Duolingo, a Game-like Language Learning App!

How does Duolingo work and what do students think about it?

Duolingo has become known for its meme-worthy advertising tactics, passive-aggressive reminders, and its recognizable owl mascot. Beneath the surface of all of this, some may ask: is the app really effective? At its core, Duolingo works by teaching people in an unconventional manner, which means the app focuses on its students learning through game-like lessons. This unconventional tactic also means Duolingo does not teach its students language rules; instead, the app focuses on teaching patterns to its students, so they will be able to predict them on their own.

Now, what are FPU students’ experience with the app? Students Kayley Bryan-Sanchez, Paula Mercado, and Alex Vang have used this app as a casual way to learn the basics of a language of their choosing. In Kayley’s case, the app has been a part of her life for 8 years. She first downloaded it in high school, but she did not take it very seriously until she started college. Like many users of the app, she is learning several languages at once. Her main focus, though, is French. When asked if she thought the app helped her learn French, she stated that it helped her a fair amount. Mostly, one of the main parts that she enjoys about the app is that it allows her to take her time. She took French class in high school, but she noted that the pace did not allow her to properly learn the accent and grammar. 

With Duolingo, however, she feels she can grasp the concepts better by working at her own rate. Although she finds the app helpful, she does recommend the app as a basic learning skill. To fully learn a language, she recommends buying books in whatever foreign language one wants to learn. When asked about some of the things she did not like about the app, or things she would like to change, she noted the constant reminders and the “hearts.” When it came to the constant reminders, she found that they were annoying to receive. In addition, she felt like the hearts should be removed. That way, a person could continue their lesson without having to wait if they make mistakes.  

Although she used the app in 2015 (when it was much less developed), Paula expressed similar opinions about it. She also felt like the app was best suited as a basic step towards learning a new language. In her case, she felt like the app mostly benefited her when it came to learning how to write in English. When asked what she liked about the app, she liked how the app reminded her to do her lessons. In particular, she shared that she would have completed lessons more often if she would have received the passive-aggressive reminders Duolingo is now known for. Like Kayley, she also experienced class lessons and the app’s lessons. In her case, however, she felt more motivated when there were other people in the same situation as her. This feeling mostly stems from the fact that she felt like the Duolingo lessons could be abandoned at any time. Overall, though, she reflects on her experience positively.

Finally, another student that used Duolingo for a short period was Alex Vang. She took a much more casual approach to the app, which meant that she only used it to brush up on her Spanish lessons. This took three weeks, but she did find the app useful and stated that the practice would be helpful for her in the workplace. Although she found it useful for practicing Spanish, she did note that the app had little variety. As a result, she felt like the app could improve by adding more languages to its platform. 

Author: Saraleim Mozqueda Saldana | Editor

Graphic: Valerie Claustro

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