A classroom is not the only place to learn a foreign language. Today, you can study any language anytime and anywhere through a mobile app at your fingertips. If you’ve been searching for one, you’re pretty much guaranteed to come across Duolingo.
While people may have different approaches and learning abilities, online language learning has commendably dominated the market in recent years.
Contrary to the textbook and traditional method, software and apps are inexpensive, convenient, entertaining, and, most importantly, flexible.
But as with everything, nothing is picture-perfect. There are some obvious benefits and drawbacks of using language apps.
Plentiful options in the market empower you to start with a few clicks. Of so many alternatives, Duolingo is a well-known app for studying a new tongue.
But can you actually learn a language with Duolingo, or is it overrated?
How effective is Duolingo?
Is it really worth it or a total waste of time? What’s the difference between the free & plus plan?
In this Duolingo review 2023, I’m here to write my honest assessment and explain its pros and cons in detail. This will help you make an informed decision and what to expect. Let’s get the ball rolling!
Table of Contents
- The History of Duolingo
- What is Duolingo?
- Pros and Cons of Duolingo
- 3 Benefits
- 5 Disadvantages
- How much does Duolingo cost? — Free Vs. Paid
- My Duolingo Review: Average — 3/5
The History of Duolingo
Duolingo was founded as an academic project at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh by professor Luis Von Ahn and his Ph.D. student Severin Hacker.
After selling his previous company, reCAPTCHA, to Google, both aspired to try something new in the education niche.
Since there was an enormous demand for language learning tools worldwide, they went with language study.
Eventually, they launched Duolingo by the end of 2009. Later, many others joined and took part in developing further.
As per the Crunchbase report, Duolingo raised $183.3M in over 9 rounds. As of January 2021, the investors estimate the total valuation to be a staggering high, up to $2.4 billion.
About the founder’s Track Record
Before launching Duolingo, Luis von Ahn sold reCAPTCHA to Google in 2009 at an undisclosed price. Google might have bought because of the massive user base.
While the amount is unknown, Von said the amount was somewhere between $10 million and $100 million.
Regardless of the acquisition cost, reCAPTCHA was highly annoying and time-consuming on the internet. It was so stressful that almost everyone hated it.
He claimed that over 750 million people had solved one of his captchas. Yes, it prevented spam and fraud on websites to some extent, but notwithstanding, it wasn’t user-friendly and made life more miserable. I always despised it.
That is why, after purchasing, Google redesigned and made it less irritating by adding a checkbox I’m a human”. Now, in reCAPTCHA 3.0, it is invisible.
Do these things in earlier times really matter when I write the Duolingo review?
This inevitably implies a lot!
The founder’s track record plays an indispensable role in evaluating current products. No matter how surpassing and innovative an idea seems, the woeful track record does make a world of difference.
And that’s why it starts with a negative tick. It may not matter to a well-funded company, but it matters to myself and my readers, who trust me for what I say.
What is Duolingo?
Unlike reCAPTCHA, Duolingo is friendly, relaxed, and delightful. This isn’t a Déjà Vu all over again.
With over 500 million users, Duolingo is the most popular language-learning platform and the most downloaded education app. It has grown so much over the past eleven years.
The number of users was 300 million before the spread of the 2020 pandemic. But because of COVID-19, the number has boosted Duolingo’s fortunes. With nowhere to go, many started using this addictive app.
While Duolingo’s headquarter is in Pittsburgh, the United States, but operates worldwide.
As you’d anticipate, Duolingo as a mobile application is available for Android and iOS operating systems. There is a browser version too.
It has successfully combined language learning with gamification intending to make education simple and more fun.
Duolingo offers a tree-based training strategy. It uses flash cards, images, listening, and writing lessons to motivate you to study new words, phrases, and uncomplicated sentences.
You can also connect with other users cramming the same language through their community characteristics.
Do you want to learn a language through videos? Check out → Lingopie Review
How Does Duolingo Work?
Let’s jump in to see how Duolingo works!
UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) are pretty likable and straightforward. The modern and creative design gives an intuitive and knockout involvement.
Similar to other language apps, you can register for a free account at Duolingo.com.
They have 3 easy steps to sign up: First, select the language and reason for considering it. Then, you decide your daily goal between Casual (5 minutes), Regular (10 minutes), Serious (15 minutes), and Intense (20 minutes).
Finally, register by using Facebook, Google, or any email account.
Voilà, you have created a profile! This will hardly take a minute or two to wind up the onboarding process. You can then choose a language and begin receiving game-like bite-size tasks.
After spending a few minutes, you will understand everything. The whole interface is minimal and easy to grasp.
The Target Audience
With an intent to make education accessible to all, Duolingo’s primary audience is learners who are interested in acquiring a new language from ground zero.
While the company considers its target audience as “everyone.” But is fundamentally geared towards the beginner’s level.
You always have to start from the first lesson. If you feel a particular section is too advanced or rudimentary, you cannot jump to a different level.
So, if you previously have some acquaintance with your target language and fancy moving to a higher level, it is not for you.
To sum up, Duolingo is solely for elementary learning, which is their target market. Of course, the company will not admit that, but this is what it is.
Courses Available on Duolingo
The Duolingo courses vary hugely, depending on your selection of the language.
For instance, as an English speaker, you can learn Spanish, with 29 million other participants, and French, with over 17 million learners. You can even study Romanian, with just over 500 thousand language enthusiasts.
But what if you speak Italian fluently or your mother tongue is Italian?
In that scenario, the possibilities are restricted. You can only choose between English, French, German, and Spanish.
Because of limited options for less common languages and combinations, they have also formed “Duolingo Incubator.” This program allows community users to volunteer to create courses in languages unavailable on the platform.
Suppose you are knowledgeable and possess an in-depth understanding of a particular order (both source and target language), are ready to collaborate, and are committed to the project.
You can apply for the same from your registered account.
With 100’s of languages, all user-generated contests are divided into 3 categories:
- Phase 1: Courses not yet released.
- Phase 2: Courses released in beta.
- Phase 3: Courses graduated from beta.
Thanks to thousands of volunteers, Duolingo empowered its community to develop all these courses. They also helped the company with Word-of-Mouth advertising.
While this creates a welcome variety, these programs vary in quality, sometimes a lot.
The audio quality of the words’ pronunciation’ can differ with strange voices, which cannot be very clear for many. Unlike the official version, some are more prone to influence by vernacular, dialects, and slang.
Despite the sheer number of contributors and checks and balances in place, there is no reliability and standardized flow for any language.
Which language can you learn with Duolingo?
Contextually, beating up almost all the online language learning programs in the current market trend, Duolingo sets to deliver 98 courses that teach 39 different languages.
The platform covers nearly all widespread languages, including but not limited to English, French, Russian, Spanish, Hindi, German, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.
Whether you’re looking for less spoken like Danish, Catalan or Irish or one of the endangered languages such as Hawaiian, Yiddish, and Navajo, Duolingo has it all in the palm of your hand.
Are you fascinated with the fictional languages used in the Star Trek movies and Games of Thrones tv-series?
Well, you can learn High Valyrian and Klingon too. Plus, they also offer Esperanto — an artificial language. The probabilities are endless!
Types of activities
Duolingo is all about gamification. They have developed everything in colorful visual design, aesthetically pleasing pictures, progress bars, ticks, and clicks.
When you learn on Duolingo, you earn experience points (XP).
You earn through various activities like completing individual lessons, placement tests, checkpoint quizzes, skill practice, test out, and stories in a few languages.
This also assists you in increasing your overall standing in leagues.
While you’re at it, it will cheer you to move to the next part, though you shouldn’t be overconfident about that (more later). In the pursuit of this journey, you will gain lingots, gems, streaks, and crowns.
The blue-colored Gems and red-colored Lingots are virtual currencies in Duolingo. The gems are available on mobile apps, whereas Lingots are only accessible on desktops.
You will receive these rewards for various activities like crossing levels, finishing a skill, translating, 10-day streaks, etc.
