App Review: Duolingo

This week I have been reviewing the Duolingo App. As a native English speaker that arrived knowing only how to order a beer, I’ve struggled finding a fast and fun way to learn German. Since being here I have trialled numerous methods to start learning German. With books and Audio Cd’s failing miserably, I turned towards the app store for new inspiration. Out of all language apps such as Busuu, Memrise and Babbel, Duolingo seems to be making the most noise at the moment!

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App Pros

  • Extremely User Friendly Interface
  • Gamification styled Learning

App Cons

  • Speaking exercises are still in its Beta Stage
  • Computer spoken words are often not pronounced properly

The setup is very simple. You create an account, choose the language you want to learn and Duolingo sets up a tree of learning. You start with the basics and progress through different levels. Much of the learning transpires in the form of quick-fire tests, which switch frequently between testing speaking, listening, and writing skills. In line with the gamification of learning motivation, the program rewards high scores with the unlocking of further lessons, and punishes poor performance with a loss of lives. The interface is extremely user-friendly and has kept me hooked.

However there are some flaws. Firstly, the speaking part of the app is very much still in its early stages of development. One of the questions requires you to speak the sentence. The app then checks your pronunciation. It is not 100% accurate and I believe this is the area where the app can be most improved.

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The most impressive part about DuoLingo is what goes on behind the scenes. Users are part of a much wider picture. People are learning a language by translating real content. Let me explain how this all works. Duolingo does not charge the user to learn a language. Instead, it employs a crowdsourced business model, where members of the public are invited to translate content and vote on translations. The content comes from organizations that pay Duolingo to translate it. Documents can be added to Duolingo for translation with an upload account which must be applied for. This means the app is free and will stay free forever, according to the company!

All in all, DuoLingo is a fantastic app to mix up learning a language and is a very easy way to explore a language around a working schedule. Recently, Duolingo has launched Version 4.0 that includes a number of new features, with the most prominent being the entry into Asia. With over 30+ million users there is no stopping this app helping people learn new languages and connect across the world.

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