• Paul Fingleton

Duolingo makes a game out of learning a new Language

Duolingo, the free language-learning app, has won many awards including iPhone App of the Year 2013 and Best of the Best in Google Play 2013 and has recently launched on Windows Phone.


We have been playing around with it to try and see what makes it so special and maybe pick up some phrases in a new language. I think the best part of the app is how they make learning a language feel like a game.

The courses are divided into categories, covering the basics of simple words and then adding more complicated phrases but in order to attempt Basics 2, you must first complete basics 1. In each lesson you have a number of hearts that decrease each time you answer incorrectly, if you lose all your hearts you need to start the lesson again.

Each lesson builds on the previous one, and if you feel confident at any point you can skip all the remaining lessons and attempt to tackle a quick test to check your language ability. If you fail that, you can try again immediately or complete your remaining lessons and prepare properly.

The main difference between a lesson and a test is that you are given tips during a lesson: Tapping on a word will display the tip. For obvious reasons, this is not available during the tests.

Duolingo supports German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Portugese and in the latest update has added support for Swedish and Irish. You choose a course when you first open the application, but can add extra courses at any point.

Duolingo works well because it helps you understand a word through multiple ways to associate the word, with a picture, a sentence or attempting to translate it back to English. It doesn't try to force you to memorise grammar or how to conjugate, it teaches by using the language.

So, if you ever wanted to learn the Cupla Focail Gaeilge, then now is really the time to give it a go.

Duolingo is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.