Self-Proclaimed Hottest App in the Webosphere: Review


Link to banner image, thanks Duolingo.

I’d like to start giving self-proclaimed shout-outs to awesome apps and websites.  If anyone would like an app of theirs to be reviewed, please leave a comment and I’ll review it!

The 1st Self-Proclaimed Hottest App in the Webosphere is…. Duolingo!!! (link)

Android App on Google Play Store

Audience: Who is Duolingo for?

  • Those wanting to learn a new language
  • Those wanting to brush up on a language
  • Those wanting to achieve certification of the English language for jobs

The Background

Language learning is now a game, and a really freaking fun game at that.  Enter Duolingo, the user-powered language app and website that is coming to prominence just this year as it takes on its initiative to provide resources for users to learn a wide and rapidly growing variety (link) of languages in a format that prepares you to be a speaker of the language rather than a low-level proficiency speaker equipped with survival phrases.

Rather, Duolingo turns language learning into more of a game, with exercises, levels, and rewards/virtual currency, called “lingots,” that can be spent for more activities and “one-ups” for the activities.  Users select which lesson or category in the specific language they want to learn, and they’re thrown right into an activity.  Look at it as a virtual way of being thrown into another country where the language is foreign to you, except in this world, you can get hints for words you don’t know, at least at first.

And the craziest part: it seems to actually work.  Besides the fact that Duolingo is providing an affordable way for people around the globe to certify their English proficiency (link) (of which another article is coming on this matter), Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn stated to Slate magazine (link) that users of the app can easily achieve what the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages calls an “upper intermediate speaker.”  Von Ahn describes this:

“You won’t sound native,” he says, “and when you’re talking you’ll do a lot of simplifications. You’ll probably mess up the subjunctive form. But you’ll get around. You’ll understand what you hear very well. You’ll be able to read books and watch movies in the language.”

Not bad considering that you don’t have to visit the country where the language is spoken or interact with anyone who speaks the language.  With a little face-to-face interaction, specifics of the language will become easier to detect and pick up.

However, considering that Duolingo programs themselves are created by native speakers who get approved only submitting an application, language users are guaranteed an experience like that of being in a language class taught by a native speaker.  The extensiveness of the program seems endless.

Program Specifics

Below: screenshot of the home screen for Duolingo showing the “learning path” for users.  The meter on the left decreases over time and the program lets the user know a “refresher” is needed for that particular course, set of words, or word. spanishskills

Below: Screenshot from Duolingo’s Google Play Store app page (link) of an exercise.  Exercises contain matching activities, as seen below, written translation activities, and voice activities, where the user is asked to speak a phrase in the target language, shown below the first screenshot.

Below: Duolingo has speaking questions, like the one shown below.  However, if you do not want wish to use your microphone, these questions can be turned off. microphone

I have taken numerous Spanish classes and passed the AP test for Spanish, and even I only placed out of a fraction of the topics on the Spanish Duolingo, albeit I’m a little rusty.  But, I’m in luck, Duolingo has an option “strengthen” or “refresh” my skills, which can be done as a whole or be category, as I mentioned in the above image. Duolingo also offers “real world practice,” in which users can read and translate web pages in the desired language, getting exposure to the language in a format outside the program itself.  Coupled with practicing conversation with a speaker, the user can hone their reading, writing, and speaking skills. spanishproject

For English speakers, there is Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese available to learn, with dozens of more languages on the way. For those who don’t know English as well, never fear, Duolingo offers or will offer reciprocal courses in each completed language, so if there is “Spanish for English speakers,” the “English for Spanish speakers” is not far behind.  There are also variants such as “French for Spanish speakers, German for Spanish speakers, etc.

The possibilities have no bounds, and every day, approved Duolingo users (you can become one! [link]) continue to provide more languages for the world to learn. Whether you’re just starting to learn a new language, trying to keep learned skills fresh, or striving to get a certification, Duolingo is the most practical and in-depth, yet comprehensible and enjoyable virtual language learning tool we have today.

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