Kids projects: Learn a new language with Duolingo on your iPhone or iPad

We're starting a new series focusing on fun summer — or winter — projects for the whole family. Things you can do on your iPhone, iPad, and/or Mac in ways that are convenient, efficient, and rewarding. This is the first one. I hope you enjoy it!

Summer means the days are long, work gets a break, schools let out, and we have time for some fun in the sun. It also means we have time to expand our horizons, to learn and do new and exciting things. One such thing is learning a new language. How we communicate and how we think are limited only by our command of language, beautiful, lyrical, contextual, nuanced, delicious language. And apps like Duolingo make it easier than ever to learn a new language, to do it from your deck or poolside, from your living room or hotel room, and right on your iPhone and iPad

Duolingo on iPhone or iPad is perfect for kids, and for kids of all ages. It's free to use and you can log in with Facebook or Google+, or create a Duolingo account, and then you're all set to get going.

Getting started with Duolingo on iPhone and iPad

To start choose a course you want to start with. For English speakers there's Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. There are also options for Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and tons of other language speakers.

If you're already familiar with the language you can take a short, 5-minute "placement" test to skip ahead.

Duolingo placement test

If you're brand new, you can start with the basics. Lessons include different types of exercises like picture matching, translation through typing, translation through word assembly, multiple choice, and even speaking into the microphone.

Duolingo lessons

Duolingo changes them up as well, so if you ever have to or want to repeat a section, it's never the same way twice.

Duolingo exercises

The best kind of challenge

Duolingo gamifies all this to make it fun and to encourage you to keep going. You have a set number of hearts, like lives in a video game, and you lose one for every incorrect answer. When you complete a section, you get points and bonuses. There's Game Center integration and a leader board so you can follow your friends and try to keep ahead of them. You can even set daily goals to make sure you keep up with your learning.

Duolingo goals

That game-like design and interactivity makes it perfect for kids, but is also a great way to keep a whole family, group of friends, or co-workers engaged. It makes learning challenging in the funnest sense of the word. To take it up a notch, you can go to the practice area and compete against another learner, a 'bot, or yourself.

For kids especially, but for everyone, it's great to set up a schedule or framework. We're all creatures of habit, and it can be as hard to start something new as it is easy to keep going once you've really gotten started.

The keys to linguistic success

Put it in your or everyone's schedules to do a lesson or two before bed. It takes no more time than reading a short story, playing a game, or browsing a social network. Make it a rule that Duolingo has to be "played" first for a lesson or two before any other game can be played. If you use a point system, Duolingo can be used to earn points for games, TV, or other activities. If you're using it strictly for adults, whomever is atop the leaderboard can get their lunch or drinks covered at the next get-together. Get creative!

Learning a new language is an incredible gift to yourself, your kids, your family, your friends, or your team. It will allow you to communicate with more people and think in more ways than ever before.

I've set a goal to learn some Italian this summer. I might brush up on my French as well! If you're looking for a fun summer project, give learning a new language with Duolingo on your iPhone or iPad a try!

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Kids projects: Learn a new language with Duolingo on your iPhone or iPad

20 Comments

I've been using Duolingo for about a month. Really loved the app! I'm learning some French. And I'm really trying :P. Sometimes I don't lose a heart; sometimes I fail miserably lol.

For English speakers, the choices of foreign languages are limited - 5 European languages. It is really designed for non-English speakers to learn English. They probably have 18 languages from which one can learn English.

Did you check out trainchinese? It's very good. I'm using it in China with a teacher. I paid for a subscription and she has a free teacher account so she can add word and phrase lists for me to study and track my progress during the week, via the website or the app. You can train in reading, dictation, translation and audio recognition. There are other companion apps to train pinyin, numbers, and character writing. All in all, it's the best Chinese language learning app I've found - and I have a few 哈哈!

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I've tried Duolingo a fair bit and never really liked it much. It looks nice enough, if rather childish, but doesn't really do much beyond teaching vocabulary. Grammar explanations are rare and cursory, and often don't show up at all when new grammar appears in the example sentences. Also I'll second the comment on the lack of languages for English speakers. The lack of Japanese in particular is an odd one. Someone else here recommended Human Japanese recently, which I've been trying and I like quite a bit. It's an iOS 6 app sadly, isn't universal and lacks iCloud syncing, but it explains things well, and in depth.

Also René, why would a québécois like you need to brush up his French? Isn't French your first language?

Is this article a sponsored thing by the way? It should probably be made clear if it is, as it does look rather like an ad.

I'm South African and English was my first language. I learned French in school, but have worked in English for many, many years. Besides, French writing is bananas. Brushing up is always good!

I read your comment hoping it was going to be good user review, but it all it sounds like is wah wah wah there's no Japanese wah wah wah did you get paid for this article wah

That's too bad if true. As from my understanding Brazilian Portuguese has lots of differences plus my friends that are Brazilian talk tons of slang making it even harder to read and understand.

I believe it's Brazilian Portuguese only. Duolingo also only has American English, rather than standard/international/British English. The former they apparently do because there are more brazillians than Portuguese people, but that rationale makes no sense with regard to English, as there are far more speakers of standard English than the curiously spelt American variant.

Well good cause my Brazilian friends tell me they can hardly understand Portuguese Portuguese and i have no plans to visit Portugal.

I don't remotely think more people are speaking "British English." One the USA alone has many many more people than England. And all the people speaking or learning to speak English in the Americas (both continents) Africa, Asia, I don't think are doing it to speak to the English. And think it's American English because American English is a the language of business and more people speak it. I don't think when you go worldwide people are trying to learn English to speak like the Brits or really to speak to the Brits. They are learning English because the USA has been a global business power for so long.

You're simply incorrect. Standard English (or British English if you prefer) is spoken as a first language in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and in many small island nations. It's also spoken very widely as a second (near first in some cases) language in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh and in many African nations. India alone adds 300 million English speakers to the list, and in the big metros, it's the most commonly used language.

The American variant of English is spoken as a first language in America. It's used a second language in some far eastern countries (although very badly), most notably in Japan.

So if you're talking numbers, English wins by a long, long way. American English isn't even close.

As for Portuguese, I see the practicality of learning the Brazilian variant, although from an artistic standpoint I would prefer (personally) to learn the original first.

When you start with "You're simply incorrect...", the onus is on YOU to back up your claim. Else, it is simply too easy (and correct) for anyone to say YOU are simply incorrect.

Frankly I have better things to do with my time than provide links to someone clearly trolling/being needlessly argumentative when I was nearly stating something which is common knowledge to anyone with even a basic grasp of geography and history. So please, grow up.