Babbel vs Duolingo: Which Platform Wins?

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Written By Francesca Stephens

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

In today’s article, we will compare two popular language-learning platforms: Babbel and Duolingo.

Duolingo is arguably the most popular language app.

And Babbel has millions of monthly active users from around the world.

So, both platforms are quite famous, as well as effective and fun to use.

Which platform should you pick then, Babbel or Duolingo?

Let’s take a look at their main features, structure, and highlights.

And then we’ll tell you what we think is a better option for you!

Babbel vs Duolingo: Which Platform Wins?

Of course, it all comes down to your preferences. You should opt for an app that fits your goals and learning style.

However, in many ways, Duolingo and Babbel are very similar.

Both apps are very simple and user-friendly. And they use visual aids and gamification elements to create more fun and immersive learning environment.

But there are also some significant differences. And that’s how we can determine which platform is slightly better than the other.

Let’s start with their price and subscription plans.

Pricing and Plans

All right, in terms of pricing, it’s hard to say which platform is better.

Both Duolingo and Babbel are very affordable.

Yes, you can use Duolingo for free if you want to. However, Duolingo’s free plan is quite limited.

Duolingo vs Babbel

It’s great that Duolingo has a free plan. That makes it very accessible.

But Duolingo Plus is, of course, a much better version. For instance, you’ll have unlimited Hearts (you can lose Hearts by answering incorrectly too many times) and unlimited have unlimited test outs (you can complete a skill test to jump to the next level.)

And Duolingo Plus is ad-free.

Babbel, on the other hand, offers four subscription plans:

  • 1 month for $10.70
  • 2 months for $32.09
  • 3 months for $64.19
  • 12 months for $214.44

You can also get the Babbel lifetime subscription, but you can opt for the monthly subscriptions if you don’t wish to commit to a long-term deal.

Babbel review

Also, Babbel often has promotions and discounts, so you’ll probably have a chance to get it for much less.

And since Duolingo Plus costs $6.99 per month, there really isn’t much difference in price. Unless you don’t mind using the free version of Duolingo.

Either way, both platforms have free trials so you can test the waters.

But what do they actually offer?

Structure and Features

Babbel currently offers 14 languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Polish, Russian, Dutch, Danish, Turkish Norwegian, Swedish, Indonesian, and English.

All languages are divided into subjects and more specific courses.

You can choose a learning path that suits you, and you can always change it if you want to.

Also, before you start with your lessons, Babbel will ask you a couple of questions to create your learning profile. In a way, it will adjust to your needs and abilities.

Generally, Babbel is very user-friendly and easy to navigate.

And it looks great! If aesthetics are important to you, you’ll be very satisfied with Babbel.

But more importantly, Babbel has quality content. And it delivers it through simple, bite-sized lessons.

It’s a combination of fill-in-the-blank exercises, flashcards, grammatical lessons, repeating words, and so on. So it’s a little bit of everything.

Babbel app language lessons

Babbel also integrates grammar into the lessons. But you won’t feel overwhelmed or bored – it’s just the right amount.

After all, if you want to improve your language skills, learning grammar is inevitable. And Babbel will introduce you to key grammar concepts in a very effective way.

Babbel is also focused on the development of speaking skills.

Lessons are centered around natural conversations and dialogue simulations. Rocket Languages, however, does a better job at teaching people how to speak. But Babbel is also good. Duolingo, on the other hand, doesn’t put emphasis on speaking and pronunciation.

And Babbel is generally more versatile than Duolingo.

On the Babbel website, there’s a video section, Babbel Magazine, and Babbel Podcasts. There are constantly some changes, fresh updates, and new features.

But the Duolingo app also keeps growing and improving the overall user experience. It started out as a simple, game-like app designed to teach you vocabulary in a fun and easy way.

Duolingo lessons

The app is still game-like and simple, but the platform has many different sections now.

For instance, there’s a Duolingo Podcast that will help you improve your language skills by listening to easy-to-follow true stories.

Duolingo Stories is created to challenge your reading and listening comprehension.

And Duolingo Blog will keep you updated and bring you fresh content and news. One of the latest posts is focused on essential phrases for helping Ukrainian refugees.

So, although it has a reputation as a very simple, straightforward app, Duolingo actually has a lot to offer.

However, the basic idea remains the same. Duolingo’s core lessons are quite short and easy. They don’t cover in-depth grammar or complex vocabulary. But they will introduce you to the language in a fun and engaging way.

Each lesson is only about 5 to 10 minutes long. And there are all kinds of drills and short exercises.

Drills include fill-in-the-blanks, matching pairs, listening drills, and so on.

The app also uses Hearts, XP, levels, and badges. In a way, using Duolingo feels like playing a game.

Overall, Duolingo is a fun app that will keep you interested and motivated to learn more.

It’s great for learning vocabulary. But you can also work on your pronunciation (you can listen and repeat sentences).

But since Duolingo is based on translations and vocabulary, you won’t actively work on your speaking skills. It also doesn’t care much about grammar.

So, what will Duolingo actually teach you?

Levels and topics

If you want to expand your vocabulary and learn something new every day, Duolingo is a good option.

But Duolingo won’t help you build conversational skills. If you want to learn how to speak another language properly, you can’t do it with games and short app-based lessons.

On the other hand, more advanced Duolingo levels cover more complex vocabulary and concepts.

You go up a level every time you earn a certain amount of experience points. And at some point, Duolingo introduced Crown levels.

Crown Levels give you tougher exercises at higher levels. Now each skill begins at the introduction level (level 0) and when you complete all the lessons, the skill is leveled-up and the next row of skills is unlocked.

