Is It Just Me, or Does Duolingo Not Work? (2023)

science of us

By Katie Heaney, a Cut contributor who covers health and wellness

(Video) Everyone is FURIOUS at the new Duolingo Update. Here’s Why

Is It Just Me, or Does Duolingo Not Work? (2)

Photo: Provided by Duolingo.

(Video) Introducing Duolingo Math

A few years ago, about six months before a trip (my first) to Paris, I downloaded Duolingo in an attempt to “learn French.” I put that in quotation marks because I did not, of course, expect to become fluent or even mildly conversant in a foreign language over such a short time frame, and especially not using an app. But I did expect to learn something —anything —useful. I hoped to learn how to say “Where is the bathroom?” or “How much does this cost?” or “I want that one,” the sort of purely transactional but useful phrases a tourist needs to get around town at least somewhat politely. When I went on a class trip to China in college, I learned these three phrases, plus “hello” and “thank you,” and I remember them all today, 14 years later. Do you know why? Because they are real things people say, unlike most of the phrases I recall being taught via Duolingo.

Here is what I remember from my months of Duolingo French studies: “une pomme.” An apple. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times Duolingo had me talking about apples. And not in normal, plausible contexts — not “I’ll have an apple, please,” or “Do you want my apple?” The circumstances in which Duolingo envisioned my needing to speak about apples were either too fanciful (“The bird is eating an apple: L’oiseau mange la pomme”) or vaguely threatening (“My pocket contains an apple: Ma poche contient une pomme.” I translated apple from English to French and back again. I spoke it aloud. I typed it out when it was spoken to me. “I GET IT,” I screamed at Duolingo. “UNE POMME.”

Sure, I know how to say hello, and please, and thank you, but these are all things I’d already absorbed by living in a country that loves putting French words on pillows and T-shirts. I didn’t learn much of anything about sentence structure, because the Duolingo app doesn’t explain that to you. If coming to a language as a novice, you’ll learn largely by trial and error, which means you’ll learn by memorizing, with little context as to why sentences look the way they do. It’s hard for me to believe anyone could really learn a new language in any meaningful way with this program. But I’m not a language professor, or an expert; I am merely a crabby writer with slight Francophile tendencies. What do actual language professionals think of Duolingo?

Kerstin Cable, a language coach and host of the Fluent Show podcast, first wrote about Duolingo in 2015, criticizing it for its impractical vocabulary, its insistence upon one acceptable translation per sentence prompt, and its lack of explanation for incorrect answers, and she tells me much of this criticism still holds. “In this app,” she wrote back then, “you learn by parroting phrases, without even beginning to cover the background stories that grammar and pragmatics tell.”

(Video) DUOLINGO PRACTICE TEST | Tips & Techniques | TEST 29

But what annoys Cable most about Duolingo is the app’s own propaganda. “For a while, Duolingo told you, ‘You’re X% fluent.’ Which is one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen,” she told me, because how is fluency being defined? Duolingo doesn’t serve users that message anymore, but there are still big claims being made — one recent pop-up I got between lessons said that playing Duolingo for 34 hours was equivalent to a college semester’s worth of language instruction. But what grade will you get at the end?

Steven Sacco is a retired language professor and linguist with 40 years of experience, who now owns a consulting firm which works to develop language learning programs with multinational corporations. He has also used Duolingo to study 26 different languages, completing all available lessons for seven of them. Intrigued by Duolingo’s “34 hours” claim, he put it to the test, studying Swedish on the app for a total of 300 hours. (Most introductory university Swedish courses amount to 150 or so hours of coursework, he reasoned; 300 would be more than safe.) He then convinced the professor of UCLA’s Elementary Swedish course to let him take the final exam. He got an F.

This is not to say that Duolingo is useless; when we speak by phone early one morning, Sacco has already completed his daily Duolingo lessons. “I love the opportunity to take language lessons for free, and I can study languages anytime,” says Sacco. “I love the competition factor, where you can compete against other students.” (Duolingo allows you to add “Friends,” with whom you’ll share scores, and be ranked accordingly.)

