10 Reasons Why You Need To Be Using Duolingo

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When it comes to free online and mobile language learning programs its hard to find one that trumps Duolingo. What makes it so special?


In this article I’ve outlined for you the reasons why you need to be taking advantage of the services Duolingo has to offer!

While Duo does come with a few drawbacks – namely the relatively short (but expanding!) list of languages offered – it still reigns supreme as one of the most valuable language learning resources you’ll never pay for.

Here’s why:

 

1. Solid Foundation

Duolingo starts out by offering language learners of any age a rock solid foundation upon which to build their lexicon and grammar. The words it chooses seem more appropriate for beginning learners than the beginning words of many other courses – such as Rosetta Stone.

With Duolingo users begin by learning how to construct sentences in their new language, basic articles and genders. No time is wasted learning unnecessary words like “horse” and “airplane”; there’s plenty of time for that later!

2. Properly Packaged Vocab

Unlike many other systems that simply lump vocabulary together somewhat arbitrarily, Duo groups words together into like categories and gives users the ability to pick and choose the words they’re most interested in learning. Want to learn your animals? Clothes? No problem!


  





3. Spaced Repetition

Spaced rep has been an essential component of language learning for decades, but not all programs get it right. Duo codifies each word you learn with a colored meter that gradually ticks away as a word is left un-reviewed, reminding users when it’s time to revisit old material lest it begins to fade from memory.

I go into a little bit more detail about spaced repetition in this Review of The Pimsleur Approach.

4. Test Out of Beginner Content

Already an intermediate or advanced learner? Tired of starting from scratch and spending too much time the basics every time you check out a new language resource?

Duolingo allows you to test out of any level you think you can pass, unlocking the next tier. This feature allows Duo to remain relevant to learners among the upper echelons of competency in their second language.

5. Penalties For Mistakes 

Typicaly I’m all about positive reinforcement; success should be rewarded and failure should not be punished too harshly.

But when it comes to language learning sometimes what you need is a little bit of a kick in the butt to keep your mind on guard and your recall up and working.


 
 

Duolingo provides you with three hearts per lesson. As mistakes are made, hearts are lost. Upon losing all three hearts a learner fails the level and is forced to repeat it. I find this incentive to be personally beneficial as I am often prone to becoming complacent with my mistakes.



6. It’s Free! 

This right here should be all the reason you need to give it a shot. What do you have to lose? It’s not like it’s going to make you worse. Duolingo is dedicated to the idea that education should be readily accessible to everyone – a sentiment shared most wholeheartedly by LATG.


7. There’s an App For That!

If you know me at all yet, you know how much I adore mobile learning. Like most programs that also come with mobile versions, Duolingo’s mobile app does come with the minor drawback of having fewer features than its web browser counterpart. The core program remains the same though and that’s what really matters!


8. Duo’s ‘Immersion’ Feature Is Great For Improving Literacy Skills


I’m not sure ‘immersion’ is the word I’d choose, but Duolingo does offer a pretty awesome feature that allows users to upload documents in the languages they’re learning and share them with the community.


Anyone looking for reading material for their languages need only explore whats offered. To top it off this feature allows users to highlight segments of the articles and translate them, A great way to practice reading comprehension.


9. Track Your Statistics


Duolingo makes it easy to track your progress. The system keeps track of how much time you’ve spent each day and how much progress you’ve made so that you can work on improving your leaning habits. Each word has its own colored meter indicating how fresh in your memory that word should be. As the colors dim you are encouraged to review these words and further cement them in your long term memory.


Duo makes it easy to see where you are and how far you’ve come – an important attribute in maintaining personal motivation in your language learning project.


10. It Actually Works


According to actual independent research performed at Queens College CUNY and the University of South Carolina; Duolingo has been shown to outperform introductory college level language courses in both rate of language acquisition and confidence.

Just 34 hours spent on your own, in the comfort of your home, office or my personal choice – lying in bed, can yield greater results than a full semester of introductory level college language coursework.


You can read all about the study here.



The Drawbacks:

 As with all things; it wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t mention any shortcomings.


  • Chief among them is that despite its effectiveness, the program doesn’t offer very much by way of actual speaking practice. There is a verbal component to each level but it consists only of speaking to an AI rather than a real human being. The AI frequently seems shaky and doesn’t always seem to accept user input, even when it is more or less spot on.
 
  • Furthermore you aren’t given much to start with. Duolingo doesn’t teach you the definitions of the words prior to the lessons leaving you more or less guessing, hoping, and blowing hearts.Ultimately though it isn’t a major drawback. If you get the word wrong the first time you’ll know it the second time, it’s just something of an inconvenience.
 
  • The course selection is highly limited. Only a very small selection of languages are currently offered. While this list is slowly growing it could still be a while before we see some languages. The current course offerings are Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish and Italian. If you’re looking for a much wider selection of courses, I’d highly recommend checking out Memrise. Also offered are English courses for speakers of several different languages.
 

Conclusion.

Duolingo is a solid fit for any learner pursuing the eight European languages currently offered. As time passes I expect that we’ll see an increase in the number of courses offered, including hopefully some languages from other continents. 

Regardless of this and the other drawbacks, Duo remains a tried and true means to supplement or even spearhead your language project.

You can check out and start using Duolingo here.

Happy learning!

 

 

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  • Alexandru Iliescu

    Awesome article! After trying Duolingo in at least 5 languages I can find all of your points to be valid. So if you like Duolingo and want even more conversational vocabulary, dialogues and more than 13 languages to chose from you should definitely try Mondly on the App Store. Hope you find it useful: http://bit.ly/atistudios_mondly

  • Thanks Alexandru for reading and for your awesome comment!

    I’ll have to check out your link!

  • Jools Stone

    Great overview! I have to say that DL is the only app I’ve stayed the distance with, for over a year now!Memrise is fun too, for vocab at least. The main drawback with it is simply that once you’ve completed your tree the options / incentives to keep using it are just not as compelling. I still revise sections to keep the bars healthy, but it doesn’t have the same buzz as tackling new sections. And the translation module seems frankly apologetic by comparison! So the question I have is which app / site should you graduate to in your chosen lang once you’re done with DL? Probably a tricky one to answer definitively I know!

  • Hi Jools,

    Wow that is actually a tricky question and probably deserves an article all its own. Which I will now have to write!

    In any case what other tools or resources are you using besides Duo? In a perfect world we’d all start speaking directly to real people as soon as possible. If you haven’t already been doing that that is the next step and should probably be your focus.

    Maintaining Memrise is good, but as great as Memrise is it is really only a vocabulary builder and won’t really work on its own.

    I honestly think the next thing to do is going to be to go become a member in various language learning communities. Meet and talk to people etc etc.

    You should also try to grab some books if you haven’t already to refine your reading comprehension, unless that doesn’t really interest you.

    I will definitely have to get back to you on some more ideas because it’s a great topic. I suppose it’ll depend a lot on who you are and how you learn, not to mention the languages you choose to study.

    Thanks for your comment and for reading! Some really great thoughts.

  • I love Duolingo too. I finished my French tree this month, and Jools is right — after you finish your tree, the motivation to keep doing Duolingo diminishes. Now I am waiting for the Hungarian course to be released next month. I really hope it’s next month…

  • I’ve got an article in the works to hopefully tackle the question of where to go after Duolingo, because it does seem to be a fairly common source of concern for users.

    Don’t forget that Duo offers the reading/translating section on its site. It’s not quite the same but it’s something to continue to do in addition to keeping your trees healthy.