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September 12, 2012 / gaillovely





This site is a free tool for learning (or practicing) languages. Currently if you speak English you can learn French, German or Spanish and you can learn English if you are a Spanish or Portuguese speaker. The site includes speaking, listening, reading and writing. Additionally you can learn more by helping to translate the Internet from Spanish, French and German into English…. yes, really, this website teaches languages while also harnessing the learners to help translate the Internet… too cool!

Great short video on Duolingo:


Duolingo provides a great scaffolded online tool for learning a language. The content builds slowly as you master new sections and new vocabulary. As you can see from the homepage pictured below, the content flows bit-by-bit adding more vocabulary, sentence structures and more as you master each section. There are bonus points for reviewing previously learned content and even a section just for practicing your weaker vocabulary words.

Duolingo Home Screenshot

Duolingo Home Screen

The lessons are a pleasant mix of ways to learn the language. You sometimes hear the words, phrases or sentences in the language you are learning and are asked to type them in that language or translate them and type them in your own language. Duolingo will speak a phrase and you will use your microphone to speak the same phrase and it will give you the green light if you were “close enough” in your pronunciation. Sometimes the activity is multiple choice translations. As you can see there is a great variety of ways the lessons are presented. But this is not a random approach, there is clearly an instructional flow. Duolingo presents new words, usually in context with other words you have already seen. Then perhaps an article is added and a bit later you will translate the word. Bit-by-bit you add more and more language knowledge and Duolingo tracks it for you. You can’t skip ahead, but you can “test out” of sections you have mastered.

Listen and Type

Duolingo Screenshot MC

And that is not all! You can also help provide translations of REAL online material. By “crowd sourcing” the translations the people using Duolingo are translating parts of the Internet which are in Spanish, French, German and Portuguese. You see, if hundreds of people translate a phrase identically it is more accurate than a computer at catching nuances and context. (Think about a computer translating a document into Spanish. It could see a name, like “Gale” and translate it into  “Viento” which is wind in Spanish.) During the Beta testing of Duolingo they report that the 125,000 users translated 75 million sentences! Amazing, you learn, the web becomes more accessible and it is all free and ad free!


Well, I can’t say I have a lot of creative ideas for how to use this site as it is pretty focused on helping you learn a language. Perhaps you or some of your students are dreaming of the Olympics in Brazil in four years? Start learning Portuguese now!

Details and Costs:

Duolingo is free. To register you must have an email address. There is no mention of age requirements in the Terms and Conditions of Service. They are looking at adding more languages and apps for iOS and Android are “in the works”.


Leave a Comment
  1. Carol Teitelman / Sep 12 2012 10:21 AM

    I can’t wait to try this. Maybe I’ll be typing en Espanol en un futuro proximo.

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