- 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|
What a joke
I have been using Duolingo now for 8 months and honestly, I can’t even build simple sentences. All I can do is repeat some childish phrases I have learned using it.
I had high hopes for it in the beginning but now that I have already completed the whole tree I kinda feel like I was robbed of my time any money as I used the Pro version where you have to pay.
I’m glad that I have stopped it now and looking for something more worthwhile even if it means spending some more money but at least my time is well spent.
Could be better!
It is no a bad experience but it could be much better. What I am missing are some real explanations for grammar, phonetics, vocabulary, etc. All in all it is a bit shallow and more like some fast food where you don’t really feel full but you always feel hungry for something useful to come.
It is an ok-experience for something that is free but I would strongly advice against paying something for it.
Absolutely not worth it.