Duolingo Review 2023 | Can You Learn a New Language With This App?

Duolingo Review
Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Content Writer At Gradehacker

Table of Contents

Did you know that over 35% of job applicants who speak more than one language are more likely to get hired and earn more promotions throughout their working experience?

Yes, having a degree is super important, but speaking a foreign language like Spanish, French, or Chinese can significantly turn the odds in your favor. That’s why many US students, who are only English speakers, want to add “multilingual” as a shiny skill in their resume.

And for many, Duolingo has helped them get there.

You must have heard of it before, as it is one of the most popular language-learning apps out there. Perhaps you were always curious about how their language courses work, what cool features they have, how much they cost, and most importantly, if it’s worth using it.

Now that you know the importance of increasing your language skills, these questions are all over your head. So, you need an honest review sharing everything you want to know about Duolingo.

Here at Gradehacker, we are the non-traditional student’s most trusted resource. We know how competitive the market is and that any skill you can incorporate into your resume makes the difference

If you are interested in expanding your skills list, here is our honest, no B.S. Duolingo review. After you finish reading, you’ll know if you’ll have to find individual lessons or if this is the language app you have been looking for.

Duolingo Review

But before we start, let’s answer the most important question.

What Is Duolingo?

Duolingo was created in 2011 by Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker and launched its app in 2012. Since then, it has become the most popular language-learning platform, with more than 500 million language learners worldwide.

Duolingo's Mission to Teaching

They know that learning a language can be expensive and inaccessible for many people. So, their mission is to reach these people and teach them how to speak a new tongue for free.

Their learning process is personalized but balanced; because users can focus on what they want to learn about their target language and develop a strong knowledge of it without focusing on its rules while still getting full explanations of basic concepts about grammar, pronunciation, and phrases.

The interesting detail about their educational approach is that they want to make it a fun experience with game-like features.

For example, they assure that some of the exercises where you need to complete phrases have strange and quirky meanings. Yes, they do have common and simple sentences like “where is the cat?” but they also have “it’s easier to die than love.”

Because these phrases can be unexpected, users will have to carefully think about the language while also enjoying and having a laugh.

Duolingo Review

What Languages Can You Learn With Duolingo?

Here you can learn dozens of languages, such as:

And many more! They teach about 40 different tongues, including fictional languages like High Valyrian and Klingon. A nice detail for Game of Thrones and Star Trek true fans.

Where Can You Use Duolingo?

 The Duolingo app is currently available in:

It’s a great way to complete their short classes from the comfort of your phone. But if you want to use your computer, you also have their desktop version.

Duolingo Review

Duolingo's Learning Process

As we told you, Duolingo’s educational approach, as they sell it, is fun and effective. But how exactly does it work?

How It Works

Well, Duolingo is super easy and intuitive to use.

Each language course is divided into different modules, each one with many lessons about a specific topic. For example, the Spanish first module has eight lessons where they teach you phrases, present tense, and vocabulary related to family and school.

These lessons have six levels, consisting of three or five classes each. Completing them gives you:

And since we are at it, hearts represent your life just like in a videogame. The number of hearts you have is how many incorrect answers you can make. If you run out of them, you can get more by:

To jump to the next module, you must complete at least the first level of each lesson. Once you do it, you’ll be ready to take the Checkpoint Exam; the final test where you fail by choosing four wrong answers.

What’s great about this test is that you can take it whenever you feel ready. So, if you are starting a course for a language you already have some knowledge of, you can skip lessons by proving your understanding in the exam. If you pass it, you’ll automatically pass the first level of each module class.

Duolingo Review
Duolingo's Learning Path

So, that’s basically how Duolingo works. Now we are more than ready to begin our journey and see how you can learn a new language.

In our case, we chose to study Spanish and Italian.

Here at Gradehacker, we are both English and Spanish speakers, so I initially chose Spanish to ensure that the lessons and training they offer are worth your time. But to actually live the same learning experience anyone else could have, I am also picking Italian, which I don’t understand a word.

Let’s begin!

Our Experience

First of all, we had to complete the intro. It asks easy and basic level questions to see how much you know about the language and balance your level. Once completed, you can start with the first lessons.

In the classes, we find exercises like:

Duolingo Review

Unlike regular classes where you first get an explanation and later prove your understanding by completing the activities, in Duolingo, you learn while you are practicing.

It’s an easy-to-follow process where you mainly learn from repetition.

In every exercise, you can see the meaning of a word by tapping on it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a word you have already seen before; you can always check what it means.

So, this makes every exercise quite easy to complete. 

