Duolingo promises to help everyone learn a language for free. Their bit-sized, gamified, and addictive lessons have more than 170 million users. Because it can be used through most mobile devices, Duolingo can help you learn to read, write, listen, and speak during your breaks, commutes, or any other time spent waiting.
At the beginning of your Duolingo experience – after choosing which language to learn – you are asked to set your daily goal and may pick either casual (5 minutes per day), regular (10 minutes per day), serious (15 minutes per day), or insane (20 minutes per day).
You can decide to start either at the very beginning of a given language (what Duolingo calls Basic 1) or have a placement test which lasts about 5 minutes. The test is adaptive, meaning it gets harder (or easier) based on your answers.
During the test, you will have to translate expressions or sentences like “bye and thanks” or “I’m a woman.” Also, you will hear some expressions in the language you’re learning and you will have to type them. Don’t worry, Duolingo accepts typos, especially when it comes to accents (for which there is a special keyboard available) and you can always repeat what you have just heard.
The system makes you feel good straight from the beginning, letting you win achievements in a very gamified way every time you accomplish a milestone, such as passing the test. Once you have created a profile, you may then choose your next lessons. These start with tips and notes; for example, the grammar rules in some items are explained.
In the lesson itself, you will mostly be asked to translate expressions or sentences. Sometimes, you will be asked to speak via your microphone. Here’s a hint: the app lets you see the translation of a word when you hover over it, which definitely helps!
At end of the lesson, you can go back and do a review. Upon completion, you gain a score and earn some sort of virtual currency (lingots) which can be used to redeem items from the virtual store. The whole experience really feels like a game, complete with a leaderboard to measure up against your friends. It also records the day streaks you have achieved, helping to keep your motivation up.