Duolingo Review: Is Duolingo Effective?
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Duolingo offers courses for a lot of different languages. All of the courses are free, and there are also a lot of additional free features on top of the courses. Duolingo is a great choice for beginner and intermediate language learners, but not very helpful for advanced speakers. The courses are also very repetitive, which can be frustrating at times.
- All courses are completely free
- The courses cover speaking, listening, reading, and writing
- Great way to learn the basics of grammar
- A lot of additional free features
- Very repetitive lessons
- Words and phrases aren't always useful
- Not helpful for intermediate/advanced learners
Duolingo is one of the most popular language learning resources in the world. Over the years, Duolingo has added a lot of different language courses, but they all follow the same formula.
While the general structure of Duolingo is effective for languages that use the Latin alphabet, like Spanish and French, it has weaknesses with languages that use other alphabets or writing systems, like Arabic, Korean, and Japanese.
With over 300 million users, Duolingo is the most downloaded education app in the world. Unlike a lot of other language learning apps, it’s also free. In fact, Duolingo’s mission is to make language education free and fun. This means that Duolingo language courses will always be free.
The Duolingo app is set up as a game. The more you learn, the more points you earn. The lessons are all quick and easy to complete, too. This makes Duolingo a great app to use while you’re waiting for the bus, waiting for your friends to arrive at a restaurant, or even when you’re sitting at home with nothing else to do.
The Duolingo lessons adapt to your learning needs, which is helpful. They help you learn new words and review old words at a relaxed but effective pace. You can instantly see the progress you’re making, and you can also compare your progress with friends. I really like this aspect and find it motivating!
Duolingo has expanded its offerings during the last few years, too. Now, schools can use Duolingo to supplement language learning in the classroom.
Users who wish to complete university studies in English can also take the Duolingo English Test. The test is accepted by a lot of universities around the world, including some prestigious ones!
Duolingo also has a lot of other amazing features, and this Duolingo review will cover all of them. I’ll talk about what they are, if they’re a free or premium feature, and if they’re worth your valuable study time!
Getting Started With The Duolingo Courses
Signing up for Duolingo courses is really easy and it only takes a couple minutes. You just need to set your native language and then choose the language you want to learn.
You can enroll in as many courses as you want, and they’re all free! Duolingo courses cover 35 different languages. For this review of Duolingo, I used Duolingo in English because that’s my native language, and I decided to try the Duolingo Japanese and Spanish courses.
After you decide which language you want to learn, you tell Duolingo why you’re learning the language.
After you choose why you’re learning a language, you decide how long you’d like to practice each day:
- Casual: 5 minutes per day
- Regular: 10 minutes per day
- Serious: 15 minutes per day
- Intense: 20 minutes per day
Once you set your daily goal, you’re all set!
Start From Scratch Or Take A Placement Test
If you’re new to the language, you can start learning directly from the beginning. If you already know some though, you can take a placement test. To see how accurate the Duolingo test is, I decided to take the Spanish one (I already speak some Spanish).
The Duolingo test only takes about 5 minutes to complete, and the questions are pretty straightforward. It only tested listening skills, vocabulary, and basic grammar, and I didn’t think it was a very effective placement test.
Once I received my results, I looked at the Spanish course to see what exactly I tested out of. I was a little confused because the Duolingo test only unlocks certain lessons. You don’t actually test out of anything.
I “tested out” of 40 skills during my placement test, but that actually means I unlocked those 40 skills I already know. I could only unlock more advanced skills after I completed a certain amount of lessons.
I really didn’t like this aspect because I felt like I was going to have to spend time working through lessons I already knew. This is one of the reasons I think Duolingo is a great choice for absolute beginners, but not very effective if you already know some of your target language.
The Structure Of Duolingo Courses
To take a closer look at the structure of Duolingo courses, I switched back to the Japanese course. I’m a complete beginner in Japanese, so I’m not able to read, write, speak, or understand any spoken Japanese.
Since the Japanese language uses a different writing system than English, I also wanted to see how the Duolingo Japanese course incorporates this.