You just have to tap each word, find a coherent translation to the sentence, and write it down. Even though this can initially feel repetitive and as if you weren’t actually learning anything, the truth is that this is exactly how Duolingo’s learning experience shines.

By repeating and seeing the same words over and over again, they stick into your head. It’s reliving the same learning process we go through as small children!

Duolingo Review

Of course, as adults with many more skills and knowledge in our heads, learning a new language is not as easy as it was in our childhood. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take our age as an advantage.

For instance, we challenged ourselves not the constantly check out the meaning of familiar words, and we recommend it as a way to pay more attention and learn faster. Yes, you are more likely to make a mistake and lose a heart, but as an old Jedi Master would say, failure the greatest teacher is.  

The first few classes are basic lessons, but as you progress, each course adds new words and becomes more complex as your vocabulary grows.

However, each lesson has a “Tips” option, where they formally teach you some of the concepts that will be included in that class. It’s a simple explanation that, in our opinion, could be more thorough as an alternative for students who wish first to read and have a look at the content before completing the exercises.

Duolingo Review
Duolingo's Tips

Now, we must say that Duolingo isn’t as “funny” as they promised. We used it for a week and never encountered a weirdly unexpected sentence like the one we mentioned above. Clearly, we weren’t expecting to laugh as if it was a stand-up show, but it surprised us that we never came across these humorous sentences.

But we must agree that Duolingo delivers a joyful and dynamic experience that effectively helps you create the habit of completing the course one step at a time.

You can set your personal goals depending on how fast you want to progress or how much time you can dedicate to Duolingo per day. Once you set it, the app will constantly encourage you to meet your goal and even exceed it.

Duolingo Review

The most obvious way to achieve this is with their streak counter. Each day you log in and complete at least one class, you win your streak, and if you do it daily, these streaks will pile up. As a reward, you’ll get free boosts that let you double the experience you earn for a specific time.

Then we have the League feature where you compete more directly with people from around the world. You start in the Bronze League, and only the top 20 users with the most experience will move to the next category. And if you make it to the top three, you’ll get a chest with exclusive rewards (more experience and gems.)

They also have achievements and challenges, which give you an exclusive badge after earning a specific amount of experience. And, of course, let’s not forget about the frequent notifications that push up on your phone to remind you not to lose your streak.

All of these features are meant to help you build a long-term habit. Because you don’t want to lose your streak or want to take advantage of those bonus 15 minutes where you earn twice the experience, you continue using Duolingo.

The learning experience doesn’t change if you skip class one day, but you feel like you want to complete one class at least to keep your streak. 

That’s how, in a game-like and challenging way, Duolingo makes you incorporate this learning habit into your daily life.

Duolingo Review

Duolingo Stories and Classes

As an additional feature, as you win crowns, you unlock Duolingo Stories. This is a comprehension and listening exercise where you follow a conversation between two people and prove your understanding of what they are talking about. It’s a dynamic and entertaining exercise that also gives you experience once you complete it.

But most importantly, Duolingo also offers online classes hosted by native speakers of your target language. There is a wide variety of options you can choose from, ranging from one-on-one live conversations and group meetings where you all get to talk, ask questions, and make mistakes.

You have to pay to join most of them, with prices depending on the host, but most of these cost between $5 and $20, and you can also easily find some of these classes for free.

What’s best is that these classes are not just common teaching events. You can also find game groups and even unique experiences! For example, we found that there was a Spanish training lesson, where you also get to learn how to dance bachata, salsa, and merengue while practicing!

And in this case, this was free!

Joining is super easy, and we highly recommend considering them if you plan to use Duolingo.

Duolingo Review

The Difference Between The Desktop And Mobile Version

Now, here is something interesting we found.

As we first said, you can use Duolingo on their mobile app and in their online version. You don’t have to pick only one; you can use both, and your progress will be saved in your account.

In our case, we used both versions.

The mobile app feels more like a game. It’s easier and quicker to use, and because of all the frequent notifications and rewards, you are more tempted to complete a class whenever you have free time.

That’s why we agree that the game-like style Duolingo claims to have is not only real but also effective. The app wants you to return and keep learning, and they successfully keep you hooked.

On the other hand, the online desktop version can feel less dynamic. You can take the same classes, but completing them on your computer can take more time.

Duolingo Review

However, there is a big difference.

In the online version, you don’t have hearts. Meaning you can fail all the times you want.

This is a huge advantage for Duolingo online, as you can use it for as long as you like. Perhaps you save yourself two hours and complete the exercises of the classes in no rush. You can also follow our tip and challenge yourself even more by not checking so frequently the meaning of familiar words.

