Duolingo is pretty good

Yesterday I wrote a huge post on the subject of using an SRS system effectively.

I’ve recently been messing around with the program Duolingo to learn a bit of Spanish on a very casual level (which they consider ‘serious’, judging by their difficulty levels), and it very much resembles what I would have designed circa 2012 if you asked me how to construct a proper language learning system using modern techniques. It’s seemingly a product of the quiet, grassroots movement to reform foreign language instruction. So far it’s easy to use, though I think it coddles users a bit too much for my tastes.

Though I said in yesterday’s post that SRS doesn’t have a broad application, I was referring specifically to flashcards. An entire system designed from the ground up around SRS, such as the one Duolingo uses, is ideal. They went so far as to commission an independent study to see what time savings are realized from this approach, and it is expectedly significant. I wholly believe it, given the inefficiencies of traditional instruction. I’m also impressed with the depth of the program’s implementation of SRS, which is more modern and well designed than other programs which only partially implement an SRS principle.

I anticipate within the next decade all language learning will be assisted by some form of program using the spaced repetition principle. Traditional language instruction isn’t wholly broken (especially in the case of ‘easy’ languages like Spanish or German) but it is close. I predict the classroom portion of language instruction will be devoted mostly to speaking practice. Offloading the instruction portion onto a Duolingo style SRS system would enable a more efficient use of class time.

I went searching around the site to see if I could support their efforts, but there is as yet no way to do that. It’s a free service currently in search of a business model. The program itself lends well to a pay-per-unit model, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they transitioned partially or wholly into that at some point.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s