Duolingo, One of Pittsburgh’s Finest

While traveling Mexico for the last six months, I’ve been spending at least thirty minutes a day trying to learn Spanish. I love traveling, and particularly experiencing what is at times a vastly different culture here across our neighbor to the south, but part of that experience–I truly believe–requires that you are able to speak to local people and in their own language.

Sure, plenty of Mexican’s in touristy areas speak English, and prefer to use it with you, even if you try to speak Spanish with them. But, frankly, they’re working. They want to sell you souvenirs or serve you food. If you actually want to speak with someone who lives here, who is genuinely interested in communicating with you, Spanish is the only way to go.

Thus, Duolingo.

screenshot of a duolingo question
Just one of many types of ways Duolingo presents questions and teaches you Spanish.

A fun interface and easy to use iPhone app gave Duolingo the edge when I was first trying to figure out how I’d do this. And when you compare the price (free!) to Rosetta Stone…well, it’s phenomenal!

The web interface is even better, offering timed practices and making it a little easier to enter your answers. I’ve come quite far with more or less this app alone (and of course, speaking with actual people).

So today I was browsing around their site and discovered they’re from Pittsburgh!

screenshot of Duolingo
Skills are broken into different categories and you can easily track your fluency and diligence from the web platform.
chart how many days in a row you practiced
“Learning a language takes a little practice each day,” the iOS app will remind you. I was slacking last weekend. I take long weekends… 😛
screenshot of progress in Duolingo
You can take lessons aimed at specific topics, like “verbs” or “nature”, or you can practice all of the skills that you’re currently weak at.
duolingo for teachers
As a homeschooling parent, though, this is where Duolingo shines.

While it’s relatively new, I believe, one of the best things about Duolingo is that it has all of these “for Schools” features built in. I homeschool my fourteen year old son and Duolingo makes it incredibly easy for me to keep track of his progress, from simply glancing at his points, to assigning him specific lessons when I see he’s struggling with something in the real world.

The fact that Duolingo was created by a CMU professor and graduate student, that is was cooked right here in good ol’ Pittsburgh, PA, is just icing on the cake!

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