A Closer Look At Duolingo Lessons
The Duolingo courses are pretty detailed. They cover a lot of different topics, and they teach you different skills in your target language. The lessons are all structured the same way though, and they start to feel repetitive after a while.
The activities you complete consist of listening, spelling, grammar, and translating between your original language and your target language. While the repetition may be helpful for some, I felt like I was wasting a lot of time practicing topics I already learned.
All of the activities involve translating between your target language and original language. I also don’t like this aspect of Duolingo because I think the best way to learn a language is through immersion.
Even after I memorized my first couple characters in Japanese, the lessons continued to repeat them. I understand repetition and memorization is an important aspect of learning any language, but Duolingo seemed to be a little too repetitive.
I also feel the same way about the Spanish course. As I continued to use the app for this Duolingo review, I started to feel like I was wasting my time reviewing basic concepts and vocabulary. I ended up switching to different apps, like Clozemaster and MosaLingua, to help me continue with more advanced materials.
I really hoped that Duolingo would help me learn how to write in Japanese, but I was disappointed as I worked through the lessons. There is no writing practice for languages that use different writing systems, like Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Arabic.
There is a great introduction to the different writing systems that Japanese uses, but you don’t learn how to use them. You only learn how to identify the different characters.
This makes the Duolingo Japanese course a good option for people traveling to Japan or curious to learn some basic Japanese. It’s not a good option for serious Japanese learners though.
What Are Duolingo Levels And Checkpoints?
As you complete lessons, you’ll start to progress through the different Duolingo levels. There are five levels for each skill. The first level introduces you to the new vocabulary or grammar in the skill, and the following levels help you practice until you master the new material. Once you reach level five, the skill turns gold.
Over time, your skills may begin to crack, like my “Family” skill did above. When your skills crack, it’s time to go back and review that material. Duolingo uses spaced repetition to determine when your skills crack, and this helps you focus on words and phrases you need to review.
Reviewing content you already learned is important, but the way Duolingo goes about it can be a little frustrating. Once I worked my way through most of the Spanish course, I had to scroll all the way back to the beginning to see what skills I needed to practice. It’s really time consuming to restore your skills, too.
Overall, the skills cover a lot of different and interesting topics, and the levels within each skill help reinforce what you learned. In my opinion, they can become somewhat repetitive though.
If you’re looking for additional review, there’s a practice feature that helps you study random words and phrases you’ve already learned. You can complete your practice timed or untimed.
Once you complete a certain amount of skills, you’ll advance to the next Duolingo checkpoint. There are seven checkpoints in the Duolingo Spanish course. As you complete levels, skills, checkpoints, and practice sessions, you earn XP and Lingots.
What Are Duolingo XP And Duolingo Lingots?
Before writing this Duolingo review, I earned over 20,000 XP. Duolingo XP are “experience points” you earn as you learn more skills. You can set a daily XP goal to keep yourself motivated to practice your target language everyday.
You can compete with your friends on the Duolingo leaderboard to see who can earn the most XP, too. Another way to track your XP is by participating in Duolingo Leagues (more on these below).
You’ll also earn lingots as you learn more skills in your target language. Duolingo lingots are the virtual currency of Duolingo. You can’t really do a lot with lingots right now, but hopefully Duolingo develops more uses for them in the future. As of now, you can use lingots to buy different power-ups and bonus skills to enhance your language courses.
What Are Duolingo Hearts?
Duolingo hearts were no longer active when I wrote this Duolingo review. When they were a part of the Duolingo app, the hearts helped you pace yourself while learning your target language.
If you study too much, your brain will become tired and stop absorbing new information. If you answered too many questions incorrectly during your Duolingo lessons, your hearts would run out. Once your Duolingo hearts ran out, you weren’t able to complete new lesson material for a few hours.
I think the hearts were a really unique feature in Duolingo, but not everyone liked them. They helped you stay on track with actually learning your target language. They also reduced usage in the Duolingo app though, which may be a reason Duolingo removed them.