You can then take advantage of Gems/Lingots for shopping like streak freeze, double or nothing, heart refill, streak wagers, outfits for Duo, and bonus skills like learning idioms, proverbs, and flirting expressions.
Gems are for buying multiple things in the Duolingo shop. Wondering what they are? Here is the list.
(i) Refill your Health
If you make 5 mistakes and run out of heart during a lesson, you can use these perks to refill your health. This reminds me of the Candy Crush game.
You can buy back 5 more hearts and continue with the lesson. The good thing is the web version does not have the punishing “Health” feature.
(ii) Streak Freak
You have to practice your language on Duolingo every day. If you break your streak, you will be back to zero. But there is a way to solve the winning it back.
This feature helps your continuity to remain in place for one full day of inactivity. You can purchase this anytime, and it will compensate for a missing day.
(iii) Bonus Skills
These are some extra lessons that you can buy from the store. The cost differs, and some are only available for a limited period.
Some languages offer you to read some flirting words and, idioms & proverbs. So, you can use these incentives to learn something related to that language concerned.
(iv) Double or Nothing
You can buy this for 50 gems. Suppose you maintain a streak for 7 consecutive days. You get 100 gems. And if you fail, you don’t get back the five you used to buy “Double or Nothing.”
To summarize, you can earn these rewards if you are consistent in your practice.
Overall, they do a fabulous job of keeping you encouraged and hungry for more learning, making you a favorite study resource among new learners.
Pros and Cons of Duolingo
Like any other language learning approach, Duolingo as a language app has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Some could be subjective, depending on how you see and your purpose.
For illustration, Duolingo’s principal goal is to impart foundational skills in various languages. This might be favorable for someone who needs to understand the basic conversation before going for a vacation in that country.
Possibly for a school-going kid who strives to learn something in their free time. They might not get lessons from a teacher. So, Duolingo is helpful.
However, this is a negative for someone who needs a more extensive plan to prepare for TEF Canada, Spanish DELE B2, JLPT N2, or Korean TOPIK V.
To evaluate whether it will be beneficial, let’s touch upon the positives of Duolingo and its limitations.
Here are 3 great and clear benefits!
1. Easily Accessible
Whether you are a homemaker, student, or professional who maintains a tight schedule, anyone can use Duolingo at its comfort with its interactive interface.
You neither need to travel far and wide to enroll in regular classes nor have any obligation to follow a fixed schedule.
You can study whenever and wherever you want at your own pace. You can jump right back into the next lesson or check out any previous one for revision.
You need a smartphone, internet access, and an email account, which most people have these days.
2. Everything is Free on Duolingo!
It is absolutely free, and you can access everything. And that’s what makes it the most popular education learning platform on earth.
Let’s face it — many people want to learn a language but cannot afford it.
A parent might not pay the tuition fee for their daughter, who wants to learn Korean because K-Pop, K-Drama, and K-Movie fascinate her.
Duolingo’s mission to “make education free, fun, and accessible to all” is unquestionably genuine.
You might learn nothing meaningful that can help you in your career or assist you in watching foreign movies on Netflix, but at least it’s a start.
Remember, a journey of a thousand miles always begins with a single step.
3. You can learn multiple languages simultaneously
Do you want to become a polyglot?
In that situation, Duolingo can play a small but crucial part in your goal.
The app doesn’t restrict how many languages you can learn concurrently. So, now you can easily switch between Spanish and French whenever you prefer.
I’ve tried several apps, and most don’t allow learning another language unless I finish the first one.
On the contrary, Duolingo allows you to learn many languages simultaneously.
There is no restriction. Suppose you have spent some time on Duolingo. In that case, you will see many profiles (like the one below) with several languages and their corresponding level.
But I won’t suggest going over 1 or 2. Language learning requires undivided attention. Focusing on too many will perplex you, and you might not concentrate on anything.
You can always endeavor the second once you have reached at least an intermediate proficiency in the first target language.
Despite some apparent benefits associated with the Duolingo app, they still come with many difficulties you must consider before diving deep into it.
Here are 5 shortcomings.
1. It focuses more on English speakers
As an English speaker, you have plenty of choices.
What if you want to learn Mandarin as a Hindi or Tamil speaker or dive everything in French as a Japanese native?
Unfortunately, you are out of luck!
Mostly, you have 1 or 2 options for several languages, and English is a common destination.
The app centers mainly on English speakers who want to learn another language than speakers of other languages who wish to study something other than English.
Perhaps, they don’t have enough resources to make these programs.
It is also conceivable that it is a daunting task since many languages are more colloquial. Thus, creating such a combination meets many localization issues.
Whatever the case, your possibilities are pretty unsatisfactory as a non-English speaker.
2. It is only for beginners and not meant for Advanced learners
Duolingo is not a miraculous ‘cure-all’ that will enable you to quickly and smoothly gain any language with just a few taps of your device screen.
Forget about fluency; even achieving an intermediate level is a pipe dream. This is one of the major problems of online language learning.
Everything begins and ends at the basic level!
Some people even fail to learn anything. Do you want authentic examples?
According to Forbes, Duolingo’s chief revenue officer did not immediately understand the spoken question “¿Hablas Español?” after six months of Duolingo Spanish study.
If this intrigues you, you can read some known criticism and complaints in the image below, taken from Wikipedia.
Duolingo’s lessons leave a lot to be desired for serious learners. If you have any crucial long-term goal like a career requiring languages, higher education abroad, immigration, etc., you should avoid it.
Instead, consider enrolling in a language school, finding a teacher, or taking help from other resources like books, audio, and video lessons.
By all means, you should try. But I’d firmly say keep your expectations low. So you won’t be disappointed once you complete the whole tree.
3. Duolingo is all about a game
Language learning isn’t just playing a game. The entire strategy is gamified. There is undoubtedly some educational value, but not enough to make you learn it.
They don’t teach how to communicate in the language.
I doubt if anyone can even talk to a native speaker for 5 minutes or order food in a restaurant. You won’t catch anything if you watch a movie in that language without subtitles.
They incorporate some random vocabulary and phrases, which in the end means insufficient for anything worthy.
In the end, it becomes all about beating the game.
4. You can only learn some vocabulary and phrases
You cannot learn a language just by practicing some words and phrases through flash cards.
Duolingo explains things like informal and formal greetings and commonly practiced sentences. It also comprises frequently used nouns, verbs, tenses, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions in further exercises.
There isn’t any proper and suitable grammatical explanation and rules for sentence structure. Everyone knows the varieties can be productive but are insufficient on Duolingo.
They are also horrible at teaching non-European scripts. If you intend to understand Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji to study Japanese.
Perhaps, Russian Cyrillic, Korean Hangul, or some of the Mandarin characters or Indian languages, it would be almost unlikely that you will understand anything substantial.
When I first completed the entire tree for French. I asked myself, “Is this it?”
It left me with much to be craved. Since I already knew French, this was hardly an A1 level of DELF.
5. This is more useful for Kids and not Adults
These days, Duolingo is focusing more on adding cartoon characters and animations. It seems they are more targeting the youngsters.
The total number of users has soared from 300 million to 500 million since the coronavirus spread in early 2020.
This robust growth is mainly contributed by school-going children who have easy access to smartphones and laptops. Parents mostly work from home, and thus, they don’t mind their children studying something new.
But for the adults who want to learn effectively, this doesn’t serve the purpose.
Neither it explains the fundamental grammatical (they do some parts on the desktop, though), nor will it help you enhance your listening and speaking.
It also has no natural-sounding conversations and resembles more a computer voice. You will not get a real-life insight into how people actually speak it.
A lack of intermediate lessons and face-to-face interaction like recorded videos is a big disappointment.
How much does Duolingo cost? — Free Vs. Paid
Duolingo’s unique selling proposition is that it is entirely free. This is the primary reason its popularity is rising at an unprecedented speed.
You can locate entire content, stories, and perks from beginning to end without paying a single penny.
You can use it on a smartphone, and it will sync the progress on all the devices you’re using with your account.
If you want to track your students, you can also try “Duolingo for Schools.” Once added, you can check their improvement from your account.
