How to Learn a new language with Duolingo

Source: Google Images

I have yet to hear someone say they would not want to be bilingual, speaking more than one language is definitely an asset. And it would seem that being Canadian would mean that we are all bilingual and speak at least French and English. However, the education system failed a lot of us, leaving us only fluent in English.

I am, however, lucky enough to be bilingual, my parents spoke to me in Spanish at home and I was able to pick it up fluently. But I often imagine being able to speak three languages. It is estimated, that only 13% of the world population speaks three languages fluently, compared to 43% that is bilingual.

Learning a new language can be hard we have all been there, but with technology there has to be an easier way to learn a new language, right? And the answer is yes! Duolingo a phone application changes the way we can communicate.

Source: Giphy

How does Duolingo function?

You download the app, set up a profile (all you need is an email), choose the language you want to learn (I chose French), and set your daily goals (I chose 10 minutes a day).

Duolingo sets up your lessons with new ones appearing as you’ve completed the basic ones. It also allows you to ‘test out’ of specific lessons, this is great for when you you already understand the concepts and do not need to relearn them. I used this option on most of the basic lessons as I remembered some of the concepts from elementary school French.

Source: Personal Screenshot using Duolingo

Pros of Duolingo

The Lessons

Basics 1: teaches you the most basic vocabulary. The lessons vary from translating sentences from French to English and English to French, matching the French words with their English counterparts or pictures (for those visual learners out there!) and there’s also listening and writing exercises where you type what you hear or translate a sentence by speaking into the microphone. As you pass each lesson you move on to much more challenging ones.

Source: Personal Screenshot using Duolingo

Targets your weaknesses

Once you complete the lessons, a screen appears with your ‘weakest words’. This allows for you to go back to any problematic areas and be able to reinforce where you may have made mistakes.

The Common Phrases Feature

This is great for people who just want to have some basic communication skills. The common phrases include the most used phrases to get around. Such as, “how are you?”, “what are you doing?”, etc.

Source: Personal Screenshot using Duolingo

Setting Goals

As I mentioned earlier, when you set up an account it asks you to set up your own goal. My goal was to use the app 10 minutes per day. You can increase or decreases this based on your own schedule. Duolingo even sends you reminders so that you can stay on track!

Easy Accessibility

Learning how to use the app took me about 5–10 minutes. It is extremely simple and all the images used are basic. It doesn’t take much effort for you to begin learning and the app itself is not distracting. It helps keep you focused! The only things you need are a phone and an internet connection!

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The Cons of Duolingo

Awkward Sentences

When translating between sentences, sometimes the sentences just don’t make sense, they almost seem just randomly put together. This might be just because of the nature of the languages and some of the context is lost when translating, however it is a bit awkward.

Source: Google Images

No Human Teacher

This is a problem for many online courses, is that you lose the ability to interact with a teacher and ask specific questions. However, this application is free and adding any human component might change that. It is important to note that not many people (including myself) feel the need for an actual teacher. I find the application sufficient on its own.

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Memorizing or truly understanding?

This was my biggest challenge when using the app. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to remember the vocabulary in the future or if I was just memorizing it out of pure repetition. However, this can be applied to learning in any type of platform. Most people forget everything taught to them within minutes of writing an exam. But learning a new language is all about practice!

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What can we learn from Duolingo?

  • Breaking down complex subjects into easy modules works
  • Visuals and auditory learners need more options. The pictures and being able to hear the content help greatly. A lot of the time people associate learning with only reading and writing.
  • You should set goals and accomplish them on your own time. Basically, setting up a goal and achieving it has never been easy. There is no excuse to not learn.
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  • It is FREE. By making education free more people can have access to it and can have the opportunity to learn a new language.
  • Lose your fear of learning a new language. By being alone and practicing on your own you lose the fear of mispronouncing words and maybe saying things that don’t make sense.
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  • Portability helps you learn. By learning from your phone there is no “I have no time” excuse. I use Duolingo on the train, on the subway, while I wait for the bus. No matter where you go, you take your phone, therefore, no matter where you are you can learn.
  • Learning through applications works. You do not have to enrolled in school to be able to learn, nor do you have to learn in traditional classrooms settings. Technology has made us efficient in every other aspect, so why not implement it in education too?
  • It is never too late to learn. Whether it is a language or a new skill anyone can use technology to learn.

I would 100% recommend downloading Duolingo. I can’t say that I’m fluent in French or even close after using the app. However, it does increase your vocabulary and you learn basic phrases that help you get around understanding a a language. It is the beginning steps towards basic communication in a different language.

You can download Duolingo here!