So you downloaded Duolingo and you’re ready to start learning Spanish (or whatever language). You don’t really have many other language learning resources, but you have high hopes for your new language learning buddy. So the question is, how far can Duolingo or other language apps take you? What should it be used for and how can you take full advantage of it?
What Kinds of Apps Are There
The one’s that I have experience with are:
Fluent U – Various languages -Totally immersive app (recommended)
Lingodeer – Korean, Japanese, Korean only
Duolingo – Various languages – five minute a day image based studies
Babbel – Conversation based app for various languages
DuChinese – Only for learning to read Chinese (recommended)
Memrise – Various languages – Only flashcards (recommended)
Drops – Various languages (best for Asian languages) – uses beautiful images to help you retain vocab
Skritter – Only for reading Chinese characters
iTalki – Language learning community and online tutors
Seemile – Only Korean (recommended)
Hello Chinese – Like Duolingo but only Chinese
Chinese Skill – Ditto
Mondly – Various languages – practice conversation based learning
How Far Can Language Apps Take You?
Duolingo and other language learning apps are an EXCELLENT resource for beginners to learn initial vocabulary on the go. It has lots of reinforcement and cute little graphics to help you remember what you learn. However, once you reach lower intermediate in your studies (you are able to communicate basic ideas) these apps will become too elementary for you. They only serves as a mobile flash card system for learning vocabulary and perhaps grammar points. If you are a serious language learner, language learning apps will not even get you close to the conversational goals you may have. The reason is, they are not made for intensive study or for those who want to learn to speak or understand more complex language. They are made for five minute a day simple stuff that you can fit into little pockets of free time in your schedule.
Language learning apps also aren’t immersive enough. They present snippets of language sentences with some audio then the English equivalent. This is actually not too good in the intermediate level as you will need to remove yourself from your dependence on English and understand exactly why what word is being used where so you can USE WHAT YOU LEARN TO CREATE YOUR OWN SENTENCES. Apps don’t provide in depth explanations as to why words are placed where they are and what they REALLY mean. You also need constant conversation at normal, native speeds, not short sentences presented at small snippets at a time. So do not rely on language learning apps as your foundation for language learning ever! You should just treat them as just games.
Apps should be trusted at the beginner level and then it will be time to move on to more immersive resources like Yabla or Fluent U online.
How to Use Language Learning Apps
Language learning apps cannot make you fluent alone (surprise, surprise!). But they are wonderful if used in addition to your other language learning resources when you are on the train, on the bus, waiting for your food at a restaurant or you can schedule a couple of minutes per day to sit down and use your app. I recommend planning at least 15 minutes of usage per day to get the most out of your language learning app. They’re fun right? So it should be easy to pop ’em in your schedule. It may help to treat your app time as your relaxing time. Your real studying should be more intensive and involved, so the time you spend on your apps should just be fun time!