And if that made any sense then this app hasn’t been a total waste of time.
Hello gearboxers! It is I, Professor Markley, here with the first in hopefully a long line of app review videos. I’ve told Lee I’d do these for a while, and it’s about time I kept my word.
Yes, yes, I know my last review on this site was about Board Games. Things change, ok?
Also, full disclosure, I’m not a real Professor, I just play one on youtube.
In this re-tool of Mr. Markley’s gradebook I’ve decided to review apps which promise to help users achieve skills, train their brain, or make their life better through daily, weekly, or monthly use. The rules are simple, I use the app as recommended every day for 30 days, and then tell you if I think it’s worth your time and, possibly, money. Today’s review? Duolingo (www.duolingo.com)
For my rubric I’ll be grading the app based on three things:
-Design (Good to look at, easy to use)
-Fun (Does it feel like a chore to do, or like a game)
-Worth (Does it help you do the thing it says it will help you do)
Obviously not everything worth doing is fun, not everything fun is easy to do, and not everything pretty is substantive.
Duolingo is pretty minimalist when it comes to its overall design. You have a general skill tree for each language, an easy to navigate menu bars, vibrant, simple pictures, and simple to understand advancement tracking mechanics. On the app you have five pages to choose from.
Duolingo’s course list is at the same time impressive, and disappointing, depending on the language you are looking for. The biggest difference is the gap between computer and app users. While the list is generally the same across platform, the app lets you learn Japanese, while the website lets you learn High Valyrian and Klingon. Yes. You read that right. It seems to be a safe assumption that, over time, all the languages will jump platform, but for now the split is odd.
The learn page is where you do all of your, well, learning. It has your progress trackers, your skill tree, a general training button, and a little trophy at the end should you complete the course. Each skill on the skill tree has multiple lessons and word lists to keep on top of your progression through the language, and fluency bars which let you know if its time to refresh your memory.
The profile page has achievements, and a friend list leaderboard to show how you are easily crushing your friends and family at this whole “Self improvement” thing.
Clubs are new. I see no need for them because you already have a friends list. But, heck, join my club if you want. Club Code is JCA4N6.
The shop is where you spend your in game currency on things which help you keep your streak, gain more currency, give you clothing for your owl to wear, and some bonus lessons which change depending on season. It’s also where you can pay real money for duolingo PLUS, which gets rid of ads and lets you take the app into offline mode for 10 bucks a month. I don’t recommend it unless you really hate ads or need to go offline often.
Overall, it’s simple, easy to use, and hard to be confused. Design: A
Duolingo works on the theory that gamification is the best way to learn a new skill. Add checkpoints, progress bars, experience points, achievements, and in game money to a lesson and it goes from a bore to something more. And, it’s more than what’s needed for Duolingo.
To be clear. On the whole, the progress bars, the checkpoints, and the achievements keep you going in a tremendous fashion.
Achievements encourage you to try more difficult things like keeping a streak up, or not missing a single question.
Checkpoints keep you going towards learning new things, to pushing yourself into the next lesson.
And the fluency progress bar forces you to go back and review what you’ve already learned to keep the percentage from going down.
But they aren’t all fun.
The in game money can’t buy you anything good, so you sit there with a horde of cash with nothing to spend it on except ways to get more cash.
The experience points stop mattering because you only get experience points for learning something new, not refreshing your memory, which is most of duolingo.
When duolingo’s gameification works, it works because it reinforces the theme of language progression. It starts to fall apart when the game parts have nothing to do with the language parts. Overall fun: B+
Duolingo is a flashcard app. You aren’t going to become fluent with it, but, without interacting with language speakers, you never will be. Duolingo is about building a foundation with lessons that force you to translate written and audio dialogue back and forth into your native language and the language you hope to learn. Because of duolingo I was able to start watching, and understanding, german kid’s TV, which is when I started to leave duolingo behind. It’s a stepping stone, a foundation, but it isn’t a forever app. Use it until you feel comfortable enough to jump into something a little more challenging. Keep pushing yourself.
Duolingo does what it says, it will help you learn a new language, but you need to learn when it is time to move on from flashcards. If they moved on to include videos, more complex lessons, and more immersion lessons, it would be a home run. Overall worth: B.
Duolingo is a great app for the aspiring linguist. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it takes you no more than 15 minutes a day to learn the basics of a new language. Overall grade: A-