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I’ve been learning to speak Spanish for FREE!

Earlier this year I discovered a fun (and free!) app called duolingo, which turns learning a second language into a game. I was skeptical at first, but I quickly found myself addicted to the green bird app.

Duolingo App

The app is simple and intuitive. The idea is that you have to learn basics of a language and unlock different levels. Duolingo calls this a gamified skill tree. As you learn basics, you advance to more advanced aspects of the language.

Duolingo uses several different types of tasks and questions. You can even use duolingo on the web and translate webpages.

As you pass lessons on the app (or online) and as you translate webpages, you earn XP points. You advance levels as you earn XP points.

But is duolingo effective? Duolingo commissioned an external study by professors at City University of New York and the University of South Carolina. The study estimated that 34 hours on Duolingo may yield reading and writing ability of a US first-year beginners’ course college semester, which takes in the order of 130+ hours. The same study estimated that Rosetta Stone users took between 55 and 60 hours to learn a similar amount. For all my scientist friends, keep in mind this study didn’t evaluate speaking ability, nor was the study published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Regardless, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what I’ve learned from duolingo. While I did take several years of Spanish in high school and college, I seemed to have forgotten most of the grammar and a lot of the vocabulary. duolingo has helped refresh my aging memory!

In the end, I highly recommend duolingo to learn a few basics of a foreign language. As of this writing, you can learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English. You never know when you might need to ask “Dónde está el baño?” or “Otra copa de vino, por favor!”

Do you duolingo? How do you learn another language? Any tips?

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