Duolingo to learn Spanish for the Camino?

Learning Spanish on Duolingo can be a helpful tool for preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Indeed, learning Spanish can open doors to cultural immersion, meaningful interactions, and a deeper understanding of the Camino’s rich history. Many of my students start learning on Duolingo, which is a great App to start building your vocabulary and grammar, but as a teacher there a many tips I wish everyone knew when learning Spanish on Duolingo. Do you want to know more? Keep reading!

Spanish from Spain vs. Latin america

Duolingo, with its gamified interface and bite-sized lessons, can be a great starting point for beginners to learn vocabulary. However, when it comes to learning Spanish for the Camino, the variety of Spanish you learn plays a vital role. The vocabulary you’ll learn in Duolingo is mainly from Latinamerica, so you might find that words like “jugo”, “carro” and “boletos” (to name a few) mysteriously become “zumo”, “coche” and “billetes” here in Spain. Also, you’ll find pronunciation of words such as “izquierda” or “general” are slightly different in Latinamerica and Spain. Keep that in mind when trying to remember new vocabulary, especially if its related to food and clothes.

Context is key

While you do get to practice vocabulary and grammar in Duolingo, many of the topics will not be focused specifically on what you’ll need. For example, you’ll probably want to practice vocabulary related to feet, hikes, albergues…

The format

In addition, Duolingo is designed to be used while sitting down and staring at a screen, whereas the Camino training requires you walk, so it might be difficult for you to keep up your physical training and improve your Spanish at the same time. Plus, it depends on having an internet connection, which is not always possible during your hikes.

Culture and traditions

Finally, the Camino de Santiago is not just a physical journey; it’s a cultural and spiritual odyssey. Understanding the customs, traditions, and history of the regions you’ll pass through adds depth to your experience. Duolingo often overlooks cultural content, leaving you with a language-focused approach. By neglecting this crucial aspect, you may miss out on the chance to connect more authentically with locals and fellow pilgrims.

So how can you solve these perks, you might be asking yourself? Check out my Spanish Survival for the Camino Booklet:

  • Designed with a focus on real-life scenarios encountered on the Camino, so you’ll learn the necessary vocabulary and phrases for communicating with locals.
  • Each lesson integrates practical examples and exercises that apply directly to your journey.
  • All lessons are available in an audio format, so you can carry them with you while you walk.
  • Texts are recorded with accents from Northern Spain, which is closer to the variants you’ll likely be encountering, especially if walking the Camino Francés, del Norte or Portugués.
  • Cultural units to cover everything from tapas, tipping, fiestas to name a few.

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