Is Duolingo Plus worth the money?
Duolingo offers the freemium model to its user base. Initially, Duolingo plus give a 14-day free trial, which costs $6.99 per month.
The Plus subscription offers some added benefits:
First, the plus subscription is totally ad-free. You can get rid of the ads and access other features in the process.
Yes, the pop-up advertising is disturbing that randomly appears on your screen. But you can ignore it, the way we do it everywhere. After a while, you won’t care about them anymore.
Second, you can get everything offline, which might be an incredible feature a few years back. Today, when the internet is readily available everywhere, it is pretty much worthless, at least in most parts of the globe.
The last benefit is unlimited hearts and skill test-outs. It also repairs monthly streaks and provides quizzes to assess your progress and mastery. These aren’t a big selling points.
In fact, there are some tricks to get all these in the free plan.
For example, you can use the browser version to get unlimited lessons rather than a mobile app. The last time I checked, there were no limitations on the number of mistakes you make.
Instead of paying for “Plus,” you can also track your progress on the Duome website. Type duome.eu/Your_username, and now you can see all.
It shows the languages you’re learning and their levels, the required XP to reach the next level, and the Golden Owls you have gained!
You can access everything, albeit with some weaknesses, without a paid subscription. I’d recommend sticking with the free plan.
I don’t think the Duolingo plus will help you learn more or in a better way. This is honestly not worth it.
If Duolingo is not great, why is it so popular?
The reasons are the same as the 3 benefits and other points I mentioned above in this review.
- Duolingo is 100% free. Yes, you don’t need to pay a single penny to learn whatever you’re interested in. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
- You can access it from anywhere, anytime, and anywhere. The interface of the platform is also appealing, captivating, and simplistic.
- You can learn various languages at the same time. Again, this is difficult to do on other platforms. On Duolingo, you can switch to another language with 2-clicks.
- This is all about gamification. It occupies the learners’ thoughts more quickly and gets them excited about learning. The rush towards finishing the tree and gaining the reward makes you use it more often.
- You can also study some less common, going to be soon extinct, artificial, and fictional languages. You may not locate enough support like an educational center, books, or teachers who can support the study of some of these.
My Duolingo Review: Average — 3/5
Duolingo is the most familiar and straightforward language-learning tool and is 100% free.
Although this is somewhat hit-and-miss. There wouldn’t be enough explanation if you were stuck at any part.
I hope this Duolingo review was valuable for you to make the right decision. Overall, my experience with Duolingo wasn’t great. This isn’t meant for serious learners.
If you’re still on the fence, you can check it. At least there is no harm in trying it. Despite various negative aspects, at least it is free.
But don’t expect to achieve any notable fluency with Duolingo by spending 5 to 20 minutes a day with a few virtual flashcards activities. That is not possible. Here is my rating.
Duolingo is the most well-known language-learning app. But, it is only meant to teach some beginners level skills. Don’t expect any meaningful proficiency. It is not worth it. By considering all the aspects, I rate it “Average.”
I’ve tested several apps; this is my second one after the in-depth Memrise review and Busuu app review. I’ll write more in the future.
Let me know if you have questions about my Duolingo review. You can also share your experience in the comments!
For starting out, the first lessons through lesson 6 are manageable. Then all of a sudden, in lesson 7, you have to form plurals which entirely depends on you typing in answers and words. It’s ridiculous because there is no memorization of most of the verb forms, so you are literally guessing your entire way through. Not a way to learn anything. I started taking screenshots of the corrections so I could get through lesson 7. By the way, you cannot skip ahead to ordering food and drink, lesson 9, without passing a quiz in Unit 7 and Unit 8. Why? Who cares? I paid for the full version; let me learn in the desired order.
I started learning Spanish and was more than happy to pay for plus to get rid of the ads. I started from zero and liked the platform and felt really motivated. I especially liked the conversations that were geared towards going to a restaurant, hiring a car, etc as I wanted to learn something of the language for holidaying in Spanish speaking countries. I raved about it to my friends and even had aspirations to learn another language maybe when I was a little further down the line. Then poof! Overnight they changed the platform with no warning, Suddenly, there were weird lessons about cows talking to pigs and other such nonsense.
All the useful holiday-type practical conversation sections were removed completely. The only listening exercises available were ones I’d already completed so now I get given the same ones over and over again. Completely useless. Ni way that I can find to contact them to complain. I feel like they have broken the law because they sold me a subscription for something they ceased to deliver after six months of use.
I’m holding in till the very last day but then I’m not renewing my subscription- already canceled, and I won’t bother with the free one as it has gone from brilliant to useless. Not sure why I’m even bothering now, really other than the fact that I paid for a year and feel ripped off if I don’t use it – madness I know!
When we learn new languages, some of the traditional teaching methods can be very torturous at the pre-A1 and A1 levels, according to the CEFR. Most people are not willing to pay for a language they don’t even know whether they want to follow up to the academic level. So Duolingo gives you the foundation of all available languages on the site, should you complete all the units. From there, should you want to be serious, you at least can skip paying for the foundation level, either self-studying from books or going to class!
Too much LBGTQ+ in Duolingo! I tested a few days of Italian, and it’s too easy, plus, why does every other “lui” (he) need a husband and every other “lei” (she) need a wife! Distracting. Not enough variety of relevant content and too much repetition of basic fragments. Looking for a different learning tool and willing to pay. The gamification was fun for a couple of days, but it got boring quickly.
I agree it becomes tiring, the developers are attempting to use their platform to push an agenda or promote a social engineering agenda rather than the limitations of the program. Time to abandon the “program” and get my kids off it as well.
I really don’t like the new Duolingo setting, it is confusing and boring, it doesn’t allow you to navigate freely, and it is dese stimulant to have to finish a boring box when you can find your own challenges jumping to other steps and see if you could do it.
The idea is to learn, not to be forced to do something. It is the same as staying in a classroom and seeing the teacher’s monologue. The games were not rewarding, and I finished third on top using all my points. I am not sure it was worth my learning. The use of adult mature and logical psychology is mandatory if Duo people want to make it better and didactic.
I actually like both Duolingo and Memrise (from your other blog). I am only learning for travel and have learned Spanish, German, and now Japanese on Duolingo. It is great for memorising important phrases that you need for travelling. I don’t really buy into the gems, streaks, etc – I don’t really care if I don’t get them, but as we know, games are addictive, so I guess it will make some people keep practising. I’ve never had any glitches and have no issue with what is offered on the free version.
Japanese being my first ‘non-Latin/Roman Alphabet’ that I am learning means this is more difficult than most as I cannot remember what sounds most of the symbols represent like I could memorize other languages. I find Memrise better for Japanese as it has the words without the script, just the sounds. Not good for practising reading it but good for listening and speaking. I agree with you though that if you are wanting to properly learn a language, you need to immerse yourself in the country and its language and do classes of some sort. Good for a bit of fun, though!
Duolingo is handy and costs nothing. I can learn whenever I feel like it for free. I’m on level 3 Norwegian at the moment and there are 159 levels. I’m already picking words up and enjoying the learning. I’d rather learn at home than pay to sit in a class at a set time on a set day. Any learning is better than nothing. I may try some other languages but I found it hard to learn more than one at a time. A combination of reading, writing, speaking, and talking with native speakers and a classroom is probably better. However, if I choose to continue with a language, the classroom can always come later. Duolingo is a good start to try different languages for free at a time and day that suits you.
I joined Duolingo earlier this year. I am in various stages in several languages. One is French, another is Swedish. I find Duolingo is better for the person who has learned a language or is learning a language elsewhere and using Duolingo to practice or reinforce what they have learned/learning.
I have a degree in French, have traveled to France, and have read books in French. I am using Duolingo to learn words for items/products that didn’t exist years ago. I detest the voice of the dark-haired character, whom I consider a teenager. If I encountered her in real life, I would cut my conversation with her short and look for another person to help me, but I can’t do that online with a character.
