Going into Duolingo was a big leap for me. Not only had I not learned a new language since my school days, but this was an online app which essentially meant I had to learn and teach myself. There is not tutor, and you are guided through each lesson in which you have to comprehend and use a foreign language without input. You may have to read, write, speak or place words in the correct order. I can say this though, I have found it fun to use and it has been a surprisingly rewarding experience so far.
My profile (pictured above in a screenshot) shows that I joined in August, and over 3 months I’ve accumulated nearly 9,000 total XP. This is quite significant. My languages are shown as studying German and Russian. If you want to follow my progress and you are also on Duolingo, feel free to follow and I’ll follow back. I primarily focus on German and have only started to use Russian on Duolingo to consolidate things from a book I use. I have reached many milestones already.
It has been easy to use, navigate and recently they updated the learning tree – which I wasn’t too fond of. The app is online or on a phone and can be used anywhere. The lessons take you through various topics, learning all the essentials, except you will not learning it in order, you will build upon what you have learned. So you may learn how to order in a café and then later learn how to speak the full vocabulary of such an event. For example, you order coffee, then later, you learn how to say things like I would like a coffee please. Or I would like a coffee what would you like? This allows progressive learning in a gamified language learning app.
A big bonus is that it is free. I highly recommend this platform (not sponsoring me, although if Duolingo see this they are free to do just that). Over four months my progress has been remarkable and enjoyable. I’m now soaring through units, learning and retaining information more effectively than reading a book. The repetitive speaking system, in which phrases and words are repeatedly shown the same things multiple times, allows better retention.
Russian is a bit more difficult and as such I am using a combination of sources, like books and audio CDs as well. I feel that you could reach a satisfactory beginner level if you worked through all the units – numbered at around 114 for German. I believe from what I have learned so far that completing all of it would mean you are at least B1 level of the CEFR scaling system. However, this would also be dependent on other factors like frequency of learning, interaction with native speakers and general motivation and of course the learner’s ability to actually remember this information and use it.
I’m happy to rate it at 4 stars up to now: there are flaws and the spoken sections of learning leave something to be desired. It is also flawed in that the majority of the scenarios that are demonstrated in the language you are learning is simply unrealistic.
Unrealistic scenarios include owls not playing football and dogs reading books. But Duolingo’s fun, childlike characters certainly bring a bit of enthusiasm to the learning process.
The site offers a paid option which removes adverts. Aside from this it is now integrating the stories system into the learning, so a milestone might consist of reading a story in the native language you are learning, as opposed to being optional as it was before. This is a good, progress step to keep it mixed up. You also have access to thousands of lessons offered on the site from as low as $2 for an hour. I believe it’s set up for schools too.
Overall, and this is a brief conclusion, it is worth the time. But you need to stick at it daily to actually progress. I cannot imagine anyone progressing beyond introductions, family and dining etc. if they chose one lesson a week. They’d get bored. Consistency and integration into you own life is key. Take the lessons into your real-world experiences to begin to apply the vocabulary to real world situations. Travel or interaction with native speakers is also highly recommended for better learning.