Babbel vs Duolingo: Which App is Best for You?

Maria Claudia Alvarado Published on July 19, 2023
Babbel vs Duolingo

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If you are looking to learn a new language, you may have heard about Babbel and Duolingo. These are popular language apps among learners for many reasons, but you might be wondering which one you should choose. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of Babbel and Duolingo to help you make the right decision for your learning style.

While Duolingo and Babbel both offer interactive tools and quick study sessions, there’s a big difference in the quality and focus in their language courses. Even though Duolingo’s list of available languages can easily draw your attention, Babbel can help you develop more language skills. For how effective it is at fulfilling its goal, Babbel is the clear winner. 

Editor’s Choice

Babbel Overview
Babbel has comprehensive courses that helps you develop all the language skills you need to become fluent. It has a structured, yet flexible lesson plan that allows you to study at your own pace and pick what you want to study next.
babbel logo
Price $14.95 / month
Free trial 1 Lesson
Try Babbel

Babbel vs Duolingo: A Quick Breakdown

Babbel and Duolingo have somewhat similar approaches to language learning, but they are very different in what they can actually accomplish. The Babbel app has structured but flexible language courses that can take you from a complete beginner to an advanced level. You can learn vocabulary and grammar through interactive exercises that teach you to apply your knowledge as you go. Duolingo has gamified features and complete language courses for free, but it can only teach you a basic level of communication in your target language and has a history of issues with mistranslations. 

The table below shows you a direct comparison of the languages, prices, and trials offered for Babbel and Duolingo.

14 Languages39 Languages
1 Free Lesson14-day free trial

Duolingo vs Babbel: Cost Comparison

All the language courses available on Duolingo are free but, if you want to be able to make unlimited mistakes or take tests to skip ahead, you need to purchase a Super Duolingo subscription. You can get a Super Duolingo subscription (previously called Duolingo Plus) for $12.99 per month or $83.99 per year ($6.99 per month). There’s also the option to get a Family Plan for $9.99 per month and share your subscription with family and friends. Duolingo offers a 14-day free trial for Super Duolingo once you create an account.

Babbel lets you try the first lesson of its language courses for free, but if you want to unlock all lessons, you need to get a subscription. You can get a subscription for $7.99 per month, or pay for a longer subscription to save some money. The options are three months for $35.99, six months for $47.94, and 12 months for $95.88. You can also buy Lifetime access to all languages for $499.

For the price, I think Babbel is definitely a better option. It has more tools to help you practice, and all the content on its courses is high-quality, so you will never run into unnatural language. It’s more expensive than Duolingo but, for all the value it offers, it’s worth it.

If you don’t feel like neither of these apps is a good fit for you, don’t worry. There are more alternatives that you can use to reach your language goal. Here are 3 more app recommendations:

Babbel vs Duolingo: How They Work

Babbel and Duolingo have short and interactive lessons that practice different vocabulary and grammar topics. Each lesson takes about 10 minutes and takes you through a series of fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions. They both rely heavily on translating from your native tongue to the target language.

Take a look below to see how these two apps are rated across the internet:

User ReviewBabbelDuolingo
Apple Store4.74.7
Google Play Store4.54.6
Trust Pilot3.91.6
Total Average Score4.43.6

How Babbel Works

Babbel is a language learning app and platform that lets you practice all the areas you need to become fluent. It provides a structured lesson plan with listening, speaking, reading, and writing exercises. There are also additional materials like flashcards and quizzes available at the end of each lesson to review what you learned. Depending on the language you are studying, other features might be available like games or speaking practice.

babbel portuguese lesson

You can follow Babbel’s set lesson plan, or take the placement test to see which language level is best for you. Babbel also has live lessons available that you can book depending on your schedule. The lessons are taught through Zoom with up to 6 students per class.

You can learn more about the app in this complete Babbel review

How Duolingo Works

Duolingo is an app and online platform with language courses available for free. It provides entertaining, quick study sessions that you can easily complete in your free time. Each unit has 5-8 lessons and focuses on specific topics like going to work, shopping, ordering food, etc. Many people like Duolingo because it feels like playing a game. You can learn a language and have fun at the same time.

duolingo japanese question

The app has voice recognition and audio tools you can use to train your listening and speaking skills. Duolingo has social features, like a Leaderboard and weekly challenges that let you compete with your friends. It also offers a premium subscription to help support its mission to make language learning accessible to everyone around the globe.

You can read more about the app in this complete Duolingo review.

Babbel: The Good and The Bad

Once you have created a Babbel account, you can start from the complete beginner level (A1), or take a placement test to help the app determine the best spot to start learning. If you have previous knowledge of the language you are studying and want to move forward, you can choose the order that you complete the units and lessons in your course. During each study session, you receive short grammatical explanations accompanied by exercises that ask you to apply that specific rule. This way, you learn by practice rather than by memorizing information.

