Duolingo review: Can you get fluent with the popular language learning app? (2023)

Duolingo review: Can you get fluent with the popular language learning app? (1)

written by
agnes murdoch

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.?

What is Duolingo?

Duolingo is a language learning app that uses gamified methods to encourage users to relearn every day.

What is it for:
Learn vocabulary and simple phrases for a complete knowledge of the target language.
English, Spanish, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Dutch, Turkish, Polish, Hebrew, Swedish, Hungarian, Czech, Norwegian, Irish, Esperanto, Vietnamese, Greek, Hindi, Finnish, Catalan, Swahili, Danish, Scottish Gaelic, Indonesian, Ukrainian, Latin, Romanian, Welsh, High Valyrian, Navajo, Yiddish
Beginner Advanced


  • Gamified learning keeps users motivated and on track
  • Simple sentences to use in the target language from the beginning
  • Visual review reminders
  • good interface
  • Visual learning (with pictures and visual cues)
  • Duolingo Stories (in the target language) and Duolingo Podcast


  • The gamified system is potentially stressful for some users
  • No control over vocabulary topics, the order in which they appear, and the ability to skip them
  • Pronunciation practice but no human interaction.
  • Some sentences would not normally be used in natural language.
  • Lots of ads in the free version of the app.

Can you really learn a language with Duolingo? How does Duolingo work and how can you use the app effectively?

Here is his quick answer:Yes, you can learn a language with Duolingo. But can you speak fluently with Duolingo? Not quite.

And this is what I am going to cover in this review:

table of Contents

  • How does Duolingo work?
  • duolingo lessons
  • Duolingo: how are the lessons?
  • Duolingo helps you focus on your weakest words
  • Duolingo tracks your daily progress
  • Duolingo: what is good?
    • help with motivation
    • Start with simple prayers from day 1
    • Visual review reminders
  • a good interface
    • visual learning
    • Additional learning features: Duolingo Stories and Duolingo Podcast
  • Some caveats about Duolingo
    • The Hearts system can be daunting for some
    • Some sentences are not natural.
    • Not enough control over vocabulary issues
    • no human interaction
    • There is a lot of advertising if you do not opt ​​for Duolingo Plus
  • So why is Duolingo "bad"? And is Duolingo as good as Rosetta Stone?
  • Conclusion: Duolingo is a great tool for language learners

The language learning appDuolingooffers 37 language courses for English speakers.

The Duolingo app also includes language courses for speakers of other languages. These include French for Portuguese speakers, English for Czech speakers, Chinese for Japanese speakers, etc. And they keep adding more.

I used Duolingo to learn Spanish, German, and Swedish. Let's take a look at how this cool little app works and how it can help you on your language learning adventure!

By the way, if you want the tl;dr version, scroll down to see my list of pros and cons which sums it up.

How does Duolingo work?

Duolingo is a great example of asimple language application. It's easy to use.

You create a profile, choose your target language, set your weekly goals (only if you are brave enough) and voila!

I made a video explaining what Duolingo is and talking about its pros and cons. You can see it below. Otherwise, keep reading!

This is what Duolingo says you will learn during your Spanish course:

duolingo lessons

Each course in Duolingo is made up of modules (the circles on the screenshot below) grouped together to form skills.

Duolingo specifies the order in which you must complete the various modules. New modules are only activated once you have completed the old one. This also applies to individual lessons within individual modules. You must complete Lesson 1 to continue to Lesson 2, and so on.

However, Duolingo allows you to "test" individual modules as well as groups of modules (skills).

Pressing the key button on a category gives you a shortcut when you don't want to go through every lesson you're already familiar with. However, you have to pass the exam to do this.There are no shortcuts in language learning!

The "try it" option also applies when you start a new language. You can start with the basics or take a placement test and let the app determine your language level.

Duolingo: how are the lessons?

Each lesson in Duolingo consists of a series of activities, such as B. Translate. This is what Duolingo Spanish looks like for this exercise:

Or this activity where you have to speak into the microphone what you see:

New vocabulary is often taught with pictures and grammar points are explained in little speech bubbles. Or you can click Tips for more information on grammar.

There are also listening exercises where, among other things, you have to write down what you hear.

But if you can't speak or hear into the microphone at that time, that's okay. The app gives you the option to disable your microphone or skip the listening exercises for now.

Duolingo also uses a "heart" system, which allows you to make few mistakes during a session. If you lose all your hearts, you will have to go back and study previous material to get hearts back.

