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Duolingo-Learn Spanish, English and German for Free

Updated on June 2, 2012

Have you always wanted to learn a foreign language? If you are anything like me, it's been on your to do list for a while now, maybe several years. Becoming bilingual may pave the way for new opportunities and career advancements. Do you dream about traveling to another country? Possibly you just enjoy learning new things.

Learning a language is hard work and takes time most people just don't have. Traditionally you have the option of taking a class, hiring a private tutor, or buying software that can be quite expensive. Of course there are free options for self learners, but I've found them quite boring. It's hard to stick with something that doesn't capture my attention.

I recently got an invitation to try out the new website Duolingo. Right now the site offers free courses in Spanish, German and English. There are plans to add other languages such as Chinese, Portuguese, French and Italian. I've only had the chance to poke around the site for a few days, but so far I really like what I see.

Interactive learning is a growing trend among educators at every level. It incorporates traditional methods of learning with new technologies. For self learners just hoping to pick up a new skill in their spare time, the advantages are clear. Interactive learning works because it's enjoyable. You want to learn, therefore your more engaged and receptive to new knowledge. Duolingo incorporates several interactive approaches, along with the ability to go at your own pace.

Gain Knowledge While Helping Out

The creator of Duolingo, Luis von Ahn a professor from Carnegie Mellon, wanted to find a way to translate pages from around the web, and do it for free. That's a pretty ambitious goal, but Duolingo seems up to the task.

The site makes learning a new language while simultaneously translating the web fun. Interactive learning make the experience feel as much like a game as instruction. To take in the whole experience you'll want to turn on you computer speakers and have a mic handy. Besides learning to read and write in a foreign language, the site allows users to test their recognition of spoken words and phrases, and even see if their pronunciation is up to snuff.

The theory is you can help out a good cause, translating the web, while acquiring a new skill. It's a win-win.

Duolingo is great for busy people without time to commit to traditional methods of learning. Users can go at their own pace, repeating information until they feel comfortable before moving on. There is a social component as well. You can show off to friends on social media sites like Facebook, alerting them whenever you've advance to a new level. Compete with friends to see who progresses the fastest.

There are pictures to view along with new words that you can hear as well as see, reinforcing vocabulary and ensuring you'll retain what you've learned.

If you make a mistake, no big deal, but if you make too many you'll have to do the lesson over. Couple that with the points and trophies users get for completing lessons and Duolingo starts to sound more like a game, and less like a chore.

Just to give you an idea of how much fun this site makes an otherwise tedious task seem, I let my 11 year old test it out. He loved it, and in fact I had to chase him off the computer after an hour! We've both decided to try and learn some Spanish over the summer.

Besides just being a great concept, and free to boot, Duolingo scores points with overall ease of use. There is nothing complicated to wade through. It's simple to sign up, so you are learning while playing within seconds.The uncluttered design is also a plus. I love the little owl that guides you along each lesson!

Right now the site is still in private beta, but scheduled to go live in just a few weeks. You can sign up for an invitation, or wait until the official release.


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    • ASchwartz profile image

      ASchwartz 5 years ago from Kentucky

      I'm hoping they bring French on in the future. I took it all through high school, but could definitely use a refresher. Thanks for stopping by.

    • catholicconvert profile image

      catholicconvert 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks for the tip! I've been wanting to learn Italian, actually, but Spanish would probably be useful in my teaching. Might give it a go!