But it is precisely some of these gamelike elements that frustrate Cable. Duolingo is “so focused on giving you rewards, like check-boxes, that it hasn’t given you a lot of chances to fail,” she told me. “And as a language learner, you have to fail. Eventually you’re going to be in front of people, sounding like an idiot. It’s part of the process.” People don’t speak like algorithms do, and it’s only in using weird, too-formal expressions in front of other people that you’ll learn the latest, best slang. (Another benefit of failing in language learning: The shame, which will never let you forget the word you meant to use.)

Duolingo’s design largely relies upon a system called “spaced repetition,” a technique in which learned information is repeated at regular (usually short) intervals. And it’s true that spaced repetition combats what’s called the “forgetting curve,” thus allowing for easier and longer-lasting memorization. Memorization can help you learn new vocabulary. But we also get worse at memorization as we age, say Richard Roberts and Roger Kreuz, psychologists and co-authors of Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Language. Memorization and accent come more easily to children, but adults have more tools at their disposal, say Roberts and Kreuz, like higher proficiency in our native language, and what they call “metalinguistic awareness,” or knowing how a language works. When adults expect themselves to learn effectively based on rote memorization alone, they write, they soon become demoralized, and give up.

(Video) looks like you missed your spanish lesson today

Cable echoes these concerns. “I don’t think [using Duolingo as your only tool] is going to get you anywhere, and it’ll give you that dissatisfaction that so many people feel. It’s really frustrating.” These limitations wouldn’t be so bothersome if Duolingo itself didn’t suggest it’s all anyone needs to learn a language, which it does in loading screen messaging like “15 minutes a day can teach you a language,” or that 34 hours equals a college semester course claim. Duolingo might be good at teaching you vocab —Sacco says Duolingo provides users with more than 3000 vocab words over a given language course —but that doesn’t make it comprehensive. Duolingo “certainly isn’t going to be something I recommend to my clients in French West Africa, that they take Duolingo English to improve enough to be able to work in English,” he says. “That’s not something I’m going to advise them to do without using an immersion setting in addition.”

Cable notes that the web version of Duolingo — which I admit I did not know was a thing — provides much more in the way of grammar instruction than its much better known app counterpart, and is better at explaining why certain answers are wrong (or right). But she and Sacco agree that nothing comes close to immersion.To learn a language, says Cable, “you need habit, human contact, and you need varying resources, otherwise language learning doesn’t really go anywhere.” Sacco puts it even more bluntly: “There’s nothing but immersion, period.” But, he adds, he and his wife are considering a move to Sweden, and what resources are there if he wants to learn Swedish before the move, short of hiring a private Swedish tutor, for who knows how much money? Duolingo will have to do for the meantime. Duolingo, my enemy, you’ve defeated me yet again. Or, as the French would say: une pomme.


  • science of us
  • language learning
  • duolingo
  • self

+Comments Leave a Comment

(Video) I Tried Duolingo's NEWEST Language! (The Language is Math)

Is It Just Me, or Does Duolingo Not Work?


Is there a problem with Duolingo at the moment? › is UP and reachable by us. Please check and report on local outages below ...

What's going on with Duolingo? ›

Duolingo has a new and improved guidebook to give you a better idea of what to expect in lessons. It's also easier to access lesson tips. In the redesign, you'll find a guidebook at the start of each unit that gives a bite-sized, effective overview of what you'll learn.

Why has Duolingo changed 2022? ›

Duolingo's CEO, Luis von Ahn, has seen those concerns, and he has no plans to undo any of the changes. “This is why we decided to do this: to simplify Duolingo and also to make it so that new users understood how to best use Duolingo,” von Ahn said in a video interview.

Why am I not getting speaking exercises on Duolingo? ›

If you are experiencing issues with speaking exercises in the Duolingo Android app, please check for the following settings/permissions: Speaking exercises toggled ON in the Duolingo Android app (Profile tab > Settings > Speaking exercises) Microphone permissions set to ALLOW for Duolingo in your Android settings.

Did Duolingo change 2022? ›

Over the course of 2022, Duolingo rolled out a complete redesign of their home screen, switching from a "tree" to a "path" learning model. Public user feedback following this app redesign has been very negative, with many users threatening to cancel their Duolingo subscription.

