How To Learn a Language With Duolingo

Use a language learning app to improve your skills.

Duolingo is a free language learning app that's very popular nowadays. As the majority of the world speaks more than one language, it has become an interest for many English monolinguals.

The concept of attaining such a versatile and beneficial skill while still living a busy life is what is truly endearing about this method of learning. The app can be used at anytime and anywhere with several opportunities to gain experience and knowledge.

The courses are filled with memory games, listening & speaking exercises, fill in the blank stories, rewards and even in-game currency to buy power-ups, bonus skills and outfits for your Duo owl.

What language do you want to learn?

Duolingo currently has up to 23 different language courses (that's only for English speakers) that range from French & Spanish to High Valyrian & Klingon. Each course is meant to either teach you the basics of the language as a beginner or develop your knowledge as a more advanced speaker

The first question you must ask yourself is "what do I want to learn and why?" Whatever you choose, there is a whole sea of information that's waiting for you when you decide to start learning a new language

The Basics

As you probably guessed already, you will always start with the basics. Once you have chosen the language you would like to learn, you'll find that there will be a long list of lessons that you can work your way through. The lessons range from the basics of conversation and grammar to specific groups of vocabulary and themes such as "travel" or "clothing"

Each lesson has several levels within it that you will have to work through. Once you have completed a lesson entirely, the next few will unlock so that you can continue down the line

The Lessons

For each lesson, you will face certain tasks that are meant to introduce you to the basics of the language and help you to slowly learn the new grammar rules and vocabulary

The most common form of learning with Duolingo is based on translations between your language and the one you are learning - you will either be presented with an English word/phrase that you must type out in the other language or vice versa

There are other memorization activities that have the same purpose but may present themselves as games that require you to click on words from a group that translate to each other or questions with multiple choice answers

Speaking & Listening

Speaking and listening exercises are also very useful tools that come with the features of the app. Occasionally one of these exercises will come up in the middle of your lesson to test your auditory and verbal skills.

The word or phrase will either be spoken from the app for you to copy down or you will be asked to say a given word or phrase out loud. Each type of question is checked like any other during the lessons and is solely for the purpose of improving your communication skills (since it is a solitary app)

As an alternative option, you can also go to your settings and turn off the listening and speaking exercises if you aren't able to use them at any time - your lessons will then consist of only visual exercises until you turn the feature on again

How The Lessons Work

For each question you answer correctly, you will advance through the lesson (there are a certain number of questions to answer in each one) and every wrong answer will be asked again at the end

If you answer a question incorrectly, a pop up will tell you the answer so that you can identify your mistake and commit it to memory for the next time it is asked

During the lessons, answering several questions correctly in a row will build up a "combo bonus" that will give you extra XP.

XP

XP is what gives you an idea of how much you have learned and progressed in your language course - "experience points." You gain XP with each lesson that you complete and it acts as a reference for you to build on.

Also, as an added form of motivation, you can invite any of your friends who are also using Duolingo to your account so that you are each placed on a "leader board" according to XP. This feature adds the competition factor that often helps to motivate Duo learners.

Streaks

Another useful feature is the "streak" record. For each consecutive day that you use the app, your streak will go up to show you how many have gone by. 

To complete a full day of lessons, you must each a certain level of XP. You can choose this level for yourself as many people have different goals than others. You can have a goal of 10 XP a day, which is considered "casual mode." (1 lesson per day) or it can be up to 50 XP a day, which is considered "insane mode." (5 lessons per day)

As you must use the app every single day to keep up your streak, many people tend to get discouraged if they miss a day accidentally. To avoid losing your streak in the future for any reason you can also purchase a "streak freeze" that is activated if your account is not active for a day 

Review

As an overall review, Duolingo is a very useful app for beginners who want a fun and entertaining way to learn a language. The lessons that it provides are structured well so that you are reminded of certain information & vocabulary right before you forget and it creates a solid base for future learning

However, Duo should not be used as your only resource unless you aren't directly aiming for fluency. There are very few chances to actually speak while using a solitary learning tool.

Unfortunately with these sorts of apps, the implication is that language learning is easy and doesn't require any more than 10 minutes a day. If you are hoping to reach conversational or overall fluency, you must use several other resources alongside Duo

As for the app itself - there are still improvements being made every so often that have made it much more effective in providing information that will stick in your head quicker. Clearly there is more room for improvement regarding actual verbal and communication skills but, for now, it is a fairly useful resource.

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