I recently started using an app called Duolingo to help me learn Spanish. The fact that I took Spanish in high school has little bearing on how much Spanish I can now read and understand. As a matter of fact, I only remember the basics.
Fortunately, with the Duolingo app, I can spend about 15 minutes a day to refresh the little I remember and to learn new words, skills, and context. My goal is to have a conversation with my nephew who is fluent in Spanish.
There are other language-learning apps, but I’ve only tried Duolingo. I signed up for the free version many years ago and did nothing with it. It wasn’t until sitting on the beach while on vacation did I decide to learn a new language, so I started spending more time with it.
What I like about Duolingo:
- Its portability. I have it on all of my devices. It’s compatible with iOS and Android. There’s even a Windows and Mac version.
- You don’t have to pay a dime. The free version works. Of course, with the Plus version you get a few more perks, but you can still learn a language without paying for it.
- Learning phrases that I’ll actually use. To that end, I’ve learned three important phrases right off the bat:
- How to reserve a table at a restaurant
- How to order wine
- How to locate a bathroom
And it only gets better from there!
- Painless learning and memorization. Unlike when I learned Spanish in school, Duolingo doesn’t cram a bunch of rules down my throat. With Duolingo, verb conjugation is a gradual and natural event. I’m not presented with “ar” “er” and “ir” verbs and told to conjugate them and memorize them. Instead, they’re used repetitively in sentences and conversations which help to lock them into memory.
Since there isn’t a teacher standing in front of the classroom to answer questions or teach rules, Duolingo uses Tips to help explain concepts. If the concept is still unclear, there are forums, discussions, and even podcasts.
Learning is not just reading and listening, with Duolingo I get to tax my tongue by responding to questions and repeating phrases. If what I’m saying doesn’t sound right, the app will stop and wait until I pronounce it correctly (ask me how I know this).
Some features I use more than others. Let’s face it. Not everyone learns the same way and Duolingo knows it. They’ve implemented teaching strategies for various learning types.
Competition, Challenges and Rewards
I’m not one for competition or challenges against other folks. I do, however, have a mean competition streak against myself. Anyway, if you’re spurred on by competitions and rewards, Duolingo has plenty of them. There are timed competitions, jewels to earn, and weekly level advancements.
Free or Subscription – Choice is Yours
I started with Duolingo’s free version. The free version is made possible because of ads and yes, I dislike the ads. It wasn’t until Duolingo had a New Year’s sale that I decided to purchase an annual subscription.
One of the reasons it took me so long to pay for the service is because I didn’t like their transparency, or should I say, there was no transparency. I had to dig far and deep to find out how much it cost and still wasn’t satisfied with what I found.
When my sister-in-law decided to buy the premium version, I contemplated paying for a subscription. She’s paying $6.99 a month and is enjoying it. When the New Year’s sale popped up, I ended up purchasing the annual subscription to the tune of $59.99 per year. The subscription version is called Duolingo Plus
Duolingo Subscription – Forked Tongue
I think Duolingo speaks with forked tongue. Below is a screenshot of my subscription. You will note the price of the monthly premium subscription is $12.99. However, on their site, the monthly subscription price is $6.99. What gives? 1 plus 1 isn’t equalling to 2 here. That type of forked tongue speak is what stopped me from purchasing a subscription. However, when I saw the sale prices of $59.99 per year, my cheap gene perked up and encouraged me to sign up…so I did.
Put into Practice
Granted, I’m only 150 days into my learning of which I spend about 10 to 15 minutes a day, sometimes less, sometimes more, but I overheard a conversation in a restaurant the other day and was able to understand about 90% of it. Yes, it was a very short conversation and most of it was greetings, but still…I knew what was being said.
Spanish isn’t the only language Duolingo has to offer. There are over 30 languages to choose from including a Beta version of Klingon!