I’ve been big on learning as much german as possible recently. The idea of picking up a foreign language, if for nothing else but to poke fun at my siblings with Ellie in a language they can’t understand, has always been high on my to-do list. A while back I reviewed Anki, a spaced repetition flash card system useful for learning basic vocabulary, not to mention a life saver this semester during my biochemistry class. A few days ago my friend Dan pointed out this web-program called Duolingo, which has absolutely redefined my efforts to learn german.

Duolingo structures language learning into a progression based game. Each “level” teaches you a basic skill, like how to make plural nouns, or getting your articles to agree with the gender of the words. As you progress, they take what you learned in previous levels, and mix them in to keep you on your toes. But, there is a catch. Answer the questions wrong just a few times, and you lose all of your “hearts”, which forces you to start at the beginning of the level. For some stupid reason, it is highly addicting.

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Each level teaches something new, and it awards points, levels, and special rewards for a job well done.

What I Like

I’ve found most useful the integration of audio only questions, where it forces me to understand spoken german and be able to reform the sentence without any clues. It is helping me with subtle word distinctions, understanding the endings of words, and making me learn to spell properly, as to avoid losing my hearts.

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Practice vocabulary!

I obviously also like the fact that is an extremely well put-together site, and completely free. It has mobile apps for learning on-the-go, and seems to have an absolutely amazing, and dedicated community of people developing it. I am excited to see what the upper levels look like! It is extremely easy to get started, and it truly is fun. Ellie had to force me to put it down long enough to walk the dog last night.

What needs work

The only negative comment I have is that the questions requiring me to speak was a little tedious. I’m not sure if it was a function of me using a laptop facetime microphone so it wasn’t picking me up clearly, but I swear I was saying, “Ich bin eine Frau” properly. I’ll try hooking up my actual headset and giving it another shot though!

My Recommendation

If you’ve ever wanted to dabble in a language to learn the basics, I highly suggest giving Duolingo a shot. I am having an absolute blast, and it is extremely easy and free to get started. There is really nothing to lose!