The City University of New York and the University of South Carolina conducted an independent study in which they found that an average of 34 hours of Duolingo was equivalent to a full university semester of language education! That is quite incredible, given that this Android app is available for free (which also means free of advertisements)! However, although the app proves to be great starting point for beginners, someone seeking in-depth knowledge of a language may have to move onto other modes.
What’s Good About the Duolingo Android AppThe best part about this app and the reason for its immense success is that people who made it knew exactly what they were doing. It is well researched and based on scientific teaching models which leads to effective recapitulation for learners across the board, be it seniors who wish to pick up a new language as a hobby, or school children for whom the app is being included in the curriculum. It offers an extensive list of 21 different languages to choose from. There are several more that are coming up from the incubator program that allows bi-linguists to contribute to a course. It deploys different gamification tactics to keep the learners motivated. The goal setting feature helps one to choose the level of proficiency that is being aimed for and then keeps a track of how far one has gone on the path to achieving it. This, along with the ‘streak’ feature that measures how consistent one has been with their courses, works as a gentle nudge to the learner. The most important motivator for the learner of any course is the nature of assessment. The app does this beautifully, by breaking out of the binary feedback model and incorporating assessments like “Almost correct”. It rewards Experience Points (XP) on the basis of your progress. What’s more, you can compare yours with friends who are also using the app, which calls for just the right amount of competition. Finally, it must be said that this Android app is simply beautiful to look at. The User Interface is carefully charted so that the aesthetics and functionality blend together in order to aid optimum learning. An example of this is the owl called Duo who keeps egging you on, on your path to learning.
What’s Missing in the Duolingo AppWhile the Duolingo Android App is deserving of all the awards and accolades it has received, there are some shortcomings that must also be kept in mind. The learning of any language is not complete without the four essential skills – Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. While you do learn to read to some extent, the bent of the courses is largely towards conversational skills. It is no doubt that diligence with the app will accord you the ability to follow the spoken language and respond adequately, but it does little for achieving proficiency in reading and writing. Related to the same point is the fact that a learner on Duolingo does not inculcate any understanding of grammar, but like a child who learns to speak organically, just the functional usage of the language. Moreover, the mode of teaching deployed by the app is such that there are no instructions given at any stage. While the user interface is self-explanatory, the lack of instructions could throw some people off. In addition to this, the learner has no control over the vocabulary topics, thereby not having the choice to learn words for a specialized domain that s/he intends to deal with. However, notwithstanding these shortcomings, this an excellent platform to start off on the path to learning a new language. Its pedagogic techniques have been proven to be effective for a wide range of learners, which means it is serving its purpose well.
- The number of languages
- Very motivating
- Excellent user interface
- Effective learning: audio-visual and for different types of learners
- No advertisements
- No in-depth knowledge of grammar
- Conversational fluency, but reading and writing skills not achieved
- No instructions (could be good and bad)
- No control on vocab topics