Babbel also has a feature that lets you take live online classes with native speakers to practice speaking the language of your choice. While this feature is not included in the basic subscription, you can take one trial lesson for free and subscribe to use Babbel Live if you want to keep taking live classes. Each class lasts around 60 minutes and is taught in groups of a maximum of 6 people on Zoom. 

babbel spanish course

Sadly, Babbel doesn’t offer much of a free trial at the moment. Most users like to test an app for a couple of hours or more before they decide to commit to it. But, since you can only try the first lesson, it’s difficult to get an idea of what the lessons are like.

This last area of improvement isn’t as much of a problem as it is a strange way to measure knowledge. Normally, when an app offers a placement test to help you find the best level to start its language course, they ask you questions about grammar, vocabulary, or sentence structure. Babbel’s “test” however, only asks you what you have previously learned and assigns you the level that fits these parameters. It would be good to see Babbel offer a real placement test or other option to help students see which skills they need to strengthen. 

Duolingo: The Good and The Bad

Duolingo’s mission is to make language learning accessible to everyone around the world, so it has a free version of all its languages. The app’s gamified approach to language learning can get you addicted to taking quick study sessions whenever there’s time available. You can win points for every completed lesson and compete in the Leaderboard with other users and friends, which motivates you to spend more time on the app.

One of the great things about Duolingo is that they have language courses available for uncommon languages. You can study endangered languages like Zulu, Haitian Creole, Guaraní, and more. If you are looking to impress your friends, you can also learn fictional languages like Klingon or High Valyrian.

languages available on duolingo

However, Duolingo has little flexibility when it comes to its lesson plan. For example, if you want to study a language in which you have previous knowledge, you will need to take an exam to see if you match Duolingo’s standard for that level. But, if for any reason you don’t pass the exam (you can only make 5 or 6 mistakes) you will be stuck in the complete beginner level until you have won enough points to attempt taking the exam again. 

Many users have reported issues with Duolingo where they would find that a specific word or phrase has been mistranslated. This is most obvious when you have previous knowledge of the language you are trying to study, but it can also be very frustrating for complete beginners. One of the most significant problems users have when they run into these mistranslations is that, unless they use the phrase or word the way it is taught, they lose Hearts. The frequency with which you can encounter these inaccuracies can make Duolingo feel like an unreliable resource for serious study.

Babbel or Duolingo: Which is Better?

Babbel and Duolingo are both great apps that serve different purposes for language learners. They both have quick lessons that you can easily complete during your free time, as well as interactive and structured course curriculums. However, they are very different in what they can help you achieve.

On one hand, Duolingo fulfills the promise of making language learning available to everyone by providing free courses and a long list of available languages. Its gamified exercises and language competitions can keep you hooked and motivate you in your learning sessions. However, some phrases you study on the app can sound unnatural due to mistranslations or word misuse. You can learn a lot of vocabulary with Duolingo, but you probably won’t become fluent.

On the other hand, Babbel has a comprehensive course with a better approach to grammar. You can learn conversational language and use Babbel’s many tools to practice all your language skills. Babbel also offers live classes, so you can have the chance to practice speaking with others. I would definitely recommend Babbel to serious students that want to learn at their own pace.

Duolingo or Babbel: FAQ

Is Duolingo or Babbel better?

Babbel is better than Duolingo because it has a more comprehensive course. You can also jump forward to the lessons that interest you the most. Duolingo has free language courses with gamified exercises, but the tools are more rudimentary than the ones in Babbel.

Is Babbel still free?

Babbel is not free but you can try the first lesson and review of each course once you create an account. If you want to unlock all the levels, lessons and tools, you need to pay for a subscription. If you are looking for a free app, Duolingo offers all its language courses free of charge.

Can you become fluent through Babbel?

Babbel can be a great study tool, but you have to use more resources if you want to become fluent. While Babbel has complete language courses that can help you develop your vocabulary, reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, you might need to complement your study with videos, podcasts, or other authentic materials. It’s always better to supplement your study with different types of resources to fill in any knowledge gaps.

Is there anything better than Duolingo?

Many apps can be better for you than Duolingo depending on your language goal. Other popular options include Babbel, Pimsleur, and Rosetta Stone. To find the best app, you need to decide which language and skills you want to practice. You might not find many other apps with complete language courses for free, but several have trials that let you try out their features.

Maria Claudia Alvarado

Maria Alvarado is a content writer and translator from Lima, Peru. She graduated from the Savannah College of Arts and Design in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Writing. She is fluent in Spanish and English, has intermediate knowledge of French and German, and is learning Japanese. She hopes to bring consciousness about the importance of language learning through her articles and aspires to learn as many languages as possible.

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