Audio Lessons are one of Duolingo’s newest and most intriguing features, focussing specifically on improving your conversation skills.
This is something I’ve been really excited about ever since it was announced at DuoCon back in September. Speaking is something I’ve always struggled with in language learning and I know it can be tricky for others as well.
So in this article, we’ll take a closer look at what Audio Lessons are, how they work, which languages currently have them, and some of my initial impressions.
Let’s jump into it!
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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.
Currently, Audio Lessons are only available on the French and Spanish courses for IOS, but I’ve no doubt Duolingo will roll them out to more devices and courses further down the line.
The lessons are delivered in a podcast style format. Two presenters (Estelle and Paul on the French course; Alejandra and Carlos on the Spanish course) talk you through a bunch of common conversation topics, currently ranging from beginner to intermediate level.
The lessons can last anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. For each lesson you complete, you will earn 20 XP, which will go towards your daily goal and league position.
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 rehearse 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 revist 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 also plan to launch Audio Lessons in English for Spanish speakers later in 2021.
How many Audio Lessons are there?
There are currently 13 packs on the French course and 5 packs on the Spanish course. Each pack is broken down into 4-5 units of several lessons each.
Each pack is ranked on difficulty. On the French course, there are currently 6 beginner packs and 7 intermediate packs. On the Spanish course, all 5 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 the French course and I’ve no doubt they’ll be adding new packs to the Spanish course as well, so it’s always worth checking back even if you’ve completed every pack!
Are Audio Lessons free?
Yes. Unlike some of Duolingo’s new features, which are exclusive to Duolingo Plus users, Audio Lessons are completely free. Simply tap the Audio Lessons tab at the bottom of the screen and dive in.
What I like about Audio Lessons
Audio Lessons have been out for a few months now and so far I’m really impressed. Here’s what I think so far:
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.
Alongside Benny Lewis’s Language Hacking books (which I consider to be an essential resource for improving your speaking) I think Audio Lessons are going to make a massive difference to the quality of my conversations.
They are super convenient
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.
One of my favourite Plus features is the Pronunciation Review. It allows you to listen back to your recordings and see where you need to improve.
I think 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 our recordings. That way we could fine-tune our pronunciation.
This one’s really simple: Audio Lessons are great — we need more of them!
I’m really impressed with how many new packs Duolingo have added to the French course since launch. Hopefully, they’ve got some more in the works — not just for French, but for other languages as well!
Have your say!
So then — what do you think of Audio Lessons?
As always, be sure to let me know in the comments!