Jan 17

There are a lot of great (and not so great) web sites out there.  I'd like to share some of my favorites (and not so favorites sometimes) with you here some days.  Today I want to share one of my favorite language-learning sites, Duolingo.  It is a free program that features the adorable green owl, Duo.

I use Duolingo almost every day.  I currently have a 714 day streak on Duolingo (meaning that I've used it every day for 714 days... although there have been a few times that I used a 'streak freeze' to maintain the streak when I forgot to use it).  So I guess that it's proof that I really like this web site.

With Duolingo, you can learn a ton of different languages.  An English learner can choose from quite a few languages, including Spanish, French, Irish, Danish, Swedish, and more.  Volunteers are always adding new languages.  If you know other languages, there are other languages that you can learn.  I've done some of the German for Spanish speakers course, and you can literally feel your brain developing flexibility.

Duolingo has an app that you can use, which has all of it's courses except for the languages that are still in beta.  The app not only includes the main exercises (which involve a lot of translating and usually some speaking), but it also has recently added chatbots and clubs (where you can root on your friends as they learn the same language).  The chatbots allow you to have a conversation with a computer about various subjects, including holidays as they come up.  Duolingo seems to consistently be trying to improve itself to make language learning more effective.

Some of the sentences that you translate are silly, others are normal, and some are downright strange.  One of my favorite sentences in Duolingo is to translate from the German "Help, the horse is eating the holy potato!"  I found out that there actually is a 'holy potato' somewhere in Germany.  There is even a Reddit group where people post all the silly things that people find on Duolingo.

So what are the results?  Duolingo will not make you fluent in your language of choice, but it will help you learn the basics, which will help you move beyond the beginner classes.  Duolingo has helped me relearn my German and Russian and improve my Spanish abilities.  I've also been able to easily dabble in several other languages.  It's also excellent for reviewing.

There are some drawbacks.  Sometime translating sentences can get boring after a while, and the grammar covered in Duolingo isn't always completely explained.  Outside of that, Duolingo does work great as a first-year language program, especially for homeschoolers.  When combined with other language-learning techniques, it can really get you started on your language-learning journey.  It's also great to use as a review for languages that you already know.

I've recommended Duolingo to many of my friends, and even teach a class that uses Duolingo.  Try it out!  It's free, and you might like it.

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