Sometimes we focus so much on English that we forget the world speaks other languages too. The desire to learn a new language is almost on everyone’s wishlist. Then what is it that stops us? The daunting learning curve? The lack of resources? Or could it be the paucity of time? Maybe, all three.
But thanks to the web and a slew of online language learning tools, all three together cannot make up an excuse. Thanks to Duolingo, any steep learning curve should also be a not-so-daunting climb. Duolingo is a new language learning web service that helps you learn a new language by putting you to work translating the web.
Don’t be put off by its description – you learn a language for free while helping to translate the web. It’s not all work and no play. In fact, it is just the opposite. Duolingo is partially a language learning game and partially a crowdsourcing platform which uses language translation to free up knowledge. The best of both these worlds allows it to be free of any subscription fees or ads. What the learner gets is an undiluted experience.
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The First Few Steps into a New Language
Duolingo doesn’t allow you to get lost in confusion. After registering and entering the website and choosing the language of your choice, you are taken through a few introductory steps. You also earn your first 10 points for completing them. Basically, you are given a text in the foreign language and you have to translate it and vice-versa.
To progress through the course, you have to complete various stages on your Skill Tree. Completing one skill unlocks other skills. Gradually, you can progress from basic words all the way through grammar, sentence structure, and abstract ideas. Duolingo keeps track of your success and failures.
Here’s a screen of a typical basic lesson. You can listen to the pronunciation. Some lessons also call for you to activate the microphone and speak to get the pronunciation right. Tips and Notes clear up grammatical issues behind a word or a sentence.
The step-by-step lessons give you a feedback at every stage. You are allowed only four tries when tested (note the hearts on top). After your ‘hearts’ are over, you have to repeat the lesson till you get it right. This forced discipline ensures you do not take any shortcuts. With each step forward, you earn skill points.
Whenever you complete a lesson, you can now see a list of the words you’ve learned on the lower part of the skill page. You can use the Vocabulary page to practice the words again. Duolingo uses a spaced repetition system to help with revision of new words.
Time to Give Back: Help With Translations
The translation page of your preferred language has several documents which you can rate for their accuracy of translations. Suggested edits and translation ratings takes each document to its completion. Documents that may need your translation services are arranged in categories. You can pick any from the ones you are interested in. Remember, each contribution helps you not only notch up skill points, but also enable you to gain proficiency in the new language.
Is Duolingo One Of The Best Tools For Language Learners?
In any tongue, the answer would be a ‘yes’. The feedback system on Duolingo helps you to instantly grasp the intricacies of a language and also ensures a certain discipline. With the help of translations, you are also practically learning on the ‘job’.
The best part of Duolingo is that it does not allow you to take shortcuts unless you master the foundation lessons. Of course, the better part is that the language website is completely free and very easy on the eyes as there are no ads. There aren’t a lot of languages in the list yet, but the popular ones like French, German and Spanish can be learned.
With a recent $15 million infusion of funds, I hope it stays that way. But what this positively signals is that Duolingo means business and is in this for the long haul. In any language that would sound sweet.
Check out Duolingo and tell us your first impressions. For now, keep the comments in English please!