App Review: Duolingo
Once upon a time, in order to learn a language we had to either enroll in a language course or buy a whole bunch of books that somehow magically found their way to bookshelf to report for dust collecting duty. Of course there was always the option of moving to the country that you are trying to learn the language of, through one of those exchange student programs. But just like the other two options it’s very time-consuming and will leave your wallet feeling a whole lot lighter. With the introduction of smartphones and apps, developers knew that someone had to step up to the challenge and rethink how we approach learning languages. That’s where the Duolingo guys step in.
Duolingo is a free app that takes on language learning in a very fun and intuitive way. First time glancing at it’s interface it becomes clear that a significant amount of attention is given to the design and user experience. You know how we’re always advised to be in a tidy and clean environment when studying? Same applies to the learning medium. In case of textbooks and other formats, they’re often so cluttered with information and details that we – as beginners in a language – simply don’t need to know about. The smart folks over at Duolingo have realized that and they present us with a beautiful, clean experience unlike any other.
Instead they have a fresh, gamified approach to the problem. All words are categorized separately based on their difficulty, at end of each level you’ll have a little chart giving you feedback on how you did and what words you need to improve on to. You can also follow people/friends who are learning the same language as you are and start competing with each other. Neat stuff!
At first, it might take you by surprised to learn that an app of such quality and promise would be free. You might expect there to be some sort of hidden fee, monthly subscription, annoying ads and so on. But this app is completely free. No ads, no fees, nothing. So where does the money come from? Here’s where things get interesting. Duolingo is hoping to translate the web into every possible language, and they are using a very similar system to CAPCHA. A user is able to upload a document to the server, the documents is then given out to the community to be translated for a small fee payable by the uploader. You know how they say “a picture worth a million words”? Just watch the video below and it’ll give you a pretty good idea about the business model.
I have had an interest in learning different languages since mid-school, and believe it’s one of the skills that will not be outdated, not in my life time at least. I appreciate having the possibility of learning different languages at my finger tips, free of charge. While the programs provided by Duolingo wont make you fluent in a language, they will give you an understanding of the fundamentals and a big enough vocabulary to get you started.
At time the smiling owl reminds me of my school bully. At least the owl didn’t jump out screen to take my lunch money. Jump over to either the App Store or the Google Play and download the free app.