Learning Language As A Game

duolingoSo sometimes my Twitter feed points me to something really interesting. Recently it pointed me to an application called Duolingo. It can be used via the website but there are mobile applications for Android, Apple and Windows. It’s an application for learning languages (the name may give you a clue there) which encourages you to spend five minutes a day learning a new language.

The idea is simple. Play the game, translating simple words and phrases in both directions and gain experience points (‘XP’) which allow you to level up through the language. Learning new skills and (more importantly) completing ‘streaks’ of continuous days played gains you ‘Lingots’ an in-game currency which can buy you useful things (a timed test, or a streak-preserver for instance) or just a new outfit for the games mascot, a rather cute green owl. You can follow friends too, thus allowing you to see who has practised most this week and cheer them on when they are doing well.

There are a wide variety of languages available depending on the language you’re starting from. For English speakers not only are there the obvious candidates (French, Spanish and German) but more unusual options like Esperanto, Swahili or Klingon. The courses are effectively crowd sourced, people volunteer to create the content which means that enthusiasts create courses (hence the more unusual options).

I decided to give it a go and learn Welsh. The first lesson was surprisingly easy (possibly helped by the fact that my six-word grasp of Welsh already included “bore da” and “nos da”) and I was hooked. It is surprisingly addictive. Got five minutes to kill? I’ll just strengthen my skills a little then…

The mobile version is the most accessible way to use it but the notes on the lessons when you visit the website contain some useful grammar tips which I’m not sure how well I’m going to learn. I’m hoping the later lessons will use more complicated constructions and perhaps I’ll learn them by absorption then.

Nine weeks in though and I’m still having fun. “Dw i’n hoffi dysgu Cymraeg”* in fact. I can’t do anything useful with it yet, like read a book or watch S4C, but for now it’s still a fun little game to play.

* I like learning Welsh.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Learning Language As A Game

  1. Check out Memrise too. Memrise can be played through a website or app. There are courses in languages and other topics such as geography. It follows a quick flash card like system for memorizing vocabulary.

    Memrise has an offline mode too. Not sure about Duolingo.

    • Actually I’ve already encountered Memrise and indeed am playing with it to brush up my knowledge of capital cities. I didn’t mention it here because I felt it was much better suited to that kind of use than language learning.
      I tried out a few of its Welsh courses but found it inflexible, aimed at teaching stock phrases rather than flexible language. The best it can offer really is to help extend your vocabulary if you are already learning elsewhere and even then the quality of the word lists seems to be variable and requires some trial and error to find the better ones.

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