Oh boy, do I love this duoLingo.  I’ve been working on my Spanish for over a month and reached the intermediate level – woo hoo! – which basically means I’ve graduated from apples and rice to present tense verbs.  My app tells me I’ve achieved 37% fluency, which may or may not be a slight exaggeration…I’m taking it as encouragement either way.

At 37% fluency I can regale captive blog readers friends with phrases like:

  • ¿Dónde está el baño?
  • Mi esposo es mono.
  • Como pollo y arroz.
  • Yo no corro.
  • Sí, me gusta tomar una cerveza, gracias.

I’m pretty good at colors, too.

My ability to repeat Spanish phrases has greatly impressed the kids.  Not enough to get them on board with doing their own duoLingo lessons each day but hey, baby steps.

You’d think the companion app would be a good baby step; apparently we’d both be wrong if we thought the kids might start with that.  TinyCards has lessons, flash cards, and a handy dandy quiz that can either sing your praises or smack you upside the back of the head when you score ridiculously low.  (Not that I’d know.)

TinyCards is important, though, since duoLingo throws you into the deep end and, as an added incentive, you lose “health” every time you answer a question wrong.  That’s worse than it sounds since duoLingo kicks you out if you drain your health bank, adding an aspect of pressure to my performance.

duoLingo offers lessons, review sessions, and bot conversations with live interaction and review of your spoken responses.  There’s also a shop where you can spend the “gems” collected by completing lessons.  You can trade gems for things like health refills and streak freezes, and they’re even kind enough to offer to sell gems for your account.  (Pssst. Don’t do it.)

Here’s where I sing the praises of this (free! totally free!!) program for learning languages.  Besides Spanish, the following courses are available for English speakers:  French, German, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Turkish, Esperanto, Norwegian, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Welsh, Hebrew, Vietnamese, Hungarian, Greek, Swahili, and Romanian.  I mean, holy cow, just look at that list.  That’s a serious selection of languages, all loaded up and ready to go with the touch of a finger.

Now, I do feel obligated to warn you about the addictive properties of this pursuit.  I already mentioned the rather pointed feedback from the TinyCards quizzes.  You’ll find everything from “you’re the master!” to “this isn’t quite up to par” after your quiz is scored.  Oddly enough a 60% is depressing, but score 96% and you’ll be killing it to get those last four points.

duoLingo has its own traps.  Your health level is a visible symbol in the upper right corner of your screen; watching it tick downward with every incorrect answer can be somewhat anxiety producing.  The app also tracks your daily goal to see how many days in a row you meet it.  I broke a 37 day streak for our first tech free Sunday and had to endure a week of prompts offering to let me buy my streak back for $3.99.  The offer irritates me but I can see how people get sucked in – it crushed me to lose that streak of successful days, so there’s a bit of OCD at play, too.

Still, all in all, I can’t sing the praises loudly enough.  Choose a language and give it a try…you’d be surprised what fun it can be.