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Duolingo!


crazyforkate
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Maybe we should have a forum for book learnin' (app learnin'?), but in the meantime I'll post here. Anyone else really into learning languages? Whenever I'm bored I generally pick up a book and teach myself the basics - Hebrew and Swedish were recent, rather unsuccessful projects, mostly because I was teaching myself through ancient workbooks and movie subtitles. That, and I have the motivation of a snail with a tequila hangover.

 

Anyway, I really like this app Duolingo, which is free and currently offers French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese. I'm stumbling through the basics of German and Portuguese and some of the more advanced French. They treat it kind of like a game, which I guess is an excuse to keep going. It's a lot of fun! Anyone else using it?

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So weird that you posted this today - I just discovered/heard of this yesterday and was really curious as to how it would work! I've been desperate to brush up on my high school French (which I always do before a trip to France, and then immediately brain dump and can't remember a word a few months later - ugh!). But haven't had the time to start my Rosetta Stone in earnest.

So how does this work? Do you find it actually improves your proficiency?

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With French, I'm pretty proficient already, but haven't spoken it in years, so it's mostly a matter of reminding myself. If you've taken many language classes in the subject, it might trip you up because you learned it differently. However, my German, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian are coming along nicely. It's an app that takes you through mini-units, made up of 2-10 lessons. You get a certain number of "hearts" each lesson and if you lose all your hearts, you fail and have to retake it. You can also take a "shortcut" test to bypass certain levels if you know it already. It's a combination of listening, identifying pictures, and translating back and forth.

There are some downsides - no speaking evaluation yet, though apparently there are plans down the line. It can also be low on vocab - I haven't yet learned how to say "my name is" in German, for example, though I'm already five levels into it and starting to learn some gnarly grammar. For brushing up, or starting with a good framework, I couldn't recommend it more. But there are definitely drawbacks.

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This is fun!! Thanks for sharing. I'm doing German, which would have been most useful when I visited two years ago where all I wanted to do was speak Japanese (my foreign language in high school).

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I used duolingo a while back with Italian, since I wanted to refresh what I learned in college. I quite like it, though there are some times when the computer generated voice is a little strange. I also found, with italian, that they presented a few less common ways of saying things (they didn't use "Mi chiamo Megan", if I remember correctly. Probably because it's reflexive, still strange).

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  • 2 weeks later...

I used it a few times a month or so ago. I like it, but I don't know how accurate it is, really.

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I think its pretty cool to learn, say, the amount you'd need as a tourist, or maybe as a supplement to other material. I'm stuck on the pronouns of Italian though. It doesn't really give any guidance as to when you should use male or female or whatever, so it feels a lot like guesswork. Still, for a free app its pretty fun.

I've used Babble apps before too, and I think those are better for breadth of vocab, but less directed and less motivating. I guess it depends on your degree of commitment to learning the language...

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  • 1 month later...

Well, I've been using religiously since the end of January, and it's really paying off. Almost done the French tree (I just test out of a lot of things, though) and am at around level 8 with the four others. It's a lot of fun and I actually want to stick with it. Apparently they're introducing some new languages later this year, Russian and Polish among them. Sounds like fun!

The one thing the app can't account for, however, is speaking. Would anyone be interested in becoming a Skype language buddy with me? There are some sites out there but they all seem pretty weak. Especially looking for French :)

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  • 4 months later...

I've just found it a couple weeks ago. It's super helpful to brush up on my French & Spanish, which I haven't really used since high school. I'm also learning German with it, which is a big help because my boyfriend's parents are German-Canadian, so we can figure each other out a lot better now :)

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I should add here that they now have Dutch, Danish and Irish. I'm enjoying them all though Irish tends to throw me. They should be adding Hungarian and Swedish (for English-speakers) soon, too! Languages for all!

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

this thread caught my eye, because i'm a language person (including professionally), and i'm currently working on a similar type of language e-learning program. after going through the level test and then playing around with the basic levels for some of the languages i speak, i have to say that i'm underwhelmed by this app for many, many reasons.

to start with, the parts of the French level test that i saw were all translation and dictation-based listening comprehension. i think this is a really poor way to assess a learner's level. also, instead of using an actual person for the listening bits, they've got a computer-voice. the pronunciation and especially the intonation are often awkward and unnatural-sounding. my French wife had to listen multiple times to several of the sentences, and even then, she wasn't completely sure what was being said. the voice recognition parts were also maddening. at times, the program couldn't recognize my wife saying basic words and sentences in her native language. if a native speaker can't understand or be understood by the app, can it really be that good?

as someone said early, i could see this app being somewhat useful for people who might briefly use the language during travels, but i can't imagine that anyone could become fluent in a language using du0lingo. from what i can tell, there are no authentic materials, so students are learning to understand an unnatural version of the language. there is no way for the program to evaluate speaking, and if you model your pronunciation and intonation on the examples Du0lingo gives you, you'll end up speaking the language like some Gallic-member of Borg.

as both a teacher and student, i've formed a lot of opinions on foreign language acquisition and retention, but i still haven't decided what i think about these types of e-learning apps/programs. for those of you who posted months ago and who were learning languages with this app, how have you progressed since then? have any of you used it as a springboard and then moved on to other things (language exchanges, reading newspapers/blogs in the language, watching movies/show in that language, listening to and analyzing the lyrics of songs in that language, etc...)?

