Duolingo is arguably the most popular language-learning app.
In fact, it’s the most downloaded education app in the world.
So what’s the fuss all about?
And is Duolingo worth the hype?
The answer is short and simple: yes, if that’s something you’re looking for.
In today’s Duolingo review, we will tell you all about Duolingo’s features and content so you can determine if the app is a good option for you.
Without further ado, let’s see how Duolingo works!
What is Duolingo?
You can use it via their iOS app, Android app, and web (mobile or desktop.)
It’s very easy to navigate, and it’s designed to make language learning fun and enjoyable.
The program is based on completing levels, and although it seems very basic at first, it’s actually more than that. It won’t make you fluent, that’s for sure, but it will definitely help you out on your language learning journey.
With Duolingo, you can expand your vocabulary, learn basic grammar structures, and have fun along the way.
The app offers a wide variety of drills and exercises, and you can learn how to pronounce words as well as improve your writing and listening skills.
And you can learn multiple languages simultaneously, which is really cool. There’s a wide range of languages to choose from. You can even brush up on your Klingon if you want to.
Nevertheless, Duolingo became so popular because it’s both fun and effective. And free, of course. There’s a paid version with lots of perks though, but more on that later.
The thing is, there are a ton of education apps on the market these days, and it’s not easy to stand out. But Duolingo managed to find the winning combination: affordability, simplicity, and originality.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t have unrealistic goals. As long as you don’t expect to become fluent with Duolingo, you’ll find the program very useful.
If you want to reach proficiency levels, you’ll have to find other learning sources. Duolingo is just a tool. But if you use it right, you might as well get what you want from it.
And one of the things you can get is becoming familiar with a foreign language.
But how does Duolingo do it? Does using Duolingo really feels like playing a game?
How Does Duolingo Work?
Let’s start with an answer to that second question: in short, yes. Duolingo is very game-like.
You’ll be completing levels, earning badges and experience points, and increasing your overall standing in leagues…
And Duo the Owl will motivate you and remind you to do your daily exercises.
Speaking of daily exercises, Duolingo is designed to be used on a daily basis. It’s not mandatory, of course, but there’s a streak feature to keep you going. A streak is the number of days in a row you have completed a lesson.
And you will receive your daily reward when you meet your Daily XP Goal.
But learning with Duolingo every day is fairly easy. Lessons are very short and engaging.
Each lesson takes about 5 to 10 minutes to complete. So, it’s really not that hard to be consistent, even if you have a busy schedule.
Essentially, Duolingo lessons are a mix of fill-in-the-blanks, matching pairs, mock conversation, verbal practice, and so on.
You’ll start with very basic lessons, and as you progress, you’ll come across some more advanced content. However, you’ll never get into really complicated stuff.
But the app progressively increases the difficulty, and one of the ways it does that is by implementing Crown levels.
Crown Levels give you tougher exercises at higher levels. 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.
It’s also important to mention that Duolingo forces you to learn in a linear fashion. That means that new modules only become active once you’ve completed the previous one, and the same goes for the individual lessons within each module.
But if you have a Duolingo Plus subscription, you’re allowed to test out of individual modules or a group of modules by passing a short quiz. That way, you can easily jump ahead (if you’re ready.)
Either way, Duolingo will slowly introduce you to new words, popular expressions, frequently used nouns and verbs, and so on.
At higher levels, you’ll come across longer texts and more complex sentences.
But you won’t delve deeper into grammar at any point. The thing is, Duolingo doesn’t outright tell you the grammar and there’s no suitable explanation for sentence structure. You’ll learn it through completing sentences instead.
Duolingo will provide you with grammar notes, but there’s not enough to actually help you understand how the language works.
In essence, Duolingo is based on translation and repetition.
Some translations might be kind of weird though. Don’t be surprised if you come across a sentence that doesn’t make any sense.
But Duolingo describes that as a quirky sense of humor and lighthearted learning. So, despite the popular opinion, Duolingo seems to do that on purpose. Well, it’s true that people memorize weird things and information more easily.
However, this can be very discouraging and even frustrating for some learners. And that’s also understandable.
There are also some concerns about their crowd-sourced translation model. Apparently, while you’re doing Duolingo fill-in-the-blank exercises, you’re actually submitting translations and they’re partnering with other companies and selling them.
Duolingo outsourced its translation services for years, and according to some online sources, that’s why there are so many awkward sentences in there.
All things considered, Duolingo will provide you with a lot of fun and engaging content, and it will undoubtedly help you master the basics.
But language learning isn’t just playing a game.
So how effective is Duolingo?
Well, it all depends on your focus, goals, and self-discipline. The app itself is very practical and well-structured. But you have to use it the right way.
For example, you should try to be consistent. Even 5 minutes a day will help you memorize things properly.
Also, try to speak as much as you can. Say new words and sentences out loud, even if you don’t have to.
If you want to learn a new language by yourself, you need to surround yourself with it as much as you can. Watch movies in your target language, read books, listen to podcasts…
There are so many ways to immerse yourself in the language without even leaving the house. And immersion is definitely one of the best ways to learn a foreign language.
But let’s get back to Duolingo and the app’s main features.
One of the cool things about Duolingo is that you can learn multiple languages simultaneously.
Plus, there’s a variety of languages – Duolingo currently offers 19 languages.
