Having been to France on a couple of holidays over the past 5 years, my love of their language was reignited, and I knew I wanted to be able to converse in French next time we would be lucky enough to visit.
I’d heard of a mobile app, called Duolingo. They offer you hundreds of different languages to learn from Spanish, Italian and French to German and Dutch to name a few. This easily accessible app prompted me to begin my first lesson in French.
Free App and Subscription Fees
There are two versions of Duolingo, one is a FREE mobile or web based app, and the other is Duolingo Plus. On Plus you pay a monthly subscription of £12.49, a cost of £45.99 for 6 months or £75.99 for 12 months.
The free Duolingo mobile app works the same way as Duolingo plus. However, the subscription app has a few added ext, being add free, unlimited hearts, unlimited skill tests, monthly streak repair and the ability to download lessons whilst you are offline. Also, if you reach the higher levels there is a progress and mastery quiz for you to take part in.
I opted for the free Duolingo app as I knew I’d only be able to dip in and out of the course on my mobile phone.
It’s been 35 years since I took French in school, but I could still remember some basic words and phrases like bonjour, au revoir, s’il vous plait, merci and also numbers and days of the week.
To start Duolingo, I took an easy knowledge test to gauge my entry level. This is a list of ten easy phrases in French and English that I translated. Once completed, Duolingo set out the lessons and categories for me in a fun and easy way to navigate, with Duo the owl helping me along the way with useful hints throughout my lessons.
Duolingo is set out into different categories, such as basic, home, activities, school and food for example. Within each category are five levels and each level has five lessons. To move on through each level you answer between 10 and 12 questions correctly. Once you complete all five levels more categories are unlocked.
At first, I found some of the lessons too easy and repetitive, but having moved on, I realise why the phrases are repeated in this way, as it trains your brain continuously to remember the different forms each word takes on, from verb changes to whether word is male or female, plural or singular etc.
Once you reach Checkpoint 1 in French, you then open a new section known as books, which is easily accessed by clicking on the icon of a book at the bottom of your screen. These are little mini stories, with sentences and phrases that you listen to and fill in the gaps and answer questions to complete.
There are 8 books per level, and you must complete each level before the next set of stories are unlocked. With each new level the stories increase in difficulty, becoming more challenging and introducing one or two new words.
I found this a really fun way to learn as you can actually see and hear how a conversation takes place, rather than just one sentence or phrase at a time.
Whilst you’re answering the questions and completing the books, you are consistently gaining bonuses known as Lingots and XP. You also gather gold stars at the end of every fifth level and with all these various rewards you’re able to buy little gifts from the Duo shop, which is accessed through the shop icon at the bottom of the screen. For example you can acquire extra outfits for Duo the owl, streak freezes or even extra lives.
You automatically become part of a league table with many people across the world who are also learning a language. The more you learn, the more your rewards grow and the more XP points you gather from completing lessons helps you move up through the 5 league tables. So if you’re competitive, this is a great app for you.
I’ve reached day 205, without missing a day, which I think is quite impressive. You have to continually complete a level every day for approximately 85 days or so to receive rewards to use in the Duolingo shop.
Honestly, I know I’ve a long way to go, but I’m pleased that my understanding of the simplest French phrases and words has expanded so much.
I admit I don’t spend as much time on Duolingo now as I did at the beginning, mainly due to work commitments but as it’s something I’m enjoying, I know I will continue to carry on even if it’s just 15 mins a day.
Maybe you fancy learning a new language? You could also get the whole family to try Duolingo. My husband chose to expand his Welsh, whilst my son chose Russian, but changed to Italian and French and my daughter chose Spanish to start and changed to French. Duolingo is such an easy app to start you on your way, just try the free version first and see how you get along.
My hope is that one day, when this pandemic is under control and we can return to some form of normality and travelling abroad will not be a risk, we will return to France. I would love to be able to hold a decent conversation in French, albeit not fluently, but certainly with plenty of effort and enthusiasm and a few good phrases.