Level Up Your Language Skills

Level Up Your Language Skills: Tips for DuoLingo

By: Jennifer Slavetskas

My Background

I have a confession to make. I am a language addict-- I’m hooked on studying different languages. I studied Spanish in high school and college but never became truly fluent. During the Covid-19 shutdown I started to watch Spanish on YouTube (seriously, check out Jenny Lorenzo, she’s hilarious) and thought how great it would be if I could understand the video without subtitles. Then I heard about DuoLingo as a way to learn a new language. I thought...why not?

What is DuoLingo?

It’s an app and a website.You level up in each topic in order to unlock the next. You don't have to continue onto the next topic though. You can keep leveling up continuously in whichever topic you're on to conceptualize your understanding.

The end goal is to finish the whole “tree” of topics. It encourages you to come back every day so you don’t lose your lesson “streak”.

You also earn Lingots, DuoLingo's currency system, which you can use to purchase different perks to help you along your journey. For instance, you can unlock a lesson on flirting or idioms in your target language.

There’s also a leaderboard where you can compete against others with your experience points (XP). I’m not big into video games, and yet I found myself completely motivated by this gamified structure.

Getting Started

My first advice is to start slow and choose one language that you want to learn. Determine your purpose for learning-- the more practical it will be, the more likely you’ll make time to learn it. No one learns to drive a car if they have no plans to actually drive it.

Consider downloading the app on your phone and use it every day. You’ll get a variety of activities such as dragging words into the correct sequence, matching, fill-in-the-blanks, listening, and writing exercises.

Just be warned-- like many games, if you make a mistake, it will cost you. In this case, you will lose a heart. After five hearts on the mobile app, you will have to either practice a previous skill or “buy” a life with gems. Don’t worry, all of this is still free.

Speed It Up

Are you ready to take it to the next level? Try using the desktop version. You can dive into your lessons without being slowed down with losing hearts-- you can make mistakes and keep going.

At this point, you could consider adding a second language and toggle between the two once in a while to keep things fresh for you. This may not work for everyone, but it helped keep me motivated. Another tip is to consider keeping a language notebook to write down translations. You could write the word and sketch a picture next to it as well for better retention.

In addition to the classic lessons, you could try the Stories tab. The more “popular” languages have a feature where you can listen to a fictional conversation and then answer questions for a quick comprehension check.

My last tip is to recruit friends. Let them know about your language goals. You’d be surprised how many people are encouraging and share your motivation once you tell them you are learning a language. As a bonus, if you refer them to DuoLingo, you could have an upgrade to the free premium version for a week. At this time, it’s $10 a month for the Premium membership. This means unlimited hearts and no advertisements on the app.

Just like any video game, it’s all about practice. Here’s a few more resources to check out as you get started on your language journey:

  • Busuu

  • Memrise

  • Babbel

  • Coursera


This blog post was created by one of our creative and supportive community members! Thank you, Jennifer!

Have an idea for a blog post? Share with us at contact@americancivic.com

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