Friday, January 24, 2014

Good Free App of the Day: Duolingo - Learn a new language

We speak English in our home, but Little Miss M was astonished and intrigued to find out that not everyone does. Thanks to friends, such as Dora the Explorer and Handy Manny though, she thinks anything she doesn't understand is Spanish. While it is not my goal for my daughter to be bilingual, I do think it's important for her to have the knowledge that other languages exist and to learn some basic words.

Whether your goal is to be bi or tri-lingual or you are taking a trip where a different language will be spoken or your child is required to complete a certain level in a world language to graduate; take a look at Duolingo (Free iPad/iPhone - requires IOS 6 or higher). If you are looking for a fun and effective way to learn Spanish, German, French, Italian or Portuguese or to learn English from one of those languages, try Duolingo.

If you decide to download Duolingo (FREE, iPad/iPhone), please use this link to support Smart Apps for Special Needs:


In-app purchases can only be accessed through the Shop button. External links to Facebook can be turned off in the settings.

You begin your journey with Duolingo by setting up a profile. Attach an email address for reminders to practice your chosen language. Each time you open Duolingo you are able to see your Dashboard which gives you an overview of your progress.

I took four years of Spanish in High School, so I chose to learn Spanish and see what I have retained. Yikes! I thought I could exempt a few levels, but Duolingo proved more difficult than I thought. So, I started at the very beginning, relearning the basics of the language. Each player is given three hearts to complete the level. Essentially this means if there are ten questions, a player must get seven correct to pass the level.

I really liked the variety in this app. I knew I was learning and taking tests, but questions were given to me in so many different formats that I didn't even notice. At the point I have achieved within the app, I haven't encountered any timed trials either. Questions are given in both your chosen language and your native language. Some questions have pictures to choose from. At times you are asked to type in the foreign language and sometimes in English as well. There were also questions that asked you to speak in the foreign language.

I was actually shocked to see that this app was free because it does so much. Yes, you can buy more hearts and some extras to enhance what is there, but they aren't really necessary.

Little Miss M is only eight and in third grade. In our town, she is not yet required to take a world language. From what I was able to discover here, she may only be required to take one year of a world language.  As with all higher level processes, learning a foreign language requires different parts of the brain to engage. It requires listening and focusing. Learning a foreign language enhances the native language by requiring the learner to really understand what the native words mean. Although Little Miss M may never be fluent in a foreign language, the benefits of exposure and learning far outweigh not.

In researching and trying to find the right words to explain why foreign languages are important for all children, I stumbled across this page from They do a fantastic job of answering that Why? question.

From iTunes:
Duolingo is Apple's 2013 App of the Year!

Learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English. Totally fun. Totally free.

PC Magazine Editors' Choice for Language Learning: "Among iPhone apps for learning or practicing a language, you can't beat Duolingo."
Far and away the best free language-learning app." —The Wall Street Journal
"We’ve also tried a few other methods such as book learning and Rosetta Stone, both of which bombed. That’s why I jumped at the chance to try Duolingo. And believe me, it’s addictive." —

Duolingo is changing the way people learn languages.
With Duolingo, you learn a language completely free, without ads or hidden charges. You have fun while you learn, leveling up and competing with friends. You have the opportunity to translate real-world texts in the language you are learning, and in doing so, help us translate the Web into other languages.


Once upon a time Amanda would regularly sing in approximately five different languages, and loved every minute of German glottal stops and Italian rolled "r's".

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