Duolingo and Babbel are two popular language learning companies, but which one is actually the best?
That's what we'll explore in this post today.
Read on to find out all the differences and similarities between the two companies, as well as my personal favourite for learning a language with in 2020.
Note: This article is part of our series on software, courses, and services.
To get more inspiration, including our most recommended language learning resources, be sure to check out our reviews page (constantly updated)
I've seen more Babbel ads in inflight magazines than any other language learning product (even Rosetta Stone.)
And as for Duolingo, well, apart from billboards, banners, and web ads I also saw a themed taxi in London once!
(Duo is always watching…)
In this post I'm comparing the two services for their language learning effectiveness, but I also take a look at all the similarities and differences that I can think of.
The Most Important: Which is better for learning a foreign language?
While I have assembled a list of similiarites and differences in this post, we first need to address the elephant in the room when it comes to duolingo vs babbel.
Which is the better for actually learning a language with?
With Duolingo being free and Babbel being paid I believe that for all intents and purposes Duolingo should be your first stop.
Every Duolingo language has a lot of content and will definitely teach you a lot of the language.
It's not easy to answer, though, as they do have different styles and will suit different personalities differently.
My personal opinion: Duolingo wins (except for Spanish)
I don't think Babbel is worth paying for.
EXCEPT for their newer modern courses, like the Spanish course, which feature an exciting immersive, conversation-based approach where you get thrown into the deep end from lesson one.
The rest of their courses are, sadly, mediocre and definitely worse than Duolingo in most aspects.
Only redeeming factor is that Babbel uses voice actors for all their courses, while Duolingo uses text-to-speak for many of theirs.
(It's a great text-to-speak, but nonetheless.)
So, there you have it.
If you're learning Spanish, French, or German – use Babbel, otherwise stick to Duolingo it will do just fine.
Are you curious about the differences and similarities between Duolingo and Babbel? Read on!
Babbel vs Duolingo: Features
Both apps use spaced repetition as their primary learning method.
This means that you are reintroduced to earlier words, sentences, and constructions as you go along.
Babbel uses slightly more ‘real-life-examples' in their lessons (for some of their courses), where you are dumped into scenarios and dialogues whereas Duolingo is a little more fragmented.
although the vast majority (as many as 80%+) learn languages from their mobile device, both Duolingo and Babbel feature learning anywhere, including desktops.
I declare the overall Duolingo learning experience the best, however. Everything is just a bit more refined.
Common Languages (13)
Babbel offers 13 languages, while Duolingo offers a whopping 94 different languages.
Note that this counts different source languages as well. Learning English from Spanish, and learning English from Portuguese is counted as two different languages / courses.
It's worth adding here that you have to pay for EVERY language with Babbel, while Duolingo has unlimited free access to all their languages.
Both methods utilise gamification elements, such as quizzing, streaks, and points-scoring.
Duolingo's gamification features are head and shoulders above Babbel and even features an in-app shop where you can spend currency obtained by learning.
Duolingo places a huge emphasis on streaks, and there are a lot of my friends who have posted insanely long streaks (1000+ days in a row!)
Missed your streak? You can use some of the in-app currency to freeze or repair your streak!
Weakness of Method
Due to the limitations of self-study, spaced repetition, courses online learner s might find that their level in the language they are learning is below what the promises made by the apps are.
In a few famous examples, Duolingo simply fails to translate the acquisition of words, phrases, and even grammar in context to speaking skils (which is undoubtedly the most important.
It's worth stressing, that in my opinion, none of these two services should be used in isolation, and it's important not to expect the world from apps and other spaced repetition tools like Duolingo and Babbel.
They are tools to use, typically on-the-go, to add a bit of language learning and exposure in times where the user would probably not get any.
It's NOT a complete replacement for more serious study, and additional tools and methods in your language learning tool belt.
The best supplementary learning is getting private, 1-on-1 tutoring, I've said it many times and I'll say it again.
Here's the best site for that.
Babbel vs Duolingo: Differences
Number of active users
Because Duolingo is a free resource, it has a huge userbase.
It's reported that the app has over 300,000,000 active users.
Babbel is far behind in this, due to it's monetisation model. However, reports from 2018 suggests that Babbel has surpassed more than 1 million active students.
Imagine having a company where getting over a million active users is a drop in the bucket for one of your competitiors.
Number of employees
Both companies employ hundreds of people, but Babbel has more employees on contract than Duolingo.
Babbel has over 450 employees versus the 200+ of Duolingo.
Keep in mind that almost all the content for the Duolingo courses of are created by volunteers, so the total nuber involved with Duolingo easily surpasses Babbel.
Winner: Babbel as of writing this article.
Both companies are very succesful companies.
This Forbes article estimates that Duolingo would have profited 86 Million Dollars in 2019, with Babbel edging slightly ahead with an estimated 115 Million Dollars.
Duolingo CEO, Louis Von Ahn estimates, that as the plus-programme receives more features, Duolingo is looking to make a projected 160 Million Dollars in 2020 and could potentially ecclipse Babbel.
And with the imposed lockdown from the Coronavirus leading to a lot more time for people to actually use the app, those figures may be conservative.
Where is Babbel and Duolingo based?
Winner: N / A
Duolingo has their headquarters in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of East Liberty and offices in New York State, Washington State and Beijing.
Babbel is headquartered in Berlin, Germany with offices in New York City as well.
Duolingo uses a freemium model where all the essential language learning content is free forever (one of their mottos)
Their revenue is generated by ads, or plus-subscriptions where you can disable all ads, and get a few extra features for supporting the company.
The cost of this is $6.99 per month, or $83.66 per year, which is interestingly very close to the average price of a Babbel subscription!
Babbel on the other hand is a simple paid service, where you can test the first module of each course for free.
After that, you'll have to pay, with an average monthly price between $5-$7 depending on how many months you commit to upfront.
Note that you have to pay for each language individually, while Duolingo Plus covers all languages.
I name Duolingo the winner here, as the core materials are free forever, and the optional extras are not necessary at all.
Number of Languages
This is an easy one.
Duolingo offers a staggering 90+ courses at the time of writing this post, with more coming regularly.
Some of the more exotic languages are High Valyrian from Game of Thrones, and Klingon from Star Trek.
Winner: Babbel (just!)
Because of scale, Duolingo uses text-to-speech in almost all their courses. This is slightly worse than Babbel, who uses voice actors for their courses.
The reason that Babbel isn't winning this overwhelmingly is that the voice actors are a little unnatural in some of the courses (Danish for example) to the point where a good text-to-speech like the one Duolingo uses is actually superior.
Overall I have to give it to Babbel though.
Mascot Meanness Level (MML)
(This section is for entertainment purposes only.)
Duo is the name of the Green owl, where the Duolingo name comes from.
And he's not messing around!
One of the ways that Duolingo tries to help you stay on track is with reminders, typically accompanied by a picture of Duo either crying, or passive-aggressively teasing the user.
This has lead to a ton of hillarious memes being created, like this funny one:
Duolingo themselves even joined in on the fun with an epic April Fools called “Duolingo Push“
Babbel loses this category hard, as they don't even have a mascot.
There you have it!
The ultimate Babbel vs Duolingo comparison.
Now it's your turn!
Which one is your favourite service? Have you used either Babbel or Duolingo for an extended period of time?
If you want to find out more about Babbel, read my full review.
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.