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Duolingo for Android review: Free and fun language learning on the go

With its gamified approach to language-learning, the free Duolingo is a great mobile education tool.

Jaymar_Cabebe.jpg
Jaymar Cabebe
Jaymar_Cabebe.jpg
Jaymar Cabebe Former Associate Editor

Jaymar Cabebe covers mobile apps and Windows software for CNET. While he may be a former host of the Android Atlas Weekly podcast, he doesn't hate iOS or Mac. Jaymar has worked in online media since 2007.

3 min read

One of the most popular education apps on the market, Duolingo offers free language-learning by way of gamified lesson plans. The app includes programs for English speakers to learn Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, and Italian, as well as programs to learn English from any of those languages except German.

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8.3

Duolingo for Android

The Good

<b>Duolingo</b> is completely free and turns language-learning into a game, broken down into short lessons. Progress is stored in the cloud and can be synced between devices.

The Bad

The app could use a wider variety of question types and support for more languages. Also, in-depth lessons on sentence structure and verb conjugations would be really helpful.

The Bottom Line

As language learning apps go, Duolingo is a fantastic option that's completely free, but don't expect it to help you become completely fluent.

Learn a new language on your mobile device with Duolingo (pictures)

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When you first boot up the app, you must either create a new account or log in with existing Facebook or Google+ credentials. With your progress tied to an account, you can easily continue your lessons on different devices without having to start over. The convenience here is clear, but I would even suggest taking it a step further. I'd love to see a quick account switcher built into Duolingo. As it is now, the app makes you log out and log back in to switch, which is less convenient for couples or even families who share a device.

Each language program is split into different levels, with Basics being the first, naturally. Levels are then split into different lessons, which focus on specific skills and vocabulary sets and usually take 10 or fewer minutes to complete. At the end of each level, there's a practice test that you must complete before you can move on.

Programs are broken down into different lessons, which focus on specific vocabulary sets and phrases. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

If you already have some experience with a language, Duolingo lets you complete diagnostic tests to skip ahead within a program. For instance, I took some Spanish in high school, so I was able to test some of the basics and jump ahead a few levels.

One thing I'd love to see is the ability to go back and quickly jump through completed lessons. For now, the app lets you go back and start a completed lesson over, but it doesn't let you quickly skip through questions, which is a bummer if you just want to review something specific.

Lessons usually start with simple picture-based questions to introduce new words. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

The types of questions within Duolingo's lessons are consistent, whether you're a beginning or advanced learner. The app asks you to do things like identify pictures, type out dictations, and of course, translate sentences. While the repetition here is certainly good for learning, I do wish the app included a wider variety of question types. At least for me personally, this would have made the lessons more like a game, with things to look forward to. That said, Duolingo does include a handful of game mechanics to push you along. For instance, each lesson starts you off with either three or four stars, and whenever you get an answer wrong, you lose one. Lose them all, and you don't pass. Also, when you complete a lesson, you earn points, which can be weighed against your friends' progress on a Leaderboard.

Some questions ask you to translate a sentence using an on-screen word bank. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

Overall, I found Duolingo to be a great option for language-learning with a low barrier for entry. It's completely free, and you can easily whip out a few lessons during your sparse pockets of free time throughout the day. There's even an option to receive practice reminders, in case you need extra motivation.

But as someone who has taken language classes in both high school and college, I can't say that Duolingo would be a completely sufficient replacement. It doesn't go in-depth when it comes to sentence structure or verb conjugations. And as with any software-based education program, it doesn't teach you all of the necessary nuances that are required to become truly fluent. That said, I do think Duolingo would serve as a fantastic primer or refresher, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in language-learning.

Screenshot_2013-08-07-14-47-37.png
8.3

Duolingo for Android

Score Breakdown

Setup 10Features 8Interface 9Performance 8
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