For Swedish, I started with no education in the language. Initially, the pace of the lessons was fine. Then, I don’t know if the pace just naturally changed or if some changes they made earlier this year caused the change, but I have become frustrated by some of the Swedish lessons. Today, I finished lesson 7 in unit 10. In those 7 lessons, there have been 53 new words, plus an additional 3 found while I was translating to determine the correct spelling for the adjectives. Those additional 3 have the same/similar meaning but aren’t shown in Duolingo. If this is similar to an earlier unit, the subsequent units will utilize these words in sentences. Contrast that with my lesson today in French: The entire lesson consisted of about 3 new words and very simple sentences. (Yes, before starting French, I did indicate that I wanted to test beyond beginner level and thought I had.)
I am learning Swedish through Duolingo, but there are insufficient pronunciation exercises and no real ability to select a section of my choice. I am learning how to read it, but not so much how to speak it. The discussion boards have been helpful even if they are locked. I use other resources to learn grammatical principles that I wish would be taught on Duolingo, even if inadequate.
As another person has said, sometimes it does feel like a chore to have Duolingo guilt-trip people into holding onto a user streak or if you have some particularly repetitious lesson(s).
Duolingo has some benefits, but no sadly using it will not make you fluent in another language. You actually have to interact with people in that language to really learn that language.
I have been learning several languages and I have used Duolingo while learning. Duolingo has been a good addition to my learning progress. Duolingo really did help me learn to read Chinese much better. It did not help me speak Chinese at all. I think Duolingo practice helped me pass my Chinese language level 2 certification. Sadly, it didn’t teach me enough to get to level 3.
For other languages like Latin and Esperanto – Duolingo was a great start and very helpful.
With the latest update, they are telling people that everyone should learn in one way – they call this the path. Sadly, this does not work for me at all. The forced pathway of learning is making me shift to other apps so I can learn my way on my own path.
I have been a paid user of Duolingo for several years and now with their current learning direction, I have to recommend trying the app for a few months before you think about spending any money on it. If their path works for you, then it might be worth upgrading. For me, it isn’t. I would be willing to bet that for most people this one way of learning will simply not work anymore.
My Phone had just had an “upgraded” version of Duolingo. The new version is very confusing and not easy to navigate thru. The previous version was way better to understand and use. I also had the possibility to use several different lessons simultaneously. And the story’s side is gone. NO, THUS IS NOT BETTER. The old version was easier.
Duolingo helps greatly in learning another language. The way people speak in different countries will be a little different. Slang terms change. If learning a new language was easy, we all would do it. I am in my 70s and enjoy doing it a little each day.
Started out with a “free education will really change the world” philosophy. How refreshing. Sadly though it never really delivered, gradually offering less and less as they chased revenue. Now, with the conversation pages gone, it’s just another sorry story of noble ambition being sacrificed for corporate concerns (money) and an endless quest to find ways to milk your audience.
I deleted my account yesterday.
You’re not alone, I just experienced having to update my method of payment, but having joined 4 years ago didn’t realize I had to update the info on Google Play instead of on the Duo website. Before I figured it out, they canceled my account. Once I updated my payment method, I contacted customer service and requested to reinstate my account. The child receiving my request in customer service refused to reinstate the account. This leaves me with the option of resubscribing at a higher price since I don’t want to pay for a year in advance or to use the free version. Lol, I guess I’ll use the free version.
That’s quite an awful experience.
I agree 100% with Mark Creed’s comments. I found Duolingo to be a great tool when I started 3 years ago after it had been recommended by a member of my Toastmasters club. However, the removal of the forums is unforgivable. We have no way to discuss the lessons with anyone else. The forums were removed, with no explanation of why, and they point us to an *unofficial* Discord group. I don’t use Discord, so now I’m stranded on a desert island. Since I paid for Plus I’ll keep going until renewal time, but after that I’m done. No good reviews from me!
I’ve been using Duolingo for about 3 years, trying to learn French, and quite frankly, it’s a miserable learning experience. It started off fun and enjoyable but soon became a chore. My main gripes are:
1. The French course is full of errors and mistakes which have been pointed out (in the discussion forums before they got deleted) for months and sometimes years – and nothing ever gets done about them.
2. I’m constantly typing out the same thing over and over again because of typos, misspelled names (e.g., Mark instead of Marc), terrible English translations that no native English speaker would ever use, and trivial or inconsequential errors. It’s soul-destroying. Just point out your mistake, and let’s move on.
3. Some of the English used is just appalling, so who knows what the quality of the French we are trying to learn is like.
4. They got rid of tips and hints, so you have no clue what they are trying to teach you. Before each set of lessons, there used to be a page that explained what you were learning. Actual teaching. They got dumped in general, dumbing down a while back, and now you blindly bumble along trying to figure out what you are trying to learn, making countless errors and mistakes, repeating the same thing repeatedly. No explanations, no actual teaching, just trial, and error. Mind-numbing.
5. They got rid of discussion forums. At least you could talk in the forums to other users to try and figure out what was going on. Inevitably, the forums were full of disgruntled people fed up with trying to find answers or reasons for why they were marked wrong or what they were trying to learn. This is probably why they got rid of them.
6. They spent a fortune on pointless snazzy graphics and animations, no doubt trying to appear hip and youthful, while course errors and mistakes go uncorrected for months/years. That tells me where their priorities lie.
What starts off as fun and interesting soon degenerates into a miserable and tedious learning experience. It removed tips and hints. The discussion forums demonstrate to me that Duolingo isn’t really interested in teaching but just trying to increase profits. It astounds me that anyone would pay for this. I don’t actually think it’s worth ‘free.’
I absolutely agree with everything you’ve written.
It seems so American and everything is in American English which isn’t English. Lots of lessons are full of tedious rote learning and a punitive environment. Americans seem to have a weird thing about toilets, pizzas and New York. Random changes occur with no explanation or warning. Also, the points accumulation, it’s Russian roulette. The new regime just landed on our screens is even worse. It brings up words and phrases they haven’t taught out of the blue and you are forced to guess the answers.
The points awarded have gone down from 30 to 5 for the same effort. Discouraging.
The stories were great but only some of them have been incorporated into the slavish grim totalitarian ” path”. Two stories ( practice story situations ) that I like have now been put into unit 49 and 50 respectively. That’s unsettling and questionable because I’m only in unit 9.
Its revenue and algorithms they worship.
Absolutely the same experience as my learning German with a Russian interface. I am a Plus user, and this lack of professionalism and care for users who pay, together with late changes in the interface, makes me quit. By the way, I didn’t know they got rid of all the forums. I thought they closed down only the Russian one because of morons trying to discuss the war in Ukraine there.
I agree with you 100%! Duo has declined in its presentation and usefulness over the years. You cannot reach anyone at the company to point out errors; as you mentioned, they have taken away the forum. The French model used to be much better than the Spanish one, with many more learning hints and examples, but they are now gone in both languages.
Everything is by rote in this program, that is the only form of teaching because there is no way of having anyone explain where your reasoning has gone off or why something is the way it is. They have also eliminated the stories that used to be fun to go through. They have also made the friendly competition lopsided in favor of those who pay for the program and know how to exploit all the “extra” points here and there instead of simply having a level playing field.
As you have found, one of the most frustrating aspects is typing in a correct answer only to have it marked wrong because they haven’t added it to their database even though people have been pointing out other correct responses for months and years. Since the Wall Street Journal reported that the program was worth 1.5 billion dollars some time ago, you would think they could afford to hire more professionals and correct their errors, absurd sentences and bastardized English!
In your opinion, which is the best method to learn fluent French?
While the immersion method helps gain practical skills, it may not be feasible for most learners. So, face-to-face classes with a French teacher and practicing listening through Audios/Videos work well.
Today I just gave up on Duolingo after a couple of years. I started the early days of Covid to keep my spirits up while looking for work and the challenge after not using French since college. Today, it marked me as having not completed my exercises yesterday, which I actually completed. Everything I worked on today was a repeat of yesterday. This is the second time this has happened. There are times when I question approved answers after having been marked wrong. The forum, at times, has the same opinion as me, or I have been marked wrong, but the forum indicates there are other potential correct answers, of which my answer could have been accepted.
