Hi! Does Duolingo work? Should you give it a try? I’m Bekah and I’ll share with you my experience using Duolingo to learn Italian.

Girl_drawing_Duolingo_and_smiling

My background

I am bilingual. I grew up speaking both English and Spanish. These languages pertain to the Indo-European language family as also Italian does. Besides, Spanish and Italian are Romance languages. Having English and Spanish in my background is beneficial for learning Italian. It gives me a certain “familiarity” with the target language.

But, I have not had the experience of actually becoming fluent in another language by myself. Learning a language involves the development of skills. These skills are then used for learning successive languages. Previous to using Duolingo, mastering a third language always seemed a daunting task. A noble goal no doubt, but something that seemed to be by all means, unrealistic, from my viewpoint.

I was not exposed to the Italian language before. Except for hearing the words: “ciao,” and “grazie.” I am not even saying that I knew what they meant. Or even that I could tell that they were Italian. I only remember that I’d heard them!

Duolingo

When I first got the great idea to learn Italian, I had already come across Duolingo. So, of course, it was my first choice for starting on the journey to learn Italian.

I began using Duolingo for studying Hebrew. So, needless to say, I found Italian ten times easier than the Semitic language! With Italian, there was no learning a whole new alphabet or getting used to writing “backward.” Regardless, Duolingo has proven to be both useful and exciting for these two. And even for several other languages that I have explored.

To set it straight from the start, I have mostly used the app version of Duolingo. Due to practical reasons, the app has always been my choice. Which, by the way, is a positive point for Duolingo, putting the app right at our fingertips! In this age, mobile devices have turned into an attachment of ourselves. And Duolingo is right there included in the attachment. In relation to the website, it offers several extra features that are quite handy.

Now, why do I like Duolingo?

Hmm, let me see, I guess I have to say that the cute, little, green owl Duo, got me from the start. I mean, he’s just so encouraging in all your tasks as well as supportive when you get one answer wrong. And those outfits you can buy him? Charming. Who wouldn’t enjoy dressing up an owl, right?

All jokes aside, Duolingo has some remarkable characteristics. I’ll sum up this point about why I like Duolingo by mentioning four features that stand out to me. They are characteristics that have made me stick with this app for longer than I expected.

You learn vocabulary through context

First of all, Duolingo starts by exposing you to the language in a natural way. The same way a child first comes into contact with the language that their caregivers speak.

It doesn’t present you with a list of verbs to become familiar with or a list of nouns for you to memorize. Duolingo starts you off with full sentences (simple ones). It continues from this point to teaching you their meaning. This method allows you to understand new words through context. You achieve this by looking at the surrounding terms you have already learned. You can then fill in what you don’t know through inference of meanings. The sentence segments that you do understand are what allow you to make these inferences.

Context_An_elephant_in_the_room

In other words, it allows you to make educated guesses that expand your vocabulary. As you advance in your learning, you can always refresh your memory by clicking on any word to check on its meaning.

It gives you a sense of accomplishment with every short step you take

Duolingo’s features make the initial part of learning a language exciting and catching. The first steps of most projects are usually when you feel so inept. It is when the end goal is an almost invisible dot on the distant horizon. This stage can sometimes be overwhelming to the point of wanting to abandon the project. Duolingo’s approach helps avoid this all-too-common occurrence.

It gives you a sense of accomplishment for simple things like getting a correct answer. A cheering sound for each right answer will stimulate you. And you’re motivated to finish each lesson by watching your progress on a bar. Every lesson you complete will give you points. The app will encourage you to earn a fixed number of points a day. To fulfill these daily goals, it will take you from 5 to 20 minutes a day. This is a reasonable amount of time that most people can fit into their busy schedules. Because the objectives are attainable, we tend to stick with the program. We then go on to build longer and longer streaks.

Girl_coming_out_the_door

It encourages habit formation

Another commendable aspect of Duolingo is that its configuration encourages habit formation. This is a vital point when learning anything new or acquiring any skill. The app prompts you to set a reminder time that you can receive on your phone and/or by email.

