Duolingo makes it easy to learn a language from your iPhone.

duolingo-1 My first experience with trying to learn a foreign language was in high school. It was a requirement for graduation and I decided to go with French. I enjoyed learning about the culture and how to speak a language that was different from my native one. I took French for three years in high school and two semesters in college. Even though I feel pretty confident that I could fake my way through a conversation, I was never very good at speaking/understanding the language. I could read and write it well enough, but speaking is a different story. It’s no secret that the language center of the brain develops early in life. From the time we are born, we begin to start communicating, but the formation of words usually doesn’t happen until around 2 years old. There are some parents that find it easier for children to learn a second language if it’s introduced at the same time their brain is developing. I’ve also heard that children who are taught a foreign language earlier in their school years retains it better than students who aren’t exposed to it until high school. Language learning is an area that many software developers are beginning to make products for and Duolingo is a great example.

duolingo-2Duolingo is an app designed to help people, particularly young children, learn and retain a second language. It has support for Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and English. Duolingo uses games to make the act of learning a fun process. The app begins by having you sign up for a free account – you can create an account or sign in through Facebook. The app has different levels and even lets you test out if you think you can pass through levels without going through the exercises. I attempted to test out of the Basics level in French was was tripped up by the vocal portion. The app would recite a phrase and I was supposed to write out what was said. As this happens to be my weakness with foreign language training, I lost. You have three hearts that represent your game life and after three wrong answers, you are sent back to the beginning of the level or test.

Using Duolingo to train myself in French is far different that formal training. I feel like the app shows you basics and teaches through repetition, but it doesn’t appear to teach you how to conjugate or the proper sentence structure. These are important – in my opinion – to learning a second language.

If you are looking to learn a new language, give Duolingo a try. It’s a fun app to use and it helps you learn while you play.

Duolingo is free in the iTunes App store. It is available for iPhone and iPad and is currently on version 3.0, which was just released on 10/2/13.