You can learn popular languages like French and Spanish, some languages that are rarely taught online like Haitian Creole and Navajo, as well as fictional languages like Klingon and High Valyrian.
However, some languages don’t have as much content as others. So, the quality of the app actually depends on the language you’re learning.
As we’ve already mentioned, Duolingo is meant to be used every day.
Once you complete a lesson through the app or web, your streak will increase by 1 day.
You can also get a streak freeze (you have to purchase in advance) to make sure you don’t lose your streak when you’re not able to practice for a day.
Audio lessons and podcast
Duolingo is not only about games and short exercises.
The app also features audio lessons and a cool Duolingo podcast. And that’s really great because it allows you to learn while you’re doing something else.
Duolingo also features stories – they will allow you to test your comprehension in an interesting way.
They are mostly easy stories though. Duolingo used to have ‘real’ stories but they removed this feature for some reason.
There’s a place where you can find all your weekly recommendations, and it’s called the Practice Hub.
It can be accessed via your lesson tree, and it will allow you to practice mistakes and other difficult parts of your target language.
Duolingo also has a lot of extra features. There’s a Duolingo Blog, the app’s free English test, and so on.
But we want to mention the most interesting thing: Duolingo online events. This is a nice opportunity to meet fellow learners, have a conversation with them, and earn some extra XPs.
Essentially, these events are meet-ups among people learning the same language as you.
As you can see, the Duolingo team puts a lot of effort to ensure that their users feel connected and involved.
The platform keeps changing and evolving. And sometimes they remove some cool features (we don’t know why), but more importantly, they are very active and they evidently have millions of loyal users for a good reason.
Key Decision-Making Criteria
- User-friendliness & learning interface – A big part of Duolingo’s appeal is the app’s simplicity. It’s very easy to navigate, and everything is very neat and streamlined (9/10).
- Convenience – You can use Duolingo offline, and that makes it very convenient. Upcoming lessons will be automatically downloaded for you, and you can easily access them in the Android and iOS app (9.4/10).
- Languages offered – Duolingo offers 19 languages, and compared to many other platforms, that’s quite a lot. You can learn standard languages, less popular languages, as well as fictional languages (9/10).
- Quality of content – With a variety of exercises and drills, Duolingo is very versatile and engaging. And it provides clear results and outcomes. However, a lack of advanced content, cultural insights, and in-depth grammar might be a huge disadvantage for more serious learners (7.9/10).
- Available platforms – The Duolingo app is available on most major platforms, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS (9.5/10).
- Payment methods – In terms of payment methods, Duolingo is very flexible. They accept all major credit cards and PayPal. Also, there’s a 14-day free trial (for Duolingo Plus), and if you purchase the app, you can always request a refund (9/10).
- Customer support – If you have any problems or questions, you can contact Duolingo via e-mail or simply give them a call. Their Help Center can also come in handy, especially if you want to submit a bug report (9.6/10).
Duolingo Pros & Cons
- Easy to use
- You can learn multiple languages
- Grammar explanations could be better
- No personalized feedback
- Lack of conversational practice
Who is Duolingo For?
Duolingo is best for beginners and people who want to learn the basics in a relaxed and easy way.
It’s also great for people who want to brush up on their language skills or learn practical vocabulary useful for traveling.
Overall, Duolingo is a well-designed, effective app ideal for casual learners of all ages.
But if you’re looking for a well-rounded, thorough online language course, you should opt for something else.
How Much Does Duolingo Cost?
One of the best things about Duolingo is the fact that it’s completely free. You just need to sign up and start learning.
However, the free version is somewhat limited. Plus, if you’re easily annoyed by ads, that’s not good news.
Luckily, you can upgrade your account to Duolingo Plus.
Duolingo Plus costs $7 per month and it allows you to have unlimited Hearts (you can normally lose Hearts by answering incorrectly too many times) and unlimited test outs (you can complete a skill test to jump to the next level.)
Also, Duolingo Plus is ad-free, and you can use it offline.
But is Duolingo Plus worth it?
Well, back in the day, we would say not really. But Duolingo really made it worthwhile. If you want a relaxed, ad-free learning experience and an unlimited number of test outs and lessons, you should opt for Duolingo Plus.
Similar Platforms to Consider
As we mentioned earlier, Duolingo is ideal for casual learners and absolute beginners. But it won’t help you build strong conversational skills or take you to advanced levels.
If you’re looking for a more serious but user-friendly and comprehensive platform, you should check out Rocket Languages.
Rocket Languages also offers a mix of exercises and drills, but it’s far more complete. It will provide you with cultural facts and introduce you to a new language in a more elegant and efficient way.
And if you like gamified apps like Duolingo, you can check out Babbel.
Babbel uses gamification in a very smart way, and it also puts emphasis on grammar, culture, and writing.
You can also opt for a Babbel Live subscription and take live language classes.
Check our full Babbel review here.
Is Duolingo Worth it? Final Thoughts
Considering what it offers, Duolingo is the best free language-learning app you can find.
It’s simple, effective, and fun. And it’s completely free, unless you want to opt for Duolingo Plus (also a great option.)
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a reliable, budget-friendly language app, you can’t go wrong with Duolingo.
You just need to be aware of what you’ll get from it. Duolingo won’t make you fluent, and it won’t provide you with sufficient content to develop strong conversational skills.
But if you use it as a tool or as a supplemental learning source, Duolingo will undeniably help you achieve your goals!