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.


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

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.