The three suggested review sessions, sometimes a story or one to two new lessons, were accomplished daily. Due to employment in a short-staffed environment and other responsibilities, I have missed a day, but not often. There are other things occupying my time, now. I am grateful for having been able to use this service but current responsibilities and Duolingo system imperfections are the reasons for leaving.
I found your post very well presented. Thank you. I have been a Duolingo for over seven years, (lost my streak a couple of times and had to start again twice so my streak shows 2051 days) By the way you talked about buying a ‘streak freak’. Funny, it is, of course, a streak freeze. As for lingots, I have 18,662 so there is not a lot I can do with them in the shop. I was a Plus member for about four years but cancelled it after the nosedive in quality that began about 2 years ago.
I am very grateful to Duo for the French I have learnt, but feel very concerned about people learning English. Just for interest, I completed the learning English from French course, so I know what is being taught. On the other hand, I have enjoyed all the stories and found the characters playing the roles mostly well done and certainly helpful in developing conversational French. The most useful aspect for me at the moment is the very well-produced series of Podcasts, based on real people and covering a wide variety of topics.
The main reason for me wanting to offer a point of view is the fact that yesterday, 22nd March 2022, Duo deleted the general discussion forums, which we were all told was going to happen, but this morning, as I began a learning module, I discovered, to my horror, that every time I wanted to contribute to the sentence discussion page, I saw a notice saying either: ‘This discussion has been locked’ OR ‘the page you are looking for no longer exists, press here to return to the learning page. Duo has decided to bite the hand that feeds it. I will continue to learn from the stories and podcasts, but not sure if I will continue with the lessons now that the discussion has been disabled. I sincerely hope that this was a glitch in the system because of the planned deletion of the GENERAL discussion pages.
I just saw that today. I’m relatively new to Duolingo and so far have been unimpressed with the fact that there’s no way to contact anybody if you have a question or concern. I have found repeatedly that the gyms I earn are not adding up. Every time I earn a new batch it seems I have less than the last round. They just keep disappearing. I also find lessons can get a bit repetitive if you don’t get moved to the next level. The competition is distracting from the actual learning. I am a plus member but am about to give up. I don’t feel I am getting enough substance out of the lessons.
In reference to the title of the article, “Duolingo Review – Can it help you speak a language”, for me it´s an unequivocally yes.
However, I can only speak to the Spanish course, as an English speaking student.
Over the past two years, they´ve made major improvements to this course, such as:
– Added more verb/verb tense lessons.
– Added more levels and content
– Added writing exercises within the Stories
These additions along with the individual lessons that you can repeat as many times as you want will help you learn a new language.
Duolingo provides tips for each of the lessons, but what I find way more useful, is the information provided in the discussions under each question in the exercise. There are great explanations provided by other members within the Duolingo community, as well as links to pertinent articles on the topic at hand.
I believe that the gaming aspect is a turn-off for some members, but is a tremendous incentive for others, which can keep many people engaged in learning a new language. If you don´t like the gaming, don’t focus on the gaming, it´s not required and I believe you can change your ‘Progress Sharing’
setting in your profile and you won´t be involved in gaming.
It´s not a perfect tool, but it has helped me get further than I have my entire life. Being over 60, Duolingo has gotten me farther than Rosetta Stone, or any instructor. I don’t like everything within the tool but I recognize that they’re trying to make a one size fits all tool, so I’m happy to overlook any item I don’t like and focus on the lessons.
Traditional language learning methods haven´t worked for me, possibly because my brain isn´t receptive to the traditional ways of learning a language. Learning with a minimal focus on grammar, and a major focus on repetition has been very effective for me, and it may work well for many more students. I firmly believe a majority of students that try to learn a language the traditional way haven’t been successful, and we need to continue to look for new ways to effectively teach these students. This type of tool may be the ‘right” tool for a large group of people out in the world who haven’t been able to grasp a new language using traditional methods.
Whether you learn from an instructor, Babbel, Duolingo or any other method, you should supplement your learning method with other resources, Resources such as Google’s Language Reactor for Netflix/Podcasts, tv shows, movies, podcasts, articles, etc. that are presented in the new language, and any other resource you can find.
It’s a journey to learn a new language so stay the course and good luck!
I would say Duolingo works well after one has completed the very basics of one language. I have enrolled in a basic German class but it was suspended for quite some time due to the pandemic. I am currently using Duolingo to brush up on my previous knowledge and I found that quite useful (given that I have a very basic knowledge of the language).
I totally agree, Michael, especially if used with supplementary resources, as you say.
Luckily for me, I live in France with a French girlfriend and her two kids. So I have immersion. But I also watch Netflix with French audio and English subtitles and use YouTube French lessons in French, such as Learn French With Elsa.
I’m on level 9 of the Duolingo French tree, and I test at B2 on CEFR tests. I do find that I’m way better at reading/writing than listening/speaking, and this is due to having only fairly recently added all the supplementary things above. So, ideally, I should have done all that earlier.
Anyway, I’m on a roll at the moment, and Duolingo is a great help.
In regards to the comments in Duolingo being locked, I must say it’s probably a good thing. Although there are valuable comments in there, they’re hidden by a lot of repetitive complaints that should be reported to Duolingo instead.
I regularly get emails from DL saying Thank you for your suggestion, we have made the change you requested. So that works.
Exactly my experience too. I’m also over 60. I especially enjoyed the challenges at the end of each unit. It really tests and solidifies the grasp. Instead of chasing XPs, I think it’s better to savor the language, read the often helpful comments, and speak to native Spanish speakers outside the app. I have learned to ignore bad English etc. After all, I am there to learn Spanish. I started from scratch 18 months ago, and I feel that Duolingo has an overall good experience.
I enjoy learning with Duolingo because it matches my learning style. It is one of the tools that I am using to learn several languages. Each of us has a unique learning style, so we must discover for ourselves how we best learn and choose language-learning tools accordingly.
Learning a foreign language requires discipline. Doing a minimal amount of work daily on Duolingo can help you create a language-learning ritual in your life. Establishing rituals and self-discipline are essential for achieving any long-term goal, including learning a foreign language.
There are several key features you left out that, in my opinion, put Duolingo at an “above average” rating (at least for languages like French and Spanish). Many people aren’t aware of these features, and I feel that greatly limits how far you can really go with Duolingo.
Here’s a quick list of those features:
-grammar information for each lesson topic
-personalized grammar tips throughout lessons
-community feedback in comments for individual lesson questions
-the listening only option for stories
There are many lesson topics for each unit, and each of those topics has a section that gives detailed but bite-sized information on the grammar that you will be learning or revisiting in that section. While practicing lessons, if you make grammatical mistakes in some instances, Duolingo will give you a quick grammar tip.
For example, if you use “por” when you should use “para,” it will explain when to use each word and give you a quick practice question to practice the tip they just taught you. In addition, there are almost more in-depth grammar information and resources that can be found in the discussion boards and the community feedback sections for lesson questions.
This feature is the 2nd most helpful feature in the entire app and is accessible by mobile and web users. Almost every question in every lesson has a comment section for community feedback that provides invaluable information. If you’re not reading the comment sections for questions, you are missing a lot.
Both French and Spanish have hundreds of stories that increase in difficulty and length. They also have a new feature that allows you to practice your listening skills more by hiding the story script for certain parts forcing you to rely on listening only (this feature unlocks automatically when listening to a story for the 2nd time).
I believe that audio lessons are offered for French and Spanish only, and they’re still adding new material, but there are hours and hours of audio lessons. There are also several beginner to intermediate-level podcasts in the audio lesson section.
In addition to the several podcast episodes in the audio lessons section, over 50 podcast episodes for French and Spanish accessible through google podcasts, apple podcasts, Spotify, and directly through the Duolingo website. These podcasts require intermediate listening skills.
The boards are a great place to ask any questions you might have, look for friends to practice with, share your experiences, etc.
