Language learning service Duolingo has added support for Hindi, to help Indians who don’t know English to learn foreign languages. Apart from Hindi, the service has also added support for Japanese and Chinese.
We tried the service and it is definitely interesting. If you select Hindi as your learning language the whole interface will be in that language on the website, but on the app, bulk of the interface is still in English. That sort of destroys the point of having a learning language. There are also a few typing exercises that require one to have a Hindi keyboard. Duolingo is working under the impression that everyone will have a local language keyboard installed as default, which is not true in India unlike most South East Asian countries.
The company needs to roll out more languages to cater to other Indians who might be interested in learning English, but may not be so proficient in Hindi either. The service will compete against local brick-and-mortar education centres across the country that have month long courses in basic English. However, Duolingo is free and with the number of Indians using smartphone on the rise, there will be a lot of people who will find the service interesting.
Apart from adding languages, the service has also introduced a vastly improved gamification feature that lets you compete with others who are learning the language. This should add a competitive element to online learning that is otherwise considered too passive. Such a feature could also encourage more people to continue using the service and complete their courses. This is important, because drop out rates are very high in online courses.
According to a report by The Economic Times, Duolingo is already being used by over 1.5 lakh Indians who are learning languages as varied as Spanish, French and German through it. It has 28 million users worldwide with English and Spanish being the most popular languages on offer. 85% of these students access the service from a mobilephone.
Duolingo does not have any advertisements to monetize, instead the students translate real world documents as part of the learning process. The service has tie-ups with CNN and BuzzFeed to use its translations. It also plans to offer an English certification program later this year.