Their hearts automatically fill up every day. But if you have Duolingo Plus, you get unlimited hearts, as well as progress tests and some other nifty features.

Duolingo does this because its studies have shown that people tend to read its lessons and not go back to review them. That encourages people to slow down and review to really learn.

Duolingo helps you focus on your weakest words

Once you have finished the lessons in a module, another screen will appear. You have the option to repeat with "regular exercise" or "hard exercise".

You can reinforce your weaker words on the spot or come back to them at a later date.

Every time you keep up with your rating, your module icon will turn gold. But as the days go by, it will come back in color and have a bar showing how "remembered" it is. So keep up the review!

Duolingo tracks your daily progress

At the end of each lesson, you'll receive a progress report that also shows your streak – the number of days in a row you've completed. If you have earned "Lingots" (the Duolingo currency you earn by answering questions correctly), this will also be reflected on the screen.

You can use the Ingots to buy different costumes for the Duolingo Owl mascot duo, or freeze your streak when you know you're going to miss a day.

Of course, we've all seen the Duolingo memes featuring Duo and how you get a lot of memories from him to keep your streak going.

Duo appears (repeatedly) in your notifications, email, etc. You can of course disable these features in the settings. But many users have joked about how "aggressive" Duo can be, like he's chasing you and making you study.

So much so that Duolingo alluded to the joke with a "coming soon" meme:

So prepare yourself.

Duolingo: what is good?

Here are some things Duolingo is good at that have helped me in my language learning adventures.

help with motivation

Duolingo recognizes that language learners need to be motivated to ensure they return to the app and have more fun with the language. Duolingo uses different methods to get you hooked.

The first is yourGoal Setting Tool.

The goals you can choose vary from casual to crazy depending on how serious you are about learning and how fast you want to progress.

I chose the "normal" objective for my Spanish course and the "easy" one for German. Duo reminds you every day if you are on track to reach your goal.

This works well for those students who are motivated by the idea of ​​streaks and keeping stats. It works for me If my goal is registered in the app, it has to happen!

And it's so nice when Duo tells me I'm on the right track.

The other two main methods of Duolingo are earning ingots through correct answers and ranking. Your ranking compares you to your friends in the app or other language learning programs who are learning your language.

Start with simple prayers from day 1

If you're an impatient language student like me, you probably want to be able to form basic sentences right away. Duolingo allows you to do this.

Let's see the first lesson of the first module of the Spanish course. You start off by learning some vocabulary like boy, apple, and water. After the first three or four slides, you will have learned to say a sentence:

Now all you have to do is go out and talk to real people (instead of your smartphone screen)!

Visual review reminders

The "Strength" bars displayed around the modules are an excellent reminder of the brain's imperfections. You think you've learned something and can move on, but what you really need isspatial repetitionAMake sure the new language is preserved.

Spatial repetition in language learning is a method in which you repeat specific words. Gradually increase the intervals between each repetition session. The theory is that eventually one can go a gap of several months without forgetting what something means. Duolingo makes it easy to know when your next review session is.

a good interface

I love everything about Duolingo's elegant interface. One of my favorite things is the little turtle button that lets you listen to the "slow" pronunciations of the word or phrase. This eerily slow voice is a very useful feature in exercises that ask you to type what you hear:

visual learning

Much of the learning that takes place on Duolingo is visual. There are images to learn vocabulary, colors that show if you are right or wrong. And highlighted text that can be tapped for new words or grammar points.

If you are a visual learner like me, you will love it.

Also, as the lessons progress, you will learn more through context and visual cues than through the translation from English to Spanish. This is very useful!

Additional learning features: Duolingo Stories and Duolingo Podcast

Duolingo now also has a Stories feature where after unlocking 10 crowns (or 10 mastered topics) you gain access and can read in your language.

This is a useful feature to increase your abilities over time. However, it is currently only available for Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Portuguese.

Additionally, Duolingo has a podcast for learners of Spanish, French, and English. It is essentially an audiobook to listen to stories in the language and improve your listening skills. While Stories is in the app, the podcast can be heard on Spotify, Apple, or Google.

Some caveats about Duolingo

Although Duolingo can be very useful in helping you progress in language learning, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding if the app is right for you. Let me briefly summarize what I noticed and what could be improved.