Can you become fluent with Duolingo? ›

We see this question a lot and the answer is: yes. Duolingo is a free language-learning platform, and every language and lesson is totally free!

Can you actually learn a language from Duolingo? ›

Duolingo is not a stand-alone language course, but it's an excellent addition to a language learner's toolbox. It's easy to use, it's fun and it works. Don't forget to do the homework, though. If your aim is to achieve real fluency, remember to read, speak, and truly live the language that you're learning!

Can I go back to old version of Duolingo? ›

If you need a rollback of Duolingo, check out the app's version history on Uptodown. It includes all the file versions available to download off Uptodown for that app. Download rollbacks of Duolingo for Android. Any version of Duolingo distributed on Uptodown is completely virus-free and free to download at no cost.

Is there a better alternative to Duolingo? ›

We have compiled a list of solutions that reviewers voted as the best overall alternatives and competitors to Duolingo, including Rosetta Stone, Lingvist, Busuu, and Mango Languages.

Which is better babbel or Duolingo? ›

Is Babbel better than Duolingo? After thoroughly testing out and reviewing each language learning program, we feel that Babbel is better than Duolingo for multiple reasons. Based on the strength of their curriculum, teaching style and delivery, we rate Babbel as the superior app over Duolingo.

What is the hardest language to learn on Duolingo? ›

Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn.

How much Duolingo should I do a day? ›

You don't need to spend hours on Duolingo each day. However, you must put a reasonable amount of time into learning. If you log in to complete one lesson and sign out as soon as you've reached 10XP, you won't get very far. To optimize your learning, aim to spend between 15 and 30 minutes on the app each day.

What level will Duolingo get you to? ›

The levels are labeled A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2, and they cover increasingly complex language needs. Most people don't need to master all, or even most, of the levels. It's all about what you want to do with the language.

How long should a Duolingo unit take? ›

Each module is made of up 6 levels, and within each level, there are 3 to 4 lessons. That may sound like a lot, and it is, but know that each lesson is very short, taking only about 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

What is the best way to progress through Duolingo? ›

“Hover” around several skills – spreading your time across a handful of nearby skills – and alternate between gaining crowns and doing new lessons. Hovering across multiple skills helps you maximize learning by practicing what you've already studied while continuing to learn new material.

Is Duolingo good for your brain? ›

Studies suggest that being bilingual could delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms by five years on average, making free language-learning apps like Duolingo a superior alternative to pricey new medications.

Will clearing cache delete anything? ›

You'll get some storage space back, but nothing you've downloaded will be deleted. Depending on the app, user data such as your preferences or search history may be reset.

Is removing cache OK? ›

In general, I recommend not clearing your cache unless you have a specific reason to. The files in the cache allow the websites you visit most often to load faster, which is a good thing. Your browser will periodically delete old files, so it's not like the cache is going to keep growing forever.

Is clearing cache worth it? ›

Cache data can slow down your phone's browsing performance since it takes up storage space in your device, so it's good to clear it out regularly.

Why has my Duolingo changed? ›

Why are courses updated? There is no such thing as a “finished” language course. So at Duolingo, we're always working to make our courses better! If you've gotten an update, it's because we're excited to share the latest changes to the existing course.

How many hours of Duolingo is equal to a college course? ›

We have a team of PhDs dedicated to this. According to an independent study conducted by the City University of New York and the University of South Carolina, an average of 34 hours of Duolingo are equivalent to a full university semester of language education. You can see a full report of the study here.

What do people think of the new Duolingo? ›

it's much better for beginners. The clarity of the new learning path makes it WAY more beginner-friendly. Whether you're using Duolingo for the first time or you're starting a brand new language course, the new learning path is, as far as I'm concerned, a lot more welcoming.

What is the longest Duolingo streak? ›

Congrats to John Arnold, who has the highest-ever Duolingo streak of over 2000 days! He's a horse farmer and chemist.

