Duolingo Review: A Close Look at the Popular Language Learning App

In any field, some individuals rise to the top.

There are lots of great soccer players, but you might not notice them when Cristiano Ronaldo is on the field.

Plenty of singers have phenomenal voices, but do you really care about them when Beyoncé drops a new album?


We’re not saying Duolingo is the Rinaldo or Beyoncé of language learning programs, but it’s undoubtedly an icon in the field and one of the most popular language-learning apps.

And Duolingo enjoys a strong reputation for a reason!

For starters, you can access all of Duolingo’s most beloved features for free, so it’s a popular choice for language learners looking to test the waters or those seeking a free way to strengthen their skills.


Duolingo Plus, the paid subscription option, is also available and removes ads, allows for lesson downloads to mobile devices and more.

Duolingo’s main focus is gamified learning that aims to develop multiple skills, including reading, writing, speaking and listening.

But is Duolingo all it’s cracked up to be?

Below, we’ll weigh the pros and cons.


Duolingo Review: A Close Look at the Popular Language Learning App

Learn a foreign language with videos

Duolingo’s Key Features

Organized, Progressive Lessons

Duolingo is formatted into organized, progressive lessons.

This organizational scheme provides a clearer route toward improved language skills.

While some learning programs have you select what you feel like learning and when, Duolingo takes some of the guesswork out of what you need to work on. New levels open up as your skills progress, ensuring you’re prepared to approach the new material.

Additionally, lessons are broken down into small chunks, making it easier to work a little learning into even the busiest schedule.

Option to Strengthen Skills

While you can continue pressing forward to learn new vocabulary and skills, Duolingo also allows you to linger on what you’ve already learned to further strengthen your skills.

The practice option shows you material that Duolingo suspects you may need a refresher on.

This is a helpful way to avoid forgetting basic material as you progress towards more advanced levels.

The Strengths of Duolingo

A Wide Array of Languages

Duolingo doesn’t skimp on the language options.

In fact, it offers over 30 language options, including popular choices, like Arabic, Chinese, English, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

It also offers some less widely-studied options, like Indonesian, Navajo and Welsh.

Because it offers such a large selection of languages, most language learners are likely to find that the language they’re studying is available on Duolingo.

Goal Setting

Researchers have suggested that setting goals may increase motivation. Not only that, but studies about goal-setting have linked it to language achievement.

With Duolingo, you can have “streaks.” That means that you’ve completed at least one lesson a day every day.

This challenge may serve as a valuable motivational tool since you might not want to ruin your streak. One study about Duolingo even suggests that the program’s winning streaks may boost motivation, particularly for more advanced learners.


Learning a language can be challenging, and conventional study techniques can seem stale and dry.

Gamification essentially makes learning a language more like a game. Studies conducted on mobile language learning suggest that gamification can improve the language learning experience, provide motivation and lead to real learning.

Duolingo has several features that could be classified as gamification.

The winning streak, while also important for goal setting, can be considered a game element. Additionally, learners can earn virtual coins by playing and see their fluency score improve as they go, which further adds to the game-like feel.

The artwork and rapid-fire questions also make Duolingo seem more like a game than a traditional language learning program.

Because of Duolingo’s gamified approach to learning, many students find it more fun and approachable than other language learning tools.

Duolingo Targets Multiple Skills

Well-rounded language learning requires multiple skill sets.

Not only must students learn vocabulary and grammar, but they must also develop reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

Because it can be challenging to fit all of these skills into one program, many language learning tools focus on just a couple of skills.

However, Duolingo aims to develop well-rounded skills in all areas. Grammar and vocabulary lessons provide essential foundations. The app’s activities target reading, writing, speaking and listening skills while using the necessary grammar and vocabulary.

Because Duolingo focuses on multiple skills, its approach to language learning could be considered more well-rounded than many other language learning programs.

Duolingo Features That Could Be Better

Options for More Advanced Speakers

While Duolingo has a huge selection of lessons, its resources may not be vast and varied enough to propel advanced students towards full fluency.

Once a learner has completed a Duolingo program, they may go back and redo lessons and/or strengthen their skills. While it’s possible to reinforce what they’ve already covered, forward progress is much more limited.


If you’ve plateaued with Duolingo or want a different approach to learning, you might try FluentU.

FluentU aims to help you improve your language skills by turning real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—into language lessons.

Since the material is authentic, it may be particularly helpful for advanced students who want to speak and understand more like a native speaker.

While FluentU has a lot to offer advanced students, it’s appropriate for any level language student.

Each video is captioned, and the captions are annotated. You can easily access any word’s definition, example sentences, associated images and more using the interactive subtitles. If you want to see a word used in a different context, FluentU can even provide you with other videos on the site that use that same word.

And if you love Duolingo’s gamification, FluentU’s quizzes may also be right up your alley. After watching a video, fun exercises will put what you learned to the test.

As you watch and play, FluentU tracks your learning to present you with level-appropriate questions that build on what you know to keep your learning progressing without throwing you in over your head.

Since you can use FluentU online or download it to your iOS or Android devices, this app can accompany you wherever you go.

Conversation Preparation

Conversation skills are one of the most important language skills, but they’re also one of the most difficult skills to develop.

Duolingo offers speaking and listening practice, which are good stepping stones towards conversation skills.

However, holding a real conversation in your target language may be more stressful and time-consuming than the exercises on Duolingo can prepare you for. This is not really Duolingo’s fault, as computers can attempt to replicate real-world conversations but there’s nothing quite like the real thing.

If you’re planning to hold conversations in your target language, you might want to supplement your Duolingo learning with conversation practice.


You can find language exchange partners through websites like MyLanguageExchange.com, an online exchange community.

Or, try using a program like italki, which connects you with professional teachers based on your language goals and interests.

This app allows you to pay per lesson, and you can attend these lessons anytime, anywhere. Getting individual instruction in these one-on-one classes allows you to focus on the skills you specifically need help with.


Visit their website to check out current plans and pricing and connect with a great teacher for personalized language lessons.

Having real interactions in your target language can help reinforce what you learned through Duolingo and put your skills to the test. You may even notice weaknesses in your grammar or vocabulary that you’d like to go back and work on again using Duolingo.


Duolingo has a lot to offer language learners. Perhaps best of all, you can enjoy it without spending a dime.

While Duolingo may not be a one-stop route to full fluency, few (if any) programs are. What Duolingo does, it does very well, so we recommend giving it a try!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.

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