How it works
Duolingo is a great tool to learn language. There are a number of languages available as of yet, although the range is not too wide. To get started, the user must simply choose a language and start. The learning is done through completion of a series of modules.
As seen in the screenshot above, the modules are divided by topics. For example, there is a topic of food. In this topic, the primary objective for the participant is to learn the basic food related terminology. Each topic contains lessons. The lessons contained within topics are fairly short and simple; they take anywhere between 3 to 5 minutes to complete. Once a module is completed, the user can attempt a test based on the previous module to see how much of the content they understood.
There are about 4 lessons per topic. The completion of each lesson adds strength to that particular topic. Once all the lessons are completed within the topic, the user can strengthen the concepts covered in the topic by completing a short test based on that topic.
Upon completing each topic, the user receives a badge (just like the one seen in the screenshot above) with the percentage of the language the user has learned through the program.
The lessons the following types of questions:
The ‘select the translation’ question – These questions display a picture with their respective translations in the chosen language underneath. The user must choose the correct translation of the English word given in the instructions. The pictures assist the user with question. These questions are encountered at the beginning portions of lessons. They are particularly useful for learning new definitions that will be used in the following questions in the same lesson.
The ‘translate this text’ question – These types of questions display a phrase in the chosen language. The user must type the phrase out in English. These questions are encountered several times in different forms throughout lessons. The objective with these questions is to reinforce definitions and learn basic phrases in the chosen language.
The type what you hear question – A voice speaks a word or a phrase in the chosen language; the participant must correctly type out the phrases the voice dictates. The voice can be heard in two speeds: normal and slow. To hear the voice in the normal speed, the user can click the sound icon, as shown in the screenshot above. To hear the voice break after each word, the user can click the turtle icon, which is also shown in the screenshot above.
How Duolingo Functions
Duolingo functions on crowd sourced translations. The users participating in providing translation must have a duolingo account. The users are then encouraged to translate content and vote on whether or not the translations others provided are legitimate. The users can also upload documents to be translated by other users.
How it can be made better
Like everything else, duolingo has a few shortcomings. The main concerns users have are: the fact that the users have no control over the vocabulary topics and the translations are sometimes unnatural. The program uses a game-like structure, where the user must complete the first topic to advance to the second topic. Therefore, it is mandatory for the users to complete each and every topic whether they like it or not. The obvious solution would be to unlock all the topics, however, this may take away the thrill of advancement. One of the main reasons this program is attractive to users is because it is like a game. The little achievements throughout the course of learning certainly gives a huge motivational boost to continue to progress. The unnatural translations are a problem that will be very difficult to address. The translations between languages are almost never perfect; there will always be some deficiencies translating from one language to another. Especially with the business model of crowd sourcing, this issue is something the users will have to live with.
Duolingo is definitely an amazing tool for learning a new language. It is designed is such a manner that makes the users want to continue to learn more. I started duolingo with the intention of trying it and experiencing it first hand. In one sitting, I ended up completing six topics, which are about 22 lessons in total. The experience is addictive, which is great. The content I have practiced in those lessons stuck in my head well enough that I can recall it. The program progresses really well; each lesson reinforces the topic several times, so the user does not forget it. Furthermore, each module has a test at its conclusion, which helps users review the content learned in the module. The fact that I cannot control the topics does not bother me too much. Upon completion of each topic, I was motivated to move on to the next topic.
KARCH, A. (2015). Duolingo Review: The Quick, Easy and Free Way to Learn A Language – Fluent in 3 months – Language Hacking and Travel Tips. Retrieved from http://www.fluentin3months.com/duolingo/