Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Duolingo Makes It Fun to Learn Languages

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Duolingo Makes It Fun to Learn Languages

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- In mid-December, Apple named Duolingo -- a piece of language-learning software -- its 2013 iPhone app of the year. Since then, I swear every native English speaker of my acquaintance has suddenly begun guten tag-ing, buongiorno-ing and comment ca va- ing. I myself have been habla-ing Espanol for the past three weeks, with Duolingo as my guide. Verdict so far? Excelente, mis amigos! Until we genetically engineer the Babel fish that Douglas Adams envisioned in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Duolingo may be our best bet for a global uptick in inter-lingual understanding.

The app currently teaches Spanish, French, Italian, German and Portuguese to English speakers and teaches English to speakers of those languages plus Dutch, Russian, Hungarian and Turkish, with more on the way.

As with all else that manages to hold the attention of post- millennial America -- Foursquare, Instagram, "The Bachelor" -- the key to Duolingo's success lies in gamification. Whether it's vying to become the virtual mayor of a taco joint, racking up likes for our vacation photos or battling viciously to wed a homophobe we've just met, we clearly enjoy turning the stuff of life into bite- sized, recreational competitions.

Duolingo recognizes that humans are wired this way. It also recognizes that the key to learning a new tongue is repetition. So the app transforms language study into an amusing diversion, with points, leaderboards and video game "lives." At the end of each successfully completed round, we're rewarded with a trumpet fanfare and a delicious sense of accomplishment.

This is the most productive means of procrastination I've ever discovered. The short lesson blocks are painless and peppy, and reaching the next level (and then the level after that) becomes addictive. I've lost track of time as I've buzzed through tutorials on Spanish conjunctions and prepositions. A co-worker likes to crank out French modules on his subway commute. One friend confided that she's stayed up for hours past her bedtime learning German -- ja, this Fraulein simply can't put Duolingo down. As I recall, these are not the sorts of giddy emotions that were stirred in Mrs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.