My Duolingo Review: The best free language courses?

Duolingo Review: When I was doing research for an upcoming article on the best language learning courses online I took a look at Duolingo and this is what came out of it.

Duolingo is a very well established player in the language learning market, having successfully grown their userbase to hundreds of millions. They're also among the few language learning content providers to have reached mainstream recognition outside the language learning community.

They offer quiz-style free online language courses in many different languages (listed below.) Uniquely they also offer a fair amount of courses from other languages than just English.

Duolingo Lessons and features

Here's how the main learning interface looks like. The lessons feature multiple choice vocabulary learners, as seen here:

free online language courses

After learning some vocabulary in each lesson you'll be tested, which includes among others a translation exercise as shown below, to ensure you've understood it. This also helps cement the new knowledge.
duolingo review

During the tests you can get help by peeking at each individual letter or have the audio repeated by clicking the loudspeaker icon.

You can also open up the lesson notes and tips, where grammar and language points for the current session are explained. This feature is currently not available on mobile.

Duolingo also has a microphone option, where presumably the software tests your pronunciation on a technical level against the computer generated, but without any specific feedback on what you're doing wrong it's hard to find much use of it.

Languages Available

Note: Does not include other language pairs, such as English for Spanish speakers.

Already Released for English Speakers: Latin American Spanish, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Irish, Turkish, Danish, Russian, Norwegian Bokmål, Esperanto, Ukrainian, Polish, Welsh.

In development: Hungarian, Czech, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Hindi, Romanian, Swahili, Klingon, Greek, Yiddish, Indonesian, Korean

Duolingo Motivation and Gamification

One of the biggest advantages with Duolingo is that it features ways to increase your likelihood of success. First of all the lessons are short and sweet usually taking only a few minutes to complete. Mind you the big languages have hundreds of them, so you'll still take some time to get through.

Secondly Duolingo features motivating gaming elements where if you complete lesson you will be rewarded in a virtual currency called “lingots” this currency can be redeemed for certain rewards in the shop. You also have streaks, goal-setting and even friends lists so you can race your friends to the most amount of points.

What I like

  • Free forever
  • Many courses available in several language combinations
  • They use a lot of gamification, so you're motivated to keep learning
  • Easy to use interface
  • Mobile App works great for learning

What I don't like

  • Weird sentences and sometimes useless vocabulary
  • Many courses use text-to-speech, so doesn't provide a very authentic pronunciation
  • Grammar references and explanations don't show on mobile.

Duolingo Review Conclusion

Duolingo is a fun little quirky language learning app, whose main strength is to keep your motivation up. It's not a revolutionary language learning method and by using strange sentences and text-to-speak for the pronunciation there are definitely areas that could be improved also.

However, as it's free and has a thriving community, an excellent mobile platform for those commuting language learners I have a hard time not recommending it!

Duolingo won't make you an advanced speaker in a language on its own, but on the other hand can't hurt your progress and it excels on mobile where you can do some learning in situations where you'd otherwise just waste time or play candy crush.

Take it as it is – a fun addition to your studying that can only help.

Hope you enjoyed my Duolingo review. Be sure to stay tuned for the next review coming shortly.

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  • Owain Clarke says:

    Wish they would start supporting more alphabets, so they could develop a course to learn Arabic

  • Nick Adams says:

    I use Duolingo a lot during my commute and I’ve found it to be really useful. Even the weird sentences train me on grammar patterns, although I doubt I will ever use those sentences in real life!

    It must be difficult to review Duolingo, because it is constantly in development and there are always new things being added to it. Do you plan on doing a re-review in a few years from now if it has changed a lot?

    • Kris Broholm says:

      Hi Nick, good to see you again! 🙂

      I think as a commuter tool, Duolingo is great! I’m really looking forward to Hungarian coming out soon.

      As for the review, well. They haven’t changed much on Duolingo since I got to knew it about 2 years ago, they’ve mainly added more lessons and more languages to the existing working model.

      If they should drastically change their concept then yes, I’d go back and update this post.

  • Joe Gonzalez says:

    Seriously? Klingon, but not Icelandic?

    • Kris Broholm says:

      Haha Joe, I had a similar reaction…..but ultimately the course availability is based on two things:

      1. Volunteer availability (are there any native speakers willing to do all the free work required)

      2. Demand (does anyone want to learn language X?)

      There is also the limiting factor as Owain mentioned, that the Duolingo system doesn’t support certain alphabets yet.

      • Joe Gonzalez says:

        Hi Kris,
        I remember leaving a comment a Duolingo comment thread about adding Icelandic, and, while I don’t know how many users are requesting Icelandic, those who left comments were pretty boisterous.

        Besides, I’ve watched enough Star Trek to know that the Klingon character set is pretty gnarly, and not likely to be adopted by iOS anytime soon 🙂

        Keep up the great work.

  • Osama Waheib says:

    I used Duolingo while learning German and I must say that it made learning more fun, especially the weird sentences. I remember once sentence read “The roof is made of sugar” those sentence made learning more fun and made me look forward to them.

    I agree that Duolingo alone is not enough for reaching fluency, but it makes the first few steps in the path of fluency much easier as it makes the learning process fun and make you love the language you are learning more.

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