Duolingo is a very interesting application for second language learners. It is accessible to a large number of people since it is free of charge and it can be used on a mobile device as well as on a computer. Also, the interface is in the mother tongue to help learners understand. French native speakers can only learn English with Duolingo. However a Spanish option is coming soon. For students who already speak English, Duolingo offers to learn second languages like Spanish, French, Italian, German and Portuguese. The English learning option is also offered for learners who speak Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Turkish and more. I personally tried the web site and the application. Both are well constructed and easy to follow. Students complete units according to their level in the second language. Within each unit, they have to translate, associate pictures with words, write what they hear and also pronounce (when their microphone works and when they can use it).
Researches proved that learning a second language with Duolingo is effective. It is even more effective for students without any previous knowledge of the second language.
I believe that Duolingo would be a nice tool to use in an English as a second language classroom. It would have to be considered as a plus for the class or enrichment for students who need or want to practice their English. I think so because there is no teaching on Duolingo. Also, just as an example, during the first Duolingo unit, we have to figure out on our own that the third person singular of the simple present takes an “s”. If units are about subjects seen in class, students already know that they need to add an “s” to the verb, thus getting the knowledge before making the mistake. If students rely solely on Duolingo, they have to take the initiative of going on another site/resource in order to have the complete information about why is the answer correct or not.
However, I don’t think it could be used in a school context. It would have to be for independent adult classrooms. First, the interface is a little childish so most teenagers would, most likely, not like it. Moreover, it cannot be used for elementary students since, if they do not write the answer correctly in French (the first language) when asked for a French translation, the answer is not good. Since they have just started writing in French, mistakes are bound to happen. I think they should not be penalized in their English learning process for their difficulties in French. Duolingo will indeed help students practice their French writing skills by pointing out the wrong spelling, but the purpose of the application is to learn English.
Also, I do not recommend that students complete the “article” part of the application. This part consists in translating English article, poems, etc. into French. Duolingo uses English learners to translate web pages for other companies. Indeed, “ Duolingo already makes money rather cleverly – by pooling its students to do translation exercises that another company is actually paying for.”