Additionally, when you haven’t appeared for a couple of days, Duo checks in on you! I mean, that cute, green face popping up on your mobile screen and saying: “I miss you” would touch anybody! It makes you want to drop all that you’re doing and run to open the app and complete your daily goal. All this to keep that sweet, little Duo happy.

It makes learning a language exciting with competitions and prizes

There are also different prizes and competitions to help you keep your eye on the goal. There are leagues in which you can compete. You move up in the ranks as you earn more and more points by completing lessons.

My experience using Duolingo to learn Italian – Does Duolingo work?

I have been using Duolingo to learn Italian for about a year now. I have not been completely consistent during this time. But I did build up a 206-day streak at one point! Yeah! Also, I confess that I have approached this venture in a more relaxed way. Hence, I only use the app for a few minutes once or twice a day on average.

Unfortunately, I have not advanced as far in learning Italian as I would have liked to by this point. But, I do not blame Duolingo for this. I’m pretty sure no app exists that is going to insert a new language into your brain without any effort on your part. I definitely would have heard of it by now!

Commendations

Duolingo supplies many of the tools needed for a successful venture. But, you also need to put the effort in on your part. The app gives you notes of advice that will further your progress. One of them is: testing to see how many phrases you can remember by the end of the lesson. Another one is repeating each phrase you hear out loud. There are also grammar tips at the beginning of each lesson. I found that writing these tips down also helped me absorb more information.

I am actually surprised by how much I can understand Italian. To test me, I tried listening to some songs in Italian. And I only had to look up a couple of words of the lyrics. Considering the amount of time and effort I have put into learning, I’m satisfied with the results. My biggest accomplishments have been in the listening, and reading areas.

Limitation

But, I have not advanced much in the speaking or writing areas. I cannot form my own sentences or conversations (beyond the basics). And this is one downside that I have noticed on the Duolingo app. The majority of the exercises consist of translating. You need to convert from the native language to the target language and vice versa. But it does not give much in the way of writing or answering in your own words.

Wrapping up

I am still only at the beginning of this journey. But I’m happy to say that Duolingo has helped me keep an interest far longer than I expected! As many have noticed, Duolingo is not a stand-alone app for learning a language in its entirety. In other words, you will need to complement this resource with others. This is especially true if your goal is to become completely fluent in the new language. To learn the productive skills of writing and speaking you will need other sources.

Even so, Duolingo is perfect for getting you started. It is also great for keeping you motivated on your journey. As the saying goes, “The hardest part of any journey is taking that first step.”

Girl_in_water_smiling

We thank Bekah for her review of Duolingo. Her insights on this platform are useful for any of you that are deciding if this free course is worth giving it a try. If you’ve made up your mind to check out Duolingo and would like to see which languages are available, click here.

If you’ve already joined Duolingo, then I encourage you to take a look at this other post, click here. It will be useful if you are seeking to expand your exposure to the language through other resources.

Have fun learning Italian!


16 Comments

AL. S. · February 22, 2021 at 5:28 PM

I love Duolingo. I’m learning Spanish and I’m now at level 3. I can hear Spanish speakers talk now and actually understand some of what they are saying.

I agree with your article, this little green owl does give motivation… and it’s funny when you miss a couple of days and get his sad puppy dog face and obvious disapproval. Duolingo is by far the best language learning app I have ever used. And the best thing is that it is completely free!

    Jonathan Henry · February 23, 2021 at 12:27 PM

    Hi, yes, Duolingo is a great app. And the fact that it continually encourages us to keep on is one of its coolest features.   

Kokontala · March 11, 2021 at 5:44 AM

Hi Bekah, I’ve just gone through your article about Duolingo. I’ve seen this App before but frankly speaking, I’ve never used it. I, therefore, found your post very helpful and interesting. I’m excited about giving it a try.

