Thursday, 8 May 2014

Duolingo - FREE App - Review

Have you discovered Duolingo? See the website to have a look that this unique product:

This is a summary of Duolingo features written by a fan.  I am enjoying being a part of Duolingo since it started.  I have highlighted in bold my hopes for Duolingo in the future.  We will have to wait and see as the Duolingo journey unfolds. 
·      Duolingo currently 5 languages available for English language speakers: Italian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese.
·      Lessons start from the very beginning.  Early lessons include pictures to help with new word recognition.  Then as your knowledge grows the game is text based.  This works as the focus is on translation through reading or listening and input through writing.
·      You can choose when you want to practise listening and speaking.  There is always the option to toggle the microphone and speakers on/off.  This is useful if you are on the bus or sitting in a waiting room and don’t want to be watched while you talk to your phone using your new language skills.
·      It will always be a free app: whether you use it as a web app on your laptop or desktop computer or you use it in other devices from iPhone to iPod to Android phone.  It is now available for iPhone and Android devices J
·      An independent study has proven that Duolingo is more effective at language teaching than a university level language course.  I believe this is supported by the gamification aspects.  It is social to play with friends online and/or new language learning buddies.  It is using a healthy level of competition to better your own knowledge, compete with friends and now on the new update, you can also compete with Duobot.  Duobot is useful if your friends online are not available for a challenge in the same minutes you have free: either your lunch break or your commute to work/school.
·      The web app has a few different functions than the app for mobile devices.  You can complete timed tests as well as the lessons you access on the go.  You can test your translation skills as you grow your working knowledge of vocab and grammar.  As you level up in the lessons, gaining more XP (experience points) you will be better prepared to tackle longer and more challenging translations.
·      As students complete lessons, there are three hearts (like lives) at risk.  Students complete enough correct translations (usually 10 in a lesson) without running out of hearts to finish the lesson.  The XP earned from a lesson is the total of the number of correct translations PLUS the number of hearts not used.  This system insists students pass with a sufficient skill level and reward students who did not make any careless mistakes.  Early on in levels and lessons, it is useful for beginners that the lessons are never timed.  The timed tests available on the web based app are a good measure of progress combining speed and accuracy.
·      An additional scoring system to XP is the lingots.  They are like high powered points to reward you on your language learning journey. You cash in lingots to reward yourself with outfits for your avatar, a timed translation test or specialised vocab in your preferred language.  I particularly like the timed translation tests.  I am challenging myself to rotate through the 5 available languages from English speakers.  I chip away at lessons, tests and games earning XP until I level up in a language.  When this coincides with 25 lingots, I challenge myself to complete a timed translation test to see how I am progressing.  It is effective testing because it is timed.  It would be useful to see the timer counting down during the test.
·      The lessons are set up sequentially in a language tree.  As you progress through more lessons, new lesson sections are unlocked as earned.  Completed lessons have full completed progress bars.  This information is updated over time.  As you complete later lessons, perhaps alternating with some real world translation practice and strengthening your skills, each word experience level is maintained in the Duolingo database.  When a learned word is not practised it looses more progress bars in the original lesson learned.   This is a reminded to go back and revisit lessons to review your vocabulary.  This is welcome feature.  Just as you might like and work in the country of the language improving your language skills, Duolingo reminds you to maintain your early foundation of language skills.  It insists you build a good sense of the language from a strong foundation.  Any language learned at a university, school or community course would be better prepared before a test as a result of revising the current course content and checking back over earlier vocab learned on Duolingo. Duolingo also has levels of increasing difficulty.  Lesson levels from XP come from completing lessons at a competent level.  However, each level requires more and more XP to reach the next level.  There is also a translator's tier. The system here is similar.  The more online immersion articles you write and/or edit the more points you earn.  However, the system is now tweaked.  You need to be at least 90% accurate in your translation writing. It is determined by how many words are in the sentence.  Say for a ten word sentence, you need the support of at 5 approval votes with only minimal down votes to be acceptable.
·      Language coach is a optional feature.  Students can toggle on and off for each language course and select the time commitment they would like to make to each language.  Like many apps available nowadays, optional settings such as these put the user in control.  Are they keen to beat their personal best, beat their Duolingo friends or want  to make their language learning at their own pace without a nagging daily reminder?
·      There are more language courses still in Beta form while they are being developed including: Indonesian and Dutch and Turkish (all for English speakers).  There are other languages in Beta (Italian for Spanish, English for Korean, English for Thai, German for Russian).
·      I would like to see the same features on the mobile app. It is good to see the Duobot available on mobile devices as a close match to timed tests.  I wish I could work on a web based translation on the go as well.  It is exciting to finally see your translator’s rating level up.  They may be few and far between, but the translator’s levels are well earned.
·      Duolingo has already one two awards from two of the big companies: Apple (iPhone) has awarded Duolingo App of the Year and Google Play (Android) has awarded Duolingo Best of the Best.
·      Duolingo has a merchandise line available for the keen Duolingoists to promote the app, their language learning and be an active part of the community of learners.
·      And finally, the discussion board gives Duolingo users an opportunity to share their learning, ask questions of Duolingo features, discuss vocab and grammar points of the language being learned, and even request new features for future updates.  There is a down vote/up vote system to help the admin team of Duolingo.  This is useful to monitor which features are most requested and may be added to the Duolingo agenda for future updates soon.
·      I would love to see Afrikaans and Welsh available soon.

Have you discovered a web app or mobile device for language learners?  Which one is your favourite?

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