My husband teases me about my Duolingo rants. He just smirks and listens when I go on to tell him about the latest victim who has spent years of his/her life on this app and how far they would actually be if they had done this, or that, or pretty much anything else but Duolingo, to learn a language.
I go on and on about the learning pyramid, curriculum, communicative activities, open-educational resources, the verb workbooks that I always recommend (still the best $12 you will spend in my opinion), how conversation and language is ever evolving and unpredictable… And basically that there is no magical way to learn it. Because Oprah would have already bought it and given it away on her show.
To be Fair, it serves a Purpose…
You would think I would love this app – after all, I get so many students who start on it and end up looking for classes. But it is nearly the most ineffective thing you can do to study a language. It requires very little effort on the student´s part and has no meaningful interaction in the language. And while I agree that it is a useful tool for learning vocabulary, especially for the motivation factor (click here to read one user´s experience), it should only be one small, tiny tool in your entire shed of language exposure. And if you are short on time, I would throw it out the window altogether.
Then I think of my Daughter…
But Duolingo is fun and free, so I completely understand the appeal. It has the game aspect and is easy enough for children or basic learnings to do on their own. But then again… so are most games… and many of the APPs that we use. I mean, even my 2-year-old has mastered YouTube, can find her way around social media, take pictures and videos on my phone, and so much more… so I started to search the APP store…
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Take a look at the following apps I have stumbled across and try them for yourself. They are all fun, free, visual, in Spanish, and were easy enough to pass the toddler test, but still interesting enough to keep our attention (as adults!).
To Reinforce the Science Around Us
PBS Kids: Play and Learn Science features a variety of games and videos in Spanish. Students can learn about water, buyoncy, weather, clothing, and more, through interactive, game-like experiments.
To Entertain with Familiar Faces
Discovery Kids Play is another free application with Spanish language videos and games, featuring some of the most popular characters on TV. For example, Peppa Pig, My Little Pony, Thomas the Train and other favorites are featured. This is a great option to find songs in Spanish.
To Try Spanish Language Trivia
Cierto Falso is a true or false game that is just that. You get a random fact and have to guess if it is true or false. I like it because of the trivia aspect and the challenge of learning new words for myself. It´s quick, lighthearted and takes no preparation.
To Interact with other Spanish Speakers
RentoFortune is a Spanish language version of monopoly. You can play against your friends who are with you, other online players and/or the computer. Perfect for practicing numbers, money, vocabulary around town, and
To Challenge your Communication Skills
Charades is a game that I learned to play with my Spanish speaking friends on a Friday night. However, it is something that will challenge all learners, all ages and levels, no matter who they are.
In all, it has a 100% success rate of grabbing student interest and participation (in my experience). Not to mention, it is the most meaningful interaction that you can find. Just watch as students force themselves to communicate in Spanish with the words they already know. It doesn´t get any more authentic than that!
Do you have a favorite Spanish-language app? Comment with the name below!