Finally Learn French


It's becoming imminently clear that most of the Gloffice-favorite apps are particularly suited to competitive people. Exhibit B: Duolingo, the "there's an app for that" answer to the Rosetta Stone program you always wanted to try but were never going to shell out $400 for. (Disclaimer: I have no experience with Rosetta Stone and therefore cannot compare the two beyond saying that Duolingo is free.) Anyway, it's perfect if you're the type who needs the prospect of your name on a leaderboard as motivation to do anything.

Developed by the computer science wizzes at Carnegie Mellon initially for crowdsourced translation, it now lives on as an app that relies on a game system to fix everything that is terrible about learning language in school. It goes a little something like this: get something wrong, lose a life; meet your goals by translating, speaking, and conjugating and you'll accrue "lingots," which you can exchange for cool add-ons, like how to say "It's raining cats and dogs" in French—as if being bilingual wasn't reward enough.

The cuteness factor is high, with the added benefit of instant gratification—you can fix your mistakes immediately, instead of anxiously awaiting test results. With six languages and four levels of intensity (casual for the busy person with only five minutes to spare, and regular, serious, or insane, all with progressively more minutes required), it's geared toward even the least motivated of language learners like me, who shamelessly cheated on all of her French homework in college (hi, Mom).

—Emily Ferber

Photo by Tom Newton.

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  • Ellie

    You want to talk about cuteness factor ... my sister was dating her Italian boyfriend long-distance and started learning Italian with Duolingo so she could chat with his family. When her boyfriend was finally ready to pop the question, he contacted the folks at Duolingo and they wrote an extra special question into the quiz.

    • Talia

      That's so cute.

    • Clever Girl Reviews

      OMG so cute!

    • Nina E.

      this is amazing!

    • scandinaviastandard

      lovely story!

    • Júlia

      OOOMG!!! <3

  • Tegan

    I love Duolingo, it's uber fun. I'm awful at keeping up with it though. Have been on basic French for at least a year.

  • A.J. Thompson Zielike

    yes! I love Duolingo and was very diligent with it for several months until I went on a work trip and wasn't able to keep the owl happy so I just...stopped.

    but my sis-in-law and I just decided that we should go to Paris for the last Beyonce/Jay Z show in September, so I'm back on the Duolingo wagon.

  • Haiku Jew

    Wish they'd add Yiddish
    it's kinda in our culture
    we all shop and schlepp.

  • Ellen Findley

    I love Duolingo! I've studied French for years, so it helps me stay sharp. I've started learning German and am finally about to start Dutch!

  • Averill B

    Duolingo is so much fun. Another great tool for learning French (the free way) is a podcast called, "Coffee Break French" which consists of 25 minute lessons meant to listen to during a coffee break (bien sur).

    • chicnoir

      I'm a major fan of Coffee Break French.

  • Laila

    I need this for French Class ^_^

  • Nancy

    This reminds me of David Sedaris referring to "Lady Crack Pipe" in Me Talk Pretty One Day.

    • Lindsey

      "are thems the thoughts of cows?"

      Pretty sure I almost, literally, died of laughter at that one. I had to leave the room I was in until I could compose myself.

      • Nancy

        From the dog owners I learned "Lie down," "Shut up," and "Who shit on this carpet?"

  • kamo12

    Yessss I just downloaded this the other week and it's amazing. It's helping me brush up on my four years of forgotten French, and also learn some Spanish after being in Spain and knowing nothing but "ham sandwich please."

  • Ess Tee

    I love it! I downloaded it several weeks back and have been making my way through the French program. I added Italian last week, but I haven't started it yet.

    J'aime beaucoup Duolingo!

  • JY

    Yes! I've been using Duolingo for years. I'm learning German, French, Portuguese, and Italian. Swedish is next. I've gotten so many people hooked on to it. There isn't a single bad thing to say about it.

    • Emma Hager

      Swedish is one of my favorite languages. So beautiful.

  • Jessy

    I just downloaded it so I can brush up on my Portuguese.

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    I was just looking at this the other day! Since I took French in HS and college I think I'll be going with Italian!

  • scandinaviastandard

    I wish they had this for Danish, or Scandinavian languages. So great!

    • Emma Hager

      Ja! All I want is to learn Danish. All of the Danish crime shows have familiarized me with terms like "murderer" and "homicide," but not very practical or friendly things.

      Scandinavians do do the best crime shows, though, hands down.

      • scandinaviastandard

        Haha! We think so too!! It's probably another good way to learn, because when you come to Denmark, their English is amazing.

  • Eliza

    I'm trying to brush up on Spanish but never remember to use it...I tried to learn French but I have NO ear for it, it all sounds the same to me (really beautiful, but the same). I sort of just mumbled for the parts where you have to speak and it always said I was saying it correctly.

  • Olivia Frescura

    I was taking Italian 1 and using Duolingo to practice my Italian. I'm studying abroad in Italy this fall, so I really need to get back into it! It's a great app.

  • Tiffany S.

    Love this app! I am using it to learn Italian, which will help when my in-laws come to visit. You can also practice from your desktop.

  • scandinaviastandard

    JY, so happy to hear this! Thanks for letting us know :)

  • BeautyBlogmark

    Thanks for the post. I've never heard of it until I read this post. Will definitely give it a try :)