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This week’s Android app under review is a very useful one that puts a fun and addictive spin on learning another language. Duolingo, available for both Android and iPhone, makes learning a language entertaining by turning it into a game. Complete with points, level-ups, a power meter, and even it’s own currency.

You first sign up and choose the language you’d like to learn, then begin your lessons. There are multiple lessons in a level and each one is kept to an easily digestible chunk, making it easy to not get overwhelmed. It starts out with very simple words and phrases. For example, I’m an english speaker and I decided to learn Spanish. So, I first learn things like “La mujer” (The woman), or “El niño” (The boy). Then using your past progress, each lesson adds a bit more so that as you learn new things, you’re also using and building upon what you’ve already learned, keeping it fresh and crisp like una manzana. You slowly learn more words and intricacies of a language in a way that feels more natural than other methods.

The gaming aspects are well thought out and well executed. You gain points (XP) based on how well you do in a lesson, with bonus points being given for things like answering everything correctly in a single lesson. There are some features for tracking your progress over time, but I think this is one aspect that could be better built out. As you complete lessons and levels you earn lingots (the in-game currency) which you can then spend on things like refilling your heart meter, special lessons such as idioms or pick-up lines, or even new outfits for Duo, the owl professor guiding you through your language learning adventure. Of course, no game would be complete without some competition thrown in. So, Duolingo lets you invite and find friends to watch on the leaderboard, allowing you to see where you stand with your point and language progress.

One of my favorite aspects of Duolingo is that it utilizes many different ways of learning the same thing, which helps you learn things faster and more naturally, while also retaining that knowledge much better. For example, within a lesson you’ll do things like translate what your hear by typing it in or sometimes choosing from a list of words. Or maybe you’ll translate from a phrase that you see. Sometimes you will be asked to simply type what you hear, making sure you can understand and separate words spoken in a sentence. Or, you may be asked to translate and speak a phrase out loud. All methods give you the chance to translate both to and from the language you’re learning.

The layout is very clean and intuitively easy to use. It has simple, but clever graphics that make you feel like you’re in a game rather than an educational app. All these aspects give you a very rich experience, and so far they’ve kept me coming back.

But wait, there’s more. There’s a whole other dimension to it that makes it even cooler.
While you’re learning a new language and having fun doing it, you’re simultaneously helping to translate the world of the internet into a broader array of languages. Helping to give access to vital information from sites like Wikipedia to people whom it would otherwise not have been available to in their native language. Or, as the folks at Duolingo so elegantly put it “enabling a wealth of language shackled information to be liberated for all of humanity

The app does all this while remaining completely free, you won’t even see a single ad.
This is the kind of multi purpose model that I love seeing in technology.

Check out this video for more info on how it works. Or go to their website, here.

Let me know what you think about Duolingo.

Travis Walter

I'm a software developer, musician, and founder of twoclaw.com.