Can you speak a language fluently with Duolingo? (2023)

You'll find them on every traveler's phone, wedged between the Notes app full of packing lists and the Pinterest boards of the dream tripDuolingo. It's the free app that makes our fantasies of ordering in French at a Parisian cafe feel direct. However, as a longtime but occasional user of the app, I often ask myself: could I be fluent in a language just with Duolingo if I use it every day?

To answer this question, I dusted off the old (hardly used) scientific method and put the app to the test.

Editor's note: This test is intended to be a comprehensive test of Duolingo features. It is not intended to represent the experience or function of all available Duolingo language courses or app features.


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How does Duolingo work?

Duolingo is a language app that makes the learning process fun. With a large cast of characters, experience points, daily practice streaks, hearts to track your in-game health, and a gem currency system (which you can supplement by watching a few ads, of course), it keeps users back to cheer them on. keep your stats. Keep practicing to earn a spot on the leaderboards and fight to keep your place in the gem leagues.

Duolingo offers a free and a paid tier of its service. Although both the free and paid versions of the application have the same basic material, thepaidThe edition is ad-free and comes with features like unlimited hearts, personalized lessons, access to progression quizzes, and the ability to try every level instead of just the first few. The best part is that one subscription covers all courses without having to pay per language.

Can you speak a language fluently with Duolingo? (1)

The app currently offers37 languagesfor English speakers, of which four are presentBeta-test.

The proof

To test the app and my language skills, I chose three languages ​​to practice over a period of a month (I was initially determined to only use the free version of the app - read on to see how long that determination lasted). I chose the languages ​​according to the following criteria:

  1. A language I have already learned with face-to-face teachers (Spanish)
  2. A language I never learned, but which mostly uses the Latin (German) alphabet
  3. A language I never learned that uses a different alphabet (Korean)


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Duolingo Spanish

After testing Spanish at a higher beginner level, I found that the first few lessons were an excellent refresher and adequately challenged my rusty skills. After earning ten "crowns" that I earned by completing lessons, I unlocked the app's listening exercise called Stories. I find really helpful speaking and listening exercises are hard to come by without personal guidance, so this quickly became one of my favorite features.

Can you speak a language fluently with Duolingo? (2)

DuoLingos Podcasts(available inPodcasts from Google,Podcasts from Apple, jSpotify) is another great asset for listening practice. Episodes tell stories in the user's target language along with comments in the user's native language for ease of understanding. Whether or not I continue practicing Spanish with the app, I will be adding this series to my listening library.

Can you speak a language fluently with Duolingo? (3)


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duolingo deutsch

Dealing with the new languages ​​was a bit more difficult. It only took me a week to give in and sign up for the 2 week free trialDuoLingo Plus.Since the free version of the app makes you wait to fill your heart up after five wrong answers, the $6.99/month premium version is worth it for anyone trying to learn a new language from scratch. The paid Plus tier allows for unlimited hearts, so I can fix my mistakes and solidify good habits right away, rather than waiting hours to double-check what went wrong. I could have gained an extra heart here and there by completing extra lessons, but it was disheartening to get an extra life back only to lose it to a minor mistake a few minutes later.

Can you speak a language fluently with Duolingo? (4)

On a positive note, the Hints feature (available in the free and paid versions of the app) in the German course was a lifesaver when it came to pronunciation and grammar, two elements that German doesn't always cover as thoroughly. However, this feature is not available for all lessons in all languages, which I discovered during the course of the Korean course.

Can you speak a language fluently with Duolingo? (5)

koreanisches Duolingo

Learning Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, was by far the most challenging part of the three courses. I had to use all the resources the application offered.

A useful feature of this particular course is the separate tab that allows users to go through a detailed breakdown of reading, writing, and pronunciation of letters and characters. These mini-activities went deeper than the main alphabet lessons and were responsible for many "Aha!" satisfactory. moments as you connect the characters to the vocabulary. I looked at some other languages ​​in the Courses for English Speakers section and saw that several of their language courses included this feature.

Can you speak a language fluently with Duolingo? (6)

For true beginners, I think these lessons should be supplemented, either with self-guided practice or additional study material, to gain real mastery.


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final thoughts

After four weeks of rigorous scientific research, the answer to the question of whether Duolingo can help you learn a language effectively is: It depends.

For users who are already fluent in a language and want to maintain their skills, this app is a home game. For users learning a new language, it largely depends on learning style and language goals. Someone struggling with self-motivation may find more traditional language learning software or local classes a better option. Someone who just wants to master a few basic phrases for their next vacation might be best served with a quick Google search or using Google Translate.

I think you can only get fluent with Duolingo? No. Saying that would be like saying the only way to learn how to build a boat is through YouTube tutorials and the materials in your garage. It's a wonderful starting point that can take you surprisingly far, but eventually you need to expand your resource pool. However, if the format works for you, this app offers a robust set of tools to guide your learning journey until you're ready to leave the proverbial Duolingo owl's nest.

Duolingo is ideal for:

  • Students who are highly motivated
  • People innovating a language in which they have some level of mastery.

Duolingo is less suitable for:

  • People struggling with self-directed learning
  • People who just want to learn the words/phrases needed for a quick trip

Tips and Tricks

  • If available, use the Hints button - this is where you'll get most of your grammar explanations
  • After earning 10 crowns or reaching the first checkpoint, use the stories to practice listening (available to English speakers learning Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese, and Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese speakers learning English) .
  • Since you can't skip classes unless you take the exam, don't start the course by flying to your destination expecting to have the basics up to the point of landing (but if you really want to try , make sure you do itDownload your next lessons for offline learning)

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