The Hearts system can be daunting for some

Making mistakes is an inevitable and essential part of language learning.. The path to fluency is often about having the courage to say things, even when you know they aren't perfect.

But with the heart system, you can only make 5 mistakes a day. Some people can get discouraged and feel like they can't make mistakes, but it's an amazing part of learning!

But that has improved over the years.

In the past, Duolingo was even tougher on bugs. The slightest typo or mispronunciation would cost you a heart. Now this feature has been refined and is starting to catch typos and the like. It will still point them out, but it's less harsh.

Still, my advice to you would be: don't take Duo's perfectionism too seriously. It's okay to make mistakes!

Some sentences are not natural.

This is especially true as you progress and learn more complex grammatical structures.

Some of the phrases you let the app translate are not normally used in natural language. However, it's meant to illustrate certain language concepts, so it's almost forgivable.

After all, you never know when you'll have to talk about milk-drinking elephants or a fish burger!

Not enough control over vocabulary issues

New lessons and modules are only activated in the app after you have completed the previous lesson. Therefore, sometimes you need to learn vocabulary that is not necessarily relevant to your learning objectives.

I don't expect to use words for clothes and animals in German, but I can't go on until I've shown Duo that I can say "tie" and "mouse."

I wish I had more control over which words are important to me.

no human interaction

Duolingo gives you the illusion that you are practicing your speaking skills. But what the application really asks is to repeat what you already see written on the screen.

So when you're practicing Duolingo speaking, you're essentially repeating after the app. You don't recall anything from memory or ask your brain to create something from scratch.

As such, Duolingo is an app you can use to practice pronunciation, but it's notspeak from 1.

For this reason, it is very important that language learners add another resource to Duolingo. One in particular focused on speaking and interacting with other users of their target language, such asFluency in the 3 month challenge.

There is a lot of advertising if you do not opt ​​for Duolingo Plus

There are so many ads in the app, even for Duolingo Plus, unless you buy Plus. This is a bit annoying and distracts from the focus of the speech.

So why is Duolingo "bad"? And is Duolingo as good as Rosetta Stone?

Duolingo has had some bad reviews in the past due to the things I mentioned here. Especially in the past Duolingo was usedmanyunnatural phrases that became memes or jokes. This has been improved although it is still there.

Still, many people were frustrated. In addition, many users indicated that they are learning andkeep your patrol for days on end, and you can't speak the language yet or can only speak it at an intermediate level.

And that comes from a lack of human interaction and actual speaking practice.

So no, you can't be fluent with just Duolingo. But when you combine it with other resources, it can be an amazing tool to improve your studies from beginner to intermediate level.

Now, the comparison of Duolingo and Rosetta Stone? There is no comparison. Moneyfluent in 3 monthsfounderBenny Lewis Review of Rosetta Stonefor the full shovel.

With these two programs you will learn something. But Rosetta Stone's "total immersion" approach is turning out to be a failure. Duolingo helps you learn more fluently in context and bypassing English to Spanish translations.

So here is the winner.

Okay, finally, here's a summary of the pros and cons of Duolingo. If you follow the tl; dr version, here it is.


  • Duolingo tracks your progress and your weakest words
  • The Duolingo app has many built-in features to increase motivation
  • You will learn simple sentences from day 1
  • Lots of visual review reminders so you know what you need to review
  • A beautiful interface and an easy-to-use "gamified" learning approach
  • Lots of visual learning and learning through context.
  • Stories and a podcast on supplementary learning


  • Punishing mistakes can be daunting for some
  • Some sentences are not natural.
  • You do not have enough control over vocabulary topics to choose words that are relevant to you
  • No human interaction or actual speaking practice.
  • Lots of ads unless you go for Duolingo Pro

Duolingo is not a stand-alone language course, but it is a great addition to a language learner's toolbox. It's easy to use, it's fun, and it works.

But don't forget to do your homework. If your goal is to become really fluent,Remember to read, speak and live the language you are learning!

One more thing, if you are bored with the repetitive tasks of Duolingo, give it a try.Clozemaster, that's Duolingo on steroids: it helps you internalizerealSentences with context.

Original review by Agnieszka Murdoch with updates from the Fluent in 3 Months team.

Duolingo review: Can you get fluent with the popular language learning app? (12)

agnes murdoch

language coach

Agnieszka is the founder of5 minute speech. it is your missiongive everyone the opportunity to learn a foreign language.

Speaks:English, Polish, French, Spanish, German

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