Many others have written about this app! This app that is still going strong and is well-known for being a way to learn a language. Which is more popular, Duolingo or Rosetta Stone? I don’t know, I’d have to say Duolingo these days. I’m not a huge fan of the app- in my short opinion, it’s really only good for getting people started, learning beginner vocabulary and greetings, and being accessible since it has a free version.
People expect more of it than it actually offers, and then they stop learning the language. The language learning community is great for this, as so many people mention other resources that they move on to after starting with something like Duolingo. But the Average Joe might not know about the language learning community, or be a part of it on instagram or twitter, for example.
But every so often, I like to pop back into my old profile and see what’s new in their programs. I learned a bit of Spanish and Chinese from Duolingo when I first used it back in 2014. When I was first learning Italian (and before Drops, which I think is a better app for vocab learning) in 2015, I used Duolingo in the beginning as well. But then I let my profile languish for a few years, and then picked it back up on and off during the initial pandemic in 2020 for a bit of a change of pace with my language learning.
I decided to check it out for German and Japanese, as they’re still beginner languages for me! I’d say I’m a false beginner now, maybe at an A2 level in these languages? Here are my thoughts!
German: The first few categories were too easy for me, but when I tried to test out of the 1st level I didn’t pass the quiz to move on. It taught me very simple vocabulary to start (Brot/bread, Milch/milk) and very simple phrases (Ja oder nein?). It wasn’t fast-paced enough of a program for me, so I did turn off the animations. Using it on mobile, there were ads occasionally and it wasn’t easy to click through the random “encouragement” pop-ups. On the PC, it was easier to click through these distracting pop-ups, but I would have rather not had the Duolingo motivation messages of “Great job! Keep Going!” in the middle of my learning.
Japanese: Again, I preferred learning on PC instead of mobile. My knowledge of hiragana & katakana is pretty good at this point (not 100%…maybe 80% correct?). But I did start from the beginning of the Japanese categories for some helpful review of the early character learning. I think the way that Duolingo tries to teach characters isn’t the most effective, and it took me out of my concentration when it was swapping between exercises to learn characters or learn vocabulary. It was also introducing a lot of vocabulary categories at once (colors, day vs night, verbs like read/wear/like, yes and no, etc), compared to German where they stuck with food and asking questions to start off.
For my own language learning use, my preference would still be to mainly use other language learning resources. Duolingo can be a fun novelty app, when I’m looking for a change or to review lower level vocabulary that I haven’t revisited in a while.
When people find out that I learn languages, in my area they inevitably say, “Oh I’d love to learn Spanish, but I’ve had trouble sticking with it in the past. Do you have any tips?”. I’ll mention that I usually work with a textbook and then other apps and youtube in addition to that. Their reaction to the word “textbook” will then lead me to the following suggestions. If positive, I’ll discuss which textbook and how I integrate the different media into my learning so I can practice all the different skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening). If negative, I’ll suggest they find a class in person or online, or that they go straight to youtube or the Drops app. I don’t really recommend Duolingo beyond being an introductory language learning app, that can be a fun game-ified way to learn, and then people will need to move on to a better resource after the beginner levels.
Just wanted to share, comme d’habitude!
À la prochaine xx