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Learning a new language is like playing a game with Duolingo for Windows Phone

Duolingo, the popular and free language-learning app launched on Windows Phone last week, and I've been playing with it to refresh my Spanish lessons from high school. I like it because it feels like a game I have to beat. If you haven't tried it out yet, we've installed Duolingo on the Lumia 930 and placed it in front of the camera. Go watch the hands-on video.

Duolingo supports Danish, German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portugese. You'll be asked to choose a course when you first open the application.

Like I said, Duolingo feels like a game. Categories feel like worlds you have to complete before unlocking other worlds. For example, you have to complete Basics 1, before you can open Basics 2. Each category has lessons, which are built like game levels.

There can be up to 9 lessons per category and they're really handy. If you find them too easy and feel confident enough, you can skip lessons by taking a test. Tap the 'Test out' button at the bottom. The main difference between a lesson and a test is that you have tips in a lesson. Tap on words to see the tips. Obviously, this is not available during the tests.

Completing lessons and tests earn you xp points. These are used to determine whether you are meeting your daily goal. Each lesson is about 10 xp points, so you can do several lessons in one sitting, or do one lesson a day. It's up to you. You can change your goal in the settings:

  • Basic (1 xp per day)
  • Casual (10 xp per day)
  • Regular (20 xp per day)
  • Serious 30 xp per day)
  • Insane (50 xp per day)

Whether you are completing a lesson or a test, you have 3 hearts available. A heart is taken away if you make a mistake. Make more than 3 mistakes, and you'll have to start over.

Duolingo

With Duolingo, you are not limited to just learning one language. Swiping towards the right from the main screen lets you add more languages. I have some experience with Spanish, but absolutely none with German. I am currently attempting to tackle these two languages with Duolingo.

How effective is Duolingo? According to an independent study conducted by the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina, an average of 34 hours of Duolingo are equivalent to a full university semester of language education. The study concluded that a person with no knowledge of Spanish would need between 26 and 49 hours to cover the material for the first college semester of Spanish.

Duolingo is a free download from the Windows Phone Store. It's kind of a big deal. The app has been named iPhone App of the Year in 2013 and has also been included in Google's Top Apps and Games of 2013. If you prefer to use a bigger screen, you can continue your progress on your desktop via the web browser. Simply go to Duolingo.com.

Are you convinced yet? Which language are you planning to learn with Duolingo?

