Duolingo review: The best language app ever!

In the UK, learning languages is far from a priority and most of us leave school with the most spartan scattering of French and/or German. It only works for us because we’re lucky enough to speak one of the biggest languages in the world, and in a lot of places around the world, the locals speak English at least as well as we do.

It’s always been a bit of an embarrassment to me, and I don’t really speak any language in a meaningful way. I can count to ten in French and German, but that’s more or less my limit. I did pick up a bit of Spanish here and there when I worked there for a summer, but that was six years ago!

On and off I’ve tried to improve my Spanish, but without much success… until now. Someone mentioned the Duolingo language app in my presence a few weeks ago and being the nosy person I am, I naturally downloaded it.

It’s an app that treats learning a language like a game - so far so ineffective you might think - but it actually seems to have improved my fluency remarkably in just a couple of weeks. I wouldn’t want to be tested on my pronunciation, but I can certainly read and write Spanish much better than I could.

You start with the basics, and complete short games (they take about five minutes each) to learn words and how to put them into sentences. Each game earns you XP points and you can set a daily goal - mine is 30XP per day. Each game incorporates words and phrases from previous games, to cement your knowledge and build on it, and as the app identifies words and phrases that are tougher for you, it prompts you to go back over that section.

I’ve been using Duolingo for quite a while now, and I’m still only on 5% fluency. It’s fairly slow progress in that way, but it’s also reassuring - I feel like I’m properly learning and retaining information, rather than zooming through tutorials and forgetting it the next day.

You can learn lots of different languages and it’s TOTALLY, 100% FREE, which is amazing because it’s such a great resource! I’d encourage you to make in-app purchases if you can afford to, to keep this brilliant resource available for anyone to use.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about getting stuck into a second language, mostly because it’s so easy to make it a habit and fit it around your life. There’s no need to set time aside for it when you can do it in your lunch break, or while your cuppa is brewing! (You might look like a bit of a mentalist however, as there's quite a bit of talking to your phone involved...)

A Japanese language course was released as I drafted this blog post, so I'm extremely excited to get started on that for our big Japan trip in the autumn. I've already had a quick look and it looks like a good way to learn kanji as well as pronunciation. I'll report back!


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