Friday, April 27, 2012

Duolingo

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Duolingo is a web-based application that teaches people languages by getting them to translate web pages: Users are able to learn languages for free, with no advertisements, while simultaneously translating the Web.

Duolingo is a free language-learning website and crowdsourced text translation platform. The service is designed so that as users progress through the lessons, they simultaneously help to translate websites and other documents. Duolingo launched in private beta on 30 November 2011, and has accumulated a waiting list of more than 300,000 users. As of 19 January 2012, the service has translated over 45,000 sentences. 



How Duolingo Works
To get access to Duolingo, you have to request an invitation from the website by providing your email address and picking which language you want to learn: English, Spanish or German. If you want to study two languages, you can elect the second one after you create an account.

If you receive an invitation to join, you then create a username and password so that Duolingo can keep track of your progress and participation. When you sign in, a home screen shows you a roadmap of what you'll learn. In the beginning you are led through a series of lessons that teach you different language skills and get you translating right away. Units along the roadmap appear grey until they are unlocked, at which time they become colorful, and a small trophy icon turns gold when you've completed and mastered a unit. 

You cannot jump ahead. Each lesson and translation you do earns you points and “unlocks” subsequent skill areas. You can also skip through a skill by taking a test. If you make too many mistakes you have to go back and do the lessons. The lessons cover every aspect of language: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. They even cater to visual learners by introducing some vocabulary with pictures. However most vocabulary is presented in writing, with mouseover popups to explain each word.

Users are asked to translate from Spanish to English and from English to Spanish. For a little variety there are multiple choice questions in both directions. The lessons also include listening and speaking. Each skill area also includes simple translation tasks from live websites. Again you can use the mouseover popups to see definitions of any words you don’t know. The more you use the popups, the less difficult the subsequent translations will be, and vice versa. Duolingo provides you with a link to the website so you can check the context of the sentence, and it also shows you thumbnails of any images that might be relevant. After you have taken a stab at the translation, Duolingo shows you some other people’s translations and presents you with one of them to rate.

Duolingo has other features as well. It recommends daily review and if you skip a day, Duo the owl starts to cry, so it’s best to practice every day! If you make a typo or error it tells you what you did wrong, and if you make too many mistakes you have to do a little extra practice. Every time you reach a learning milestone you see a splash page with a big bright gold ribbon and congratulations.

If you want to try Duolingo you can get on the waiting list here. It can take a while to get in, but it’s worth the wait!

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only.


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