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

116 Comments
  • I've been using this app for seven days now and I think its effective. I've been trying to learn Dutch.
  • Same here ,learning German for me and it really is great wat to learn.
  • French here!
  • When learning Dutch: good luck with "d" "t" and "dt" ;)
  • Unfortunately, I wasn't able to learn English from this app.
  • Really? Where did you learn?
  • LOL
  • Yeah, I tried setting it up for Engles for my wife and it really wasn't an option her native language isn't in there and they don't have a simple English learning English
  • French and Italian here! Duolingo is fun, addictive and effective. My favorite WP app at the moment.
  • French here too :)
  • I've been French. Having a lot of fun so far.
  • Spanish here!!
  • Wish it had Thai
  • Use it every day now
  • Im trying to learn German too, but as a Portuguese speaker I couldn't, because there is no option for that. I decided trying to learn as a English speaker, and I seems to be effective
  • This App is unbelievable good :) so happy that is available on windows phone, waiting for windows 8.1 too
  • Just use the website on your PC.
  • Yeah, I use it while I'm on the PC but would be great to have it on the Windows store too
  • Great app. It's effective.
  • Very Very nice review!! Thanxx
  • Great it's finally on WP. Just wish you could download a few lessons in advance for travelling / no signal times.
  • I want this app so badly! But I have an Icon.
  • How does that stop you from getting this app?
  • U can still download the app.
  • My Icon won't. 
  • I downloaded it onto my icon??
  • It won't let me download on Lumia 928 as well
  • Can't download on my icon either. Seems to be exclusive to 8.1. So bleeping pissed at Verizon. I hate Verizon, bleeping jerks.
  • ¡Estoy aprendiendo Español!
  • Here's a tip: if you are not currently, at the very moment, doing whatever you say you are, you can't use the progressive present form of words (i.e "aprendiendo" and other iendo, ando words). 
  • Thanks for the tip!
    So what should I say?
  • It's not that bad, but you could say instead "Con esta aplicación realmente aprendo Español". But maybe the phrase it's a little bit long.
  • Don't worry about those technicalities though. I have to disagree with the above. Because if someone asked you, "que estas aprendiendo en la escuela?" (what are you learning in school?) you can answer "estoy aprendiendo español."(I'm learning spanish). There may be a formal rule, but in everyday conversation that's how I would say it.
  • Yep, for a casual conversation "estoy aprendiendo español" is perfectly fine. Ahora que lo pienso, me imagino usando la frase sin ningún problema :D
  • Actually 'Estoy aprendiendo español', is totally fine.... it means that you are learning the language, it doesn't matter if you're not in this exact moment..... it's in general.... keep up with the spanish lessons... you're doing great.... Buena suerte!!
  • Been desperate for a language learing app for WP and Windows RT. Sadly this one doesn't have Russian, so not useful to me. I hope others are listening though, such as Rosetta Stone.
  • they're working on it (russian)... maybe in a couple of months... :D
  • Russian was the one I really wanted too, but Spanish is a good second.  Maybe doing Russian is harder due to their alphabet?  Not sure.
  • Russian course is in development. check duolingo.com/courses. it won't be available on mobile right when it's released though.
  • I am from Germany and I'm refreshing my English skills with Duolingo since about a week. It makes a lot of fun and has a good learning effect. Thumbs up!
  • This is great! This keeps me on WP.
  • Really helpful to teach kids and using technology
  • This is one of the apps I was hoping would come to WP. I just wish it supported Latin.
  • Good luck waiting for Latin.
  • Try cryogenization.
  • Very cool. Wish it had Greek, then I could understand my grandparents for once. Ohh French, this I will use.... On the ladies!!
  • What a great idea. I been playing with different apps like this in the past as I wanted to learn Tagalog. But all of them has to have an online connection. Hope this one doesn't and hope that it adds Tagalog.... Only because I always wanted to marry a Thai woman since 1998 lol
  • Not like you need to learn a language for that. Just go to Thailand and flash a little money, you will be swamped with woman who want to marry you.
  • Tagalog is spoken in the Philippines.
  • Tagalog is a Filipino/Philippine dialect. Did you mean Thai?
  • Learning German, this app helps me a lot to remember words. For those who are studying German, there is a free course on the Deutsche Welle website.
  • This is interesting. I have been working on a language learning app myself the latest year. I have finished both an desktop version and a version for Windows 8.1 but haven't finished a Windows phone version yet. I'm a bit surprised, I didn't thought so many would be interested of education on Windows phone.
  • I've been using this app all week too. What is the purpose of the XP? Within the app there seems to be no total or any use except for the daily goal. ?
  • There is a rank, you can see the amount of XP your friends got. It's only available on the website.
  • Says not available for my phone. Hmm. Nokia 822. Why not?
  • I think it requires Windows 8.1. I'm still stuck on 8 and its not available in my store on a Nokia 928 with Verizon.
  • Yeah, not available on my Icon with 8 on Verizon, or my 928 with 8 on AT&T.
  • I have Dev Preview on my 822 and am totally enjoying refreshing my German with the app.
  • Kind of a useless comment but that's cool.
  • Yeah, sure. That's why Americans can speak so many foreign languages and and still understand what I'm saying. Put them hands on a f**cking book.
