Starting this semester, our family decided to start learning German. Our daughter is a Freshman, and is going to need foreign language credits for homeschool. Jenny and I started learning German some time ago, so it was a natural choice for us to do it as a family, and cover all our bases. Unfortunately, learning a new language can be hard without a special teacher! But the internet came to the rescue in the form of Duolingo.
Duolingo is a language learning program that is best used through an internet browser. It is also available as an app, which can be handy, but is less thorough than the website. Our family uses the browser to track our progress and practice, so I’ll dive into that.
This is the interface when you go to Duolingo.com:
I’m doing German, so the word “German” and the German flag show up a lot. Duolingo automatically tracks your progress in a number of ways. On the left hand, we see “Basics 1”, which is your first lesson in your new language. Each lesson completed unlocks the next tier, so lessons are built on previous exposure.
On the right, a running score of your “Fluency” is displayed. You can even link it to LinkedIn, which I suggest you do not do. Duolingo does a lot, but you will not be fluent in German when you finish the German track, I promise. This number loosely reflects the progress you make inside Duolingo. When new lessons are added, this number drops. When you complete more lessons, the number increases.
At the top right, you can see my username and photo. This is a drop-down menu that lets me deal with my personal preferences. The number over the flame represents my streak. I’ve done Duolingo two days in a row (I missed a day, and lost my streak!), and I’ve completed it today, which is why there is a check mark. The gem represents Lingots, the official currency of Duolingo. Lingots are used to unlock features, and buy clothes for Duo. Finally, the bell icon tells you if you have news.
Above, you can see my progress along the track, and the Daily Goal trackers. The track features bonus skills, such as “Flirting” and “Idioms”, which I bought with Lingots. To get there, I had to finish “Basics 2” and “Phrases”. The keen observer will see that I don’t have “Phrases” completed! Don’t worry, I’m not a cheat. Duolingo added a new lesson to “Phrases”, so now I need to go back and do that one. I don’t lose my progress on the track, though. The Daily Goal graph tracks your experience, and it is reflected on a chart for you. Players can select “Strengthen Skills” to beef up subjects you haven’t practiced in a while.
My favorite part about Duolingo, in the end, is the actual content. In the image above, Duolingo asks for a translation of “Wo sind meine Millionen?” The translation, of course, is “Where are my millions?” The fun and playful slant that Duolingo is prone to has even spawned its own Twitter celebrity. The username of that Tweeter is not family friendly, so I’ll not link it here. Just search for #Duolingo, and you’ll find it.
Other statements are meant to make the student think about words in new ways. This is usually accomplished by dropping speech clichés, and putting words together that you might not normally consider. This is a great way to practice vocabulary on your own, so the mistakes you make are private. That’s very useful when everyone’s starting from scratch.
At this point, Jenny, myself and our two kids are all set up. We’ve been doing it for a while, and the Girl is competing hotly with Jenny for the lead. We set a low goal (10xp/day) and we all try to keep our streaks. Jenny’s streak is currently at day #142. As you saw above, I’m at 2… Diligence was not my strong suit this week.
Just in case German isn’t your language, here’s a complete list of the 23 languages you can learn on Duolingo. Did I mention you can learn Esperanto and Klingon? Yeah. That’s a thing. Happy hunting!