Duolingo Review

Course Overview

  • 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

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Editor Rating

4.0
4.0 rating
3rd Place

User Ratings

3.3
3.3 rating
3.3 out of 5 stars (based on 12 reviews)
Excellent25%
Very good33%
Average8%
Poor17%
Terrible17%

Review

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.

Content

Lesson Format

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

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.

Duolingo Stories

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.

Duolingo Podcasts

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.

Usability

User Interface

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.

Gamification

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.

Cost

Free Version

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

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).

Summary

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 platformsLimited conversational engagement
Fun and easy to use interfaceNo detailed grammar lessons
Bite-sized lesson formatNo user-guide
Gamification style keeps you motivatedvery few speaking exercises

User Reviews

Duolingo motivates you to do the daily grind necessary to progress

4.0 rating
July 4

MY 205 DAYS WITH DAILY DUOLINGO TURKISH LESSONS
1. I am happy that it is free, my finances would not be up to any other alternative.
2. It has a feature called a streak – a symbol showing a fire burning with the number of consecutive days you have met your goals for daily learning. My fire is now burning for the 205th day – and keeping this going is my daily priority no 1. Had it not been for this, my Turkish learning could have gone the same way as many other discarded projects. Now I feel I am deep into the process of learning it and the learning itself is the main motivator.
3. The course is probably only extensive enough to cover the beginner’s level. I don’t care, I am 61 years old and never would have dreamed about learning such a difficult and different language, until I discovered Duolingo on internet. This I will test, I thought – and seconds later I was learning my first Turkish word – EKMEK = bread.
4. After a few weeks, some earlier lessons started to appear with a broken symbol on the chart of my personal Turkish Tree, telling me it was time to review material from that lesson. If I click on the broken symbol, I start doing the review, and having completed it, the lesson symbol gets back its normal form. This simple system ensures that I review learnt material at the right intervals. I can also consult a built-in Dictionary telling me when was the last time I used any single one of the words.
5. Grammar is in the Tips section of some of the lessons. These sections are very concise, but they cover the minimum needed. The finer points can often be found in earlier discussions stored under every single question in the course. That is what this course is all about – answering questions or doing speech training, one question – one sentence at a time.
6. There are no teachers, not even native people to clarify points of discussion, at least there has been precious little of these resources available during the latest 205 days. And the Reports of errors in the course material go mostly unanswered. It seems to me that this part of language learning is totally dependent on what knowledge the people currently taking the course bring to the table and how willing the more advanced students are to share their knowledge. I feel that what we were given for free should be given back freely, too, so I try to help other students the best I can.
7. Apart from the Duolingo App, I have found the following to be essential supplemental learning material:
– Pen and notebook
– An online Turkish/English Dictionary
– Google Translate
8. To set the pace, I would recommend level 3 (medium level) as a daily level for the long haul. To think that this only takes 10 minutes a day, is completely wrong. I started out on level 5 – “Insane” – stipulated at 20 minutes a day. At the very beginning, this could be true on some days, but later on I spent up to 3 hours a day to keep the Streak going. I had to adjust the daily amount to study down to medium level. Still, it may take an hour or two on some days.
9. If competing with others motivates you, there is plenty of possibility for that in Duolingo. If you and a friend both start language learning, you can follow – in details – exactly how much learning material has been processed by your friend. Racing through the lessons, though, is not to be recommended. Especially Turkish, with its unfamiliar, but still very logical structure needs to be processed in a thinking manner.
10. I am still nowhere near being able to talk with anyone or even read a small text, but I expect to get there before this year is over. Then I will have put in at least 500 hours (which I think I already have) and probably completed my Tree. As of now, I am a little bit past half way finishing the Tree.

Olav S. Hansen

You get out what you put in

5.0 rating
May 31

I’m addicted to DuoLingo French. I’ve been using it for a month, trying to recapture the fluidity I had many years ago. I average two to three hours a day. I did something similar to a placement test before I started, so I didn’t start by learning animal names. I can see how that would be frustrating.
This program is fantastic for vocabulary. It’s good for grammar if you take the time to go to the discussion points when you miss something. There is a lot of repetition, but they change it enough that is doesn’t get boring. I would say it’s a form of spaced repetition like Anki. You cannot beat the price – $0.
DuoLingo’s stories with questions are pretty basic; the podcasts are better. I’m now ready for a language tutor to help with pronunciation. I’m trying iTalki, but haven’t committed yet. I’ve also looked at some of the on-line, less-expensive programs like Babel and Alexa. Would love to hear from people who have augmented their Duo lessons as to what works for them.

Marta

Good for a starting point. Fun way to begin learning a language

4.0 rating
April 22

I started Duolingo early last year and put in around 50 hours learning Japanese.
Overall i could certainly recommend it as a good tool in your language learning arsenal, but its never going to get you to fluency by itself.
I feel it strikes a good balance of building your knowledge from the bottom up as well as giving you actually useful vocabulary and sentences that people will use on short trips etc. It makes it feel like you are getting somewhere when you can already say some useful sentence nice and early, but also doesn’t just feel like a “here’s some useful phrases for your next trip!” kinda list you see online.
I feel like the biggest problem with Duolingo is not its own fault, its a lot of users. They just progress through the topics too fast, doing each only a couple times before moving on because a new one unlocks.
Going at a slower pace and re-doing the different sections to reinforce the knowledge from each is important in this. In my 50 hours i only made it like 1/4 of the way through all the topics because i was making sure i could fully remember and construct/repeat the sentences before moving on. And i feel like i know all of that content very well because of it.
If you just blast through the course, yes you will only have a beginner knowledge at the end, but if you take the time and repeat lessons, especially ones you struggled with, you will have actually found a very good program. This said, i do not think it ever gets deep enough into the ‘nitty gritty’ to ever fully teach you language. But if done seriously and diligently it would give a great intermediate knowledge and be a very good base to learn the finer details from.
As people have said, there is little practice for pronunciation and grammar, but you do pick up each a bit though. Pronunciation by just repeating out loud each question you are given (and making the app repeat itself so you can hear multiple times). Grammar just kinda sneaks in there as you hear similar types of sentences about a topic and what makes them similar/different to others. eg. sentences about living/non living things you will eventually realise how they are constructed slightly different.
Really as i said at the start I think its a great addition to other resources.
It is great for on the go, like on public transport where the short simple lessons work well. Same goes for short breaks, like when food is cooking/heating up, while you are on the toilet or while games are loading (between multiplayer matches for example).
If you do the above while having more dedicated study sessions (be that textbook style or another program like rosetta stone) it will be a great way to learn at good speed.
As another option, I feel like quickly going through all the duolingo topics fast would also be a good way to get briefly acquainted with many topics, to then move on to a ‘better’ program with a good base knowledge

Ethan

Interesting and engaging, but not extremely practical.

4.0 rating
April 4

I enjoy using Duolingo, but the gamification can be a little off-putting. There are lessons that describe the grammar rules in many of them are not in-depth. However, if someone wanted to become fluent in a language, I wouldn’t suggest using only this app. No app is going to be perfect. But I wouldn’t say that it’s a waste of time. For people who want to casually learn a language for fun or for free, I strongly recommend this site.

Alyvia Dauul

Inspired my Love for Languages and Took me as Far as Expected

5.0 rating
December 25

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.)

Leocadia Roles

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