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Oh, I definitely agree it shouldn't be the only thing - but it's a good way to pick up basic vocab, and fun as a reminder. I basically do most of the languages for the lulz, though my German and Portuguese at the very least have gotten good enough for short conversations. (They'd be better if I wasn't completely lazy about it.) The only one I'm really seriously studying is Swedish, and then I'm supplementing with books, music and films - hoping to find a Swedish language partner, but those are scarce in this part of Canuckland.

And yeah, as a longtime French speaker I do agree that this particular language had massive flaws as presented by Duo. Lots of inaccuracies and some weird stuff. Still fun though. (And the Irish language at least does have a real person speaking the sentences - you can really hear the difference from the computer, and it's quite helpful.)

Can you tell us a bit more about your app and what it might be like? Or at least what kind of languages might be on offer? I'm definitely interested!

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Oh, I definitely agree it shouldn't be the only thing - but it's a good way to pick up basic vocab, and fun as a reminder. I basically do most of the languages for the lulz, though my German and Portuguese at the very least have gotten good enough for short conversations. (They'd be better if I wasn't completely lazy about it.) The only one I'm really seriously studying is Swedish, and then I'm supplementing with books, music and films - hoping to find a Swedish language partner, but those are scarce in this part of Canuckland.

And yeah, as a longtime French speaker I do agree that this particular language had massive flaws as presented by Duo. Lots of inaccuracies and some weird stuff. Still fun though. (And the Irish language at least does have a real person speaking the sentences - you can really hear the difference from the computer, and it's quite helpful.)

Can you tell us a bit more about your app and what it might be like? Or at least what kind of languages might be on offer? I'm definitely interested!

i'm glad to hear that it's been a useful tool for you! i always encourage my students to find the things that get them interested in and excited about the language they are learning. for the Swedish language partner, why not try one of the online language exchange sites? i found this:

Swedish language partners

i can't vouch for the site, but there seem to be more than one out there. many of my students have used online language exchanges, and there's usually noticeable improvement in their listening comprehension, speaking and vocabulary over time.

you sound much more self-motivated than i am, btw. i'm very lazy and have only become fluent in languages because of a mix of classroom instruction and time spent living in the countries where they are spoken. being in love has motivated me to learn more than one other tongue. oh, and alcohol has been a helpful tool... i suddenly find that i'm far more fluent than i thought when there's been a drink or two to lubricate the conversation. :lol:

i was disappointed to find that the German du0lingo app also uses a computer voice, but that and French are the only two i checked out. i'm glad to hear that at least some of the languages have real people doing the voices. i was going to say that it's strange that they have native speakers for Irish but not for more popular languages, but now i'm wondering if maybe the company is based out of Ireland or if they have some kind of production center there. i know from experience how much time goes into recording, editing, cutting and inputting all of those sound files (and just for one language! i can't imagine doing it for dozens of them...)

i'm actually working on something much bigger and more involved than an app, but some of the exercises in DL are similar to ours. it hasn't been released yet, so i can't say much about it (oh, how i wish i could..), but i will tell you that i wouldn't ever recommend it to a serious language learner...for many, many reasons. i love teaching, and i was very excited to work on this type of project, because i believe that mixed learning (computer-based combined with classroom or one-on-one teaching) is the wave of the future. those rose-colored glasses i was wearing fogged up pretty fast. creativity, sound-pedagogy and authentic (or at least semi-authentic) materials have all been tossed out the window in the name of profit. and, sadly, that's not even the ugliest part. if i could i would tell every person of color and LGBT person i know to never give their money to this company. /rant

in spite of my disillusionment, i *do* think that an effective, high quality language learning app/program is possible, and i hope that it happens. i have a few more languages i'd like to learn myself.

viel glueck with your language adventures!

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For School, I'm taking my first year of Spanish, after two years each of Mandarin and French. I haven't actually used any programs or apps, but this sounds cool.

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  • 5 months later...

Just a heads-up to mention that they've added Ukrainian, Norwegian and Turkish in the past couple of months, with Esperanto soon to follow! I am going crazy with Norsk.

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  • 3 months later...

I've been using Duolingo for Spanish for a while now, and there is a speaking element that must be newer than most of the posts on this thread. So if you haven't checked back in a while, it might be a good time to!

I also really like the immersion section. Find a piece of writing in your target language and work on translating it with the community! It has helped me a lot. Though the duolingo app on my iPhone was world's better than the one on my new Android phone.

I really also like Memrise. It doesn't help much with sentence structure or a lot of important elements, but it presents words based on frequency in native speech, which is turning out to be really useful, especially since I'm in Madrid right now and Duolingo simply hasn't presented me with some of the common terms yet. Memrise also has audio of the words being spoken by a variety of speakers to get a better handle on different pronunciations (usually three sound bites per word). And you can choose or create little memes to help you remember tough words. It's been a handy supplement, though I still like duolingo better overall.

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  • 2 months later...

I love, love, love Duolingo...  That or I'm just addicted to it.  I am nearly done with German and getting there on French.  I finished the Spanish and sort of felt like I was left hanging...  Do they add more over time?  I started Esperanto for fun but it was rather bizarre.  I am looking forward to Hebrew!

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Esperanto is a fascinating look into the world of early 20th century language idealism (I just wish he'd used some more common diacritics, seeing as ĥ is a PITA to find in Unicode). I once tried to teach myself out of a book as old as my grandmother and remember precisely one word: kuirejo (kitchen), only because it was the one word in the book I couldn't pronounce.

I need to get back into the habit of using Duolingo daily. I'm forgetting all my German :(

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