As part of our team project, we were asked to pick a learning event and delivery technology that we would like to experience and explore as a team. Our team decided to look closer to Apps and more specifically, the Duolingo App.

Duolingo is a language learning app designed for mobile learning but can also be accessed on a desktop. It is popular due to its accessibility at no cost, using a personalized approach that responds to each student’s learning style depending on their availability and desired pace of learning. Unlike other language learning apps or online courses (the main competitor being the Rosetta Stone language learning system which has been in the market over a decade), Duolingo wants to make learning fun and motivate the learner through a game-like experience…all that without charging a cent!

For my personal investigation, I decided to focus on Duolingo’s mobile learning design and whether mobile learning helps or hinders an individual’s learning. There are three aspects surrounding my investigation:

  • My personal experience and belief that mobile learning may hinder learning due to the size of the devices screen and use of the portable device itself. Learners may not feel comfortable spending as much time as it is necessary to learn a foreign language on a phone or tablet as they would if they were at the convenience of their home or office where a laptop or desktop computer is available. Portable devices are handheld and usually used over a limited period of time, i.e. commuting, sending a text, quick email or watch a short video.
  • How testing can be used to advance learners step-by-step based on assessed pre-existing knowledge, previous learning on the app itself and the learners’ readiness. Is this “adaptive learning” or “personalized learning”?
  • What are the learning design principles related to mobile learning? Is Duolingo’s learning design based on a learning design principle or does it employ other learning design strategies?

To be able to experience Duolingo myself, I chose to take Spanish. A quick observation from my first experience is that learners are translating sentences which contain frequently used words, unlike many textbooks which include topics that may not reflect real-life language use. It would be interesting if Duolingo published the exact source for its lexemes, that is, what kind of body of knowledge it draws on,  and whether the language it uses is based on written or spoken language, literary texts, or newspapers (Munday, 2017).

Settles & Meeder (2016, as cited in Munday, 2017) state that Duolingo teaches a set of 3,000 to 5,000 lexemes per course. According to these authors, who work for Duolingo, this lexeme tag set comes from a morphology dictionary created by the Apertium project, supplemented with entries from Wiktionary and other sources. As well, Apertium’ s dictionaries add words according to their frequency in a language.

Finally, but most importantly, through my investigation, I would like to find out if an individual can learn a foreign language solely by means of accessing an app or is a blended or conversational experiential learning modality more effective. I would love to hear from you on any other aspects to consider as I move forward and develop my individual learning plan for conducting a critical inquiry into this topic.


Duolingo. (2019). About Us. Retrieved from

Munday, P. (2017). Duolingo. Gamified learning through translation. Journal of Spanish Language Teaching, 4:2, 194-198. DOI: 10.1080/23247797.2017.1396071

Settles, B., & Meeder, B. (2016). A trainable spaced repetition model for language learning. Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, ed. A. van den Bosch, 1848– 1858. Berlin: Association for Computational Linguistics.