I haven’t learned a new language for a long time, but I am still on the journey of using a language that is not my native language. My first language is French, and my second language is English. Before immersing myself in English full time by moving to New York 10 years ago, I learned English for 15 years as part of my education.
Recently, I came across an app called Duolingo, and let me tell you, I wish I could have had access to Duolingo all this time! While there’s no replacement for learning from an expert instructor, and immersing yourself in a new language by practicing daily with native speakers, language learning apps can help you progress on your path to learning your target language.
“The short answer is that you can definitely learn some things from an app, but if you want to become fluent in a language – or even conversational – they won’t be enough,” says an article in the NYTimes. Here are eight reasons you should supplement your French learning with Duolingo, and ways it can benefit and speed your study:
1. You’ll learn faster if you’re having fun
Duolingo is presented as a game more than a textbook. It is interactive, offers challenges like a run against the clock to win the maximum XP points (experience points), tests your skills, and gives you the opportunity to jump up some levels if you think it is not the right one for you.
As you go through the lessons, you win rewards and gems, gain access to stories. The stories are under the format of a conversation between 2 or more people. No matter what you win, it is tricking you into some more French learning!
The more XP points you will earn, the more you will move up in the ranking list. The gems would also allow you to access the bonus skills like “flirting” or “idioms and proverbs”.
2. Be supported by a community
Duolingo allows you to discuss the exercises you’ve completed other players/learners. It also invites you to share your progress with your friend on social media and therefore feel supported and keep up with your motivation!
You can also take part in their online forum to discuss the topics of your choice and assist to in person-events (online).
You can also become an active part of the community by becoming a Duolingo Global Ambassador: they are passionate volunteers who support Duolingo’s mission to bring free education to the world. ( event hosts, forum Moderator, Duolingo Educator, etc.)
3. Diversify your learning styles
The emphasis of Duolingo learning process is mainly based on reading, writing, and listening.
As mentioned earlier, it is interactive in a way that keeps you alert and focused.
The exercises make you click to pair words together, listen and repeat, translate from English to french and french to English, complete sentences, etc. The good part of it is not repetitive, and by using the app, I felt my brain engaged, challenged just enough that I wanted to keep going, and not too little that I felt bored. A perfect balance, I have to say!
4. Progress faster by practicing daily
One of the first things that Duolingo is asking you when you register is how much time you are willing to allocate to learning every day. The options are realistic: 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes a day are reasonable and achievable goals. The app will send you a notification to remind you of your daily practice if you miss it. You win XP points and get streak rewards when you reach your daily goal seven days in a row.
5. Measure your improvements and see progress
Duolingo tests your skills every couple of lessons. If you make three mistakes or more, it doesn’t let you go through; how rude… But helpful!
You can also compare your ranking of the day or how well you did with other people ( ranking list).
In your profile, you’ll find a summary of your achievements ( as an example, the number of lessons you completes without mistakes or the number of words you learned in a course).
6. Start where you are
Most of the time, when you learn a language, you often try to relearn it because you gave up the first time or just took a break from it.
Duolingo gives you the option to test your general level and won’t let you start from the beginning if you already know some French.
I took the test (as a french native speaker!), and it sent me straight through 48 stories. I was slightly disappointed, thinking I would not need to take that course! Apparently, I do!
7. Real people helping you learn
The Duolingo team is very much aware of the learning language process and puts all its effort into developing an app user-friendly and helping you learn French. They have a team that includes software engineers, scientists, and language experts. And to be honest, I was pretty impressed with the accuracy of the language, the vocabulary used is spoken French as it is used in France rather than the written version of it that you will find in textbooks.
8. Use a method others have found helpful
The method used by the Duolingo team is a balanced approach that allows learners to discover patterns on their own without needing to focus on language rules, the same way you learned your first language as a child. It is scientifically proven to work: according to some studies made by the University of New York and the University of South Carolina, “Duolingo learners performed as well in reading and listening as university students who have completed 4 Semesters.”
If you wish to complement your learning experience in French, I highly recommend, as a french native speaker, to use Duolingo! It is a great way to stay entertained while learning without worrying about grammatical French rules and exceptions.