- 5-20 modules (approx. 75 small lessons per module)
- Options to select short daily lessons (5-20mins)
- Available on iOS, Android, Windows phone, Web
- Available languages: As of Nov 2019, 34 Languages in English
Duolingo offers a free, user-friendly language app and website that are easily accessible on all platforms. With 300 million users, it is currently the world’s most popular language-learning app. Created by the founder of reCAPTCHA, it has been on the market since 2011.
Duolingo teaches languages through the gamification of translating phrases and words. This game-like system has created an addictive learning environment that can keep you motivated on a daily basis. It was originally created to bring free education to millions, and it is still true to its word.
It is a good course to bring people into learning a language and better than doing nothing. It can assist in being a springboard to undertake a more serious language program or course if the student wishes to do so.
One of the great things about Duolingo is its lesson format. They are small bite-sized lessons that you can easily fit into your day.
Duolingo refers to each language as a “Tree”. You have the option to work on as many different Trees as you want and all at the same time. The languages/trees are divided into “checkpoints”, and each checkpoint has 5-20 modules. Each of the modules has “levels” with a differing amount of lessons. These lessons are broken down into 12 questions per level.
It all equates to about 75 lessons per module. An effectiveness study found 34 hours of using Duolingo is the same as learning language in one semester at University.
As the lessons are all very short, this makes Duolingo very popular. Because of the time we live in were people only prefer small bites of media consumption like series, short videos on Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Many people nowadays are accustomed to concentrate for only a short amount of time. So Duolingo has cleverly managed to create something that matches our limited concentration spans.
Depth Of The Course
The course itself seems to be geared towards young kids and not for people who want to learn a language and be fluent in it seriously. The logo itself looks targeted for a younger crowd.
For example, at the beginning of the course, you learn not so important stuff like the name of animals in the zoo. But important things like ordering food at the restaurant, asking for the direction, numbers, the time on the clock, etc. come later on in the course.
Sadly, you don’t get to speak much during the course. It is more about writing, putting sentences into the right word order, etc. But speaking a language should be the most important part about language learning since this is what a language is about. Even the speaking exercises in the course are optional, as you can disable or enable them.
However, that being said, Duolingo is trying to counter this by pushing other features that encourage social interaction.
Duolingo Clubs on the mobile app is a great example of the community vibe. This area offers different exercises and chat areas where you can interact with other Duolingo learners.
In some of the main languages, such as French, Spanish, and German, you can earn extra XP through mini stories. They are designed to challenge your reading and listening comprehension. You listen or read to interactive stories and then answer related questions.
The podcasts are a relatively new feature and are not available in all languages. However, they do give you the opportunity to listen to a story detailed by a native speaker.
The User Interface and the overall design of Duolingo are straightforward and easy to use. Duolingo is very visual and you can move to areas with relative ease.
However, there is no initial guide that shows you how to use the course. Without the guide, this leaves you no option but to dive straight in and try it out for yourself. This situation might be a bit off-putting for some people who prefer to understand the ins and outs of a course beforehand.
When you first begin, you conduct a “placement test” that evaluates your current language level. This test helps determines what level you will start on the course.
You have the option to select four different time periods for each lesson. The options are:- Casual 5 mins a day, Regular 10 mins a day, Serious 15 mins a day and Insane 20 mins a day.
Most questions have multiple choice answers, which also makes you wonder at times which correct choices were from learning or a lucky guess.
At the end of each lesson, you receive a progress report which also shows you your “streak”, or how many times in a row you have logged in consecutively.
Duo Lingo is heavily based on “gamification”, where you get rewards for translating words and phrases. Everything has been designed for you to progress and stay motivated. It feels like a game. So much so that sometimes it does not feel like you are learning a language at all. This sense of relaxation is an absolute positive if you want to learn the basics of a language in an unpressured environment.
You earn more XP or experience points as you use the app. The points are converted into “Lingots”, which is the virtual currency. You can buy outfits for the app mascot “Duo”. You also receive merits, badges, and prizes when you have managed to pass certain levels.
It is clear with Duolingo that there is not much depth in learning a language. But the gamification element helps you develop other language skills, such as listening, reading, speaking, and writing. These are all valuable skills in learning a language.
Motivation Is At The Core Of Duolingo
Motivation is critical for Duolingo to work.
If you don’t return day after day, you cannot progress. Luckily, Duolingo is a master of motivation and introduces many ways to keep you coming back. It really is addictive.
It is never going to help you learn a language fluently, but it will undoubtedly give you a good grasp of the beginner to intermediate level of a language. A bonus is that it will make you more motivated as a person.
It can also help you target your weakest words, which is an incentive in itself to keep going. Naturally, if you can improve on these areas, it will benefit you in other areas of your language learning.
The reward system is the ultimate in keeping you motivated to reach your goals. You can earn virtual coins as you unlock new levels, and at the same time, it will show your fluency level rise as you progress.
The “streak” system (how many days you study in a row) is a great way to keep you focused and want to come back for more. This streak system is habit-forming and creates a deeper connection with the app.
There are also additional features that are very game-like. The whole act of levelling up, gaining XP, accessing bonus levels, and receiving rewards.
Due to the rewards you are getting for completing lessons, you get a feel of accomplishment, but in the end, you won’t know much of the language.
Duolingo has also been very smart to reinforce personalisation by sending you email notifications to keep you on track. This daily reminder can help you retain your “streak”, feed your addiction, and make sure you return.
