Trophy for finishing the Dutch course on DuolingoI have been trying to learn Dutch for many years now. A couple of months ago I found Duolingo by accident. It can be described as a user generated language course site.

Duolingo provides free language courses for anyone. And the lectures are very easy to follow. It is the first free resource I have found that I actually feel like I have gained something from. The lectures are set up in a structure to ease the introduction to the languages. You can set a reminder, so you get notified if you forget to practice your language. There is a bit of gamification in the courses, as you earn experience points and lingots (a special gem that can be used as payment for extras in some of the courses). After each exercise you are rewarded with a fanfare for finding the right solution/translation. In the Dutch course you get to translate from English to Dutch and from Dutch to english. There are exercises where you use the microphone to repeat a sentence. There are also exercises where you pair words with the equivalents from the other language.

Duolingo can be used as a website only. But it is also an app available to iOS, Android and Windows devices. I started out using the website. But ended up prefering to use the app on my iPad. To me the app just has a much better feel. Also I have gotten the impression that the app adds new words and concepts when I practise my skills after finishing the course. On the website it just feels like I get the same old stuff over and over again. It might just be a random experience though. The website offers more different courses than the app does.

As I pointed out in the beginning the courses are user generated. Users can apply to help build a new course. There are many new language course “hatching”. When the courses are 100% hatched they enter the beta state, which is where everyone can start learning from the course. After the beta state the course is made. Recently the Esperanto course entered beta state and became availbe for me to try. Unfortunately I can only do the Esperanto course on the website. But it seems fun and easy.

I’m not entirely convinced about the quality of the speach in the courses on Duolingo. Danish is my native language. But I hear many of the words being pronounced wrong in the English to Danish course. This issue makes me doubt the quality of the pronounciation in the other courses, as I don’t know the other languages well enough to tell. I have written Duolingo and applied to help fine tuning the Danish course, but have so far not gotten any response.

The Duolingo course is for beginners and as stated above I am not convinced about the pronounciation of the words by the computer/tablet. But it is great for building a vocabulary and learning grammars. My Dutch course also has a page on Facebook, where the users are helping each other explaining things and sharing extra resources to learn more. I don’t think Duolingo should be a stand alone tool for learning a language. But it is truely excellent to get you started!


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