What Are Duolingo Leagues?
In addition to competing with your friends on the Duolingo leaderboard, you can compete with 50 random Duolingo users each week in the Duolingo Leagues. Duolingo Leagues are a fun way to motivate yourself to continue learning your target language.
The leagues start on Monday of each week, and they always have 50 participants. These participants are random and come from around the world. They’re also studying different courses.
The Duolingo League leaderboards track your XP throughout the week, and the ultimate goal is to beat the other participants and advance to the next league.
Only the top 10 out of 50 advance to the next league, and the bottom 10 are demoted to the previous league.
How many leagues in Duolingo
I counted 10 leagues in the app:
If you finish in the top three of your league, you also receive some lingots as a bonus. I don’t usually track my XP or lingots, but for some reason I got really competitive in my league! This helped me stay motivated, although that motivation eventually died down because of the repetitive lessons.
An Overview Of Duolingo Free And Plus Features
In addition to the Duolingo courses, there are other features you can use to learn your target language. The features Duolingo offers are really unique when compared to other apps, and I’ll walk you through each of them in this Duolingo review.
Duolingo’s core philosophy revolves around free and accessible education for everybody. The features available definitely prove this! Let’s take a look at what they are.
Read Duolingo Stories In Your Target Language
In addition to the lessons that teach you words and phrases, you can also read Duolingo stories. There are different sets of stories for each language that cover different topics. As you read more stories, they become increasingly difficult. Similar to the skills, each story turns gold after you complete it.
I really like the stories because they’re short and easy to follow. They also have audio, so you can hear the words as you read them. If there are words you don’t know, you can click different words and see their definitions instantly.
All of the stories are free, and they’re actually really high quality, too. For Spanish, there are over 20 sets of stories. They go from beginner to advanced, and they’re a great way to practice something besides the repetitive lessons.
I read a few different stories for this Duolingo review, and I found them to be helpful. I still incorporate Duolingo Stories into my language learning because they are well-written. It can be really hard to find entertaining stories when you’re learning a new language, and these save a lot of time. I also really like the audio in the Duolingo stories!
Podcasts are another free feature that developers offer to its users. Unfortunately, they’re only available the Duolingo Spanish Podcast and the Duolingo French Podcast at the time of this review though. If you’re studying one of these languages, you should definitely check them out!
Each episode has a different story, and they have a mix of English and Spanish or French. I really like them because they include aspects of culture. A lot of other language learning apps miss out on the cultural aspect of language, and the Duolingo Podcasts really make Duolingo stand out in that aspect.
There are a lot of ways you can listen to the Duolingo podcast episodes, and there’s also a transcript available for each episode. The podcasts are definitely one of my favorite features of Duolingo!
The Duolingo Forum is another really powerful feature of Duolingo. A lot of other apps don’t have any form of personal interaction, and that’s one of the most important aspects of learning any language. With the Duolingo forums, you can connect with other Duolingo users and chat about a lot of different topics.
The forums are also free for every Duolingo user, but you do need to verify your account and confirm your age (13 years or older) before you can access the forums. I read through the Spanish and Norwegian forums for this Duolingo review.
I found a lot of interesting conversations. It’s also nice to connect with language learners from around the world who are studying the same language. I picked up some small tips and tricks, but you probably won’t find full explanations in the forums.
Tinycards: A Duolingo Flashcards App
Duolingo Tinycards is a companion to the Duolingo app. In Tinycards, users can use flashcards to increase their vocabulary and overall language skills.
Unfortunately, Duolingo has decided to disable the Tinycards app on September 1, 2020, so I won’t cover Tinycards in this Duolingo review. A lot of users really enjoyed using Duolingo Tinycards. I personally enjoyed it, too.
However, Duolingo has stated that Tinycards has inspired upcoming enhancements to the core Duolingo app, so I’m excited to see what those enhancements are! Hopefully there will be some Duolingo flashcards that users can download!
Similar to the Duolingo forums and podcasts, Duolingo Events is another really powerful feature that makes Duolingo stand out as one of the best language learning apps.
