Let me first say that foreign languages are NOT my gift. I took four years of French in high school, earned straight A’s but can barely remember how to say “Je m’appelle Rachel” (ok… I confess… I Googled that to make sure I spelled it right, so you get my point.) My teacher just didn’t hold us accountable for our learning or have very high expectations, and it doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m thinking I might be fluent in French to this day, however, if I had the good fortune to be born in the digital age and could have used DuoLingo while she repeated her stories of trips to France.
DuoLingo is a “free service that helps you learn languages with your friends while simultaneously contributing to translate real-world content from the Web.” With it you can learn… for free…. French, Spanish, German, Italian or Portuguese. Check out the explanation video:
Before I suggested it to our foreign language teachers, I gave it a try myself to learn about it’s features. Amazing. DuoLingo started me out with very simple vocabulary aided by visual and audible cues. I had to pay attention, though. It wasn’t long before it asked me to type a word I had just learned with no help! It challenged me even more when I had to record myself pronouncing the words I was learning. There’s a gaming aspect to it too. When you mess up (which I did), you lose hearts. If you lose all of your hearts you have to start the lesson over. It’s a powerful component. It also incorporates social interaction by allowing you to friend other users.
At the end of the lesson you’ll see a chart of the strength of your learning for each word in you’ve worked on. You’ll progress your way through a skill tree and more advanced learners can test out of the lower levels. DuoLingo isn’t specifically designed for classrooms, but I think a teacher could easily “Friend” each of his/her students and use the skill progress to monitor learning. I’ve only recently introduced this to our foreign language teachers, but when they’ve had a little more time using it in class I’ll ask one of them to guest blog about it.
A little time spent on the concept of how your lessons help translate the web, and using DuoLingo could even be considered Project Based Learning in a sense. Students are learning a language while also contributing to a global task of making webpages from all over the world readable in many languages. That’s so cool.
Look out, world! I may just manage to learn another language after all!