Duolingo: Learn Languages Free tries to help users learn the language of their choosing through gamification. When users first start Duolingo, they’re asked to sign in via Facebook, Google, or a proprietary account. Once logged on, users will choose which language they want to start learning. Currently, Duolingo offers support for only six languages: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English. Users also need to be aware of selecting which language they already know, since French speakers may not benefit from trying to learn German when the lesson is taught in English.
Once users pick out their language, they’re dropped into a basic lesson. Duolingo starts simple by stating a noun in the native language, and showing a list of potential translations, accompanied by images. This is a simple task intended to build a user’s vocabulary, but the image association seems to work well. Basic lessons progressively get harder as users will be introduced to various verbs, differences between masculine and feminine words, and other language-specific quirks. Users practicing with Duolingo in public will likely need to carry a pair of headphones, as there are audio samples that ask for translation. Users will never have to speak into Duolingo, but the program does push for both written and verbal understandings of the chosen language.
Each lesson works like a game. Users are given hearts at the top of screen. When they answer a question wrong or provide an incorrect translation, they lose one heart. If a user loses all their hearts, they fail the lesson and they’re forced to repeat it. This process is simple, but it helps encourage users to focus on the lessons and memorize important aspects. Users who may already know some of a language can test out of any lesson group. Testing works just like a long lesson, and if a user can make it through without failing, they’ll unlock the next set of lessons.
Lessons are presented on a map. Only the first-level basic lesson is available, but others are quickly unlocked. From there, users are greeted with a variety of themed topics, like “Plurals” or “Food.” Each theme helps to better understand the vocabulary, while still making the same push toward grammar mastery. Some lessons may not apply to certain users’ interests or needs, such as a businessperson learning about animals, but users are encouraged to take every lesson seriously so they can continue making progress.
There’s no monetization to Duolingo. There are no ads, no in-app purchases, and no free trials of any sort. Duolingo is completely free of charge to any user who wants to begin learning a new language. The lack of a price tag is the biggest draw to most users and it proves to be well worth their time and effort. It’s hard to speak to Duolingo’s long-term results, as we only had a couple days to test it, but the potential is there, and it has great feedback from critics and users alike.
You can follow Duolingo: Learn Languages Free’s progress on AppData, our tracking tool for mobile and social apps and developers.