Is Rosetta Stone better than Duolingo? ›

Yes. After thoroughly testing out and reviewing each language learning app, we found Rosetta Stone to be a superior program to Duolingo. While we like Duolingo's gamification of learning, Rosetta Stone is simply more comprehensive and effective.

What is the easiest language to learn? ›

And The Easiest Language To Learn Is…
  1. Norwegian. This may come as a surprise, but we have ranked Norwegian as the easiest language to learn for English speakers. ...
  2. Swedish. ...
  3. Spanish. ...
  4. Dutch. ...
  5. Portuguese. ...
  6. Indonesian. ...
  7. Italian. ...
  8. French.
Nov 9, 2021

Will I lose my progress if I delete Duolingo? ›

When you reinstall the app, you will not lose any skill progress once you log into your account.

What happens if you uninstall Duolingo? ›

Please be careful as this will disable all your Duolingo-related accounts! You will be logged out as soon as you disable your account. If you deactivate your account, your username and email associated with your account will be reserved so that nobody else can sign up with those.

How many years old is Duolingo? ›

So in 2011, Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker founded Duolingo: the free way to learn 30+ languages like Spanish, Chinese, and English. Now, Duolingo is the world's #1 way to learn a language, with more than 500 million learners worldwide.

What happens when you finish all the Duolingo lessons? ›

Once you complete all the levels in a unit, you'll complete a challenge to earn your unit trophy. You'll also have the option to earn the Legendary trophy for each unit.

Which is better Babbel or Rosetta Stone or Duolingo? ›

After using each program for more than a month, it was clear to us that Babbel is more comprehensive and engaging than the language apps from Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. While there are elements of the Rosetta Stone and Duolingo programs that we like, Babbel clearly has a more effective learning framework.

How many days does it take to complete a Duolingo course? ›

Most of the Duolingo marketing touts “Spending 15 minutes a day learning a new language.” So, if you have 387.5 hours of material to get through – and you practice for 15 minutes a day – that's 1,550 days. (387.5 hours is 23,250 minutes. Divide that by 15 minutes per day, and you get 1,550 days to finish a language.)

What is the most effective language learning app? ›

Best Language Learning Apps for 2023
  • Duolingo. Best for learning multiple languages. See at Duolingo.
  • Babbel. Best for an online school-type experience. See at Babbel.
  • Drops. Best for visual learners. See at Drops.
  • Mondly. Best for helping you remember specific phrases. ...
  • Memrise. Best for learning to speak casually in a new language.
Jan 9, 2023

Has anyone become fluent using Babbel? ›

You will most likely not become fluent with Babbel. It's a solid language app and can give you a strong foundation in your target language, but to achieve fluency, you'll need to use other resources. While it won't help you become fluent, Babbel can help you improve your language skills.

What is the best language program to learn? ›

Our Top Picks for Best Language Learning Software for 2022
  • Duolingo – Best Free Course Software.
  • Rosetta Stone – Best Comprehensive Language Learning Software.
  • Babbel – Best for Intermediate Learners.
  • iTalki – Best for Tutoring.
  • Pimsleur – Best for Learning on the Go.
  • Sign It! ...
  • Lingoda – Best for Group Lessons.
Nov 11, 2022

Is Babbel harder than Duolingo? ›

Final Thoughts On Babbel Vs Duolingo

Babbel is harder for beginners and it might be better to use it after getting acquainted with the language. Compared to Duolingo it pushes students to write more than read and has a far more conversational approach, almost entirely teaching in the form of conversations.

What happens if Duolingo is too easy? ›

If you have previous experience with a language and feel that lessons are too easy, you can scroll to the next locked unit and tap the circle that says “Jump here?”. If you pass the test, you'll unlock that unit! NOTE: This will complete all levels up to that point.

Can Duolingo teach swears? ›

It's time to talk dirty with Duo. The bonus level “swear words” will then be launched. start swearing. Unlock the new lesson for free using our ads.

What percentage of people finish a Duolingo course? ›

An informal study estimates that course completion rates fall as low as 0.01% for Spanish learners (second most popular language on Duolingo), and peak at 0.24% for Ukrainian learners.

