duolingo-banner
If you’re looking to supplement your foreign language education with some real-world experience, or if you’re an autodidact who simply loves to to learn new languages, then hopefully you already know about Duolingo. Envisioned as way of allowing people to learn a new language without having to pay for high-priced software like Roestta Stone, Duolingo acts as both a document translation service and language learning program.

It works by letting users take a number of audial and visual language lessons set up in a “skill tree.” As users complete these lessons, they earn skill points that are used to unlock new sections of the tree, while also getting a set new words to practice. Then, users may try their hand at translating documents written by native speakers of the language you are practicing, giving you a real-world example of how language is used, while also earning additional skill points to use on new lessons. Once you’re done with the translations, you can look at how other users translated the document and see how they may have interpreted it differently.

While Duolingo originally only offered Spanish, French, English, and German courses, Portuguese and Italian have now been released from Beta with the site’s latest update, which also saw the addition of new lessons for French and German.

On the mobile side, iPhone users can now listen to music while taking the language lessons on the Duolingo iPhone App, and now has an offline mode that can store about an hour’s worth of lessons for times when internet access is hard to come by. If you’re an Android user who has been a little bitter about not getting a Duolingo app yet (like me), then fret not, as the company has now also announced that the Android version will be available in May.

Aside from the new updates, the service has also been getting a lot of attention for both its ease of use and effectiveness, so much so that a recent independent study found that using Duolingo to learn a language is actually more effective than taking a college course. The eight-week study, conducted by Dr. Roumen Vesselinov of City College of New York and Dr. John Grego of the University of South Carolina, found that participants using Duolingo’s Spanish instructional materials only needs between 26 and 49 hours, or an average of 34 hours, to learn as much material as is taught in a semester-long (11 week) college course.

So, if you’re gearing up for a trip-abroad or just want to keep your Spanish sharp during the summer break, I can definitely recommend giving Duolingo a try.