There is a wide range of apps available to assist with language learning. These can range from simple flashcard applications to complex guided learning systems with all sorts of different features. As language students, we can be tempted to try apps such as Duolingo to try and learn to speak fluently, but can you learn to speak fluently with Duolingo?
In order to answer this question, we must first examine what Duolingo is, look at how it works, and read up on the effectiveness and theory behind gamified learning. There is all sorts of research on the topic of language learning, both individually and in a classroom/immersion setting. Tapping into the power of this research with a properly constructed assisted learning app is potentially a great way to tie a lot of the cutting-edge methods for language study together.
That being said, there are obviously both good and bad apps out there for qualifying language studies. In order to make sure we can learn to speak fluently with Duolingo, we must take the proper precautions to make sure we are examining it fairly and accurately. The first thing we’ll be taking a look at is what Duolingo has to offer, and how it all works.
What Is Duolingo?
Duolingo is a suite of assisted learning apps for language which uses gamification to motivate students towards fluency. Gamification is the practice of introducing simple elements from role-playing games into the learning process, in order to make studying activities more interesting, and add an element of motivation to the method of teaching. There have been all sorts of studies on why this works, and the reasoning lies deep within our subconscious minds.
Just like with video games and slot machines, certain types of stimulus used in gamified interfaces are built to subconsciously motivate your brain towards wanting to continue and progress. Anybody who has played role-playing games extensively probably knows what it feels like to want just one more level-up. This same cycle of subconscious motivation can and has been effectively used to motivate people in a wide range of pursuits, not just language learning.
You can find all sorts of gamified motivation apps for things like workout routines, self-improvement, and anything else that people find it difficult to keep doing. This is a powerful tool for people who have trouble motivating themselves organically, and it has a lot of potentials when it comes to language learning especially.
Duolingo uses the concept of gamification to great effectiveness in its language lessons. There is a huge curriculum of effective activities for studying and practicing speech, reading comprehension, and listening. The app will also keep track of how many days in a row you manage to get some study time in, and remind you when you start to lag behind.
For users who want a more intensive course with more resources and mechanics, there is also Duolingo plus. This is a paid subscription which allows users to study without ads. Plus users also get added features like streak repair and offline studying for when you don’t have access to wifi.
The paid version costs $6.99 per month and also helps support the Duolingo mission of bringing free education to millions. The cost is a little steep considering the lessons themselves are free, but it’s still a low price to pay for being able to learn a language to fluency with Duolingo. There is also a free seven-day trial available for users who want to give Duolingo plus a try without having to pay up front.
For teachers, there is also Duolingo for the classroom. This version allows teachers to gamify their curriculum and supplement their classes with Duolingo’s effective and fun-to-use lesson plan interface. Although we won’t be covering too much of this functionality in this article, curious readers should definitely check out Duolingo’s site for information on the classroom app.
If you’re skeptical about the process, and you want to know some of the science behind gamified learning, Duolingo actually has a language learning theory and research section on its website. Visiting the page and reading through the entries will give you a good idea of the concepts behind the lesson structures and gamified mechanics of the Duolingo system. There is a lot of information available, with new papers by linguistic experts about cutting-edge language learning methods and why they work.
Duolingo Pros & Cons
While Duolingo is a very popular tool for gamified language learning and one of the premier resources for free gamified language study on the market, there are some things that students should keep in mind when considering Duolingo. Just like with anything else, language learning is different for everybody, and if you already have a good system in place to motivate yourself to study every day, it might be unnecessary, or even harmful to insist on gamified interfaces like Duolingo.
In order to get a well-rounded idea of what Duolingo has to offer, as well as the areas in which it tends to come up short, we’re going to take a closer look at the different advantages and disadvantages we’ve identified with working through Duolingo.
- Gamified interface for learning languages. The gamification method, as we mentioned earlier, allows people to stay motivated through gamified mechanics as they study. Along with the diverse and well-researched lessons available, this makes Duolingo a very effective tool for beginners and intermediate language learners.
- A wide range of lessons designed to teach speaking, listening, and reading skills. This ensures that users take a balanced approach to their studies, and do not neglect essential areas of language comprehension.
- Scientifically based language research and regular improvements. Duolingo publicly displays scientific research papers that influence its language learning curriculum. You can log on and actually read the papers themselves through Duolingo’s website.
- Learn a wide range of languages, from Mandarin to Romanian to High Valyrian. The sheer amount of language courses offered by Duolingo is staggering, co, pared to other free language learning resources.
- Participate in a forum designed to help students connect with one another. Connecting with other language learners of all experience levels is an essential step to making sure you’re learning the right way. Without an avenue to reach other students for support and encouragement with Duolingo, it can be difficult to feel like you’re studying effectively.
- Share in a diverse range of learning methods and study techniques. Duolingo employs some of the latest in cutting-edge linguistic research in order to provide an effective learning landscape for its users. Tapping into the power of this research for free is an opportunity too good for many language students to pass up.
- Learn at your own pace. This is a great advantage that most language learning apps have to offer. Duolingo allows you to learn at your own pace so that you don’t get bogged down with grammar and vocab if you’re still struggling with pronunciation.
- Take your studies anywhere you go. Mobile apps available for Android and iOS ensure that you’ll be able to take Duolingo with you wherever you go, allowing you to study any time or place that is effective for you.
- Some features limited to certain apps, such as mobile-only support for offline study.
- Other methods may be necessary to supplement higher-level learning. Duolingo is effective for beginners and intermediate level students. Taking it farther may require supplementary resources.
- Some users feel like the grammar lessons are slightly lacking. Although Duolingo’s curriculum is based on good science and responsible research, the proportion of grammar lessons seems a bit low, considering the importance of grammar itself.
- Some of the gamified features are too forgiving. While gamification is great to help motivate users, some of the gamified mechanics are a little bit forgiving, which can end up with students practicing bad habits.
- Although there is a wide range of available languages, some are still not available, such as Serbian, or Finnish. While Duolingo adds new language lessons with decent frequency, there is no real order to it, and languages in high demand among users are still waiting to be featured.
So, Can You Learn To Speak Fluently With Duolingo?
Like with any other language learning resource, the effectiveness will really depend on the user. For some people that have trouble motivating themselves organically, using apps like Duolingo can be a very effective way of staying interested. For other people that already have good study habits and are looking for something a little more advanced, Duolingo will probably be a little different from what you’re looking for.
There are a wealth of language learning resources available, both for free and with paid subscriptions. Having a tool such as Duolingo at your disposal is a great way to take advantage of your free time o learn a new skill. If you’re curious about Duolingo and want to give it a try, you can head on over to their website and get started right away!