Events are live meetings that take place in-person or online. They’re a perfect opportunity to practice your language skills with other Duolingo users, and there are a lot of different activities available. Event hosts organize anything from walking tours of cities around the world to virtual board game nights, all in your target language.
It’s really important to connect with others to practice your speaking skills, and Duolingo events are the perfect opportunity to do this. The best part is they’re free! This makes them accessible to anybody, which I really respect.
Like I’ve discussed before, Duolingo’s main goal is to make language education accessible to everybody, and Duolingo Events are one of the best examples of the Duolingo team achieving this.
Unfortunately there aren’t events available for every language yet, but if your language isn’t covered, you can apply to host your own events!
At its core, the Duolingo dictionary is like most other dictionaries on the internet. You type in a word in either your native language or your target language, and you see the direct translation.
Duolingo actually takes it a step further though. In addition to translating words, Duolingo also gives you example sentences with audio, as well as links to discussions in the Duolingo Forum about that word (if they’re available).
This makes it more of a Duolingo translator because it provides a deeper insight into the words and how they’re used. A lot of other language dictionaries only provide direct translations without any context.
This is yet another Duolingo feature that I really enjoy. Like most other features, the Duolingo dictionary is also free. I looked up a few different words and phrases during this Duolingo review, and I learned a lot of useful sentences.
I also visited the forums that discussed some of these words and phrases. This was really helpful to learn about how these words are used in different contexts.
If you’re already completely fluent in at least two languages, you can apply to join the Duolingo Incubator. This is where volunteers create the Duolingo language courses.
For example, if you’re a native Chinese speaker and want to contribute to the Duolingo Arabic course, you can! Just fill out the application and send it in.
I haven’t personally contributed to any Duolingo courses through the Incubator because I’m not completely fluent in at least two languages. However, judging by the quality of content in the courses, I think it’s safe to assume that the completed learning materials are high quality!
Duolingo English Test
If you’re a native English speaker, the Duolingo English Test probably isn’t a feature you’ll use. However, if English isn’t your first language and you want to work or study in an English-speaking country, it’s definitely worth checking out!
The Duolingo English test currently costs $49, but you can send your results anywhere you want for free. This makes it a lot cheaper than the more standardized TOEFL and IELTS exams, which can cost hundreds of dollars plus additional fees to send your score reports.
Once you register for the test, you can take it anywhere, as long as you have a computer, webcam, microphone, and internet connection. The test takes less than one hour to complete, and you get your results within 48 hours!
Over 1,100 institutions currently accept your Duolingo English test results, so if you’re interested, check the list to see if your institutions are on it.
Duolingo For Schools And Duolingo Classroom
Duolingo for Schools is a really cool tool that incorporates Duolingo into real-life classrooms. If you’re a teacher, you can create a Duolingo Teacher account and invite your students to your Duolingo classroom. If you’re a student, you can join your teacher’s classroom, along with the other students in your class.
This is a free feature, and teachers around the world are using it every day. Whether it’s a foundation for lessons, an extra credit opportunity, or a supplement to the teacher’s prepared lessons, Duolingo for Schools is a great opportunity to enhance language learning for any type of student.
I used Duolingo for Schools with my coworkers before writing this Duolingo review, and it really helped us stay on track with each other. It’s not that much different from the regular Duolingo courses, but it’s a great way to complete the lessons together.
Duolingo Kids: A New Duolingo App To Help Children Read
Duolingo Kids (formerly Duolingo ABC) is a new app from Duolingo that teaches children English and French. The lessons are very similar to the lessons in the regular Duolingo app, but they’re more animated and engaging since they’re for kids.
I tried the app myself for this Duolingo review, and I actually really enjoyed it. The regular Duolingo app has some game features, and the Duolingo Kids app goes even further with the game elements.
There are a lot of different activities to keep kids engaged in learning, and the animations and characters are motivating and fun. Because it’s a new app, it’s probably still developing. I think it’s off to a great start though!
