My friend mentioned that he was making significant progress in Portuguese by using Duolingo. So I thought I would give it a try to it out to determine whether or not it could be supplemented into independent language learning. Let’s have a look at its features:
It divides each section by theme and allows you to test each vocabulary through translation to and from the target language. Locating vocabulary becomes much easier when you know exactly where to find words quickly.
Pros: Searching for vocabulary is relatively simple. You don’t have to browse through various lessons trying to find a particular word, phrase or grammatical pattern.
Cons: Most of the vocabulary is stilted and unnatural, plausibly from a textbook.
Ideal for those who are NOT absolute beginners in the language and would like more a challenge. In order to be able to skip ahead, one must pass the test containing all the vocabulary, phrases , and grammatical patterns in that section. You have only 3 attempts to advance to a higher level. After 3 failed attempts you must wait 24 hours before you will be allowed to try again.
Pros: The ability to bypass irrelevant or far too simple for the learner.
Cons: The failed attempts don’t necessarily demonstrate that the learner is not ready to advance.
I find this aspect to be extremely vital when it comes to learning languages. By having a forum you can have feedback from native speakers, inquire about potential problems, and the ability to get answers to your questions.
Pros: Problems, concerns, inquiries, etc can be addressed on the forums.
Cons: Depending on how the forum is moderated, you may or may not get a resolution to your problem. Either the forum is drastically in need of an update or despite having categories, many of the threads look quite disorganised.
Spaced Repetition to reinforce vocabulary
Using an SRS (Spaced Repetition System) to boost unfamiliar vocabulary through daily repetition. Duolingo sends out daily email reminders with the aim of refreshing your knowledge in the language. Timed repetitions are optional.
Pros: The words and phrases are read aloud, the ability to do time repetitions, and occasional multiple choice questions. Reinforce weaker vocabulary by increasing the frequency and using the daily emails as reminders to continue repetitions on a daily basis.
Cons: Automated voices reading the words and phrases. Having a robotic voice read your text produces catastrophic results. So why use it to read words and phrases in foreign languages? Especially if it doesn’t recognise the sound and generates an outrageous pronunciation of the word that NO native speaker would say.
Read articles written in the target language by native speakers in addition to translating it into your native language.
Pros: Authentic content native speakers reference often.
Cons: Most of the articles are Wikipedia pages which could either be a translation of the original page or an original article in the target language. The articles might not have been proofread and could potentially contain a lot of grammatical mistakes, misspellings, or even machine translated at worse. Since Wikipedia can easily be edited that the credibility can be considered dubious. Plausible information will more likely come from the links contrary to the article itself.
Take your learning on the go with an app available in both the Apple and Android markets.
Pros: Access to the site’s major features on a mobile device or tablet.
Cons: Limited to only English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Overall impression: Supplement only
Personally, I was disappointed because I expected it to be an immersive programme and with ground-breaking features. The selection of languages is notably limited to English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. However, it would make a great replacement for learning in the classroom. You have the capability to learn more than out of typical textbook and with spaced repetition e-Flashcards to reinforce what you learn daily.
I would recommend Duolingo as a supplement to your language learning. (Assuming you are learning, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish). The immersion section requires more authentic content away from Wikipedia articles and the audio could benefit from a native speaker reading the words and phrases instead of a computerised voice that could easily mispronounce a word or phrase. I wouldn’t rely entirely on this programme to bring you to fluency but it works as a supplement though! 😀
Have you also used Duolingo to supplement your language learning? Did you like it or was it a waste of your time? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!