If you are not right, who cares? You can keep trying and learning without the risk of losing lives and having to wait four hours to try again.

And we also found that in the online version, you have fewer ads to endure. You can even use AdBlocker, remove any advertisement, and have a much more pleasant experience. If you don’t use this extension and want to see which are the best chrome extensions for college students, check out our blog!

Duolingo Review

We get that overall, the experience of using Duolingo on your phone can be faster and more dynamic. But the opportunity of making as many mistakes as you need is too good to waste.

That’s why we recommend using both versions.

The mobile app when you don’t have much time, and the desktop version when you can dedicate more hours to learning and completing the exercise at your own pace.

Duolingo's Cost

So, they have an interesting and effective learning experience, but to fully take advantage of it, it must be necessary to pay, right?

Well, actually, no. Duolingo is 100% free. Meaning you can complete a full course and never pay a dollar. 

It might take you more time, as hearts regenerate over time and you have limited test outs. And yes, you’ll have to endure those unavoidable ads; but aside from that, there is no reason you can’t take a full language course in their free version.

However, if you want to do it faster and with additional features on your side, you can pay for Duolingo Plus.

With it, you also get:

Again, even if these extra features can help you reduce the time it takes you to finish a course, it’s not necessary at all to pay for it. And if you first want to see how it works, you have a 14-day free trial to make up your mind.

So, Duolingo Plus costs:

Our Verdict

So, what do we think about Duolingo?

In our opinion, Duolingo is a great alternative for anyone who wants to learn a new language for free. They offer classes for dozens of languages, with different types of exercises to train you to improve your listening, speaking, and writing skills.

What makes Duolingo so interesting and worth it is that you can finish a language course for free, regardless of the time you need. If you go for this free version, you’ll have to endure a few ads here and there, and you’ll be more likely to watch one to earn an extra heart; but they never get to feel too excessive as they never interrupt the class.

And if you can afford it and want to get the benefits of Duolingo Plus, their prices aren’t that high either. They are affordable if you plan on using it every day, and it’s even better if you want to get the family plan. It doesn’t necessarily have to be for your family; you can use it with your friends and split the cost!

But the best asset Duolingo has is its learning process. It’s an easy-to-follow experience that you can learn much from if you truly understand how it works.

It’s designed to be a more personal and slow-paced experience, where you progress little by little every day, especially if you want to use the mobile app.

It’s confusing to us why the free online version has unlimited mistakes, but we certainly think anyone interested in learning with Duolingo should take advantage of this. 

We recommend using the mobile app to progress those busy days you only have less than 15 minutes free to focus, and logging in the desktop version when you have more free time and know you can dedicate yourself entirely to the exercises.

Duolingo Review

Now, if you are looking for a more personalized and traditional learning approach, then Duolingo might not be for you. The only human interaction you can get is optional, but overall you never receive external help.

Plus, you have to rely too much on yourself.

To continue the classes, you must truly want to learn the language and have strong willpower. It’s critical that you develop the effective habit of joining and completing at least one class per day. If you fail to catch up with the daily exercises, you will likely abandon the course and your dreams of acquiring a new skill.

Luckily, Duolingo has many techniques to achieve this and constantly encourages you to continue learning. Its game-like framework makes it easier to incorporate this practice into your life and doesn’t feel it as something tedious or frustrating.

Once you see that the best way to learn with Duolingo is by taking your time and making mistakes, the experience becomes less boring and more entertaining!

Overall, we highly recommend trying Duolingo. You learn a new language in a dynamic and interesting way, and if you later find it’s not for you, you lose nothing because it’s free!


Is Duolingo For You?

Duolingo might be that app you’ve been looking for if you:

If you want to add more aptitudes to your resume, learning a language is one of the most effective and requested skills. But if you don’t have the time to enroll in traditional classes or simply would like to receive a more dynamic and appealing learning process, we highly recommend you give Duolingo a try.

Many languages, various types of exercises, a didactic educational approach, and tons of techniques to keep you hooked on learning. Everything for free!

So go ahead and give it a try! 

We hope this review helped you make an informed decision! If you are looking for other apps and websites to expand your skills, don’t miss our related content:

Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea is a curious and creative journalist who first helped many college students as a Gradehacker consultant in subjects like literature, communications, ethics, and business. Now, as a Content Creator in our blog, YouTube channel, and TikTok, he assists non-traditional students improve their college experience by sharing the best tips. You can find him on LinkedIn.