Friday, March 6, 2015

Freebie Friday 03.06.15: Learn a Language for Free

Eight days ago I joined the ranks of the 60 million users of the free online language learning platform, Duolingo
Duolingo’s tagline is “Learn a language for free. Forever.”

Learning with Duolingo is billed as being “fun and addictive.” Users “earn points for correct answers, race against the clock, and level up. Our bite-sized lessons are effective, and we have a study to prove it.” The study claims that 34 hours spent on Duolingo is the equivalent of a taking a one semester language (11 week) course at a university.

You can use Duolingo online (where extensive tips and notes are available) or as a free and iPhones. English speakers currently have a choice of seven languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portugese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish. 

With dreams of traveling to Denmark some summer to visit my cousin Kate and her family and to see Denmark’s famed wind farms, I chose to learn Danish!

With Duolingo I plunged right in. At the start I was introduced to a couple of verbs and quite a few singular nouns, and then I immediately began reading, listening, transcribing, and translating. 

I now know that Danish has many vowels requiring the use of alternate letter keys, including æ, å, and ø. I have learned some very challenging words such as: skildpadde (turtle), and tallerken (plate), that æble is apple and appelsine is orange, and that the words for bears (bjørnene) and children (børnene) can easily be confused. Already I can read and write this impressive sentence: Vegetaren spiser brød og ost og drikker vin. (The vegetarian is eating bread and cheese and drinking wine.) And I know such essential words as: kaffe (coffe), menuen (the menu), ja (yes), nej (no), tak (thank you), and undskyld (sorry).

Accurate transcribing is my biggest challenge. The Danish language is short on crisp ending consonants, so it is not easy for me to get it right the first time when I am asked to write down a phrase I have just heard.

But I am eagerly chugging away, accumulating lingots and contemplating what outfit to purchase for my little Duo with the wealth I have accumulated. Plurals will be my next lesson, right after this is posted!

While you are waiting for the snow to melt, give Duolingo a try. Remember, there are no costs and no ads. Perhaps you, like me, will find this the best use of spare moments ever. 

Duolingo was created at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science by digital entrpreneurs and PhDs Luis Von Ahn and Severin Hacker. You can read more about Duolingo here

Duolingo has received numerous awards including was named a Best App by Google Play in both 2013 and 2014, and iPhone App of the Year 2013

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