As a lover of words and traveling, it should come as no surprise that I feel much the same way about languages. I studied French for seven years throughout high school and college, and yet I find I’m already forgetting little things here and there. If I had my druthers, I’d have tried harder to take more French classes instead of giving up on getting a minor when scheduling got in the way. C’est dommage! (What a pity.)
With summer approaching, it’s time to refresh your foreign language skills if you’re headed overseas. (And if you are, lucky you!) Duolingo is a free mobile and web app that makes learning or brushing up on a language easy and enjoyable. Its cute illustrations and bright colors make language education approachable, and the activities aren’t too daunting. For now, Duolingo offers courses in Spanish, French, Italian, German and Portuguese. I’ve been practicing French for a few months now, and I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my own abilities.
Practice is simple. You select how often and for how long you’d like to practice, then the app nudges you to complete a lesson a day. The lessons vary from fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions to listening and speaking exercises. You’ll study all kinds of vocabulary — nouns, adjectives, verbs — and then put them to use in sentences. You can also duel with friends or a computer. According to an independent study, 34 hours of Duolingo garners the same efficacy as one college semester of the same class.
Perhaps the best part of the app is that it’s both free to use and free of advertisements — always. To make this happen, Duolingo relies on its students to practice their new language by translating documents for third parties. Duolingo receives payment for offering this service, thus keeping the app free. Would you use Duolingo? What language do you most want to learn?
Type(s): Web, iPhone and Android
(Photo // Susannah Brinkley)