  • Good thing you wrote that in English. Seems like a lot of people speak that nowadays
  • .
  • Isn't it like supposed to teach me from scratch . Before I answer the questions??
  • Learning Italian here as a prepartion for our 2015 Italy tour .
  • Would love to have Turkish. Sent a request to Duolingo for support. Here's to hoping for the best! :-)
  • It's amazing!! I have been learning Italian and French since seven days and it feels like so smooth and easy!
  • Similar to Rosetta Stone's methods, but probably a notch harder.
  • I started learning French some days ago. J'aime Duolingo! ;)
  • There is another service called "Mango" does the same.
  • Started using DuoLingo on the web but never seemed to have the time. Somehow having it on my 925 makes it altogether more accessible. Maybe now I can make some progress with my French, which I have been promising to do for far too many years. Always feel bad going to France, which I normally do 3-4 times a year, and not at least trying to speak to the locals in French! I have got my priorities sorted though. Can ask for a beer/wine/coffee, no problem.
  • Hey!! It launched! Yay!! Downloading right mrrrow
  • Spanish is too easy to be used in such study lol.
  • Has anyone compared it to the numerous Babbel apps to learn another language? I'm in Rio and have been using Babbel Learn Portuguese app on WP because it's free versus paid on Android.
  • nosotros leemos las palabras. i love the app.  I use it most when i out or when i've been sitting waiting in the car.  When i am at home i tend to use the website mostly.  Never knew about this app or site until it was released on WP
  • Love the app and have already shared with family and friends. I haven't used the social aspect of it yet but I like the fact that I can go from my phone to PC or tablet via the browser to where I left off. I wish the phone had the option to listen and check that I'm saying it correct but, that would be somewhat weird in public. I've had issues with the voice recognition lasting or working in the browser consistently so I turn that part off. Io sono i'uomo!
  • This app is really fun
  • I've been using Duolingo learn French for nearly a year now. 6 months ago the CEO of Duolingo has an AMA on reddit. I asked him if there were any plans for a Windows app. He said no and then people made fun of me for defending windows phone. It's good that they came to their senses.
  • You may just be the reason for this app being released! Even if you aren't, I'll say it anyway: Thank you!
  • Thanks bud! Every little contribution helps!
  • I cannot download
  • Unable to download, struck on Pending since long time.. any one facing the same issue??
  • How effective is? Debiste escribir este artículo en español y los demás comentar en el lenguaje que están aprendiendo ;)
  • Not that great for learning, but better than nothing. Focuses on memorizing specific words/sentences.
  • Great app, very much like Rosetta stone but in your pocket.
  • French
  • Used it an year before. But i sacrificed it for my darling windows phone...
  • Anyone know if in android there is Chinese? Is there any chance it will be added?
  • i have android version installed and it does not have chinese, hope it helps.
  • I was using Duolingo web App and I can't see the difference but this on Windows Phone is really fast! I was expecting its coming to Lumia 1 year ago! Now I wish for Japanese! n_n -_-
  • Wtf ?? Hindi speakers can learn English but English speakers cant learn Hindi.
  • I've yet to come across a Hindi speaker that can speak proper English, and I make a LOT of phone calls to tech support.
  • Wish it supported Tagalog but Portuguese will do. Because Olympics.
  • Wish English language learning was supported!
  • I've been learning french now, but they need to improve there voice assistant....
  • Will they add more languages?
  • Yeah, go to the website and you can see the languages that they are working on.  Last time I looked Russian was showing 41% complete, for example.
  • But Android app is better, it works offline and it looks good.
  • Spanish improvement for me!
  • I'm learning dutch!!! 
  • I'm loving Duolingo!  I'm brushing up on Spanish and learning French from scratch.  FYI - French is way harder!
  • I am learning Spanish. It is really effective
  • Yay! I've always wanted to learn Italian!
  • Off topic: Received wunderlist update yesterday evening, going to sleep with a 100% battery and waking up to a 30% battery. According to the battery saver most of this was used by wunderlist, while my phone was in airplane modus. 1520nl.
  • There are 4 hearts available, not 3 as mentioned in the article.
  • Depends on your progress I think. I started with 4 but then the review had 3.
  • Please, add tagalog!!
  • Installing now. Can't hurt?
  • I have been using this to learn Spanish and irs great
  • Add Russian for me will ya?
  • Is it only available in the US? Because I can't download it :(
  • A pretty great app, shame they don't have a Japanese course
  • most languages have characters that are difficult to pronounce correctly.  i just wish my tongue was more flexible. 
  • Do you want to practice? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
  • This is a great post! I like what you said about that Duolingo is a nice app to learn a language. You should see what we've written on Zuriapps' site (http://zuriapps.com/duolingo-fun-languages/), it talks about this app in details.
  • great post..
  • ¡Muy bueno Mark! A lot of people make fun (in the good and the bad way) of us, hispanic people when we speak English. Now I mean this for the best, this was the most funny review of an app I've ever seen. I just couldn't stop laughing, even thought I'd give you a 6-7 out of 10 in pronunciation (it was actually very good). I'm downloading it for sure.