EdTech,  Technology

Tech Thursday: Learn Another Language with Duolingo

Learning another language from scratch may not require specific technical skills, but it can still be very daunting, depending on your target language. Even with modern digital tools, advanced fluency and proficiency levels are seldom achieved in a short period of time. Duolingo, while not claiming to surpass other language learning software, aims to use a fresher approach to language learning.

On paper, at least while introducing the basics, Duolingo functions simultaneously as a lesson book and drill book. It uses basic repetitions and interactive exercises for memorization, taking the users straight to hands-on activities as soon as the app starts. Content-wise, the most basic drills aren’t much different from regular from-the-book exercises for several languages. It compensates, though, in repetition, and eventually in active translation activities. By the end of each interactive lesson, the user more or less already understands what has been taught, and is ready to apply everything that was previously learned, in future exercises.

Optimization of Duolingo can be done in three, rather intuitive ways, which are:

No, this doesn’t mean that you should always get a perfect score on your first try. Instead, try to track back a few steps after completing a lesson level before proceeding to the next. This way, memorization can become easier long-term, without dropping behind some of the things that you have learned. Such a strategy is considerably useful when you’re already at a level suitable to contribute to the app’s massive multi-user translation engine.

Widen your vocabulary by contributing to translations as much as you can. Even very simple sentences could be a total drag to read if you’re constantly forced to look up a dictionary whenever you read a word. It is repetition not through word drills, but by sentence translations, hence it is a trial-and-error, meet-and-learn process. This tip has the inherent advantage of learning ahead special grammar patterns, as all you need to do is to read between context clues of the given (practiced and memorized) words and terms.

Always aim for fluency and proficiency by taking it to the very end, or as far as the lessons go. Take yourself to the farthest end of the lessons, and then use other materials to compare with Duolingo’s learning material. Investing in learning languages is never a waste of time because more relevant information becomes available the more fluent you become in that language.

Duolingo Screenshots

One thing to note – the lack of some of the well-known East Asian languages, such as Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese (to English in particular, since its reverse is available and can actually be used as makeshift lesson drills for intermediate Japanese learners), is a bit of a nitpick for Duolingo’s versatility as a language learning app. The exclusion is perhaps to be expected, though, since the structure of these languages (grammar-wise, writing-wise, and, most importantly, culture-wise) is different enough to warrant a different design layout for its lessons.

Nevertheless, Duolingo is still a very formidable free tool app which can help people learn languages at a near-intermediate level in the shortest time possible, with the least amount of tedium. It is very recommended for anyone trying to learn a new language.

Christian Crisostomo
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