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[iPhone] Duolingo is a free, fun way to learn a new language at any age

mzl.aikmaxhn.320x480-75 [1]Rosetta Stone is constantly running ads claiming that they are the best way to learn a new language. But unfortunately, most of us can’t afford software that costs several hundred dollars. If you can’t afford $500 to spend on a whole set of Rosetta Stone discs, why not try a free app that’s getting all kinds of good press from tech blogs and PC Mag? Duolingo is a free app that lets users learn six different languages.

What is it and what does it do

Main Functionality

Duolingo lets users learn a new language through short, simple lessons. But unlike most other language learning apps, Duolingo uses a “gaming” system to incentivize learning. You’ll earn points as you go along, which help you to “level up” your skills set.

Pros

Cons

Discussion

mzl.vciwhhox.320x480-75 [2]At the outset, Duolingo seems like any other language learning app. You are tested on vocabulary, as well as listening skills and sentence building. You have to translate sentences from English into the new language, or from the new language into English.

But as you go along and complete each section successfully, you get points. Duolingo uses a “gaming” system to incentivize learning, turning dull language lessons and drills into a pretty fun game. You’ll earn points as you go along, which help you to “level up” your skills set: the whole darn thing gets addictive in a hurry.

I do wish that there were more languages being supported. However, I really appreciate that the app isn’t Anglo-centric: in addition to programs to help native English speakers to learn five other languages, native Spanish and Portuguese speakers can hone their English skills.

One issue that might annoy some users is the inability to skip around to different sections. If you are learning a new language for work, you probably have some key vocab you want to focus on first: cooks might want to learn food words first, for example. This inability to move around is like to be a stumbling block for some people.

Conclusion and download link

If you want a free way to learn a language, Duolingo’s game-style approach will ensure you don’t get bored. Sections are small enough that you can master two or three in a sitting, which gives users a real sense of progress. And when you’re trying to master a new language with all kinds of confusing rules, keeping your morale up is very important.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 1.1.1

Requires iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, iOS version 5.0 or later

Download size: 15.8 MB

Duolingo on Apple App Store [3]