Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Duolingo Review #1 (7 lessons)

The friendly Owl reminds you to practice! If you've been reluctant to learn a new language, this is your chance to make a fun and easy start. Duolingo is a 100% free digital language learning site, gamified, with apps for iPad, iPhone, Android.


Currently the following languages are offered: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian – for English speakers; and English - for Spanish, Russian, Turkish, Hungarian, Polish, and Dutch speakers. In October 2013, the Duolingo Language Incubator was launched to crowd-source the creation of courses in "all combination of languages." [Duolingo has continued to add languages, and has added "stories" for some of the languages."


Mini-tasks: Each lesson has a bar that tracks 20 bite-sized tasks. You advance by completing these mini-tasks.
Losing hearts: On the app, when you make a mistake, you lose a heart. If you lose all 3, you have to redo the lesson.
Skill points: You track your progress with skill points and badges. Drumrolls and fanfares crown your achievements.
Your progress: A "Leaderboard" shows the progress of friends you are following and who follow you.

This review focuses on the first 7 lessons (out of 71) of Brazilian Portuguese. Some of the features may change over time, as Duolingo continues to develop its program.

Brazilian Portuguese - LESSONS 1 to 7

New words: Each lesson introduces around 7 new words and builds on what you've learned before.
Context: You learn and practice new words in the context of a sentence and as part of a general topic (basic phrases, food, animals, etc.) In some cases, new words are linked to pictures.
Check the meaning: To check the meaning and basic grammar of a new word, you hover over it. Whenever appropriate, you are given multiple meanings in a "pull-down." For example, "salada" means "salad," but also "jumble, mishmash."
Learning Tasks: The kind of tasks you do vary within a lesson (Translate into English, Translate into Portuguese, Type what you hear, Match word to image, Mark all correct translations, etc.).
Audio Button: Click on the audio button to hear a word or sentence again, with an option of "normal speed" or "slow."
Feed-back: Check to see if your answer is correct and to get feedback. If you've made a mistake you're given the correction, plus what type of mistake you made.
Writing: Plenty of writing is involved in the lessons, which is great for remembering words, and with Portuguese, for learning the spelling of words with accented letters.


Daily reminders: It goes without saying that regular practice is a must, and Duolingo's Owl will send you daily reminders with the tag: "Keep the Owl happy! Language learning requires practice every day!"
Say everything aloud: Even though the sound (computer voice) is not always clear, say each word, phrase, or sentence ALOUD.
The "slow" button: Take advantage of the "slow" button to hear words that are not clear. Do this especially for sentences that include short words, such as the articles "o, a, um," the pronouns, "ela, ele," the verb "é," etc. Make yourself a note about the sound of the vowels. For example, "ela come salada" sounds like "ele comi salade."
Ask questions: From time to time you may have a question. Each mini-task displays a button "Report a problem." There also is a button "Discuss sentence" which takes you to a the specific forum for that item. You can learn from the discussions and add your own question. Often these discussions are quite amusing.
Use a notebook: Write our any difficult words by hand into a small notebook. The act of writing the words by hand helps you to remember them. And, you can carry the notebook with you and glance at your vocabulary when you have some spare time.

Since it was launched, Duolingo has had a great impact on getting more adults and teens interested in learning languages with games and gamified sites. Because it's an online program, Duolingo is continually making improvements to the overall program as well as to the individual lessons.

I especially like the fact that the vocabulary is used in sentences that provide a specific context – which is important for truly understanding how a language works. Some of the sentences are not at all useful, though. I especially don't need to learn all the animal names and silly things that these animals do.

Disclosure: and I have no business relationship with Duolingo other than having created an account and learning and practicing Portuguese and Italian with its online courses.  See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for further details.