Duolingo Plus Features
As you can see, there are a lot of free Duolingo features. So what Duolingo Plus features are there? Unfortunately, not really that many.
Is Duolingo Plus worth it?
I think Duolingo is a great app for beginner and intermediate language learners, and all of the main features are free. Duolingo Plus does have a couple additional features, but I don’t really think they’re worth paying for. Here’s what they are.
How To Use Duolingo Offline
If you subscribe to Duolingo Plus, you’ll be able to download the lessons and access them when you’re offline. If you don’t have regular wifi or a strong signal, this can really help you out. You’ll be able to download the lessons while you can, and access them anytime afterwards.
Additional Duolingo Plus Features
In addition to the offline feature, Duolingo Plus also comes with these features:
- An ad-free experience
- Unlimited mistakes
- Unlimited skill test-outs
- The ability to track your progress
While these features would be nice to have, I don’t really think they’re that valuable. Duolingo doesn’t have many ads anyways, so the ad-free feature isn’t a big selling point. However, there is one reason that many people subscribe to Duolingo Plus: helping support Duolingo’s mission of free education.
While the regular Duolingo Plus features do add some value for some people, a lot of people subscribe to Duolingo Plus to support the cause. That’s the reason I recommend subscribing if you can afford it.
Duolingo offers a lot of really cool features that make it hard to find true Duolingo alternatives. From stories and podcasts to accredited language tests and Duolingo for Schools, Duolingo provides language learners a lot of value for free.
However, the actual Duolingo courses themselves aren’t that unique. There are a lot of alternatives to Duolingo courses, so what would this Duolingo review be without telling you about them?
I think the most similar language learning apps are probably MosaLingua and Mondly.
At its core, MosaLingua is a flashcard app, but if you subscribe to MosaLingua Web, you gain access to a lot of extra features. I really liked using MosaLingua because the flashcards teach really relevant phrases, and you can hear audio from native speakers. Duolingo doesn’t use native speakers for its audio.
MosaLingua Web also has videos, music, books, and other learning resources that help you learn your target language. These resources add another level to your language learning, and you can pursue whatever topics and resources you want. Duolingo is a very structured way of learning a language, and MosaLingua is more self-directed.
Mondly is another popular alternative to Duolingo. It’s really useful for learning vocabulary and phrases. It also has really cool technology that incorporates augmented reality and virtual reality (if you’re into that).
Mondly is a really good option if you want to track your statistics and progress, and you can also complete weekly and monthly quizzes if you complete your daily lessons.
However, it doesn’t really teach grammar as well as Duolingo does. I also don’t think it’s as well-structured as Duolingo is. There is a free version though, so it’s definitely worth trying out to see if you like it!
Duolingo Plus Price
Most of the content and features on Duolingo are free. This makes Duolingo a great option for new learners, and learners who may not want or be able to pay for a language learning app. The cost of Duolingo Plus is $6.99 USD per month.
If you really like Duolingo and want to help Duolingo in its mission to make language learning accessible for everyone, a Duolingo Plus subscription is definitely worth it. However, I don’t think the Duolingo Plus features alone are worth the price.
Final Thoughts on Duolingo
Overall, I think everybody should give Duolingo a try. It’s free and it has a lot of content. For people who want a very structured course, Duolingo is a great option. If you’re looking for a more self-directed approach, the Duolingo app may not be the best for you.
The lessons are really high quality in Duolingo, but they are a little too repetitive. Most people don’t have a lot of study time, and I found some of the lessons to be a waste of my time because they repeated too much content.
Duolingo’s additional features, like the stories and podcasts, are really great because they help you practice your language skills in more natural situations. These are all free, too!
About This Duolingo Review
This is an independent Duolingo review. I am not affiliated with Duolingo, and this review is not sponsored by Duolingo. I am a long-time user of Duolingo, and have used the app for more than 40 hours before writing this review. Keep in mind that Langoly may receive commissions when you click the links in our reviews. These commissions come at no extra cost to you, and they do not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced in order to help you make the best language learning decisions.