Updated: Nov 3, 2019
One of the things I wanted to do this year was to start learning Spanish again. I took Spanish as a GCSE and got a B, however since finishing school I have not spoken a word of Spanish. I really missed the feeling I had of being able to say words or sentences in another language and I did really enjoy my Spanish lessons (although at the time I did not feel as keen).
At the end of last year I did a little Google of apps that could help you learn another language and Duolingo was the first one that came up. I remembered hearing about this app before from a YouTube video and instantly downloaded it as I had only heard good things about it.
When you first download the app you can make an account and you can choose which language you want to learn. At current, it offers around ninety different language courses. It also asks you whether you have any previous experience of the language you want to learn and then gives you a little test to see what level you are currently at so it can tailor your learning experience to where you are at when you first start the course.
Above are some screenshots of what the app looks like. It has a variety of different sections you can learn, which all go up to five levels and once you reach level five you cannot really progress any further but you can keep on going back to a section to go back over some words and practice everything you have already learnt. You can only progress onto the next section once you have completed level one of the last section. You do have five lives for each session that you do (I do twenty minutes a day, which lets me get through four parts of a level - it is a bit difficult to explain but if you use the app you should get what I mean). You do not have to do twenty minutes a day, you are able to choose how much you do each day, but twenty minutes is the maximum and five minutes is the minimum. The first few sections are easy and as you progress they gradually start to get harder, which is one of the things I like most about this app as you are not constantly repeating the same things you have already done and this allows you to actually progress, whereas constantly going over the same things would not.
One of the things Duolingo lets you do is you can speak sentences. It lets you have three attempts at each one of these (I have found there tends to be anything between two and four of these in one part) and if you are still not getting it by the third attempt then it comes up as a fail and lets you move on.
Another feature of this app is that it will speak something to you in Spanish and let you type out what this means in English. I personally think this is great as you can see what each word is in Spanish and then try and think of what each individual word translates to in English to try and form a sentence. From my time taking Spanish as a GCSE three years ago, I know that some Spanish sentences do not translate directly to what they mean in English, for example 'tengo' in Spanish directly translates to 'have' in English, and in Spanish they say 'yo tengo diez anos' which directly translates to 'I have ten years' in English, when it should be 'I am ten years old', so just be careful when you are doing this.
It will also speak a sentence to you in Spanish and you then have to also type this out in Spanish. It does sound easy but they do tend to speak really fast so you can often mis-hear what they are saying, no matter how many times you listen to the recording. You do have the option to listen to a slower version of the sentence, which I have found to be quite helpful as some words sound quite similar and this function allows you to check that you have typed out the right words before the app checks it.
This function is pretty much the same as one of the other images above, however it is switched around to having the sentence in English and you have to translate it into Spanish. I find that this function can at times be slightly harder than the other one as, similar to what I said above, Spanish sentences do not always translate directly to what they mean in English. This means that what you think a sentence might translate to from English into Spanish, it might not be exactly correct. This does get frustrating at times but once you figure it out, it is a really good feeling.
Whenever you get something wrong, Duolingo will tell you what the correct sentence is. As you can see, I only got this sentence wrong by adding in one word that was not needed. The app will let you have another go at this at the end of this part and will not end the part until you get whatever you got wrong right. This is a good feature of the app as it lets you learn from your mistakes, whilst letting you correct these mistakes so that you know what to do next time.
Another good feature of the app is that it will give you alternative sentences to what you wrote so that you are aware of other things you could have written. I like this part as it gives you more than one way of saying something, which can always come in useful.
All in all, this is probably one of the best apps I have used in a long time. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking to learn a new language, or to re-learn a language they learnt during their school days. I reckon it would be fairly useful to students who are studying a language for their GCSEs/A-Levels/uni degree, however the app might not teach you some of the words you are looking for (I know during my Spanish GCSE course I had to know words about school and clothes), but I definitely think it would be worth giving it a try and then if it does not have what you are looking for then you can always try something else. I would also recommend it to anyone who is going away abroad on holiday and does not know the language as it can help you with some of the basics which you will definitely find beneficial.
For those of you worrying about having to pay, the app is absolutely free (there are a few things that you are given the option to pay for, but if you choose not to they will not affect your learning in any way). But even if you did need to pay for some things, I would probably pay for them (but obviously it would depend on the price tag - student life and all that) and reckon they would be worth it.
If you have any other questions about this app that you feel I have not answered in this post then please either DM me on Twitter or Instagram (the links to these are the icons at the top of this page). Or leave a comment below with your Twitter or Instagram username and I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can (I cannot reply to comments on here, annoyingly). Or you can send me an email with your queries (either about this app or absolutely anything else) and I will try my best to get back to you.
Love Beth xx