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This week saw the iOS version of Duolingo get updated to version 4.0 and it also introduced a really interesting new feature… duels!


I only usually use the android and website versions of duolingo, so for this new update, I had to borrow an iPod touch to try out the new duel feature.

For users of iOS duolingo, I bear some bad news: the ‘strengthen skills’ button and exercises seem to be gone forever. They have been replaced by the duels – a mode which is very similar the website’s timed practise mode.

You can duel a robot, or duel another human. The duel mode works the same way regardless of who you duel – a small sentence is presented to you in one language and you need to translate it into another language before the 30 second timer runs out. I played the game on the ‘German for native English speakers’ mode, but I shall assume it works just the same regardless of your language settings.

If you don’t know the meaning of a word within a translation, you can click on it and get given a hint. When a player correctly translates a sentence, they are given a point. If a player correctly translates a sentence faster than their opponent, they are given an extra bonus point.

This lends itself to a surprisingly authentic game experience – do you go for speed or accuracy? This risk and reward system works brilliantly and it is easy to forget that you are using a piece of educational software.

The translation tasks range from reading a sentence and typing in another language, reading a sentence and ‘building’ a translation from a group of pre-selected words, a multiple choice test of a translation and listening to a synthesised voice and writing down what you think it is saying. The nice variety of these tasks also add to the fun. The awkward speaking exercises have mercifully been left out of this duel mode, too.

A duel lasts for about 10 intense rounds, and they are only based on what content you have covered so far in your skill tree. They are a really fun addition to the duolingo experience, and as I mentioned earlier it really feels a lot like a game than ever before.

Apparently there are a lot of other exciting features that are also being developed at the moment (a teams mode being one I definitely know of), so I am really excited about this new competitive game-like direction duolingo is heading in. I hope they implement these new features for non iOS users soon. But right now people who use duolingo from their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch are definitely having a lot more of a fun experience than their deprived duolingo peers.