Duolingo is a mobile learning tool that helps students communicate in another language.  It allows students to choose numerous languages, and one of the most powerful aspects of the tool is its focus on gaming (Stevenson, 2014). Duolingo “rarely explains the grammatical logic behind a new concept. It just throws you into the pool and, when you can’t swim, scoops you up and throws you in again—until you find to your amazement that you can suddenly float on your own” (Stevenson, 2014, para 9).  Hence, through practice, experience, and numerous successes, Duolingo helps students gain confidence with new languages.

Jonah twister game

Duolingo meets the goals of 21st century learning through its design for the informal learner. Rather than overwhelm students with grammatical rules or rigorous academic standards, the Duolingo tool makes learning language fun, engaging, and interesting. This is a perfect fit for many 21st century learners who want to immerse themselves in the learning experience, but do not want to be confined to a traditional academic experience. Instead, these informal learners want to be able to have effective conversational skills in a foreign language and they want to have a positive experience while learning.

Duolingo is optimal for Human Service (HS) workers because so many of the professionals in this field need to understand how to communicate with adults, families, and children from various cultures. The mobile tool could be integrated in the learning environment by having HS students engage in Duolingo experience-based practice scenarios and games that help them master basic communication and conversational skills in other languages. In addition, Duolingo can help students practice their translation skills (Stevenson, 2014). Translation can be a major role for HS professionals working with multicultural families.

To get started, the instructors should have students create their free account with Duolingo. Students can be asked to practice the language for 15-20 minutes a day using Duolingo on their mobile device. In virtual settings, they can take a screenshot of their work and send it to the instructor. The instructor can also offer synchronous sessions where instructors and participants share their experiences with the mobile learning tool.    

Note: I inserted a picture of my son playing the game Twister. The greater the challenge that the game offers, the more my son tries to master it and the more he laughs. In addition, the more he moves, the happier he feels and the more receptive he is to being challenged. This is important for 21st century students, as they are on the go, crave informal learning experiences, and want to be challenged while having fun. What picture, story, or tool represents mobile learning and the 21st century student to you? Please share.

Stevenson, S. (2014). How do you say addictive in Spanish? Slate.  Retrieved from

Additional Sources

TechCrunch. (2013-2017). Duolingo gets social. Retrieved from

The Guardian (2017). Learning the duolingo: How one app speaks volumes for language learning. Retrieved from