This feature is the most useful in all of Duolingo. This feature ties together all of your learning experiences: lesson material, reading practice, listening practice, speaking practice- and allows you to communicate one on one with other Spanish speakers over the video call. Every event is different, and there are 3 levels offered: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
Some events are run by experienced tutors and work similar to a classroom, some events involve reading material for listening practice, and other events are just meet-ups to practice speaking. A vast majority of the events offered are free, but some paid events are provided by tutors who have been pre-qualified by Duolingo. The only downfall is that you can only signup for the events through the website, but you can access the classes from your phone since they are actually hosted through Zoom, which has a mobile app.
I have been using Duolingo on and off since they first released the app many years ago. Until about a year ago, I always believed that Duolingo alone could not get you past beginner-level Spanish. But I now strongly believe that with enough dedication, if someone uses all of the tools offered by Duolingo, it is possible to achieve intermediate-level fluency for reading, listening, and speaking.
I took Spanish in school for 9 semesters. I have no gift for foreign languages. I memorized lots of stuff including all conjugations for all tenses and passed exams but never became conversational. A few years later I forgot 80%. A couple of decades later I’d forgotten 98%. A few months Duolingongo brought some of it back pretty rapidly, and while I surely could not pass advanced exams today, I can deal with the stores and ordinarily conversations I encounter in the Hispanic parts of my city which I never could before. So for a free app, I’m quite satisfied.
I have used Duolingo off and on for 2015. I’m an English speaker learning Spanish (no prior knowledge). I have used FSI Spanish to listen and mimic native speakers and various Memrise Spanish courses. I also watch content on Netflix in Spanish to work on my listening skills. What I have found most effective as far as Duolingo goes is to use your phone to say the sentences in the desired foreign language you wish to speak instead of typing the sentences. To do this, you just need to go into your mobile phone’s settings and install the second language capability (or keyboard).
The global icon on my keyboard to the left of the speaker button (that I tap to speak for Siri on my iPhone) allows me to change which language I desire to speak in. While doing the Duolingo phone app, you usually do not need to switch back and forth. The app is intuitive and must have a built-in prompt going back and forth when answers are desired in Spanish or English.
I also found that writing down the sentences for each bubble in English. Then Spanish was far more effective in decoding how much repetition the app does (let’s face it, those 4-5 levels with 4-5 lessons can be pretty tedious when they’re about a topic like “banking”). I’ve found each bubble has roughly 98-112 unique sentences. I have only tried this for unit 7 since they have (and continue) to expand the tree. In addition, I have listened to 3/4 of the silly stories; I haven’t tried their podcasts yet.
I found tiny cards annoying and only used them 1-2 times. For an absolutely free app, I think it’s incredible. The ads are super annoying, but I close them on my phone and reopen it. It’s easy to lose track of time as well since you strategically do not have your clock on mobile visible while you are doing your lessons. Be careful because it can make you late for appointments or other important obligations. The new voices are quite annoying, as the other comments have said.
I like the original female and male voices they had a few years ago. Now they added a depressed-sounding female, an annoying female juvenile voice, and an s-l-o-w talking male voice (which is kind of funny because when do you ever hear a Spanish speaker speak that slow)?! Anyway, try the dictation phone hack, it works better than Memrise’s dictation feature, and I use it for EVERY sentence DuoLingo expects me to type out (I want to speak a language, not read and write in it only). The only time I type is to fill in the verb endings in those new bubbles they added. The grammar tips they added are pretty good too.
I wish they would tackle topics as SpanishDict does or a grammar book – por vs. para, when to use “se” as a marker, reflexive mixed with objects, common prepositions that usually follow certain verbs, etc. I haven’t even finished the new tree with its added levels, and I have tested B2-C1 (however, I learn idioms, combined phrases, use cheap grammar books, and spend roughly 30 mins – 1 hour per day learning reviewing. So I can only give Duolingo credit for 45% of this 45% to Memrise & 10% to other tools (FSI, SpanishDict, Netflix, Braid, grammar books, etc.).
Side note: I have not done this, but unit 7 has more than filled up a composition book with its sentences in Spanish and the English equivalent, so now that duo has 10 levels of Spanish ..,
¿puede ser que se llena más de diez cuadernos mientras aprendiendo con duolingo? eso es un montón.
Thanks for your detailed opinion, Carrie.
I am on Level 6 and I use Steno Pads, English on the left, and Spanish on the right. I am currently in Steno pad number 5. I definitely agree that DuoLingo does not train the user enough in the spoken language. I want to be able to be reasonably fluent by the time I get to Level 10.
Lots of complaints …
Name a better app you all.
There doesn’t have to be a better app for Duolingo to have depreciated in quality over the past several years. It used to be well engineered, if occasionally flawed. Now, it is extremely balky, over engineered, and tedious for those who don’t pay for it. It is almost as tedious for those who do. Either way, growth has apparently not been good for the app.
The only food available is road kill. Don’t complain!!!!!
Why are you here? To get validation?
The comments are reviews of the product in addition to the review itself.
I started using Duolingo 1023 days ago (free Spanish version) and find that I can read much better than talk. Listening to the Natives is a little harder as it seems they speak really fast. I do enjoy it and am steadily progressing but will never achieve fluency Frequent interaction with native people would certainly help Net result is that being an older individual this keeps my brain working and I actually enjoy it. I have also purchased some Spanish CDs for my car, and this, too, helps.
All the best to you all.
I just finished typing up a lengthy comment for DuoLingo support, explaining my bailing out, after 10 weeks of toying with their Spanish course (as a 60yr old German).
It all started great and was very encouraging, I used the Duolingo Android app daily for 30min avg, accumulated 20000 ‘XPs’ in the first eight weeks, the app tracked almost 700 new words. I finished at the top of each weekly ‘gemstone’ league, yet the ‘progress reports’ really did not help me to find out my true or relative performance. There is no insight into the ‘word’ list of acquired or weak words, no long-term tracking of my progress, no longtime scoring on a relative scale. Colorful, but simple charts, useless reward lists, no way to see my real performance, my weakest words, my overall ability growth. Instead hearts, gems, XPs and other nonsense trinkets.
The ‘timed’ exercises turned into typing and picking frenzies; almost impossible to finish typing long phrases, correcting spelling, etc before the clock stopped. ‘Buying’ time with gemstones (their accumulation remains a mystery to me until today) was not inspiring either. Being forced to repeat these XP hunting rounds over and over to finish at least one was not fun, just stress.
Being forced to repeat finished lectures OVER AND OVER (to prevent their status from being stripped down) turned into a boring chore. Seeing, hearing, speaking the same nonsense sentences like ‘I am a lion, I speak Spanish’ or ‘The birds are reading the newspaper’ again and again. I must have seen these two silly sentences 30x within the last 4 weeks alone.
I tried to change my strategy of finishing each lecture bullet prior to progressing to the next one, in order to gain some speed and overall skills: I opened up a few lecture bullets, working on their topics and levels in parallel. Resulting to be confronted with many unknown words and expressions in the ‘XP’ exercises and questionnaires – being forced to guess rather than know their meaning. Apparently, the app does not really track personal progress and uses the entire lecture content in these quiz rounds.
As of today, I do not know how fast/good/effective I REALLY was in these 10 weeks of learning Spanish. Personally, I did discover a lot of similarities between Spanish and Italian (vacation level skills from my childhood), Latin (school knowledge from the 1970s), I can read Spanish fairly well now, can follow SLOW communication decently, but clearly did not learn much about proper pronunciation nor sentence building, my acquired 700-word vocabulary is shaky at best. The ‘Talk’ feature turned out to be stubbornly unforgiving in some cases (despite very accurate phrasing), while accepting mumbled nonsense and even wrong cases and words in others, oh well.
The kiddie style design, the silliness of the entire appearance does not convince me; all seem to be aimed at youngsters, collecting “gemstones” and acquiring silly titles as rewards. It lacks seriousness, professionalism, sincerity, from my view as a 60yr old geezer.
My original plan was to utilize a grassroots level of Spanish during a planned first vacation trip to Spain. As this trip fell through my interest and also my eagerness naturally dropped alike. I will stop hunting for XPs, gemstones and victory laps in weekly challenges now.
