Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.