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“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” ‒ Frank Smith

I’ve been learning Spanish for around a year now through the language learning application Duolingo and thought I’d share my thoughts.

Duolingo is a popular web and mobile application that allows you to learn pretty much any foreign language, and two fictional languages, for free through short interactive lessons. The lessons include reading, writing, speaking and listening activities to give you a sound grasp of your chosen language.

Each language has set tiers that unlock as you progress through the lessons. So although there is some strict order of progression, there is also some choice within each tier. This is so that a beginner doesn’t get thrown straight into the deep end, drown and, now traumatised by their experience, never pick up the application again. However, if you have prior knowledge of the language, you can “test out” lessons to quickly jump to your skill level.

As well as tiers for the topics, each  exercise has five tiers. Each tier introduces new words related to that topic and provides ample examples of how and when to use that word. You can also see what new words each exercise covers to give a brief overview allowing you to decided whether or not you should “test out”.

Although the application sounds like a bit of a grind, and it kind of is with the daily streak, it is very useful for quickly picking up beginner phrases and words. Knowing no Spanish at all this time last year, I can now hold basic conversations in Spanish as well as ask and understand questions. I would probably say my Spanish is around the A2/B1 mark and would like to see that progress to fluency, however that wouldn’t be possible through Duolingo alone. The app is good at introducing topics and grammar, but it doesn’t go into the details of why and when and you are only learning by example. Moreover, the phrases are generic to encompass as much known vocabulary as possible and not all are representative of real life conversations. Finally, although you can learn a few thousand words through the application, it doesn’t provide enough exposure to the language to ultimately lead to fluency.

To summarise, Duolingo is a free learning web and mobile application that can be used to gain A2/B1 competency in a number of languages. It is a great starting point for beginners, but additional resources and conversations with native/Spanish speakers is needed to reach fluency.