And maybe peek into some other language tools mentioned here and elsewhere, out of curiosity. Maybe I will find one that keeps me fascinated and attracted, DuoLingo did not. The initial thrill is gone, tapered off due to repetitiveness, odd progress rules, lack of strategy and reporting. As well as lack of support whenever telling them about errors and glitches found in their Android version.
So be it.
Thanks for your detailed and in-depth review as a lingual ‘pro’, I am only an ‘am’. At least my ‘German English’ appears to be intact these days. Acquired the old-fashioned way and half a century ago, school bench and all..
Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to write this detailed opinion and experience.
56 year old here who also decided to try to learn Spanish. I picked up the Duolingo app a couple of days ago, and found the education style quite good, but found the gamification also a bit “fluffy”. I’m curious if you found anything else that’s as good for learning Spanish, but without all the bells and whistles?
Thank you. I agree with much of what you find frustrating. I have found the game-style competition both frustrating and highly tedious. The over-focus on spelling and grammar was teaching me nothing in the end and leaving me angry that I wouldn’t pass their challenges Enough to advance to the next level where I could possibly change the monotony of the same sentences.
I think Duolingo is good for long-term use. It has a slow learning process so that you can remember that particular concept for life and that’s pretty cool as many people said it was slow. I am saying this as for the gamified version some people like it some don’t you can’t agree on everything and also Duolingo isn’t as bad as. Y’all say after all it is one of the largest and best learning language apps that has to count for something right? I have been learning Italian on Duolingo for some time personally I like the gamified things and like competing with other people.
For me this site is good enough, i just learning Japanese like 1-2h/day for almost 6month and not even pass checkpoint 3 yet, and at least I able to pass n5 online test. According to data i see on the website ‘ articles talking about it should be about 350-400 hours for people with Kanji knowledge and 325-600 hours if you do not have kanji knowledge.’ And I am in the category that not have kanji knowledge because i just know few kanjis from games but am still able to pass it below 300h. for listening to i also not have a problem because already used with Japanese dub whatever from games, movies or songs. making study fun is makes learning easier.
Me piense que yo aprendo mucho por Duolingo. Ahora estoy cerca de hablando con fluidez por ellos. Me pienso que ellos hicieron un buen trabajo. Porque es la verdad que su trabajo para ensenar las letras de otras abecedarias es terrible.
I think I totally learned a lot from Duolingo. Ask my previous Spanish-speaking boss or my other Spanish-speaking co-worker who was a missionary for 15 years in Mexico with whom I often have complex conversations in Spanish on our breaks. I’m almost fluent. However, I do agree that Duolingo is really bad at teaching non-English scripts.
Thanks for sharing your opinion Kezia.
Pienso que no has aprendido mucho en Duolingo, porque no es me aprendo es yo aprendo. Aprender no es un verbo reflexivo.
Your Spanish sentences are certainly not recommended of the course. You should have someone with a better knowledge of the language go over them with you and make needed corrections.
I like duolingo and its game-like qualities. The word strength that I cannot strengthen annoys me. That there is nothing to use lingots for annoys me. 🙂 Love the stories. Taking the Spanish. After 6 months went to Peru and people seemed amazed at my ability to “read” –at least pick out the approximate meaning after that time period. Now I have been off and on for 4 years. Almost done with level 5 out of 9 levels. Duolingo has about doubled its learning content. Getting easier to understand–definitely not fluent conversationally but reading signs in stores, hospitals–fairly good. Beats playing freecell. 🙂
I wanted to start learning Spanish, but the adult ed courses in my city were canceled because of the pandemic. I hope to take one of the courses in the future. So I heard about Duolingo and tried it. After a month or so, usually five minutes a day, I had picked up enough words and phrases that I could understand a little, sometimes, when I heard Spanish or saw it on a sign. I pay particular attention to bilingual signs.
Two big drawbacks I had: it doesn’t explain when to use accents in Spanish. If you don’t accent a letter when you should, it just says, “Pay attention to the accents.” I found an explanation of Spanish accented letters online, but the rules didn’t always match what I saw on Duolingo or elsewhere. The other drawback was the tiny gray type on a white background. I could barely see it.
The thing that made me give up was that you can’t skip the gay content. I have gay family members and friends. I accept and love them, but I don’t want to read about two newlywed women and their honeymoon or the guy whose boyfriend is studying Italian. However, if I clicked Skip for even one phrase in a lesson, I couldn’t finish the lesson or go on to another lesson. Reading this stuff shouldn’t be a requirement for studying Spanish, but in Duolingo, it is a requirement, so I stopped.
Yea, I hear you. As a gay man, it also annoys me when I have to read about hetero honeymoons or dates. But I stick around to learn the language. We, gays, have probably thicker skin.
Love your response.
Really, Steve? You are bothered by just seeing words on a screen about two men or two women being. A couple? Doesn’t sound like you really do love or accept your gay friends or family, if you really have any. I’d suggest you work on that within yourself rather than using it as a complaint that a company is being inclusive.
RIGHT!! Spot on Kelly.
Absolutely agree. Steve, you’ve got problems, seek help. It’s not the 1950s.
Hi, I’ve been using Duolingo for about a month and just want to offer a different perspective from the “It’s only useful for beginners” take.
The main reason I picked it up is that I will be going to Japan in about a year and I wanted to exhume/reactivate my rusty knowledge of Japanese. So far Duolingo has proved to be a REALLY helpful review tool for reactivating a dormant language. Background: I completed 4 years of University level Japanese and also spent 4 weeks in an immersion course in Japan over 10 years ago, so I got to the level of kinda sorta fluid conversation (not fluent, but at the level where I could open my mouth and Japanese would come out without any special effort, and I could navigate an everyday conversation about nontechnical topics) and pretty basic knowledge of the writing system (learning all the kanji required for level 4, which is what is expected for Japanese 6th graders) BUT unable to read a newspaper.
However, unlike the European languages I know, Japanese just seems to fall out of my head, and the kanji, in particular, I forget QUICKLY if I am not constantly reviewing them. The last time I was in Japan was 5 years ago, and I was able to manage to stay in a Japanese hotel and having casual conversations, but I wanted to be able to do more for this next trip and not have my head hurt so much as it attempts to retrieve long dormant knowledge! So for really rusty languages, I think it can be a really useful review tool.
Apart from that, it IS fun to dabble in a completely unfamiliar language (I picked Swahili) so I do see that the basic design is geared to complete newbies. So… not disagreeing about that, for sure!
The Japanese and Spanish courses are constantly being updated and enlarged, so you picked a good one for using Duolingo.
I find it to be hyper annoying. They’ve seemed to have made its game aspects better at the expense of its learning aspects. But I don’t want to play a game, I just want to learn a %$#@ing language. Also, what’s with the really annoying voices? Do they think we find them cute? Because we don’t!
If it wasn’t free I’d drop it like a hot potato.
No offense, but Using Duolingo and also with a bit of Online research to follow up…I was able to achieve fluency enough in Spanish enough to communicate with natives in-game for the most part! I started 3 years ago! I understand this review’s implications but when using These apps it’s about Dedication and how much you utilize it … Duolingo does train you on Grammer too if you read tips and follow through rather than playing it just for the sake of a game! It depends on how you utilise! I have also used Memrise, a great app that took me a long way in reading/writing Russian comfortably, although I won’t say I’m that good in communication with it so far in that language! But that’s mostly because I invested minimal time in it, I could still handle basic convos with natives! About Duolingo, It could get you easily to A2 or even B1 if you do proper research and is sincere with the task! And Ofc, being mostly free and easy to use comes with setbacks like no ability to converse which is there for any other app, but it does make you Somewhat fluent with enough effort!
On a non-serious note, it’s fun and does make the user know some words by heart because of the repetitive nature of lessons. Otherwise, I’d have to write each word and then had to learn them on my own. Of course, a free app is not meant to make you master a foreign language. For that, one must join some authorized school and get certified. But this makes one understand their favorite foreign drama at least a bit.
