is truly amazing! What is more amazing that it is free, and advertisement free.

This is also available on Google Play for Android devices too.

I’m so impressed by this app, plus I’ve learned so much this week that I wanted to show a little bit how it works, and why I think it’s so effective.

First, they turn the concept of learning a language into a game. They have milestones, reminders, etc (these are screenshots from the iPad app):

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When you tap on one of those subjects, it brings up a sub-menu:

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What’s really pretty cool is that is exposes you to the new words in several ways. First, you’ll get a screen like below. You choose from a pool of words at the bottom to translate the sentence. Any new (or newer) words will have the underline which means you can tap them to see a definition. This is great as you go along because you first want to test yourself: “Oh, I know that word!!” – but if you can’t remember you can just click it to see.

You can tap the blue speaker icon to hear the sentence again (it says the sentence when the page loads):

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Next, some new concepts are introduced with pictures, like this:

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Yet another way new words are introduced is with you doing a foreign-to-english translation. Again, the yellow words are new, and anything dotted-underline you can tap to see what the translation is:

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The only downside to this app, if you can even call it a downside, is where it checks your speech. It certainly is good practice to say the words anytime they are on the screen, but this screen uses the microphone. It LOOKS like it’s seeing if you said it correctly, but um… yeah, I don’t know that it’s really doing that. So, I use these screens to simply practice saying the sentence, comparing it to the blue speaker button (where it says it correctly).

You can hit that blue speaker button to play the sentence over and over to get the pronunciation correct too.

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After you’ve been introduced to some words, you are tested with a screen like this (multiple times). For some things there are multiple correct answers. Sometimes they give you the english sentence and sometimes they give you the foreign language sentence. So, they mix it up, keeping it interesting and challenging.

If you get one wrong, you lose a heart. If you lose 3 hearts, you have to start that lesson over!

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This next screen is one of my favorites because it tests how well you can understand the spoken language.

By default, it plays the person saying it at full speed. However, the blue turtle icon plays the phrase one word at a time, much slower. Sometimes this is easy, but other times there are words that sound very similar, so this can be very challenging.

This though is probably the most satisfying because I just heard a sentence in another language, I understand what it is, AND I can type it (not only in english), but in the other language! This is a complete test of hearing, translating, and writing. This is where you really get a smile on your face and realize that you are making progress!

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So, that’s about it. There are 20 screens per lesson and MANY lessons per language. Which languages does DuoLingo support?

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German, Spanish, French, Portugese, and Italian – if you are english-speaking. If you look at the app reviews for this in the App Store, the only negative votes this has is for people wanting more languages!

So, if you are interested in learning any of the above languages, this is a really fun way to do it. Set aside maybe :15 to :30 minutes per day and you will be shocked at how far you’ve come in a very short while! I set up the “coach” reminders too, which are not invasive and don’t have ads in them. Again – this is just such a great app!

To echo what many other people have said, it’s best to learn from a few sources. For example, while learning German, I kept (keep) messing up “a” vs. “the” – and when it comes to “a” and “the”, there are several versions: ein, eine, das, die, der, etc.

A REALLY great companion resource I found for this is the about.com website for the language you want to learn. They have a lot of answers around uses, conventions, and idioms about that particular language. Again, using German, I thought that items were masculine (der) and feminine (die) like in Spanish. However, that’s not the case, the “the” title is pretty much part of the word (for singular words). They don’t teach you that kind of thing in DuoLingo, Rosetta Stone, etc.

So, I’d recommend checking out the language page on about.com to get help get you unstuck:

I also just learned about these answers.com pages which also have a lot of great, language and culture-specific help:

Lastly, I’m not affiliated with DuoLingo (nor about.com, nor answers.com) in any way, I am just extremely impressed by this free product and want to try to share why, with others.

Posted in Professional Development, Uncategorized

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