Play a Game, Learn a Language: Free Skills App Duolingo

Duolingo is a mashup of several online content trends: Personal progress tracking, social web collaboration/competition (playing with or against your Facebook friends), crowd-sourcing, open “certification” and, most importantly for our edtech purposes, gamefied learning. It’s a series of smart ideas, executed very well.

Duolingo login

My first login to Duolingo (using a desktop browser)

Here’s the basics: Duolingo (use it on pretty much any desktop browser, but I really prefer the mobile app) aims to teach you a language through translation. The advanced-skills user can test into a higher level right from the free sign-up and start translating texts gathered from the web. The basic-skills user jumps into to seeing a word with a picture and quickly starts providing translations of very simple sentences. There’s tips along the way, as well as the chance to input your own speech, repeating the foreign word to strengthen learning.

Duolingo is kept free-to-users and ad-free because it’s essentially taking your work and using it for real-world (real-web?) “unlocking” of information throughout the web.

Duolingo iPhone

Playing the first levels of the translation game on an iPhone

To try it out, I downloaded the app and signed up as a first-day-basics Spanish learner. After a few minutes of gameplay, I felt I was learning (or, in this case, re-enforcing Señor Moreno’s long-ago lessons … ) and I wanted to continue — maybe even challenge some friends.

Currently, users who know English can learn Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese (and the other way around). There is a beta site and promises for more development, but it looks like the focus is on English language learning.

How do you think you could use this free tool in your classroom?


Alex is online course support technician at IDS, working to support all online, hybrid and LMS-enhanced instructors and students in using Blackboard and several media servers. She's also the administrator for the MCC Blogs network. You can reach her at

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Posted in Blog, Free & Cool

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