Jul 31, 2013

[Apps] Duolingo (Android)

When I was still in college, I decided to invest my limited free elective subject slots into learning another language. It felt like a nice way to do something truly educational beyond my majors and it could be a lot of fun as well. At the time I had taken up German and managed to get through the first module well enough.

Of course a language not used is one that can be lost and my German is as bad as they come. So when my partner Tobie shared this app, Duolingo, with me, I was pretty curious. And while "gamification" is quite the marketing buzz word these days, I know that it has proven to be an interesting way of getting your users to engage with your content. And that's what this promises to be - a fun way learn another language.

Dulingo is a free app for multiple platforms including Android and iOS for learning new languages. For now the range of languages is limited to English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. But I feel this is just the beginning and I know there's a good future for the app.

The basic premise of the app is simple enough - you select your language and then you have a series of modules to go through. Each drill you on various aspects of the language - understanding what the phrases mean, translating phrases and typing things correctly. The app makes sure that you get all the bells whistles including pictures to go with some of the words, clear narration of how to pronounce various words and explanations of the use of individual terms with just a click.

As you clear each lesson in each module, you earn points that are credited to your account. Points become most interesting once you've found other friends to "follow" on Duolingo (just like on Twitter) with whom you can compare your progress.

The app is pretty insistent  - it explains that daily practice is important to learning any language. Thus it has the option to send you phone notifications or emails reminding you to log in daily. In addition, it also tells you when your friends have passed your score - thus goading you on to practice even more.

You're also free to repeat lessons and of course run practice drills to further your mastery. All in all, it's a pretty intuitive way of learning a language that really just throws you in but keeps things interesting. They didn't bother making overly complex games or something to be part of this whole equation. They added just enough of those game elements to keep you motivated to going back to the app.

For free language app, Duolingo is pretty amazing and I find myself seriously enjoying my language drills. In fact, this feels a more interesting than how I first tried to learn German in the school setting. So wish me luck as I turn this hobby interest in a full third language in my bag of tricks and I wish you luck in turn. I'm happy to rate the app as 4.5 weird green owls out of a possible 5.
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