How I Use It
Duolingo was used as a supplement in my classroom. I have students at many different levels. If they finish an assigned activity or the need remediation they can use Duolingo. Duolingo puts more focus on spelling than we do in our classroom, but that is a good skill for them. For budget reasons our language program has been cut down to only include Spanish and French. Several students were interested in taking other languages, so they can learn Spanish in my classroom, and learn Italian or German on their own.
I know Duolingo works for learning a language. I've been using it first came out in Beta to learn French. I cannot hold a complex French conversation, but I can successfully read basic French children's books or respond in writing to basic prompts. I wish there was more of a cultural element to Duolingo. That would make it perfect; language and culture cannot be separated.
Duolingo teaches languages with a mix of listening, reading, writing, with the option for speaking. Duolingo teaches Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English for Spanish speakers.
The students work to earn points and badges as they pass through the levels. The sentences are a mix of common vocabulary and silly combinations. This prepares students for using the language as well as making sure they really understand what they're saying.
Two things would make Duolingo more classroom friendly. One: there is no easy way to keep track of your classes. You have to individually follow students and check in on them one at a time. Second: the vocab occasionally geared to an older audience. A couple times the sentences involves beer, wine, or something else that isn't middle school friendly, but they were not bad words.