Using Duolingo daily

Duolingo is a mobile phone app that allows you to learn a number of languages whenever you have a few minutes. In so doing you can learn several minutes at a time, when commuting for example, or you can learn as a focused 20 minute session.

The Variety of learning options

Listening

There are two methods of learning by listening. The first option is that you hear a word or phrase and you have to select the correct one from a list. The second version is that you write the correct word with the correct spelling. This can also include listening and writing it in English

Images

Images are shown and you have to select the one that corrects to the word that you are looking for. It allows you to familiarise yourself with the word and the associated image. This is useful for beginners

Pairing Words

With this option you see German words and English words. The aim is to pair the English and German word together. When you do not know a word you can do this by a process of elimination, removing the words you are unsure about and then confirming them as the last pair. Conversely you can also pair a word you just learned, to push yourself.

Typing Phrases

In these situations you will either read the sentence in English and type it in German, see the sentence written and type it in German, or see it in German and write it in English. I find this one useful because it forces you to remember both the spellings and the conjugations of words.

Pronunciation

Finally, we have the pronunciation exercises. In this case, you see the sentence written down and you hear it. You then repeat the sentence you heard and you see the translation appear.

The Game

As you practice you will make mistakes. With this app you have the opportunity to make five mistakes before you have to take a break. The hearts replenish at a rate of one every four to five hours. You can replenish your hearts either by “practising” what you have learned or by watching an advert. Practice sessions are fun compared to watching adverts. These practice sessions help consolidate what you are learning.

Another aspect of the game is that it encourages you to practice every day by offering badges for consistency, getting a certain number of options right in a row and more. It also allows you to compete against friends by getting more “xp“.

Web Interface

The web interface is simple and intuitive to use. It’s a quick and simple way of getting through the modules efficiently. It also reduces the amount of adverts that you see. I found the web interface much faster to use.

Playing with languages you know

I played with French as an English speaker and English as a French speaker and I became frustrated. As a native in both languages I know that phrases would be understood by anyone I converse with. It expects you to give a specific sentence or phrase. With AI and a broader range of correct phrases this problem could be resolved.

Playing with languages you are unfamiliar with.

I tried Romanian, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Polish and other languages that I am unfamiliar with. With these languages, I really struggle. I find that many of the words are hard to remember. They do not sound like words from other languages. With time and perseverance, you could build your base and progress from there.

Progress Quiz

I started writing this blog post two or three weeks ago and since then I have progressed with studying the German language. I find that I can do entire lessons without making mistakes on some occasions and keep making mistakes in others. With lessons, you feel you’re getting to know a language but thanks to the progress quiz you get a true appreciation of whether you have learned a module or not.

I felt that I was learning German and that I was starting to understand a lot more but there is a considerable gap between what I understand and what I can express. Taking the quiz demonstrates that I still need to spend more time practising, and learning.

The Words Tab

The Words tab shows you the words that you have practiced and how fresh they are in your memory. With this tab you will be advised on when to practice words once again. if you practice one or two modules at a time then this word tab would be useful. I made the mistake of spending hours a day going through modules and as a result I see that I should practise specific words but I don’t remember which lesson tree they’re under.

I’d like to be able to click on a word and see which lessons those words are in. It would make refreshing my memory easier.

Conclusions

I started writing this blog post several weeks ago and wanted to play with more features from the website. I have now been using the website and app for about two months and I feel that my understanding of German has improved. I find that I am now in the habit of praciticing for an hour every single day. I supplement this practice with listening to Echo Der Zeit, a Swiss German current affairs news program, broadcast daily.

Learning via this website is about persistance rather than speed. You can rush through every module on the tree to boost your vocabulary but I found that in so doing the word tab becomes useless as you forget which word is in which module. I am now working my way through methodically, trying to get the modules to stay within my mind, rather than be forgotten within a few days. It’s easy to do from anywhere, including when waiting for a train (which I haven’t done in months) or waiting for food to be ready, which I have done. I like the app and website enough to be using it two months later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.