Duolingo: Learning A Language For Fun

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Co-founder Luis von Ahn. (Photo by Seth Stevenson)

The latest tool for learning a new language to hit the Internet and app stores alike, is Duolingo. The program resembles Rosetta Stone in its mechanics, but gives users an added sense of accomplishment as they progress through the different levels of linguistics.

The app, which won Apple’s App of the Year award, has exploded in popularity, reaching over 5 million users last July according to TechCrunch.com.

The app teaches Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese to English speakers, and teaches English to speakers of those previously mentioned languages, plus Dutch, Russian, Hungarian, and Turkish, with more languages to come.

“Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Duolingo: it doesn’t cost anything. It’s free to download and, according to its 34-year-old co-founder Luis von Ahn, it will be free forever,” wrote tech blogger Seth Stevenson on Slate.com.

One might ask, “How can Duolingo make any money if they are free and have no ads?” The way that Duolingo sustains itself is by running a translation service that gives its users the option to translate real world documents. This service is used by a number of companies, such as CNN and Buzzfeed.

“The language translation market is huge,” said Luis von Ahn, co-founder of Duolingo, according to Stevenson’s blog. “It’s a 15 billion pound market.”

What makes the app so successful is that it understands that human minds are geared towards competition, and so the app appeals to this with spendable points, leaderboards, and the three-heart “life” system used so often in classic videogames.

Some SPS students, such as senior Michael Burke,  have already begun utilizing the app to brush up on their Spanish learned in class. Others, such as seniors Michael Stewart and Jacob Hewson, are using Duolingo to learn languages such as German and French, which are not offered in the St. Paul’s language curriculum.

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(image from Duolingo.com)

“After taking 5 years of Spanish, I recently began my journey to learning German on the new app Duolingo,” said Stewart. “I’ve only been using the app for small amount of time, but I’ve already made progress. The way I’ve been staying on track is by having my friends learn the language with me. I particularly love having competition because it gives me someone to one up.”

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