Is finishing Duolingo worth it? ›

Finishing a Duolingo course might teach you how to process the written language on some basic level, but going through thousands of short and unrelated sentences doesn't really have much in common with actual reading. This is why you should develop your own reading practice.

Why is Duolingo so repetitive? ›

Duolingo's design largely relies upon a system called “spaced repetition,” a technique in which learned information is repeated at regular (usually short) intervals. And it's true that spaced repetition combats what's called the “forgetting curve,” thus allowing for easier and longer-lasting memorization.

What is the average Duolingo score? ›

115 is considered a good Duolingo score. A score above 110 is considered good, and that above 120 is considered excellent in Duolingo. Is 120 a good Duolingo score? Yes, 120 is considered to be an excellent Duolingo score.

Can you actually learn a language while sleeping? ›

Not a lot, unfortunately. As Jennifer Ackerman notes in her splendid 2007 book Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream, learning a language while sleeping “is probably impossible, [and] attempts to teach slumbering adult subjects vocabulary of foreign languages or lists of items have failed miserably.”

Is Duolingo offline? ›

Can I use Duolingo offline? Yes, users can do some lessons while offline and using the apps, but your activity will not be credited towards your daily goals unless you logon before midnight.

Is Duolingo forum down? ›

All Duolingo forum pages, except Sentence Discussions, are removed and no longer accessible.

Why is Duolingo blocked? ›

What happened? If you are suspected of violating any of the rules of the Duolingo English Test, or engaging in any activity that might damage the integrity or security of the test, Duolingo reserves the right to block you from taking the Duolingo English Test again on any account tied to your identity.

Is Duolingo test offline? ›

The Duolingo English Test is an online exam that candidates can take on their personal computers. Candidates who need to prove English language proficiency can give the Duolingo English Test which can be taken online from anywhere anytime.

Can you become fluent with just Duolingo? ›

We see this question a lot and the answer is: yes. Duolingo is a free language-learning platform, and every language and lesson is totally free!

Can someone take my duolingo test? ›

The DET is a high-stakes exam, and we take test security very seriously. If you intentionally cheat on the DET, such as consulting outside sources, speaking to another person during the exam, or having someone else take the test in your name, you will not be permitted to take the test again.

Does Duolingo listen to your conversations? ›

Since Audio Lessons focus on listening and speaking skills, you can study hands-free without even looking at your phone. The lessons automatically listen for your voice when it's your turn to speak, so you can make the most of your morning walk, doing laundry, or just some down time on the couch after a long day!

Why has Duolingo changed again? ›

Why are courses updated? There is no such thing as a “finished” language course. So at Duolingo, we're always working to make our courses better! If you've gotten an update, it's because we're excited to share the latest changes to the existing course.

What happens if I delete Duolingo app? ›

Please be careful as this will disable all your Duolingo-related accounts! You will be logged out as soon as you disable your account. If you deactivate your account, your username and email associated with your account will be reserved so that nobody else can sign up with those.

Does Harvard accept Duolingo? ›

English is the language of instruction at Harvard Extension School.
Meeting the Requirement.
TestMinimum Approved Score
Pearson Test of English Academic (PTEA)70
Duolingo English Test (DET)125
2 more rows

Is 115 a good Duolingo score? ›

115 is considered a good Duolingo score. A score above 110 is considered good, and that above 120 is considered excellent in Duolingo.

How many times can I retake Duolingo test? ›

Once you complete and submit a test, you will need to wait for your results before taking a new test. You may purchase three tests in any 30 day period.


1. I did DUOLINGO for 800 days in a row
(Days of French ’n’ Swedish)
2. Native Korean Speedruns Duolingo Korean (but it gets heated)
3. Duolingo Review: Does it really work?
(Fingtam Languages)
4. Why I'm Quitting the Japanese Duolingo Course (An Honest Review)
5. Is Duolingo Really a Good Way to Study Japanese? | A Japanese Man Reacts to Duolingo
(Let's ask Shogo | Your Japanese friend in Kyoto)
6. Stop using Duolingo! Why Duolingo is bad for language learning & how to know if you're STUCK!
(Multilingual Mastery)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated: 11/16/2022

Views: 5515

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.