Duolingo - Learn A New Language Easily And Entirely Free

by Paul

What is Duolingo? It's a website that's completely free of charge and provides you with an astonishingly easy way to learn a new language at a pace that you find convenient!

The vast majority of us have at one point wished we were bilingual. Whether it be that you've simply not had the time for it, or couldn't afford a private tutor, the want has still remained. Duolingo can fix that.

Duolingo is a website that enables you to learn a foreign language absolutely free of charge and after following the success of a private beta starting on the 30th November 2011, Duolingo finally went public seven months later on the 19th June 2012.

It's very easy to use, and certainly is effective. You don't even need to focus a large amount of time or effort at once!

What Does Duolingo Offer And How Do I Begin?

Currently, Duolingo offers courses to learn Spanish, French, Italian, German and Brazilian Portuguese as an English speaker. It also offers English courses for Spanish, Portuguese and Italian speakers.

Creating an account is extremely simple. Navigating to Duolingo's website presents you immediately with an option to sign up - something you should certainly do. You can sign up via Facebook or using your E-mail address.

Signing up with Facebook allows you to connect with anyone else on your Facebook friends list that are also using Duolingo. It allows you to compare your progress with them, which may or may not be something you'd enjoy.


Once you've signed up, simply choose the language you'd like to begin to learn using the drop-down box to the right of the Duolingo logo.


It's as simple as that - you're now ready to learn the language you've selected!

How Do I Learn?

One of the best parts about Duolingo for me personally is the skill tree. I'm a gamer, so am used to seeing these throughout the games and it represents the experience you hold in certain areas of the skill.

It's great for having a continuously improving graphic showing your progress. Even a small amount of time contributed rewards you with identifiable progress, making it seem worthwhile.

When beginning to learn a new language, your skill tree will look similar to the one shown below.

Skill tree

This is only a small section of the skill tree - it's actually much, much larger. Each of the nodes shown can be clicked on to take you to various lessons and refreshers concerning the node you picked.


For Brazilian Portuguese, there are 3 lessons in the "Basics 1" node, followed by two refreshers and finally a real world translation - something we'll come onto later.

The hearts displayed on the lessons and refreshers represent how many mistakes you've made throughout it. You start off with either four or three hearts (depending on if you're learning or refreshing) and lose one for each incorrect answer. Losing all your hearts means you have to start again.

As you can see, I've not done the greatest in the lessons, but have improved when refreshing my knowledge.

The lessons and refreshers are laid out in many ways ranging from having to listen to an audio clip and type out what you heard, directly translating from one language to the other, selecting the correct meaning or translation from a list, or even speaking the correct pronunciation into a microphone. You can disable the talking and listening should you so wish.


Upon completion of the lesson, you're awarded points and informed as to which words you've strengthened your knowledge in. This is a very useful feature as it allowed you to practise the words that you're struggling with.

If you get stuck during a lesson, you can hover over a word to peek at its meaning, however, this means that you lose some of the strength of the knowledge of that word.


Once you've completed all the lessons in a node, it turns the node to "learnt", signifying that you've learnt everything, but not refreshed it. Completing the remainder of the node allows you to master it and, the best part, turn the node shiny and gold!


If you already know part of the language, you can choose to either complete a node without taking any lessons or refreshers, or you can choose to complete several nodes and skip further down the skill tree by taking one test encompassing everything up to that point.

You have a limited number of attempts, so make sure you know your language!

test out
test out

You are also able to see your entire statistics for the language on the right hand side of your screen. It shows you how many skill points you have in that language, how many translations you've contributed (I'll inform you about this shortly, I promise!) and how many words you've fully strengthened.


There's also a leaderboard showing how you compare to your friends. It's an element of competition that can help drive you to gain far more points than you'd usually achieve.


What's The Point?

Many ask why Duolingo provide the services they do as it's not a non-profit organisation. It's a very clever business model they have employed that essentially allows crowd-sourcing to translate text that uploaders send to Duolingo.

It costs to have your text translated, but it is cheaper than having it translated by a professional translator and is as accurate as the voting and translation procedures ensure that a correct translation is achieved.

It's usually a requirement to translate some text before you master a node. 


First, you must make your own attempt at the translation of the sentence or paragraph that you're assigned. After this, you must then vote on one of three other translations submitted. Doing this contributes to the final translation, which is decided by clever Duolingo algorithms and human voting.

As you can see, the sentence above has been translated by me and 318 other people and is only 95% complete. This crowd-sourcing method of translation is effective and also beneficial to the translator as they're learning as they're translating.

What Are You Waiting For? Go Learn!

It's a very fun website, but also has a very good business model behind it. This ensures that the lessons it provides will be accurate and constantly updated, while still allowing it to be free.

If you're wanting competition, my Duolingo profile can be found here.

Good luck! / Boa sorte! / Bonne chance! / Viel Glück! / Buena suerte! / Buona fortuna!

Updated: 05/20/2014, Paul
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Telesto on 08/19/2014

I've started using this, as a result of your article, whilst I'm between Italian classes. I really like it, particularly as it makes you speak in your chosen language. The other one I like is Memrise.

skillcode on 12/26/2013

Duolingo is great, love it!

Paul on 07/08/2013

Good luck!

Brenda Barnes on 07/04/2013

Exciting. I am going there right now. Thanks!

Paul on 07/03/2013

I'm not sure it offers Spanish lessons in German, but I know it supports foreign languages learning English.

CADoerr on 07/03/2013

And may I use it to learn Spanish as a non-native Speaker to learn Spanish?

CADoerr on 07/03/2013

Paul your next lesson ist to tanslate my article "Little Willie Landship" into proper English http://pagewizz.com/little-willie-lan...

Paul on 06/16/2013

Thanks, cmoneyspinner!

Paul on 06/16/2013

PurposeEmbraced - Good luck! It sounds perfect for you.

Paul on 06/16/2013

Thank you Elias :)

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