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Duolingo.com: Free language lessons

Wednesday - 9/19/2012, 5:54am  ET

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In the early lessons, students are shown pictures with corresponding words, and also can hear the pronunciations. (Courtesy Duolingo)
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Lacey Mason, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - ¿Sabe usted lo que esto significa?

Qu'en est-ce?

If you can't answer either of those questions, and Rosetta Stone is out of your price range, today's Website of the Week may be the answer to your language woes.

Duolingo.com offers English speakers free language lessons in Spanish, German and French. For Spanish and Portugese speakers there are also English lessons. Not only are the lessons free, but the site encourages social networking with other users and friends so you can learn a new language in a fun, community-driven way.

According to the site, Duolingo - operated out of Pittsburgh - can be free (they don't even have ads!) because as language learners use the site, they help create translations. They've also received financial backing from some big names like Ashton Kutcher.

Taking lessons is simple. After users sign up by logging in with a Facebook or Twitter account, or creating a new username, they can choose a language and select the first lesson.

The Spanish lesson, for example, starts with simple words like "boy" and "girl," which are "el niño" and "la niña," respectively.

After showing a few words, along with pictures and audio, the lesson asks users to translate the words they've learned back to English.

As the lesson gets more advanced, the student will listen to a word spoken in his or her native tongue and write it out.

After each answer, students select "check" to see if they responded correctly, and then "continue" to advance through the lesson. Later, there are special practice lessons for words that were particularly challenging.

The software is even advanced enough that the lesson will have users speak words back to it and let them know if they pronounced the words correctly.

The site also encourages students to connect with other users using the site and to invite their friends to be their classmates.

Duolingo is a great way to brush up on your French before a vacation, or grab a refresher if you haven't studied Spanish since high school - no textbooks needed.

¡Buena suerte!

Glück

Bonne chance!

Good luck!

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)