Article Contributed By: BJ
Game Playing While Learning Italian
A friend read about a language app called Duolingo in the Wall Street Journal. She downloaded the software onto her iPad mini and was quickly addicted to learning a new language. She invited me to join her addiction.
Unfortunately I am language challenged. My friends who can speak 3 and 4 languages fluently must be geniuses.
They tell me that with repeated exposure to new words . . . one day your brain just starts to understand another language.
After two years of French, my brain never got the memo to kick in gear. All foreign languages sound Greek. Since years have passed since my French classes . . . the foundation is totally gone.
My husband, Joe, is more interested in languages so I told him to try Duolingo. He started playing Duolingo on his computer, iPhone and iPad several times a day and got hooked, too.
With little hearts, happy horns playing and words presented in various ways, learning Italian with Duolingo is like playing a game.
This app makes me jealous that kids today can download a language app and enjoy learning. They should have to suffer through the agony of boring classes like their parents and grandparents.
All learning should be this fun. Watching my husband play, I surprisingly got many of the Duolingo questions correct even at more advanced levels. Think they try to build confidence so students continue.
While not fluent, Joe said he very occasionally thinks in another language now. Watching movies and YouTubes, he is slowly picking up more of the gist of what is being said.
Many pricey language courses say their method is the best. The problem is that “best” can often be boring.
Joe is going further than he ever did with other language systems he has tried through the years. It makes a huge difference when learning is now fun.
How can this computer, iPhone, iPod and iPad Italian language system be free?
While learning a new language , you as a “newbie” are part of a crowd of newbies who are translating the web. Your free learning time is being traded for your free translation.
Can newbies translate the web as accurately as expert translators?
According the software developers of Duolingo, the surprising answer is “yes.”
Often companies will outsource two or three data entry experts to enter the same data. The results are cross compared to get as close to 100% accuracy as possible.
In exchange for teaching students how to speak a new language, Duolingo is using this same multi-person approach with newbie language students instead of experts which is a unique concept.
Instead of two or three data entry experts checking translations, a whole crowd of newbies are translating web articles. In the end, they say using majority rules and Duolingo algorithms, the consensus of crowds of newbies is as accurate as expert translators.
It is like using the audience lifeline in “So You Want to Be a Millionaire” . . . the crowd of non-experts is often right. Add the crowd factor to programming to weed through a huge crowd to find the “language rock stars” and I can see how Duolingo could be programmed.
The bottomline . . . . Duolingo can translate web pages in many languages fast and accurately at a fraction of the cost of hiring translators. It is a brilliant “out of the box” concept.
6 Languages You Can Learn for Free
The free languages are currently Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese and Italian.
You can watch the explanation of Duolingo’s language learning system here:
I am a huge fan of TED talks. Many are “ideas worth sharing.”
If you are interested in more information about how this translation married with the language learning concept originated, view Luis von Ahn’s inspiring TED talk “Duolingo: The Next Chapter in Human Computation”
So where am I in the process of learning a language?
After looking over the shoulder of my husband while he used Duolingo for a couple of weeks, I decided to download the iPad app. Because of the time I watched Joe play with the app and with his coaching . . . I am breezing through the first few levels which makes me feel like I am making progress. I am sure I will rapidly reach a level where I get bogged down for awhile.
I absolutely am thrilled when it asks me to speak into the microphone. It passes me on everything even though I know my speaking skills are deplorable.
Joe laughs whenever I speak because I am speaking phonetically based on American pronunciation. He says that if Duolingo ever crowd-sourced my voice . . . they would be in a world of hurt. 🙂
My speaking is our comic relief.
Even though I have my doubts that I will learn to speak using Duolingo . . . my multi-lingual friends are offering encouragement because they would love to help me practice. I will cross the speaking hurdle after I have mastered some basics.
After passing a few more levels, my plan is to start listening to podcasts, YouTube videos, etc to get better at comprehending the spoken word.
Would say I am already tons further than I have ever gotten with learning a language. There is light at the end of the tunnel since I like playing games and this system is more game like.
Plus I am replacing mindless games with productive learning in spare moments.
I give Duolingo app an enthusiastic thumbs up.
This software is a great resource for unschoolers, home school students and parents wanting to supplement their child’s education.
If you are wanting to learn Italian for your trip to Italy or any other of the languages, I encourage you to give it a try. You have nothing to lose because learning is free.
If you are using Duolingo, tell us what you think in the comments below. We would be happy if you want to share any tips.
Contributed By: BJ