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Leveling a language

February 18, 2013

This weekend I started leveling in a new game – German. It is through the service DuoLingo, which is a free online language teaching service, combined with a crowdsourced translation of text.

It was created by Luis von Ahn, creator of reCAPTCHA, and a couple of other people. While one important part of the service is translation of text, I find it also interesting because they have gamified the learning process.

Each lesson gives you points after completion, similar to gaining XP. After you have received a certain amount of points you gain a level. As you level, more skill/learning options open up for you. After receiving a certain proficiency in an area, one can continue to move on to other areas, or continue with mastering that area. In is in the latter option that the crowdsourced translation seems to be taking place.

Each lesson also give each student/player 4 lives (hearts) – if an answer is wrong, you lose one heart. If you lose all hearts, you fail the lesson and have to redo it to progress. The more hearts you have after a lesson, the more “xp” you get.

Each lesson is fairly short and the time can be counted in minutes. I found it quite fun and enjoyable to play/learn through DuoLingo. To try it out I started with German, a language I studied for only 3-4 weeks long ago in my youth in high school before switching to French and Russian.

So far I have reached level 4 and judging from the skill tree, there is a lot of ground to cover.

The site offers language training in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English – the latter for speakers of some of the Latin languages, the others for those who speak English.

So what will your proficiency in a language be after completing the DuoLingo training? There is a Reddit discussion on this topic, which relates what is learned to CEFR level definitions. In some areas abilities/skills may be at B1 level, other areas DuoLingo is weaker. Considering the number of hours CEFR estimates for reaching certain proficiency levels compared to the number of hours people seem to need in general to complete a DuoLingo training, it seems DuoLingo is fairly efficient.

I do recommend reading the comments that are attached to each exercise, in particular if you do not quite understand the correct answer – DuoLingo does not go out of its way to explain the grammar. There are grammar descriptions, but not everything is explained in detail. Here comments from native/knowledgable people can be quite helpful.

Try it out – it is F2P and there is no item shop, lockboxes or pay-to-win features….

Categories: Online games, Other
  1. Coppertopper
    February 19, 2013 at 14:10

    Will have to check this out. My employer offers bilingual pay and this may be the ticket for brushing up on my Spanish. Thanks for this!

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