Adventures with a dumbphone: Chasing forest sarks

This is the third in my series of ‘Apps You Might Enjoy’, following on from my earlier posts about Morse Mania and Elevate: this one is about Duolingo, an app that was recommended to me by msjadeli.

Duolingo – making language learning fun and accessible

  • Cost: Free/ regular subscription 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • Availability: Android and iOS (apps) — best in a desktop browser, though
  • Storage space: 395 Mb (and growing), and it’s a battery drainer too 🌠🌠
  • User interface design: 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • Advert intrusiveness: 🌠🌠🌠 (free)
  • Music: None (but it doesn’t need any)
  • Audio: Essential for most activities

Making learning fun.

It’s hard to stay motivated when learning online, so we made Duolingo so fun that people would prefer picking up new skills over playing a game.

Marketing spiel from

I’m more French than I am English, since I’m a sixteenth Irish (my g’great-grandmother on my English side was Irish). Having a mother, and grandparents, whose native tongue is French is an immense advantage when learning any language. I never properly capitalised on that all those years ago at school (I only got a ‘B’ grade ‘O level’; if I’d simply paid a little more attention, that could easily have been an ‘A’). But with Duolingo, I should be able to rectify the situation. I might also use it to learn Irish, too… and I think I will: but only after I’ve mastered this other language I’m using it to learn: Klingon!

A Sargh “sark” is a Klingon riding animal. The phrase, “chasing forest sarks” is an idiom for “doing something complex and difficult”.

from Duolingo Klingon pronoun lesson tip

The Klingon language course on Duolingo is labelled as being in beta. As such, although it does have a few glitches (inconsistent vocalisations, odd quirks in the lessons and so on) I can forgive it for those. Through conversations with the comment moderators, I understand that the Duolingo developers aren’t terribly keen on prioritising updates for Klingon as it isn’t a ‘real’ language, and I do have some sympathy with that.

One of the things it does that I do find intensely irritating is where, in those lessons in which it’s necessary to type in Klingon words, it sometimes accuses me of ‘typing in English’, even though I’ve used legitimate Klingon words. Klingons themselves don’t consider that robots (no matter how smart or independent) qualify as “beings capable of language,” and the language reflects that, as the Tip section on the subject of plurals explains. Perhaps there’s also some Klingon in my ancestry, as I have some sympathy with that, too.

Oh, by the way: I’ve found the Duolingo ‘tip sheets’ to be very useful — it’s worth noting that it seems that they’re only available on the website, not in the app.

Also, if you do happen to be planning on learning Klingon yourself, I can thoroughly recommend checking out the Klingon Language Institute (KLI), loitering in the KLI Discord server, and bookmarking (they don’t seem to have a catchy name). Oh, and you’ll want to check out this post on the Duolingo forums, too: External Resources for New Klingon Learners.

Duolingo says that its mission is to make learning universally accessible; and it lives up to that by offering its services completely free. The downside to that is that, as ever, you have to endure irritating adverts popping up between each lesson. To avoid those, you have to subscribe to ‘Duolingo Plus’. There’s no ‘lifetime subscription’ available (at least, not currently): you have to pay an annual subscription, which, compared with other apps, is relatively expensive (my first year cost me £80). Duolingo Plus provides the following benefits:

  • an ad-free experience
  • ability to download lessons in the app for offline use
  • unlimited ‘hearts’ (in the free version you have to wait for more when you run out)
  • unlimited skill test-outs
  • monthly streak repair
  • Progress/ Mastery Quiz

Also, as the blurb says, as a Duolingo Plus subscriber, you support their mission to keep education free for millions around the world. And I for one think that’s a good reason.

Like Elevate, Duolingo wisely encourages regular training sessions, as that’s the way to build upon any skill. The app provides daily reminders (which, sadly, can’t be disabled) and offers the ability to ‘protect your streak’ if you do happen to miss a day. The ‘Leagues’ are a clever feature, too; they encourage you to push yourself by competing with other users to get to the top of the leader boards. I’ve had no difficulty in maintaining a regular daily workout for the last two months; it is, as advertised, fun to use. Pretty addictive, in fact.

A tip: when trying to reach the top of the weekly ‘League’ leader boards (in the Klingon language course at least), use the app rather than the website. I prefer using the website than the app, especially for extended sessions, as that doesn’t bring on appneck; however, the app (currently) offers two revision exercises every day: the first gains you 20 points, and the second gains you 10. The website only offers a single exercise that awards 10 points (I have no idea why that might be).

Although I haven’t yet used Duolingo to try to learn any ‘proper’ languages, my experience with it so far convinces me that it will do an excellent job of it.

Also worth investigating is Memrise (which, incidentally, also has a Klingon course in beta).

If you have a favourite app, how about leaving a comment to recommend it?

Special thanks to Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash for the phone image I used in the post header :)

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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6 Responses to Adventures with a dumbphone: Chasing forest sarks

  1. msjadeli says:

    I’m glad you tested it out over time and learned the pros and cons of it. The Spanish program is a little different but pretty similar. There aren’t any tests that give perks that I know of. The gems can be used to recover a missed day to keep your streak going. You can also “bet” 5 gems that you can go a week by not missing a day and if you don’t miss a day you get a 10-gem payoff. I used it almost exclusively on my computer which is a much better program than the phone version as far as the quality of the lessons. On the phone version if you watch ads they will give you a nice payoff of gems. I have only used the free version and the ads are not obtrusive at all so no incentive to start paying.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. msjadeli says:

    p.s. I used should be I use, as I use the program daily and do find it fun and an effective way to learn a new language. I’m about 1/3 fluent in Spanish now so it will take awhile but my goal is to become fluent in Spanish at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I tried Duolingo years ago when it first came out. Interesting to know that it’s still “a thing.” I found it very static. My favorite way of learning a language is in a natural environment (a great excuse for not practicing some of my languages…)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting that a language learning software would include Klingon I respect that
    Laughter increases your Face value

    Liked by 1 person

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