Let’s look at some ways to make the most out of Duolingo so your training sessions count.
Duolingo launched in 2012 teaching just three languages. Now there are over 30 on offer, including fictional languages like Klingon from Star Trek and High Valyrian from Game of Thrones. In case you’re not familiar, we’ll summarize some basics first.
By meeting language goals, you maintain “streaks,” encouraging you to keep up the good work. You also compete with other users in leaderboards and can network with friends to encourage one another, share notes, and celebrate milestones.
Duolingo’s mission is “to make high-quality education free and accessible to everyone,” so a basic version of the app is free. A paid Duolingo Plus subscription removes ads, give you unlimited hearts, allows offline learning, and has a few other fun features.
While we’ll occasionally mention options limited to Plus, all the tips below work in the free version.
Some language learners suggest that the hearts system Duolingo uses punishes you for getting answers wrong and prevents you from advancing by limiting how many mistakes you can make. However, as we’ll see later, how many lives you have is never actually a limit on how long you can practice—even in the free version.
The platform’s real weakness is also its greatest strength: it uses repetition and memorization to teach new languages, rather than explaining how the languages work at a grammatical level. This is why you should pair the app with a language-learning alternative for a well-rounded education.
1. Stick to Latin Alphabet Languages
If youre an English speaker, Duolingo currently has over 30 languages that you can take courses in. Less-common languages might be more attractive to the adventurous learner, but beware: a few of those languages use non-Latin alphabets. These include Japanese, Hebrew, and Korean.
Not only does this make the language harder to learn, it can also create usability problems for your device. Thats particularly true when you need to type in answers.
Thankfully, both Android and iOS make it easy to type in other languages with your keyboard if you do choose to go with one of these languages.
On Android, head to Settings > System > Languages & input. This will open a menu with your phone’s available keyboard apps, which should all support adding another language.
Toggle any that you’d like to use, then you can switch between them using a key on your keyboard (often a globe icon or by holding Space).
For iPhone, head to Settings > General > Keyboards and tap Add New Keyboard. Select a language from the list, then tap the Globe icon in the bottom-left to switch to it.
The good news is that while this changes your keyboard, the operating language of your phone stays the same. Thus, you won’t need to speak Japanese to change the keyboard back when you’re done practicing.
On the off-chance that you want to type in a language that your phone doesn’t support, you can likely find an alternative language keyboard on the App Store or Google Play. However, third-party keyboards may not be compatible with Duolingo.
2. Know Your Device’s Keyboard
If youre familiar with other languages like French, Spanish, and German, you might know that even though these languages share a basic alphabet with English, they also have some modified characters (such as accented vowels).
The good news is that you dont need to use additional keyboards to access these characters. On most Android and iOS keyboards, holding down the key that looks the closest will initiate a popup menu that lets you select modified versions of that character.
Knowing where to find these special characters on your device will help you get the most out of Duolingo for these languages.
3. Be Aware of Grammar Rules
Duolingo works primarily through memorization. It presents you with words in different contexts and tasks you with figuring out the rest. This works best for languages with a sentence structure that is similar to that of English, like German.
Languages with drastically different sentence structures (like Latin) get little additional instruction, making them a lot to take on. However, if you’re primarily learning languages through a class or with the help of other textbooks and guides, nothing beats Duolingo for nailing down vocabulary.
If you’re up for learning more, the Duolingo blog sometimes posts articles with additional info that isnt always spelled out in the app.
Further, when Duolingo notices you getting questions wrong because of different language rules, it sometimes tries to help you out with a mini-lesson. Getting one of these lessons does require losing at least one life, however, which can be a problem if you don’t have the premium subscription.
4. Know the System
Unless you have Duolingo Plus, the service gives you five lives that refresh every day. This means that, if you aren’t careful, you can run into trouble with when they refresh.
Suppose that you get your friendly reminder to do your lesson just after dinner, but you’re out with friends. Later, you finally head to bed only to receive another notification that your streak is in danger!
If you lose your last heart late at night, you won’t have full hearts again until late the next night. One solution is to always do your lesson at a responsible time, but that’s not the only way.
If you tap the heart icon in the upper-left corner of the screen, you can earn more hearts by doing practices, or buy more hearts with points that you have already earned by completing lessons. You can also select the store icon on the lower-right to equip a Streak Freeze that will preserve your streak if you don’t meet your goal.
By the way, doing practices counts towards your streak, so you never have to lose a streak because you ran out of hearts.
5. Juggle at Least Two Languages
This might seem crazy, but it’s something that a couple of high achievers recommend on the Duolingo forum. There are a couple of reasons for this.
More Challenge Means More Learning
On one level, handling multiple languages challenges you a little bit more. That can be frustrating, but it can also help you to learn.
Further, many languages are closely related. For example: French, Italian, and Spanish are all based on Latin. So if you’re learning any of these languages, consider making Latin your second. Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian are all based in German—so it makes a good second language if you’re learning any of those.
There’s one more solid reason to juggle another language: something we like to call “heart economy.” Say you’ve gone through a few lessons in your primary language and you only have one or two hearts left. You don’t know if you can get through another lesson, but you also don’t want to give up on the day.
That’s when you switch to your other language. Because it’s not your main language, you should be further behind in it, meaning it has comparatively easy lessons. That lets you get further with fewer hearts, rather than losing them all in a harder lesson that you’ll have to repeat the next day.
Make the Most of Duolingo
Now you have some key tips for learning better on Duolingo. Efficiency is key when learning a language, so you don’t want to waste any time on unnecessary steps.
Duolingo has its detractors, and while some of their complaints are valid, most are because they just don’t know their way around the app. We can’t tell you whether Duolingo is right for you, but if it hasn’t clicked before, try taking a few minutes with these tips to see if you fare better.
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