Over the past few weeks, I have been spending time learning French using Duolingo, and sufficient time has passed for some
reflection to be fruitful.

One of the problems with learning language independently is the mechanics of the learning process. If you learn with a book, then you miss exposure to the spoken word. If you use one of those CD systems, then you are exposed to the other langauge as it is spoken, but the entire process is more constrained, making it more irritating. You need to sit down in a single location, sync the audio. Basically, the whole process is much harder. Learning langauge is hard enoughCan you learn this way? Sure, many (most?) do. I think the downside, though, is that trying to learn like this is much more stressful.

For me, Duolingo has been much simpler. Most of the meta work about learning is completely irrelevant. Even the decisions about when to move on is really flexible and non-committal, so you can go easily go back and review whenever. This is fun.

Ultimately, I think that duolingo makes it easy to integrate learning another language into your daily life. Even if it were less effective than learning via a language book, it feels relaxing. So after a long day of work, it is still a pleasure to spend some time playing on Duolingo.

So, I really do like duolingo. That said, there are a few things that I wish were different about it. Fortunately, most of these should be easy to implement, if they ever decide to.

  1. The microphone needs to be disabled on a per-session and per-computer basis. I like the microphone, and want to use it. The problem is that I can’t use it on one of my computers. I also sometimes want to study french from a place where it is not polite to speak bad french loud enough so the poor microphone on your macbook can pick it up.

    Both of these situations require me to turn the microphone off within my profile. This is sad, because I forget to turn it back on other times, when I might want to use it.

  2. There needs to be some form of printable, take-me-with-you style information and review. I went camping for a while last week, and wasn’t able to study any french while I was gone. Oh well.

    Besides that, there are certain verb forms that I have consistantly gotten tripped up on. Without having any way of comparing many of these sentences at the same time, I keep being confused at the same points.

    Both of these would be greatly helped by something as simple as a page with a list of the most recenly missed exercises, french sentences, and correct translations.

Both of these would be pretty easy to implement. At any rate, great work, @duolingo team!