Audio Lessons are one of Duolingo’s newest and most intriguing features, focussing specifically on improving your conversation skills.
They dropped back in March 2021 exclusively for French learners on IOS. I remember being really pumped to try them out, as speaking is something I’ve always struggled with in language learning and I know it can be tricky for others as well.
Fast forward almost a year and a half, and audio lessons are very much a staple feature in the Duolingo lineup.
Have they lived up to the hype?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what Audio Lessons are, how they work, which languages currently have them, and what I currently think about them.
Let’s jump in!
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What are Audio Lessons?
Audio lessons are specifically designed to improve your listening and speaking.
They have their own special little tab at the bottom of the screen next to the Stories tab.
The lessons are delivered in a podcast-style format. Two presenters (Estelle and Paul on the French course, and Alejandra and Carlos on the Spanish course) talk you through a bunch of common conversation topics, currently ranging from beginner to intermediate level.
The cool thing about Audio Lessons is that you can complete them entirely hands-free. You can simply pop in your earphones, set your lessons to auto-play, and complete them without ever needing to pick up your device.
This makes them super ideal if you have a busy lifestyle that involves a lot of multitasking!
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How do Audio Lessons work?
To dive into an Audio Lesson, you simply need to make your way to the Audio Lessons tab, then select an available unit from one of the packs.
On the French course, there are currently 13 packs made up of 4-5 units each. They focus on common conversation topics and are ranked from beginner to intermediate.
You’ll notice that a unit has about 3 or 4 lessons. You can either set a unit to auto-play and work your way through the lessons all at once, or complete them one at a time.
Once the lesson begins, all you need to do is listen. If you prefer, you can also follow along on-screen, where you will find visual cues and spellings for what you are listening to.
The presenters will introduce you to some useful words and phrases, and give you step-by-step instructions on proper pronunciation. This is great for guys like me who really struggle with those phlemby, nasally sounds in French!
They will also talk you through proper usage, such as when to use tu or vous, or how to greet a friend vs how to greet your boss.
To ensure you’re following along, every now and then the presenters will invite you to practice some of the key words and sentences from the lesson. Again, you don’t have to do anything with your device for this: once the bell sounds you simply repeat after the presenter. It’s that simple.
You’ll also get to hear everything you learn in context. Every so often you’ll be transported to an authentic setting, where two or more natives partake in a conversation around the lesson’s topic. It’s a bit like the Learn With Locals feature on Memrise and it’s super useful!
In the final lesson of the unit, you get to put everything you’ve acquired into practice. The presenters will ask you some questions, to which you have to reply in your target language (in this case, French).
I like to do this from memory, but you can always look at your screen for what you have to say if ever you get stuck.
Once you have completed the final lesson, the unit will turn gold. You’ll then be able to revisit each lesson as and when you please.
Which languages have Audio Lessons?
Duolingo Audio Lessons are currently only available on the French and Spanish courses for English speakers on IOS.
Duolingo Audio Lessons Android
Unfortunately, audio lessons aren’t currently available on Android devices.
As with most of Duolingo’s new and experimental features, they tend to roll out to IOS devices first, then arrive on Android sometime later.
As far as I’m aware, there’s currently no ETA as to when audio lessons will come to Android.
As soon as I hear anything I’ll be sure to update the article!
How many Audio Lessons are there?
As of July 2022, there are currently 18 audio lesson packs on the French course and 9 audio lesson packs on the Spanish course.
Each pack is broken down into 4-6 units of several lessons each.
Each pack is ranked on difficulty. On the French course, there are currently 7 beginner packs and 11 intermediate packs.
On the Spanish course, all 9 packs are beginner level.
The packs are also organised thematically. The first pack on the French course, for instance, focuses on basic vocabulary and sentences.
The first unit of the pack looks at greetings, the second looks at directions, and the third looks at restaurants.
Other packs explore topics like making friends, getting help, and travel.
Duolingo are regularly adding new packs to both courses, so it’s always worth checking back even if you’ve completed every pack!
Are Audio Lessons free?
What I like about Audio Lessons
Audio Lessons have been around for a while now and I have to say I’ve been really impressed! Here’s why:
Something that finally focuses on conversations
Duolingo’s always been great for reading and listening, but I think the speaking side of things has long been a bit lacking.
Although they can’t replace the experience of a real conversation, Audio Lessons are definitely a step in the right direction for equipping us with the skills to get started.
The presenters’ explanations and the authentic dialogues are really helpful, and it’s great to have the opportunity to practice speaking in a semi-authentic environment.
Duolingo often comes in for a bit of stick for its weird and whacky phrases.
Personally, I think they’re hilarious, and they do actually serve a legitimate purpose in the learning process.
But sometimes it would be nice to get to grips with some sentences that I’m actually going to use.
Audio Lessons finally address this. I really like how the lessons are organised into units and packs that are actually relevant to day-to-day conversations. I genuinely feel as though I will make use of at least 90% of what I’ve learned so far.
If you’re someone who struggles to find time to do anything then Audio Lessons could be for you.
The hands-free nature of the lessons makes them perfect for multitasking. Just pick a unit, set it to auto-play, and you’re good to go with whatever you’re doing.
I tend to do them when I’m cooking or doing odd jobs around the flat. I even squeezed one in while I was brushing my teeth the other day!
As with any new feature, there will always be creases to iron out.
But in the case of Audio Lessons, I’d actually say it’s more a case of what I’d like to see added than what I think needs to be fixed.
A way to see what we’ve learned
Something that I’d like to see added would be a list of vocabulary for each lesson and unit.
Although the lessons are designed to be listened to, it would be useful to be able to see what we’ve learned for revision purposes.
For instance, if you’re visiting a French-speaking country on holiday, it would be cool to have quick and easy access to the vocabulary and phrases from the Travel pack.
Back in the day, one of my favourite paid features was Pronunciation Review. Basically it allowed you to listen back to your recordings so you could see where you needed to improve.
Duolingo removed it for some reason. I’m still holding out hope they’ll bring it back one day!
Anyway. Something like this would be a perfect fit for Audio Lessons. While it might disrupt the flow of the lesson, and would probably require you to pick up your device, it would be helpful to at least have the option to listen back to recordings. That way we could fine-tune our pronunciation.
This one’s really simple: Audio Lessons are great — we need more of them!
It’s been well over a year since Duolingo dropped the first batch of French lessons, and it didn’t take them much longer to crank out some Spanish ones.
And while they have added some new packs to both courses since then, it’s still a bit lacking.
Now, admittedly, I still haven’t worked my way through all of them on either course, so I’m not really bothered at the moment. But I know there are people who completed them all ages ago.
It’s not such a big deal in the French course as there are already quite a few packs to work through with varying degrees of difficulty.
The Spanish one, however, needs some work. There are only 9 at the moment and they’re all beginner level. Once Duolingo start pumping out some intermediate stuff, then we’ll be cooking.
And no, it hasn’t escaped my attention that audio lessons are still only available for two language courses. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these are the same two courses that have podcasts, so I guess it makes sense.
One day. Fingers crossed.
Have your say!
So then — what do you think of Audio Lessons?
As always, be sure to let me know in the comments!