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Mobile Apps

Duolingo introduces chatbots to hone your conversational skills

The free language-learning app is now letting you practise your conversational skills on real live bots.

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Duolingo

Free app Duolingo is a great way to learn the basics of a new language, with small daily lessons that gradually increase your skills, with rewards for progressing. Now the service has added a new feature that's a little different from the back-and-forth translation -- text-based chatbots.

These are aimed at helping you improve your conversational skills and skills you might use in real life, such as ordering food, visiting a tourist attraction, shopping for clothing or catching a cab. A variety of scenarios will see you learning how to follow a set of directions, or talk with a doctor. According to the Duolingo chatbot Web page, these bots are programmed to react to thousands of different responses.

"One of the main reasons people learn languages is to have conversations," said Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn in a statement. Students master vocabulary and comprehension skills with Duolingo, but coming up with things to say in real­life situations remains daunting. Bots offer a sophisticated and effective answer to that need."

Initially, the chatbots are only available in the iOS version, and only in French, German and Spanish. Other platforms and other languages are reportedly "coming soon." Duolingo also hopes to expand the chatbot feature to spoken conversation.