Archive | September, 2013

Duo Lingo

30 Sep

In high school we had to choose a language to learn for the year: the choices were French, Italian or German. I went with German and proceeded to put next to no effort in it. The vocabulary was straight forward (for that course it was essentially English with a German accent), the grammar was bizarre. All I really learnt in that subject was how to count and that are is the plural or is.

In recent years I’ve become one of those people who wants to learn another language. I would love to learn something like Latin (just because) or maybe one of the Scandinavian languages (cause I would love to live there). But like one of those people, I never did anything about it.


Then a friend introduced my to duo lingo. Duolingo is a game that aims to teach you the basics of another language. So far they have Italian, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese, but by the end of the year users will be able to create their own modules. I wasn’t particularly interested in any of them, so I’ve decided to learn Italian on the tenuous reasoning that I would like to work with a particular Italian (which looks like it will happen next year!).

And I’m really enjoying it.

My grammar has always been next to non-existent as I never really saw the point of being able to work out what the subject of a sentence is. But in Italian (and I’m guessing most languages other than English), it matters as it changes the rest of the words. By learning Italian, I’m getting a much better idea of how the sentences are constructed, in both languages. I”m also getting a lot of easy wins as most words (so far) I can associate with an English word. Not always directly, for example balena = whale. In English, balene is the old fashion word for whales and dolphins.

On the downside, I’ve been mostly using the android app. It is fine for doing the lessons, but the website version is much better.  The website will actually tell you what all the forms of a word are, will say a single word out loud and give you more detailed information on your mistakes.

I’m also getting to the point where I can’t keep all the vocab in my head properly. I know that this is a matter of starting to keep proper hand written notes (hand written as I know it will stick in my head much better), but then I need to have some pen and paper and probably even a proper desk. While I do own all of those things, when I’m playing duo lingo, its often on the couch during an ad break. But if I’m serious about learning another language, I really should dedicate some serious time to it.

In short, I think duolingo is excellent for getting you into a language. But if you are getting much beyond the first stage, you need to start putting some proper effort into it. And make sure you use the website as well as the mobile apps.