Turning inner space into outer space

October 19, 2013

Duolingo turns language lessons into a fun game

Every once in while in my Twitter media list I come across tweets in Spanish. It’s no big deal really, but I have found it annoying that I don’t understand them. I can decipher the occasional French I come across — so why not Spanish as well?

Then I found a free app called Duolingo. And after of a couple of weeks of using it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could completely understand the Spanish tweet I saw this morning.

Learning languages is hard for many people, especially as they get older. But the developers of Duolingo must have looked at the runaway success of game apps and decided to apply the same principles to language.

The result is a course of learning that pulls you forward with rewards, penalties, encouragement, sharing and a leader board. You even get the occasional email prompting you to keep the owl — yes, the app has a mascot — happy.

I don’t expect to become fluent with Duolingo, but if I can at least get the basics it will be time well spent. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Duolingo has succeeded in making language lessons a fun diversion.

Aside from Spanish, you can also learn French, German, Italian, Portuguese and English. And apparently, with some crowd sourcing, the app will soon offer lessons in Klingon, Dothraki and Elvish. The ability to curse in Klingon should be a skill every journalist strives for.