Duolingo: Breaking Down Barriers

The language learning app Duolingo stands out for its flexibility and relevancy, notably helping students keep language skills sharp when class is not in session.

By Maggie Miller

Picture this: You decide to take your family on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy. You buy the airline tickets, book the hotel, and schedule the itinerary. Everything goes according to plan, except for the fact that you and your family do not know how to speak Italian. Communication among the locals is nonexistent. No one bothered to learn Italian because you thought you could remember how after leaning it in high school years ago. Besides, many language classes are long, boring, and do not leave you with a full understanding of the language. This whole “language barrier” situation could have been averted if you would have known about Duolingo: a language application that is far from boring and cumbersome.

The most important part of any application is the quality and quantity of its content.  For English speakers alone, Duolingo offers around nineteen different languages. Not only can the English speaking population learn foreign languages, Duolingo also challenges users worldwide to break the language barrier. Upon selecting a language, the user has the option of starting the learning process from the beginning or taking a placement test in which the app analyzes their prior knowledge of the language. The app starts a beginner off with learning simple, everyday words and skills. After that, the categories and grammar become more difficult while still incorporating concepts from prior lessons. If the app notices the user slipping up on questions pertaining to a certain category, Duolingo will remove a ‘strength bar’ from under that category, indicating to the individual that it may be helpful to go back into those lessons and review those concepts. They provide a list of weakest words from each category so the user has what they need to work on right at their fingertips along with new content to absorb as they please.

Duolingo has made it easy for me to keep my skills in top shape and advance even when school is not in session.

Not only does Duolingo have an amazing amount of content, but the way the app is programmed for people to learn is unique from many learning apps I have seen. Many language companies limit the ways a user can learn the language. For example, a simple program may only allow the user to write and spell while another is solely auditory. Duolingo does not just use spelling and memorizing; they provide people with content and a way to learn that is exciting and sticks in the brain. It appeals to almost all learning types because Duolingo realizes that everyone learns differently. Some of the activities include translating phrases and single words from the foreign language to English (and vice versa), speaking, piecing words together, and matching words in the language and in English together. All of these activities are intermixed on a platform that is very easy to use and has fun graphics that make the user excited to learn a new language.

I personally like the Duolingo app not only for learning awesome languages not offered at Central High School, but also for staying brushed up on my Spanish I am taking through the school. The most important thing about learning a language is consistency and practice; this is true with almost any concept. That is why many kids lose knowledge over the summer and after they stop taking the class. They do not have the resources or the convenience of learning and practicing their language that they do at school. Duolingo has made it easy for me to keep my skills in top shape and advance even when school is not in session.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the Duolingo language-learning app. The program is easy to use and a user can practice foreign language anywhere from a couple minutes to hours a day. It is amazing that this free application has so many language options and often times is coming out with more. I recommend Duolingo to anyone who is interested in tearing down language barriers and adding to their own personal knowledge in a way that is both simple and enjoyable.

Photo: Spanish dictionary pages up into the air by Horia Varlan on Flickr