What is Duolingo?

Duolingo is a free application that helps you learn a language through word games. As you advance, the levels become more challenging and teach you more advanced grammar and vocabulary. Duolingo offers courses in 31 languages. You can even learn Klingon and High Valyrian on Duolingo!

Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, Swedish, Japanese, Irish, Turkish, Norwegian, Danish, Polish, Hebrew, Greek, Vietnamese, Esperanto, Korean, Ukrainian, Welsh, Hungarian, Swahili, Romanian, Chinese, High Valyrian, Czech, Klingon, Hindi, Indonesian, Arabic.

Here are some tips for learning a new language on Duolingo:

Chat with their conversational Bots

You can practice your new language by conversing with Duolingo’s bots. Sometimes, the bot will act like a waiter taking your order or maybe a taxi driver asking for directions. The questions start off easy and get more difficult as you advance. If you don’t know how to answer, you click “HELP ME REPLY” and it gives you suggestions.  The trick is to answer in complete sentence, so it gives you more experience points.

Practice every day

It’s so important to be consistent in your practice. If you play Duolingo every day, you develop good learning habits and it keeps the language fresh in your mind. If you see a word and then don’t see it again for a week, you might forget it. But if you see a word every day for a week, you are much less likely to forget it. It’s better to play for ten minutes every day than to binge for two hours and then forget about it for a month.

Set goals

Duolingo allows you to set daily progress goals. You can choose between four levels depending how ambition you are. Duolingo keeps track of when you meet your daily goal and you get extra points for streak. It’s important to select a realistic goal based on the amount of free time you have.

Keep the streak alive

Try to meet your goal every day and keep your streak alive as long as possible!

Use Duolingo with travel

If you are going to visit a foreign country, you can use Duolingo for just a week or two before you go. That way you will learn the essentials like hi, please, thank you, and bye. When you are able to use some basic words the locals you meet will appreciate the effort! If you can find a language exchange, it’s a great place to practice the skills.

Know the shortcomings

Duolingo isn’t perfect. In my opinion, there are two shortcomings. The first is pronunciation. While it does ask you to pronounce phrases into the microphone for analysis, I don’t find this very effective. The other shortcoming is that it doesn’t explain high-level grammar rules very well. Because of this, I recommend trying to speak with locals (try italki.com) and supplementing with grammar books when you get a bit more advanced.

Bonus Level: Practice two languages at once

If you already speak one language, you are able to learn a new language using the first language. For example, I practiced “Portuguese for Spanish speakers” which helped me differentiate between two languages which are very similar.

Further Reading

If you are interested in language learning, I highly recommend the book Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis. He offers tons of tips and tricks to help accelerate the language learning process.

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