I’m a language learner. I have been learning Spanish for almost 2 years now. Learning a language is incredibly rewarding for different reasons. I have made friends, found romance, learned so much about other cultures, and encounter new ways to express myself daily.
But that’s not what this post is about. We’re here to answer the question "does Duolingo work?"
If you don't know, Duolingo is a free language learning app developed by Luis von Ahn. You can pay for Super Duolingo (formerly Duolingo Plus) if you want, but there isn't a major benefit. A search on Answer The Public shows wide-ranging interest, much of it skepticism, from the public surrounding Duolingo.
As a person who studies language on a daily basis, I spend a lot of time exploring the internet for tools and resources to help me on my language-learning journey and I’ve begun to notice a theme. Everybody wants to curse Duolingo.
Will Duolingo Make Me Fluent?
As far as I can tell it’s because you “can’t become fluent using the Duolingo app.”
The only way to become fluent is to speak it regularly.
You have to make mistakes, be corrected, and find yourself in new situations that you’ve never had to express verbally in the language before.
Keep in mind that most of the influencers in the language community online with a Duolingo review, especially on YouTube, are being sponsored by some other app or they’ve made their own online courses that they’re trying to push. It’s in their best interest to steer you away from competition.
But Does Duolingo ACTUALLY Work?
As someone who has spent nearly 2 years on a language-learning journey, I’ve put in some time researching the best methods and I have nearly an 900 day streak of Duolingo Spanish lessons.
Duolingo won’t make you fluent but it is a great, free tool to learn and practice vocabulary, grammar, and yes, even a bit of speaking.
The biggest problem with Duolingo isn’t the app itself, it’s the user. You may not realize it but you’ve been using Duolingo incorrectly this whole time.
But don’t worry, I’m going to share some things you can do to get the most out of your Duolingo experience.
How Does Duolingo Work?
Millions of people around the world use it to learn a new language or brush up their language skills. But how does Duolingo work, and is it effective?
Duolingo is known for its gamification approach to language learning. The app uses a combination of game-like features such as badges, rewards, levels, and leaderboards to keep learners engaged and motivated. The app's interface is colorful and user-friendly, allowing learners to earn points and unlock more content as they complete lessons and activities.
Duolingo's core feature is its lessons. The app offers courses in over 40 languages, and each course comprises a series of lessons that cover essential grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation skills. Lessons are bite-sized and structured around the app's gamification system. As learners complete lessons, they unlock new levels that increase in difficulty, ensuring that they maintain a steady learning curve.
In addition to lessons, the app offers a range of activities that reinforce language skills. These activities include listening exercises, reading comprehension, translation, and speaking exercises.
One of the most significant advantages of Duolingo is its personalized approach to language learning. The app uses an adaptive algorithm that tracks a learner's progress and adjusts the difficulty of lessons accordingly. This feature helps ensure that learners remain engaged and not bored or overwhelmed by lessons that are too easy or too difficult for their level.
Additionally, Duolingo uses a spaced repetition system in which the app will revisit words or concepts that a learner has previously struggled with, repeating them at increasing intervals to solidify the learner's memory of them over the long term.
3 Ways To Get More Out of Duolingo
Use the desktop version of Duolingo
I know, we live in a mobile world, and you’d think Duolingo would make sure to have the best features on the mobile app, but they don’t. Unfortunately this is something many Duolingo learners don't know.
When you learn through Duolingo’s desktop site there is a great “Tips” feature on each skill within a Duolingo course that gives you great information relevant to each lesson.
Things like verb conjugation charts and rules, word comparisons (ser vs. estar), and sentence examples. If you are serious about learning a language and not just playing a game, you should be spending at least twenty minutes per day diving into these tips and taking the lessons seriously.
Using the desktop language course on Duolingo is a game changer. A side benefit of a desktop Duolingo lesson is that you don't lose hearts if you make mistakes like you do on the Duolingo app.
Say EVERYTHING out loud!
If you want to become fluent in your target language you have to speak it.
Simple as that.
You don’t learn to ride a bike by watching videos, reading books, or doing lessons on a phone. You learn by riding a bike. And you won’t learn to speak a language without speaking it and if you're not going to practice with a native speaker (I take lessons with a tutor), you need to get creative.
I’ll be the first to admit that Duolingo’s speech recognition feature is terrible. You can get marked correctly by saying absolute nonsense. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the app to practice your speaking skills.
Don’t speed through the lessons. Instead, take your time and repeat everything out loud (every sentence!), both the prompt and the answer.
Practice your pronunciation and get used to the flow of the language. Do the same with the Duolingo Stories feature. Listening is helpful, speaking is more helpful when learning a foreign language.
Use Lipsurf with Duolingo to speak more
Here’s another reason to use Duolingo on a desktop browser.
Lipsurf is a voice control browser extension for Chrome that allows you to surf the web by speaking. The coolest thing about Lipsurf is that it integrates with Duolingo to allow you to complete lessons only by speaking. You don’t have to do anything special to set up Lipsurf with Duolingo, it works automatically.
Right now it supports 8 different languages including Spanish, Portuguese, French and German (geared towards an English speaker). It requires your answer to be at least 95% correct to accept it so you know you’re not totally butchering it.
What is Duolingo Max?
Duolingo Max is a premium service offered by Duolingo, designed for users who are serious about language learning.
Just added in March of 2023, it offers additional features that are not available in the free version of Duolingo or Super Duolingo. As of now, it is only available on iOS and for three languages, English, Spanish, and French.
Just like Super Duolingo, Duolingo Max provides users with unlimited hearts, which means they can make as many mistakes as they want without fear of losing their progress or having to wait for hearts to regenerate.
Additionally, it offers an offline mode for users who do not have access to Wi-Fi or data, making it possible to continue learning a new language even when traveling or in areas with limited connectivity.
The real benefit of Duolingo Max is that it uses AI via GPT-4 to give personalized feedback on errors as well as the opportunity to have real conversation.
Duolingo Max is Duolingo's attempt to stay at the forefront of new technology. Many language learners are already using ChatGPT to help in their language studies. With this GPT-4 integration, Duolingo is providing a seamless transition for their users.
Duolingo Explain My Answer
Explain my answer is a feature that allows you to ask Duolingo's AI integration to give you an explanation of why your answer was incorrect.
A learner can ask for examples, further explanation, or clarification. Real time explanations can help keep the learner from making the mistake again in the future.
Duolingo's Roleplay option allows you to have "side quests" where a learner can select one of the characters and have a real conversation with them. Side quests allow learners to still learn XP like normal lessons.
Roleplay is a massive advancement in how Duolingo facilitates language learning. Conversation (especially speaking) is the best way to learn a new language. The added ability for learners to have to carry real conversation specific to themselves is a huge plus.
So Is Duolingo Effective?
So does Duolingo work? Is it effective?
Maybe that's not the question you should be asking. Instead of asking "does Duolingo work" ask "what am I doing daily to learn my target language?"
At the end of the day, learning a language is about consistency. I'm no language expert, but I've learned you have to do it every single day if you want it to stick.
There are endless rewards received from learning a new language from cultural connection to cognitive benefits, you just have to put in the work to increase your language skills.
And with the continued improvements of the Duolingo platform, like the addition of artificial intelligence features, Duolingo is doing everything it can to continue to advance your language-learning journey.
I'm going to make Duolingo a part of my plan to learn multiple languages and I think you should too.