The point of the leveling-up system is to allow learners to see more challenging content without forcing them to go through it.

Babbel, on the other hand, uses CEFR, the Common European Framework of Reference for Language.

You can take their placement test to find your learning level. And with Babbel, you can receive certificates for up to B2 level in English.

Generally, at the B2 level you should understand:

  • Main ideas of complex text
  • Standard spoken language
  • Texts with a broad reading vocabulary

Babbel’s program is divided into Stages. There are six Stages in total – Stage 1 will provide you with a completely new piece of vocabulary and in Stage 6, you’ll have it in your long-term memory.

However, both Babbel and Duolingo won’t take you to proficiency levels unless you do the extra work.

Learning a new language by yourself

You need to practice regularly as well as surround yourself with the language you’re learning. You can listen to podcasts and music, watch TV shows, and read books.

And you should speak as much as you can.

Yes, both Babbel and Duolingo have pronunciation practice. Babbel even uses speech recognition technology. But if you want to become a fluent speaker, you need to find more ways to practice and test what you’ve learned.

You can check out our tips on how to learn a new language here.

Nevertheless, apps like Babbel and Duolingo are a good way to start. They will add structure to your learning process and provide you with all the tools you need.

What about design?

It’s fair to say that Duolingo has an iconic design. It’s aesthetically very simple, but it works.

It has many animations and visual representations. That will help you memorize things more easily, especially if you’re a visual learner.

And Duo the owl actually became an Internet star.

Duo the owl

But when it comes to aesthetics and design, Babbel is a winner.

In short, the app looks great. It has a very modern and sleek design, and the website also looks fresh and engaging.

If the app is well-designed and runs nicely, you’ll be more productive. And if you’re a learner that cares about what something looks like, you won’t be disappointed with Babbel.

Benefits

Besides design, Babbel has many other advantages.

One of the most important things is that it develops speaking skills. Unlike Duolingo, it will teach you how to speak in a natural way (kind of).

Duolingo is based on translation and it doesn’t always deliver words and sentences you’re going to use in real life. But Babbel is focused on practical vocabulary and common topics.

Also, Babbel is more flexible than Duolingo. When it comes to lessons, there’s no strict progression.

The live classes option is another huge advantage. Live classes are limited to 6 people, so you’ll get a personalized approach and a chance to learn from the expert language teachers.

Babbel Live classes

And last but not least, the Babbel method seems to be very effective. The platform uses spaced repetition system, a popular memory technique based on recalling information at specific time intervals.

All things considered, it’s a reliable app that perhaps won’t bring you to fluency but it will certainly put you on the right track.

Duolingo has many benefits as well. It’s the most popular language app for a reason.

First of all, it’s incredibly simple and easy to use. And people like that.

Also, Duolingo offers more languages than Babbel. Duolingo currently teaches 19 languages (including some fictional languages like Dothraki and Klingon.)

Duolingo language selection

And unlike many other apps and courses, Duolingo is free.

However, as we’ve already mentioned, the Duolingo free plan is quite limited. You’ll get more features and possibilities with the paid version.

Also, Duolingo has many gamification elements. And that’s great. But Duolingo Hearts can sometimes be discouraging (you can lose Hearts by answering incorrectly too many times), especially if you made a typo and not a real mistake.

But Duolingo isn’t only about completing levels. It also has live events – they will make you feel more involved. There are also forums where you can join a conversation and meet fellow learners.

Duolingo really has a strong community and loyal users. And even if you’re learning a language by yourself, you will feel connected and involved.

Either way, Duolingo will help you expand your vocabulary and master the basics. But it won’t take your skills to proficiency levels.

When it comes to improving comprehension and communication skills, Babbel is clearly a better option. It’s simply more comprehensive, detailed, and well-rounded.

But, it’s not ideal.

Babbel could definitely be more inspiring and have a more detailed and versatile curriculum. And it does have speech recognition technology, but it won’t completely immerse you in the language or help you build a strong foundation.

If you want to reach advanced levels, you’ll have to combine it with another language source. 

Babbel vs Duolingo

In our opinion, there are better ways to learn a new language. For example, Rocket Languages offers a far more comprehensive and structured online course.

But if you’re looking for something simple, fun, and affordable to teach you the basics, both Babbel and Duolingo will do you just fine.

What Do Users Say?

And what do users say about their experience of using Duolingo and Babbel?

Well, people generally enjoy using Duolingo. They find it practical, fun, and easy to use.

However, many users made a complaint about incorrect translations and unnatural sentences. And that can really feel discouraging.

Babbel has many reviews on Trustpilot. People generally find it very convenient and they enjoy Babbel’s lessons.

But some users complained about their customer support.

It’s good to look for users’ reviews. However, you should be careful – people have different expectations and learning styles.

Final Verdict

So, in a Duolingo vs Babbel race, who is the winner?

Well, both platforms have their flaws. The thing is, a language-learning program shouldn’t only look nice and be easy to use. It should provide you with a well-rounded online education.

Learning a new language can be very challenging, especially if the language you’re learning is a world away from your mother tongue. Therefore, you need to have a good approach and start learning the right way.

Luckily, both Babbel and Duolingo use effective teaching methods. Their lessons are just not as thorough and immersive as they could be.

But considering all the factors we talked about today, the medal goes to Babbel.

Duolingo is also a good option though. It’s fun, accessible, and convenient, and it will help you develop learning habits.

But if you’re serious about learning a new language, Babbel would be a better option.

If you combine it with other learning sources or private virtual lessons, you’ll definitely be on the road to fluency. You just need to be patient and persistent.

Either way, we hope this article helped you make the right decision!