Duolingo will not make you bilingual, o trilingual, but I’m a publisher, and I started using it because I wanted to read in different languages so that I could evaluate books in their original form. One year on, to my enormous surprise, I am now able to read Portuguese fluently and I’ve started to understand full dialogues in TV series, I may not know to understand every word, but this is something that I wasn’t able to do a year ago. I’ve also started to recognize sentences in Norwegian and Finnish, of which I knew nothing of, so it feels a little bit like magic. Thus, even though the exercises might be repetitive at times, and it may feel like a chore some days, in my experience, Duolingo works.
Personally, I love Duolingo, sure it’s not perfect and there are frustrations but that’s how you learn, following up, and checking out those things that don’t make sense or annoy you. I think it’s a great stepping stone, everything you learn is a little platform for where you see or hear it again in Duo lingo or elsewhere. Also, it is free and I am very grateful!
I found the DuoLingo app helpful in the beginning, but now it has become tedious. I pay for the Plus version and I am frustrated with the lack of communication with customer service. They have not updated their stories in French for the last six months. I have sent them three messages with no response. I will be canceling my subscription and search for a different app.
Exactly this 1000 times over. I have been a paying Duolingo member for over a year to really try and give it a decent go. I’ve been learning Mandarin via the app and while theer is progress it is incredibly slow. I learn more watching Chinese TV with subtitles.
What is most frustrating is the complete and utter lack of consultation and notification with customers of changes and “trials”. An absolute zero on customer service and communication.
There are much, much better apps and ways of learning languages out there than Duolingo. Don’t waste your time.
The theme in the comments, as well as my own experience, is pretty consistent:
– On its own Duolingo is of very limited value, particularly for speaking.
– It pays to explore all it has to offer. For example, their podcasts are both valuable for listening practice as well as interesting (not mentioned in your review).
– As part of a strategy that combines multiple channels / resources such a teacher, classes, immersive trips, podcasts, books, grammar study, etc. It has its place and can be a useful addition
I think you need to update your review to mention the podcasts, as well as answer the question: “how can Duolingo be used effectively (given its constraints)?”
Thanks for your viewpoint.
I did check the podcasts. However, Duolingo offers only Spanish and French for English speakers, whereas English for Spanish. This is a pretty limited combination and doesn’t help a vast majority of learners. Also, the quality is just average, and there are 100’s of free options available on various sites and Youtube. So, I didn’t find it useful. But if it is valuable for you, that’s good.
Thanks so much for this thorough review!
I’ve only ever used Duolingo together with language courses and have found it to be a really helpful tool to learn vocabulary and understand structures a little better.
I’ve completed the Arabic and Romanian trees and both courses have big downsides. Verb conjugation and plural forms are tricky in both languages – and badly explained in Duolingo. Plus there are surprisingly few Arabic words in the course, as each person of the verb and each plural form is counted as a separate word.
On the other hand, the Arabic course is – despite a few mistakes – an excellent way to learn the script. I started an A1 course after doing half the tree and it was a huge head start. With Romanian, I’d already been learning the language for a year and vocabulary was a big hurdle. Grammar less so, as I speak the four Romance languages to B2 to C2 level. The Duolingo gave me a lot more confidence with vocabulary and allowed me to write, speak and read much better.
With both courses, I made a vocabulary book to write down every word, independently looking up plural forms, verb conjugations, etc. I also chose to use the keyboard to type all the words all the time, not just when Duolingo suggests it. That all takes time and Duolingo won’t help you with that, but learning vocabulary has always been a chore for me and the gamification helps. But just one method is never enough to learn a language. You still need a dictionary, grammar, real people to talk to, and a teacher. In summary, I doubt Duolingo is effective on its own, but within its own limitations, it has its uses.
Thanks, for your detailed view, Rob. I truly appreciate it.
I agree with your issues with Duolingo. I do think it has some merits as a speed learning app tho. I use the paid version and often test out of each lesson (through context clues and dictionary lookups.) I’ve made it through the Japanese skill tree pretty quickly this way and it’s been a great way to learn new vocab and improve my reading and listening skills.
That may be a method that’s only possible for ppl with prior experience (I’ve taken a Japanese class in the past), but I have found that I’ve actually improved my comprehension and reading abilities significantly this way.
But I agree that the usual way of using it is inefficient and not conducive to learning to speak a language. I also feel like I get the most benefit if I do several lessons a day because I forget what I learned quickly otherwise due to the lack of spaced repetition.
I also really dislike that the app seems designed to slow learning. I don’t see how it makes sense to do five lessons on the same small set of vocabulary before moving on. Getting through a skill takes too long that way and then you have to hope that the vocab shows up in later lessons (which I’ve noticed it doesn’t always.) I’m only planning on using it for a few months before moving on.
Anyway, thx for the review!
I appreciate your genuine feedback, Lea.
Duolingo sure has good and not good points, however, it is good either for beginners or non-beginners, it is an excellent practice short of speaking with someone right in front of you. Nothing beats this kind of practice, Of course, it is free, the reason it is very popular, any more questions and to practice the language no matter how if, it is repeatedly done over and over again is good. Practice makes perfect eventually you speak a language without thinking anymore.
One hears another language via robots and I think is very admirable, though not perfect, anyway, nothing is perfect, nobody and nothing is perfect each has its shortcomings, the less shortcomings the better. And Duolingo offers the convenience of learning short of someone speaking a language in front of you. I supplement Duolingo with other references, like books, videos, etc. I am very thankful that Duolingo is here, I give it a 5 ***** rating, it has helped me fine-tune my speaking better. One should not diminish the value of help Duolingo has done. Learners who complain that the medium of learning is English should not decry Duolingo for obvious reason because, Yes, English is almost a global medium of conversation, let us face it it is.
I appreciate your opinion, Cecilia. 🙂
This app is garbage. There is no possible way anyone could ever “learn a language” from this worthless trash. If you really want to learn a language, spend a few dollars on a quality product – and this isn’t it. This is a distraction, at best. You may learn a few words, but that’s it. Try a serious language teacher like Rosetta Stone. Remember – you get what you pay for.
I have to agree with Kevin, I think 3/5 is being very generous.
Duolingo trains your mind to look for the ways to score a win, not the ways to learn and have that knowledge embed (if that makes sense).
Thanks for the review, very well done.
What is your favorite app then? Have you checked out fluent forever? Trying to learn Swedish and there are not a lot of good options. I was thinking about getting the Anki flashcard set as recommended by fluent forever, and continuing with Babbel, Duolingo, and Memrise.
As of today, I don’t have any favorite app, but trying a few to check how effective they are. Anki is the right choice, and you can find plenty of Swedish decks to help you memorize new words.
I think Duolingo has good and bad. The good – learn new words, the bad – no teacher and can’t be replaced to do the order sentences and not understand where words go in the new language is not learning you are guessing. I love to learn with a teacher who helps me in Gaelic know why things go where they do.
Duolingo is just for time pass, no one can learn foreign language without trainer or environment.
Honestly, Duolingo starts exciting and rewarding, but as you progress more and more it starts to feel like a chore. Each skill level begins to require at least seven long lessons and you’re really just repeating and repeating the same sentences and words, only to find out later that your grammar skills are quite mediocre and you stutter and can’t form sentences properly, outside of translating them in the platform. Even if you are an attentive learner and squeeze the most of it, Duolingo is just not time efficient. With the time that it takes to complete a tree with all skills at level 5, you could learn way more if you spent that time with class videos instead.
It’s okay for beginners, but any app or content that focuses on gamifying the experience without a solid basis on grammar is doomed to fail if you want to pass anything above the intermediate level. (And as the post says, intermediate level, B1 is saying too much).
Very good post. Detailed, helpful, and explanatory in dept.
I appreciate the time you spent writing this. I agree with your opinions, and that is what I felt while reviewing Duolingo.
You literally can and always have been able to test out of an area? I think you were only trying to be negative and its evident by you bringing up reCAPTCHA. It mostly reads like you were paid by Babble+. Its not aimed for kids, its barely game-like in any way