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).
Photo by Tom Newton.