Learning a Scandinavian language with DuoLingo

 

Due to the lack of a Danish teacher in real life and some time constraint, I decided to take my chance with the language app DuoLingo. Despite being a beginner, I found it really easy to get into the language exercises but mostly thanks to Swedish being very closely related to Danish, in regard to words and grammar. The app DuoLingo works a lot with with translations back and forth the chosen language and English. Having strong language skills in English, I reflected upon the fact that anyone with poor English skills might find it hard to learn a new language through DuoLingo. It might even be disencouraging since the app reports any error in the English translations, regardless of grammar or spelling, as a mistake and therefore as a failure in that part of the exercise.

 

 

Now I have done 10 different sections and passed the first checkpoint

I feel that I learnt some Danish but I am not sure how much I would be able to actually use it actively, to be more specific to speak it. Since my goal is to be able to hold a simple conversation and also to understand a dinner conversation with my Danish friends, I am not sure if a language app alone serves my goals.

Having that said, to get access to a free language app is great. In regard to DuoLingo, one can see the benefits of hearing the pronunciation of the words used in the exercises and how this app seems to work with a variation of pictures and sound. It is useful in the very beginning of learning a language and a good way into a language since one can pick up quite a lot of new vocabulary. But this is only efficient before joining an actual course in real life or hiring a teacher. Having taught for more than 12 years, I believe that one needs more than a language app in order to properly acquire some sustainable skills within a language. Further on, the rewards that one gets in Duolingo, all running according the rules of gamification, are not sufficient enough as motivation or encouragement. Positive feedback in real life has a lot stronger effect on people´s progress and will to learn something new. Language learning is namely not only about understanding grammar and picking up new words; it is a personal process that can be challenging.

 

Throughout my career as a language teacher, I worked a lot with and still use CEFR in my daily work

CEFR is the Common European Framework of Reference for languages which is based on specific skills gained at each language level, starting from A1 and going up to C2. At the beginner´s level, at A1, one is able to talk about themselves and their family in a simple way, for example. Skills that require a more detailed language and vocab or deals with more specific topics are added on later according to CEFR. That is the reason why I was a bit confused by the order of topics and specific vocabulary within the different areas of checkpoints in DuoLingo. Whereas the topic “family” is put in the third section and the topic “numbers” in the fourth and last section, one finds exercises learning different animal names and several exercises with the definite form of plural in the first one. Going along with CEFR, I would have created a different order which would have the benefits of feeling more natural and pragmatic for the language learner.

 

 

But do not take me wrong now

DuoLingo and other language apps are good and serve the purpose of satisfying one´s curiosity in a new language. But when one begins to seek beyond that and wants to learn a language properly, then it is time to sign up for a course with a teacher in real life. Even in the era of apps, one cannot argue with the fact that a person as your language teacher is still the most efficient and fun way to study.