I often have a desire to better myself, but being extremely lazy I seldom make the time. So it’s good for me every time I stumble across a “life hack” that offers a positive change for minimal investment of time or effort. The first such thing I tried was the “7-minute workout“, which is essentially just good, old-fashioned calisthenics, in 30-second sets. It’s a good workout and seems to be at least as beneficial as running a few miles, which is usually too much of a commitment for me to make.
Another one of these life-hacks is Duolingo, which operates on the premise that you only learn effectively in 10-minute chunks. Trying to do more than that has diminishing returns – it’s a waste of time to try to cram for two hours when only that first ten minutes will be effective. I’ve been using Duolingo for several months and can vouch for its ease and effectiveness.
What is it
Duolingo is a free (ad-based) language learning app available on all platforms, including a website. They offer dozens of languages.
Who is it for
It doesn’t seem geared for any particular age group, but a child using it needs to be a competent reader in English, since most of the prompts in the app are written English. Our 7-year-old is a good reader and has been using Duolingo to learn French.
What Kids Like
The interface is heavily gamified, with constant feedback, badges, leveling-up, etc. So there is continual affirmation and a sense of progress.
They see it as yet another game, yet instead of learning about how to defeat zombies or level up their spaceship, they are learning a foreign language.
All instruction is passive and indirect. There is no overt instruction – no lectures, only translation of words and sentences. If you translate correctly, you get a happy chime and your progress bar goes up. If you fail, you get a chance to try again and you can’t complete the level until all the sentences in the level have been translated correctly.
What Parents Like
I like that it works and I need to do nothing to motivate my child since the app is fun on its own. I like that there is an app on my phone that I can share with my child that isn’t yet another game or Youtube, or whatever.
The interface is really one of the most effective teaching environments I’ve ever seen. I wonder whether other subjects could be taught this way.
What the Critics Think
iTunes users rate it 4.7/5 as do users on Android
Language-learning site Fluent in 3 Months has a review https://www.fluentin3months.com/duolingo/ and gives the app 4 out of 5 stars
My complaint is that not all language courses on Duolingo are good. The Chinese one, for example, is terrible. I think the Duolingo interface works best with Roman alphabet languages. Trying to learn Arabic, Russian, or any Asian language will be a challenge – too big of a challenge for a kid because they have to learn the alphabet as well as the vocabulary and grammar.
Who Made it
Duolingo is based in Pittsburgh and was started in 2011. There are currently 300 million users
Where Can I Get it
Download from iTunes or the Google Play Store
or just visit the Duolingo site