Features & Use
This first version of Duolingo: Learn Languages Free is amazing. You can learn the same languages that are available from the web app, English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese and Italian. In terms of features, you still can’t see your friends list and see their progress. Probably they will implement it later but I don’t consider it that relevant for now. After you choose the language you want to learn you get a long list of skills that you need to master. As soon as you master one skill it unlocks the skills that depend on it. Each skill has a varying number of lessons that you must complete to have that skill mastered. If you feel that you already know everything, you can do a test to skip all the lessons and master the skill immediately. There are some locker icons along the skill tree which you can use to skill a lot of skills in a row.
They introduce some basic gamification concepts in the app like losing hearts when you answer incorrectly and achievements for mastering each skill. You earn skill points that allow you to level up on your chosen language up to level 25. One really nice feature is showing you the number of words that you have already learned because for example, one person is considered fluent in Spanish if he/she knows 2500 high-frequency Spanish words so you can get an idea of how far you are from understanding the language. You learn the language always by translating content from English to German for example, German to English and also by listening to a phrase in your desired language and writing what was said. That way you can improve your listening a lot.
Duolingo: Learn Languages Free is currently the best way to learn languages for free and it’s a really great way to improve yourself everyday in all that wasted commute time. You can even approach language learning as a game and level up through the 25 levels of each language. Leveling up in real life is also fun.
Screen & Controls
Duolingo: Learn Languages Free is really well designed and very intuitive. It doesn’t work in landscape mode so it will probably be a little bit annoying for people that have smartphones with sliding keyboards. It is also not optimized for tablets yet but the company has announced that they are already working on that. You also need to be connected to the Internet to be able to use the app since all the verification of the correctness of the translations is verified server side.
Speed & Stability
Duolingo: Learn Languages Free is really fast. Even though it has to contact the server for every step of the lesson, they are probably fetching the next question while you are answering the current one, which makes it work really well even in a very hostile environment like the Berlin’s subway where I’ve tested it. Rarely, due to network problems in the subway, the app might get non responsive and you might crash, but it only happened to me twice and I've been using it everyday. In sane environments, the app is really fast and stable.
You can’t get better than this, Duolingo: Learn Languages Free is 100% free, no ads, no in-app purchases like the typical “pay to cheat” very common is a lot of games, so don’t expect to be able to pay to learn faster. The app is very recent but I'm sure it will become the most widely used app to learn languages real soon.