Using Duolingo to Learn a Language

Duolingo logo.

Dear David,

What are you doing to prepare for your study abroad experience here in Spain? Have you figured out where you want to study? Do you know what you will pack? Are you preparing for living in Spanish?

One of the greatest ways to prepare for a new language experience is by practicing. The more you practice a language, the more natural it will be to use it. However, finding time and ways to practice can be frustrating. As an English teacher, I really enjoy the option that Duolingo offers for learners of new languages*.

What is Duolingo? Duolingo is an app you can have on your phone or tablet and a webpage you can visit. As a user you can decide what language you want to learn (from Spanish to German to Arabic or Korean) and go through a free program that will teach you the basics. Personally I have used the app for Spanish, Portuguese, and French as well as asked my students to use it while learning English.

Why is Duolingo a beneficial thing to use? This app changes learning a language from being a ‘chore’ to being more of a game. You get points if you play every day, but it also doesn’t demand too much of your time―10 to 15 minutes daily is a normal goal. Promoting learning daily in a fun way is one of the best methods I have seen for teaching a new language.

How is Duolingo free? They have ads at the end of every lesson which can be a bit annoying, but I find the app to be too nice to worry about it. Personally I have not bought anything from the ads so it doesn’t make use more expensive for me.

Will the fact that Duolingo is free make me less committed? This is a very personal question. Are you the type of person who is motivated and always looking to improve? If so, then the free-ness of the app probably won’t affect your learning. However, if you don’t really stay on task when you don’t have to pay for something, maybe this isn’t the best app for you.

Who can use Duolingo? Anyone from a very beginner to an intermediate level can benefit from Duolingo. You can test out of the levels that you already master, and review what you need to brush up on. For proficient or fluent speakers, Duolingo might not be as beneficial.

So there you have it, one of my tips for language learning on the go in a fun way. Will you become a perfect speaker/writer/reader? Probably not, but it will help you feel more comfortable and more apt to start a life in a new language and new home.


* This is completely unsponsored―I use the app for my students and recommend it to friends trying to learn new languages.