I agree with you that in this age, mobile devices have become an attachment of ourselves. Thank you for sharing this useful attachment.

    Bekah · March 11, 2021 at 12:51 PM

    You’re welcome. And thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Enjoy Duolingo!

JJ · March 20, 2021 at 9:09 PM

I am interested in this Duolingo app, as I have an interest in learning French. I would not be an absolute beginner as I studied the language in the early grades of high school. I have always loved things French and still look forward to spending some time in a French speaking country. I joined a French club close to home and realized I didn’t know enough to be able to converse so I dropped out. What sounds good about this app is the learning words by context, the encouragement along the way, and the short time I could dedicate to learning each day. Thank you for this information.

    Bekah · March 20, 2021 at 11:28 PM

    I’m happy to hear my post has encouraged you to pick up French again. Yeah, by all means, give Duolingo a try!

John Garang CHOL · March 20, 2021 at 9:11 PM

Learning new languages is a sweet topic for me. I  grew up in my listening to my native language and was also exposed to others to diverse degrees. So I developed a taste for languages from a young age. I have not studied any of them, actually. I just assimilate them with time. By the way, I assimilated English as a grown-up, so my English writing may have flaws.

    Jonathan Henry · March 20, 2021 at 11:35 PM

    Hi John,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with languages. It’s interesting to read how you assimilate them by exposure. That’s how language acquisition works.

Geoff · March 20, 2021 at 9:12 PM

Thanks Bekah for bringing us this overview of Duolingo.

I always like the idea of learning another language, but my experience of trying to learn french at school puts me off.

My problem is that when I hear a foreign language I just hear sounds like noise to me.  I find it impossible to tell the difference in the individual words.

This method sounds like it would really encourage me, as I would get points and that would drive me on to get as many as I can.  Plus the recognition of getting it right also is a good incentive.

Only one way to find out if it would work for me….

    Bekah · March 20, 2021 at 11:45 PM

    Hi Geoff, please do give it a try! You will enjoy Duolingo. I completely agree with you in that there is only one way to find out if it would work for you!

chris · March 20, 2021 at 10:57 PM

Wow Bekah,  After reading your informative review about Duolingo I have to give Duolingo a try.  Very helpful. 

I have been looking for a tool like this that works on my phone.
I may give Mandarin a go, I have spent some time with that language and love the people.

Thank you for this review.
Great information.

Very much appreciated Bekah,
Chris

    Bekah · March 21, 2021 at 12:36 AM

    Hi Chris,

    Duolingo works perfectly on phones! Happy learning!

DashDNations · March 30, 2021 at 2:28 AM

This is perfect. I love reading and I love playing games but I’ve struggled with learning a new language. I’m not exposed to it, nor is it something I use regularly. I’d love to learn Italian or French and be able to keep it. Buying books I love in those languages would be ideal to retain the information I learn.

    Jonathan Henry · March 30, 2021 at 11:49 PM

    Hi, give Duolingo a try. All the best learning your new language.

Arif · April 2, 2021 at 5:28 AM

This is a comprehensive review of Duolingo. The details you have covered are helpful. I liked the guidance this app provides for beginners.

During my life I have not been too much into learning new languages considering the fact that I live in a multi-lingual country. Yes, I am very fond of learning but concerning languages, I always took it as a requirement. I even spent a lot of years in the middle-east without learning the local language. I survived.

I think a lack of resources and time were the factors that kept me away from devoting myself to languages.

But having an app like this makes it flexible. You can use the app at your own convenience and learn at your own speed. If not Duolingo for Italian, I will start researching such apps that can help me to learn my choice of other languages.

Thanks for serving me the idea of a language learning app through this Duolingo review.

    Jonathan Henry · April 2, 2021 at 11:53 PM

    Hi! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience with us. Living for some time in the middle east must have been a very interesting experience. Please share with us any story related to languages that you had over there.

    Duolingo in particular is a great app to start with. And you learn while you have fun. So I really encourage you to give it a try.

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