Uriel is an avid linguaphile who provides the best pieces of advice to reach your language goals.
The Struggle of Learning a Language
In my article How to Easily Learn a Foreign Language, I enumerated a few reasons for learning a foreign language. However, if you have ever embarked on that journey, you already know how difficult it can be not just to assimilate new words and syntaxes but to do so repeatedly and consistently, especially when the results are not immediate.
In a quest to learn as many languages as possible, I found Duolingo, a platform that makes language learning fun and easy. With more than five years of intermittent usage of the platform, I will be making a review of the platform's features then answering the question "Can Duolingo teach you to speak a language fluently?"
The Main Features of Duolingo
To date, Duolingo platform is endowed with the following characteristics.
1. Language Division Into Skills
The platform offers a step-by-step learning program for each language, the starting point being determined by how much of the language the user already knows. This is achieved by dividing the language into skills and checkpoints. While a skill is made up of lessons that provide the learner with a specific aspect of the language (e.g "Plural," "Pronouns," "Shopping," "Travel," "Present Tense"), a checkpoint is a set of skills put together according to their level of complexity. This is a great tool to track one's learning progress.
2. Learning at One's Own Pace
At the beginning of the language course, the user sets their learning goals, which could be as low as five minutes a day. This allows them to have realistic daily objectives that they can meet and/or exceed.
3. Consistency Check
Duolingo acts like that friend of yours who motivates you throughout your weight-loss journey. Being fully aware that the user can easily get distracted by some other business during the day and forget their language-learning goals, it reminds them of the progress thus far through daily notifications and encourages them to keep going. (E.g., "Hi Uriel, you're on a 70-day streak! Click here to continue learning.")
4. Language Tips
Duolingo understands the difficulty that a learner may have in grasping the "science" behind a foreign language. This is the reason it gives them tips at the beginning of a lesson and sometimes in the middle of it. For lessons where pronunciation may be tricky, it advises the user to put on headphones, for instance. To practice fluency, it tells them to repeat sentences in the lessons. Sometimes when the user gives an incorrect answer, it does not just provide them with the correct one but also gives them the rationale behind it.
5. Encouragement and Reward System
We all like our efforts to be acknowledged, and if possible, rewarded. Once a user gets 5 or 10 correct answers in a row, Duolingo tells them "Wow, impressive!" or "I'm proud of you!" to remind them that their learning efforts are not vain. A user's consistency earns them points and "gems" that can be used in acquiring other privileges (for instance, learning idiomatic expressions or love words in their language of interest).
6. Diversity of Languages
English speakers can, as of today, learn up to 36 languages on Duolingo, which include endangered/vulnerable languages like Gaelic and Navajo.
Duolingo introduced mini-fictions that aim at improving the user's listening and reading comprehension. They are available for English speakers learning Portuguese, French, Spanish, or German.
The learning platform also offers true-life stories in the form of episodes tailored to help French and Spanish learners perfect their listening and comprehension skills.
Last but not the least, all the features mentioned above are free. Duolingo does have a paid version called Duolingo Plus, but that is optional, as part of their mission is to make language learning accessible to all.
10. All In One
Apart from the podcasts, which must be accessed via a different interface, all of Duolingo's features are available on the same platform (web or app), making it easy to switch from one to the other.
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
Can Duolingo Make You Fluent In a Language?
The simple answer to that question is no. Duolingo provides the user with the basics to learn a language; it is a solid foundation upon which the stones of further learning will be added to build the house of language fluency.
The learner will need other resources—dictionaries, videos, exercises—and much determination in practicing speaking and writing for them to become fluent in their chosen language. It is important to have that in mind before engaging in a course on the Duolingo platform. Nevertheless, Duolingo's friendly and innovative features make the learning process enjoyable and are definitely worth the user's time!
He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
- How to Easily Learn a Foreign Language
Whether it's for personal or professional purposes, learning a language might have been on your bucket list for a long time now. In this piece, you will learn a trilingual's tips for speaking a foreign language easily!
- 10 French Idiomatic Expressions and Their English Meanings
Who said learning French isn't fun? Discover these 10 interesting idioms that will enhance your French language skills!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Uriel Eliane
Uriel Eliane (author) from Toronto on June 19, 2020:
Thanks for your comment Lisha! I'm glad you've got some motivation to start back.
Lisha C on June 19, 2020:
I had installed Duolingo some time back. Initially, I was consistent for a few weeks, but then I got busy with other things and forgot about it. After reading your article, I now think that it's time to get back to it—thanks, Uriel!
Uriel Eliane (author) from Toronto on June 18, 2020:
Thanks for your comment Liz! I have completed the Spanish course and I'm currently learning Italian. I started Ukrainian and Japanese as well, but just out of curiosity.
Liz Westwood from UK on June 18, 2020:
This is a very positive review of Duolinguo. Which languages have you learnt on this site?