It is very rare for me to find a gadget, machine or solution that I would completely fall in love with (my espresso machine was, I think, a memorable exception to the rule). And it’s incredibly unlikely for that invention to happen in the area of language learning – after all, I know a thing or two about that field, and I’m not easily impressed.
Or maybe: I wasn’t. Until today.
I want to write about a big idea, a great website and an exciting future. If you’re a language learner, teacher or translator, this is something you can’t afford to miss.
(Note: Duolingo is still in beta. The information in this post may change or become obsolete as the service goes public)
It started with this website – reCAPTCHA helped keep out spam and digitized books at the same time. But then, its founder had another idea: what else could people do in large numbers, and fast? Here’s what he came up with.
Duolingo is still not live – although it’s generating a lot of buzz, it’s still invitation-based. I was lucky enough to get an invite pretty soon, and proceeded to explore the website. This came at a right time for me (I’m learning Spanish right now), and I was able to learn and research the website at the same time. The slideshow below lists some of the things I liked (click the icon to enable fullscreen mode):
What I liked:
- It’s challenging, fun and gives you that warm feeling of knowing you’ve helped out – Freerice does that too 🙂
- It’s engaging on a number of levels – listening, reading, writing, speaking – and has you thinking about the language from the word go.
- The design and execution. Not flawless, but very easy and fun to use.
What I’m still waiting for:
- No apps! Come on, Duolingo, get on the mobile learning wagon!
- It’s still in beta, so I’m missing my friends – and I can’t invite them 🙁
- There aren’t many languages available at present (I think Portuguese is in the works). It would be interesting to see how the website deals with languages which are more distant from English.
This website might just change something about language learning. I’m hoping for it to become the better, smarter and more useful version of the Rosetta Stone (as I can see that the model they’re using – and providing free of charge – is quite similar).
Of course, it’s not going to put the language teachers out of business. Nor is it going to make translators redundant. But I have hopes for Duolingo. I hope that it will push the language teachers out of their stupor and make them realize the importance of high demands in language teaching. I hope that it will help translators – by highlighting the importance of excellent work and hard decisions. And I hope that it will remain free, useful and ambitious.
Try Duolingo if you get the chance. You’ll be glad you did.
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