Duolingo Review: If It Wasn't Free, I Wouldn't Bother

  • Lara Scott
    Written byLara Scott
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Compared to other popular alternatives, Duolingo offers you a lot for free, but is far from ideal for serious language learners.
Duolingo Review: If It Wasn't Free, I Wouldn't Bother

Pricing: Free
  • Gamification
  • Learning streaks are addictive keep you coming back
  • Bite-sized lessons
  • Free
  • Too repetitive
  • Childish interface
  • Course content not developed by experts


Duolingo can be super fun, costs nothing and is good for passing the time with bite-sized sessions, but it's not the best option for serious learners.

DepthThis is 'content' richness. How comprehensive is Duolingo and does it take you far in terms of levels, or is it more suited to low level/tourist learners?
UniquenessIs Duolingo innovative or is it just an imitation? Does it have a unique selling proposition (USP) that makes it stand out among competitors?
QualityOverall product quality indicator that covers everything from video/dialogue clarity, authenticity, explanations, and effectiveness.
CostIs Duolingo acceptably priced and how does its pricing compare to market competition?

When I’m on Duolingo, it can indeed be addictive.

The app’s gamification works as intended: several layers of levels – sessions, goals, stages, crowns – it’s really easy to progress from one to the next.

Their visible incentives (e.g. “100 crowns to unlock a story in German”) motivate me to keep moving - this makes me feel like they intentionally assess my readiness with each milestone.

Duolingo seems super encouraging in this regard.

The progress tracking is made effective with uplifting colours and sounds (though this can appear way too childish), and every few seconds I’m getting praised.

There’s also a sense of achievement they create because they never explicitly teach anything – they start asking questions immediately, and I get them right.


They start with multiple-choice questions, giving images as clues to the answer (somewhat reminiscent to Rosetta Stone).

They subsequently lead you to guess some answers which you can somehow get intuitively through context (like “please” coming at the end of a sentence). 

That said, Duolingo has made learning German seem too easy to me.

I can totally surpass my set goal (a supposed twenty-minute session took me five), which kinda also signals to me that this isn’t a serious course. Babbel on the other hand, developed by expert linguists, is far better (see this Duolingo vs Babbel comparison as well).

Duolingo also wrongly determines difficulty.

“Intense Practice” equates to “20 minutes a day” (which in reality took five minutes)?

And at the end of the supposed 20 minutes I learn 20 new words (in various constructed sentences)?

Not a productive use of my time.

All in all, Duolingo’s a fun app that makes learning feel like a game. There’s a great sense of achievement at first, but it’s too easy for serious learners who may get impatient if they want to move on to more complex learning material, since you need to progress level by level.

If Duolingo had a price tag on it, I’m doubtful I would bother using it since there are certainly better alternatives.

Have you used Duolingo before?

Share your thoughts below.

Pricing: Free

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek


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Klaus Danish

Klaus Danish

You seem to forget that the grammar part in Duolingo Turkish learning is very very good. Can’t find this feature elsewhere. Except maybe for Elon.io which is an excellent platform too. I agreee with you about the childiness etc. But I am on the paid Duo and have de- selected all the competitiom stuff. So I enjoy really Duo Turkish. I have tried Mondly and Rosetta Stone. They are to me too much parleur and too little oriented tı the language structure, i.e. Grammar etc.

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