Also, with the option to compete against your friends, this can encourage you further to use the app on a regular basis.
The free version grants you so much access you probably don’t even need to purchase the paid version. But if you find ads annoying, you can always opt for the paid version, called Duolingo Plus.
Duolingo Plus is from $6.99 per month and gives you ad-free access. You also receive a monthly “streak repair”, which can be handy if you have accumulated a long streak and have hit a busy period. Another useful bonus is that you can save courses for offline. This access is great if you end up in a Wi-Fi free zone and need your daily Duolingo fix. (mobile only).
At the end of the course, you won’t be able to build your sentences in the language or have conversations with native speakers.
That being said, Duolingo is a perfect language learning app if you are looking for a free, fun, and engaging way to learn the basics of a language.
Duolingo is certainly not the full package for everything you could wish for in a language learning course. But used alongside another language platform, or studying with a tutor, it can be a light-hearted complement that gives you a feeling of accomplishment as you progress.
Pro & Contra
|It is free and available on all platforms||Limited conversational engagement|
|Fun and easy to use interface||No detailed grammar lessons|
|Bite-sized lesson format||No user-guide|
|Gamification style keeps you motivated||very few speaking exercises|
Inspired my Love for Languages and Took me as Far as Expected
Link to my Duolingo account to prove that I’ve used it for a while: https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LeocadiaRoles
This app started my love to learn languages I must say. I am biased towards it I suppose, but I really do recommend it for at least getting to an intermediate level (it’ll probably get you to an CEFR A2 to B1 level if you complete the full course). You can’t expect one thing to take you all the way, in the end you’ll need a mix of sources; one for listening, one for reading practice, one for active translations (starting language to learning language and vice versa), one for speaking practice, etc. Most likely even multiple sources at that. When I first started learning my “first” language with Duolingo (in 2017-2018), Spanish, I always read aloud the sentences and such. I labeled things on sticky notes from Duolingo on household objects and spoke to natives in (very broken at first, but gradually better) Spanish. When they would use things like future tenses and past tenses I would get confused and have to look that kind of stuff up. I should note that this is partly bad on my part, as I only used Duolingo, but I was still learning how to learn in a sense. Duolingo has a new(ish) feature where you can do speaking and (even less new) listening exercises, which I do not remember being around when I started learning Spanish, so that might have affected how much one would retain and such.
I see people say that it has almost nothing to help with pronunciation, and yes it does use a robotic voice, however if you imitate it and speak from that you can still speak to natives. I was able to speak to a native speaker with only what I had learned from Duolingo (I do not recommend that though, use Duolingo along with other things!). Duolingo even encourages to say each sentence out loud to try and help you in some way towards your pronunciation. I do believe that Duolingo should try to improve on this a little bit, however to get you to an intermediate level I believe this is sufficient. To help with this you should listen to podcasts in your target language or songs and the like. I also saw someone else say something that it has no explanations for grammar as well, however I believe that that is just not true. There are note sections for all of the lessons, always on desktop and sometimes on mobile. Other things to mention are; Duolingo teaches a wide overview of the language not just something geared towards business or school or something like that, so you will get words for things like visiting a zoo or a museum and such. Duolingo also gets you to just about a A2 to a B1 level in a language, so I do agree with what someone else here had said; it becomes less of a language learning tool as you go along. As you learn more and more in a language you start to reach some sort of plateau, so it only makes sense that when you are using a source that only takes you to a certain level it seems like you reach that plateau even sooner and such. I remember being really frustrated when I reached my first plateau and blaming it on Duolingo. I can almost guarantee though that if you only use one source for learning a language, no matter how good it may be, you will seem to reach this plateau sooner than later.
Overall, I do recommend Duolingo for getting a base in a language, which can take you really far if you have a good motivator. I really owe a lot to Duolingo and love it oh so much, and I’m not just saying this for the (dead) meme haha. I truly mean it from the bottom of my heart. I am only 16 years old though, so take what I say with a grain of salt I suppose 🙂
(P.S. I should mention that I only used the mobile version of Duolingo and was still able to get to a B1 level of Spanish with out the notes that were available on the desktop version. I should also mention that I was failing Spanish before Duolingo, and passing with flying colours afterwards.)
more of a game
Been using Duolingo for several months now and honestly, I can’t even speak some simple sentences. I learned about the zoo and what animals like mouse and lion mean in Spanish but I don’t know how to order in the restaurant how to say the current time, ask for the direction.
I honestly think this is more geared towards kids but not for someone who really wants to learn a language where you are able to say useful stuff that helps you in a foreign country. I’m not planning to go to a zoo in Spain anytime soon.
I love the green little owl
I like how accessible the course is if you want to do some quick lessons. I know that I can’t expect too much from it at the end of the day but I prefer having a fun experience while doing something better than playing games.
“fun” but not useful at all
Duolingo is an entertaining way to waste your time thinking you are actually doing something useful.
Reasons why it is impossible to actually learn a new language with it:
– Limited amount of vocabulary with only a few coming with each lesson
– no explanations of any grammar, punctuation, phonetics or alphabet.
– the exercises are mostly about writing and only a few times can you speak. This is a real problem, because a language should be about speaking
This course is more about pretending to learn a language than actually learning it. But before you do nothing, it is still better to use it. I just thing you can use it the same amount of time something more effective.
I really enjoy working with Duolingo!