I previously wrote about Duolingo when it was first in Beta. This summer I spent many pleasant hours on Duolingo, convinced to learn French.
Duolingo teaches languages in a more authentic way – not memorizing lists of vocabulary or filling out conjugation charts. Instead, everything is presented and reviewed in a context. The vocabulary and verbs appear in sentences and phrases. Many of the phrases are everyday expressions, so they easily transfer to real use. There are also some silly sounding sentences that challenge your knowledge. You can not just make an educated guess to fill in the blanks. I do the same thing with my students when we create stories in class – I test true comprehension by adding elements of the absurd. “Todo es posible” is written on the wall of my classroom, so when they argue that a detail is not real, I point to the wall and say “Everything is possible in Spanish class.”
To get in the language learning mindset to attend ACTFL, I have been practicing, playing, and learning French on Duolingo again. I’m currently on French Level 9. My speaking skills are non-existant, but this is still my silent phase. I am able to read and write basic French, especially if it involves talking about food, animals, clothes, or people. My ears are still adjusting to the sound of French. I am improving by listening to the example sentences, while looking at the written version of the sentence. I know that I am actually learning because I have been able to read and understand some French – like the Tweets of French teachers I follow on Twitter an a French children’s book. I was able to get more than the general gist, but I probably was not perfect.
Last night at midnight – Duolingo got even better. They released an iOS mobile app. I did not download it exactly at midnight, but I did download it (and play) before heading to work this morning. I love the ease of use on my phone. I liked the layout of Duolingo on the website, but it did not always work well on a mobile device. The mobile device asks learners to complete similar or the same types of tasks.
I have recommended this website to parents and friends that lament over not remembering their high school language. I have also shared this site with students who want to extend their language learning beyond the French/Spanish offering at our school.