Game Your Way Into a New Language With Duolingo

You know what’s always held me back from learning Spanish? No matter how well I habla-ed my Español, it never felt as good as racking up a high score on Donkey Kong.

Enter Duolingo, the perfect language learning app for the gamer generation.

Duolingo turns learning new languages into a game. Instead of dry lectures on conjugations and tenses, Duolingo presents information with quizzes and games.

The entry interface lets you choose which language you want to learn. When I chose Spanish, the prompt led me to a page where I set my learning goal. I could wade into Español gently by dedicating five minutes to the language. Or I could go loco and set aside 20 minutes per day on the “Insane” level.


Doulingo sends notifications to keep users on track.

I chose the option for casual and game Duolingo with five minutes of Spanish learning per day.

Example: A screen pops up asking me to identify “the cat.”

You’re shown four different objects. Then you click your response and a voice tells you if you’re correct along with the proper pronunciation. (Spoiler alert: It’s “el gato”) This is great on the beginner level. Each choice is accompanied by the correct corresponding image to help you remember what it means.

As the lesson progresses, you can tap on to new words to hear how they are pronounced and learn if the word is a noun and how Spanish masculine and feminine nouns work.

Then you pull words into a box on what you think is the proper translation.

After that, you switch sides. An English phrase is given—and you then have to pull the correct Spanish words into the box to translate. Cartoon imagery really supplements to drive the words and phrases home.

Cool. I’m playing a game and learning Spanish.

The app tells you when the lesson is complete – and informs you how fluent you’ve become. The app tells me I’m up to two percent. So I’m slowly getting there and I can say “sé un poco de Español.”

One of the most remarkable things about Duolingo is that it’s free. Everyone who owns a smartphone can have the opportunity to learn a language. You’ve got to love the world of shared information in which we exist.

Adiós expensive Rosetta Stone and hola, free, gamification-rich Duolingo !