Should I Use Duolingo To Learn Languages?

Duolingo is a well known language learning app/website that has over 300 million users and 38 languages. But with all the fans, there is an equal number of people who are against using Duolingo. Why does the little green owl have so many haters?

I’ve been on Duolingo since 2014 and have an embarassing amount of points. I’ve seen some upgrades throughout the years and addition of new languages. It’s been a great free tool for me to scratch that curiosity itch of trying out what learning Swedish is like. And Danish, Norweigen, Mandarin, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese and Arabic. Here are my thoughts on the disadvantages and advantages of using Duolingo.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Disadvantages of Using Duolingo:

  • Alphabet

    For languages that don’t have a latin alphabet, starting as a brand new learner is really really hard. Here is a snip below of the very very first lesson of Hebrew. It’s almost expectant that you have some knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet. Maybe some learners would like this, but not me! I’ve found it incredibly hard to learn the basics by skipping any introduction of letters. For me, this learnings makes more sense for those who may have studied Hebrew in the past elsewhere and are using Duolingo as a refresher. Or someone who wants to revise their existing Hebrew knowledge.

    This example is the same for the ones that I had personally tried before, Mandarin, Japanese and Russian.
  • More skewed towards sentences

    You will notice that at the beginning of each topic module that you will get more questions about learning new vocabulary. But as you complete lessons, there is less and less of this and more focus on sentence structure and grammar recall. Depending on what you’re after, this might be really helpful and what you need. But from my experience, recall of random words that you might use is equally important and I don’t think Duolingo does this well.

  • Rules, what rules

    Depending on what your native tongue is and what language you are learning, you might find that it is not comprehensive enough to learn the grammar and small nuances. There are some instructions on grammar but not enough for build the foundations of a language like you would from a textbook or formal lessons.

Advantages of Using Duolingo:

  • Fun

    Duolingo has done great at creating different levels of competition. Firstly, with yourself. You are able to build yourself a ‘streak’. For example, a 7 day streak of using Duolingo for language practise. The more days you can add to your streak, the more additional points you can get. And it’s addictive.

    If you’re more competitive, you can sign up with friends and/or family and challenge each other. If that’s not enough, there are now ‘leagues’ which is a pool of users in your particular language and you battle it out for the top 20 positions to move into the next league. Being the 1st every week in your league, ooof, now that is a challenge.
  • Stories

    There’s now a stories tab that is an audio and comprehension led way that can accompany your language learning journey. These are short stories that are narrated and also provide some interaction. This is the most “listening” available on Duolingo and didn’t existed in the first initial years.
  • Revision

    It’s a quick and fun way to revise a language that you’ve learnt or are learning. You can spend as little or as much time as you want and if you have the app, can revise anywhere.

So should you use Duolingo? Depending on where you are on the language learning journey, maybe it will help to supplement your learning or maybe not. What has been your experience with using Duolingo?

11 thoughts on “Should I Use Duolingo To Learn Languages?

  1. I have used the app for a few years now. I enjoy it but there are a few things I don’t like. The weightlifting practice goes back to beginner if you haven’t logged in for a few days/weeks.

  2. I’ve never used Duolingo, but I’ve tried my hand with Mango Languages for Italian and German. Similar concept, I believe. But I think the problem is that you can’t really replace an app with traditional learning (i.e. with native speaker as a teacher and textbook lessons), as you need some sort of foundation– grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation– before you can progress to using, say, Duolingo, or other apps to reinforce your mastery of the language. That, or do full-immersion into the country that speaks said language…this is just my experience, after all, so I would say if Duolingo works for you, then by all means, go for it!

    1. Ohh, I’ve not heard of Mango Languages. I will check it out. Of all the methods I’ve tried, I think formal lessons have been the most progressive. Yet to try full immersion and would love to soon once it’s clearer to travel.

  3. I have been thinking about getting Duolingo to work on my Spanish in hopes of heading to Central America soon! This is a good review… I’m admittedly swayed by the “fun” components!

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