App Unwrap: Duolingo

Foreign languages are hard to learn. But what if you could devote only 15 minutes a day to learning a language, and slowly gain fluency? Like everything, there’s an app for that–and that app is Duolingo.

What does it do?

Duolingo is an app that allows you to devote a short amount of time each day for a language lesson. Now that may sound like another class and more work for you to do, but the lessons are structured pretty much like games. This app makes me want to come back to learn German (the language I’m learning) everyday and I feel a twinge of sadness when I miss my daily lesson. However, along with German, Duolingo offers Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, and Turkish. Best of all, it’s free, and there are no in-app purchases. The lessons the app offers are wide and varied, but let me break it down. Each language has a multitude of little bubbles that each contain lesson on parts of the language like conjunctions, question words, family words, numbers, and prepositions.

You tap on a bubble to do and once you finish the lessons inside it turns gold and the bars will fill up. However, the bars will degrade over time, meaning you have to refresh on your old lessons every once in a while by taking them again. The lessons themselves have a variety of fun little exercises to help you learn the words. The most common exercise is translating a sentence with a list of words given to you. It can be done from English to the language you’re learning or the language you’re learning to English. A harder version exists where you must translate the words without a list provided. Matching is also an exercise, where you’re given a jumble of words of both both English and the language you’re learning. IMG_0706 (1)The easiest exercise by far is to choose one foreign word from three that matches the definition of an English words.IMG_0723 (1) Finally, there’s an exercise where you have to either speak a foreign sentence into a microphone to test your enunciation or you have to listen to a foreign sentence and write it down, to test your ability to listen. But there’s an option to turn it off, and I do because I use Duolingo quickly on the train, and it’s pretty awkward to have your iPad blaring out German.

How enjoyable is it?

The lessons may sound boring on paper, but they’re pretty quick; each one takes about 3 minutes. I find myself using Duolingo on the train, the bus, and on the car ride home. It’s surprisingly addictive! It’s also colorful, and it tracks your progress with a fun little graph. IMG_0724 (1)I really like the whole aesthetic of this app.

Cons

I really like this app, but there’s one big flaw. It almost never teaches you grammar. It’s more of a vocabulary learning tool than anything, and the only thing that teaches you grammar is when it occasionally allows you to click an explain button next to certain words, but even then it lacks a lot of depth. So if you want to learn the grammar nuances of the grammar you’re either gonna have to talk to a native speaker or consult the Internet.

Final Rating

I enjoy this app, and it’s fun and great to use. The lack of grammar. May detract from actually learning a language, but it’s a great tool for someone if you don’t have a lot of time or want to put in a ton of effort in to building a foundation for a language. Overall, I rate this app 4.5/5 iPads. It’s great, and you should get it if you have any interest in learning a foreign language, or even need a little extra vocabulary for the language you’re learning in school.

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