Copyright © Language Bridge Technology, 2015
Question: Duolingo – how useful is it?
Luis von Ahn, the founder of Duolingo, discussed whether it is possible to learn a language only using online tools in this article: Can I Successfully Learn a Language Online? "It depends on what you mean by learning a language," said Von Ahn. "You can learn to the point where you can navigate and have relatively simple conversations, but you probably won't be writing any great works of literature."
Duolingo has 120 million subscribers; it is the most popular website for learning a foreign language. It has a subtitle: “learn a foreign language for free. Forever.” Duolingo has a number of advantages which are described brilliantly by its founder Luis von Ahn;however, if your goal is to become fluent in a foreign language in a year or two and use it for business or study - you might be discouraged by “learning forever,” as the current Duolingo version unintentionally promises.
How I envision the future of Duolingo 2
I believe that the next version, Duolingo 2, could be targeted for a special niche – 1.2 billion learners of English as a foreign language (EFL). Consider that more than 90% of foreign language learners fail! The main reason for that failure is that traditionally EFL was presented as a subject or a set of knowledge to be consciously memorized. It isn’t valid anymore! Language skills should be trained subconsciously using the pedagogy of active learning! Duolingo 2 would be the first example of active learning of English skills.
It will be implemented in two versions:
The main features of the Duolingo 2 mobile application based on active training English skills are given below.
1 Support is available in the native language.
Support in the native language is provided to ensure stress-free environment and comprehensible input. Translation of all lessons and drills is organized to eliminate cross-translation, the contextual translation appears for a limited time. Learning is done exclusively in the target language.
2 Learn by multimodal acquisition: read the text; listen to a recording of the text and speak it at the same time.
Multimodal learning makes the most sense not only because people retain more as their attention is held, but also because it helps different kinds of learners interact with the material in different ways. It ensures active acquisition as shown by the Cone of Experience. It also drastically reduces the innate habit of cross-translating into/from the native language.
3 All English skills are acquired concurrently.
The active learning approach implemented in the application precludes learning separate words or components of English, like listening skills without reading or conversational skills. Instead, the patented Reverse Language Resonance process creates the environment for acquiring all language skills concurrently. This app facilitates the acquisition of language patterns and intuitive grammar while the learner re-enacts comprehensible situations exclusively in English.
4 EFL beginners don't recognize English phonemes.
Duolingo 2 uses Special English for the first ten lessons to help adults recognize, imitate and produce English phonemes. After that, regular English speech speed is used for active training of English skills.
5 Add new lessons to the app according to the learners’ interests or vocational needs.
The Duolingo 2 application allows learners to add to each pre-recorded lesson a new lesson of their own selection by copying and pasting (or manually entering) any text and using the high-quality voice robot to speech shadow the new material.
6 Testing active vocabulary is built into every lesson.
Learners take a test after completion of each lesson by putting on earphones with microphone and saying a few sentences on any topic from their past experience, prompted by the word that drops down randomly from the word cloud. We recommend using earphones with the microphone both in the case of self-study and guided learning to ensure high quality of recording during testing and high quality of recording sound during speech shadowing. Built-in reading and speaking fluency tests, along with testing active vocabulary provide gamification elements and keeps the learner engaged. Responding quickly during tests helps learners develop the habit of automatic speech by thinking directly in English.
7 Use in social networking and guided learning.
The learner’s speaking is recorded, and he has the option of sharing it via social networking or attaching it to an email in case of guided learning. The program automatically determines the learner's reading fluency and gives recommendations on improving the reading or speaking skills.
8 An inspiring poem, recorded by a native speaker, is included in each lesson.
At the end of each lesson, the learner finds an inspiring poem, recorded by a native speaker. After a few repetitions, learners remember the poems by heart (similar to learning a song by listening to it several times) since it resonates with their vision and feelings.
It would be easier to acquire a new language with the Duolingo 2 application and rewarding to see much faster results of learning efforts.
If Duolingo management would be interested in the proposed features of the Duolingo 2 version for the niche market I described above, I would gladly share with Duolingo the prototype that demonstrates in action all the features I have described above.