With this world becoming smaller and smaller, learning a second language has evolved from an attractive skill on a resume to a necessity in order to garner an edge in the eyes of future employers. The problem, however, has been how to achieve a level of fluency in a second language.
For whatever reason, the level of foreign language education in high schools and colleges rarely achieves a modicum of fluent speakers. Therefore, serious language students have been posed with two options: enrolling in a language school in a foreign country or purchasing expensive software. Throwing down $500 on Rosetta Stone or thousands of dollars on a trip to Guatemala however is a risky investment if you’re not sure how successful you will become.
Thankfully, back in 2012 an app by the name of Duolingo arrived on the scene attempting to change the state of language learning.
Duolingo, being entirely free, automatically has a leg up on its competition. There is absolutely no cost or risk in downloading the app, which is available for both Apple and Anrdroid. Given the lack of even a nominal fee, Duolingo is worthy of a download and a tryout. However, will it help the dedicated linguist become fluent in another language?
Firstly, I must provide some background on my experience with my potential second language, Spanish. I have experience with Spanish in college. I have tried Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone. I have even gone on a sojourn to lovely Antiqua, Guatemala in an attempt to learn the language from natives. Since I don’t practice Spanish regularly, I can’t call myself fluent. I do have an extensive vocabulary and understand the basic rules of syntax in the Spanish language. I tend to trip over the basics quite often, though. Considering all of this Duolingo is an ideal option for me.
Something For Everyone
Duolingo offers courses, games, and quizzes for the major European languages (unfortunately, no Asian languages, which would be interesting). The app begins with an assessment in your language of choice. The test determines which level you will start on. You are also given the option of testing out of different levels if you feel you are ready to move on to the next level. The objectives in each level are challenging and don’t bore you with overly formal greetings and salutations.
Unlike Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur, whose lessons tend to drag, Duolingo moves at a swift pace. The interactivity involved with the app allows you to learn quickly. Additionally, the fact that it is mobile makes it easy to learn on the go.
The greatest feature of Duolingo is the Skill Strengthening section. In this section, Duolingo creates a review quiz involving vocabulary words and skills that have yet to be mastered. It provides users like me the opportunity to hone and achieve a mastery over crucial skills.
Other attractive features of Duolingo include the social media setting, which allows you to compete against your friends. Additionally, Duolingo offers articles to be translated according to your skill level. One major drawback is the lack of a feature which allows you to communicate with native speakers of your target language; such as the one Live Mocha contains.
So Does It Work?
That's the major question of course. Will Duolingo actually make you fluent?
While I haven’t progressed far enough in the program to answer that question, I will say the answer is likely “no.” That is not a flaw of app because no program alone has that ability. Becoming fluent in a language – unless you are James Bond - is a lifelong process that includes speaking, reading, and writing your target language on a daily basis.
Duolingo will, however, help you strengthen your vocabulary and grammatical skills, which will develop a strong foundation and roadway to fluency. Not bad for something that costs nothing but a few megabytes of storage space.