When I first came across Duolingo, an app that claims to teach you new languages the easy way, I was a bit skeptical. After all, if an app can teach you a foreign language, why do people all over the world take proper classes? However, after taking Duolingo for a spin, I can’t help but say that this particular app actually does what it says. Learning a new language can be tough, but Duolingo treats this complicated task like a game, where you get points for learning new words and making progress in the language of your choice. The app offers lessons for Spanish, Portuguese, German and French. You just have to start learning common words at first, and then slowly, Duolingo starts slipping in hints regarding the grammatical structure of the language. Your progress is mapped out in a graphical chart that makes self evaluation much easier. So, as they would say in France, continuer à lire.
If you download the Portuguese or French version of Duolingo, your own language will be replaced by English in the selection menu. This means that the app can, effectively, be used to learn English too.
To get started, users have to sign up for a Duolingo account via Facebook or their email ID. After the configuration is complete, Duolingo directs you to a Skill Tree. As you start learning the chosen language, the tree will start filling up, representing the progress you’re making.
You can initiate random practice session from the main menu, but the recommended way is to hit the Basic 1 tile on the Skill Tree and proceed from there.
The lessons start with a few basic instructions. Duolingo will familiarize you with some of the simplest and frequently used words of the language. For beginners, words are accompanied by pictures of the object being discussed, while the app will also speak out everything to help you learn the correct pronunciation.
Earlier, we mentioned that Duolingo treats its lessons as a game, and you’ll see what we meant when you take a look at the top-right corner of the lesson screen. You are assigned four lives for every session, and you lose one heart after every mistake. To master each lesson, you will have to answer all the questions with at least one life remaining. The questions asked by Duolingo can be multiple choice queries, fill in the blanks questions, or you might have to enter a phrase after listening to it. Once a lesson is over, your overall performance is assessed and a score is revealed.
Quite surprisingly, Duolingo is free, along with all the content in it. I myself have started using the app quite regularly and intend to continue with my quest for learning Spanish and finding out why Chelsea’s Fernando Torres is called El Niño.
Update: The app has finally gone universal, and now you can start learning new languages on your iPad as well.