Welcome to my series on homeschool language learning apps!
Duolingo and Mango Languagesare two of the most popular language learning apps in the homeschooling community—and for good reason. They're both free, convenient, and make impressive claims about how well they teach foreign languages. But are they really all that they're cracked up to be?
Today, I'm here to offer my honest assessment of Duolingo for homeschool foreign language learning. I'm writing as both a homeschooling mom and a foreign language educator with advanced training in language pedagogy (and a PhD in Spanish). After spending a good amount of time with the app, I'm ready to share my full opinion: what I like andwhat I don't like about Duolingo, along with my recommendations for how homeschooling families can use this app to learn foreign languages.
By the way, I’m not associated with or compensated in any way by Duolingo. This review is simply a resource that I wanted to provide to the Language Learning At Home community, since I know that so many of you are interested in using this app.
The First Thing You Need to Know
The absolute, number one most important thing that I need you to know about Duolingo is this:
Duolingo is NOT a homeschool foreign language curriculum.
I mean that so sincerely that I wrote an entire blog post explaining why.
As you read this blog post, keep that fact in mind—because my evaluation of Duolingo assumes that you understand that it is a practice tool, not a curricula.
What is Duolingo?
Duolingo was developed by a professor at Carnegie Mellon University as a gamified foreign language program,and it was released to the public in 2012. Just one year later, Apple named it its iPhone “App of the Year” and since then, it’s grown to over 30 million users worldwide—including many homeschooling families. It is currently available for free, although you can choose to purchase a paid upgrade that eliminates ads and provides offline access to the app.
Is Duolingo a sound educational tool for homeschoolers?
It's important to me that the resources that I recommendare not only practical and affordable, but also pedagogically sound—I don't want to tell homeschooling parents to use tools that ultimately won't work! So, here's what I did to evaluate Duolingo as a mom and language teacher:
I signed up for Duolingo myself in TWO languages—one that I speak, and one that I don’t. First, I tested the app in Portuguese—which I speak fluently—so that I could move quickly through it and get a sense of how the lessons progress. This also gave me a sense of what Duolingo is like for advanced language learners. I wanted to test whether or not it would be engaging enough to hold the attention of proficient students, so this was important to me. In addition, I also spent time on the app learning Korean (super fun!), so that I could understand what it would be like to use Duolingo as a total beginner and as a language learner working with a (totally unfamiliar) non-Latin alphabet. Since so many homeschooling families are learning Chinese, Japanese, and Hebrew, this was something I considered essential.
Having spent a few weeks working regularly with the app, I'm now ready to share what I like—and what I don't—about Duolingo for homeschool language learners. And I have some suggestions on how you can make the most of this free language learning app in your home.
What I LOVE about Duolingo, as a language educator:
Many world languages are available through the app. As I am writing this, there are currently 21 languages available to learn through Duolinguo, including: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Irish, Swedish, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Greek, Esperanto, Turkish, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Norwegian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, and Welsh. Whew—just typing that out was exhausting! But here’s the thing: there truly is a language for every child included in this app. And good news for homeschoolers—Mandarin Chinese is now available, due to popular demand. I know that a lot of the families in our Language Learning At Home Facebook community are eager to learn Chinese, so if that’s you, be sure to check out this new addition to the Duolingo line-up.
Duolingo smartly gamifies language learning. The latest education research demonstrates that gamified learning is incredibly effective. By gamifying education , we can: increase student motivation, expand student curiosity and provide real-world practice in the chosen subject. If you have kids who love video games, you really don’t need any research to tell you this—you likely already know how games capture their attention and teach through real experience! If you’d like to learn more about Duolingo’s gamificiation of language learning, you can read about it in-depth here, but suffice it to say that this is a sound educational strategy that makes Duolingo a great option for gameschoolers or anyone else who sees value in this kind of learning.
The app’s structure allows students to progress at their own pace. While deliberate practice is essential for any language learner, some students will need more review time than others. Duolingo facilitates this by allowing your child to repeat individual lessons or entire units of study as needed. I had to do this to review the Korean alphabet and it was easy to repeat those elements that I needed to practice just once or twice more. Furthermore, Duolingo also allows students to “test out” of each level if they can demonstrate proficiency, which is great for those kids who really want to progress quickly.
The app integrates well with other language curricula (mostly). Because it is structured thematically—and that structure is very obvious within the app—Duolingo can be used alongside whatever language classes and/or curricula you may already be using in your homeschool. If your child is memorizing the parts of the body in Vietnamese, for example, he/she can easily access that content on Duolingo and use it for review—provided that he/she has reached the level within Duolingo that includes such content.
Students gain listening comprehension by hearing clear examples delivered by native speakers. The native speakers who narrate different portions of the app have neutral accents that are easy to understand, and being able to listen to their delivery multiple times (if desired) allows students to mimic the accent more easily. This is great for families where children are learning languages that are not spoken by the parents.
Duolingo provides immediate feedback on mistakes, as well as corrections. This is essential to ensuring that errors don’t become permanent patterns for your language learner.
Advanced students can practice speaking (and/or writing) skills with Duolingo’s conversation bots. This element of the app was a real novelty—I’ve never had a conversation in Portuguese with a robot before! Yet that’s exactly what I did on Duolingo, when I participated in a role-playing scenario as a customer ordering a meal in a Brazilian restaurant. I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised by how engaging this activity was, as well as how effective it was from a teaching point of view. While I am still a huge proponent of face-to-face interactions for language learning—since there are so many physical and cultural elements to speaking a foreign language—I have to admit that Duolingo has developed a great tool here, and I hope that they expand the options for conversation available within the app.(Video) UNBIASED review of Rosetta Stone! Plus FREE resources below!
Duolingo offers supplemental materials to aid students with language practice and cultural learning. The app has recently launched a complementary flashcard program called Tinycards, where students can create their own flashcards or use sets created by other Duolingo users to review geography, vocabulary, and cultural facts. Tinycards is not exclusively for language learning—there are also flashcard reviews of the periodic table, for example—but it’s a nice complement to Duolingo itself.
Duolingo accounts for glitches within its own software. Sometimes, the transcription part of the app wouldn’t pick up my spoken response correctly, but Duolingo provided a way for me to edit my response in writing so that I wouldn’t be penalized for a wrong answer. I really appreciated this, as it saved a lot of frustration and helped me to maintain my momentum through each activity.
Students can study more than one language on Duolingo (as my experience shows). This is a fun perk for those families who just can’t get enough of language learning—which, as I suspect, includes many of you!
What I LOVE about Duolingo,as a homeschool mom:
It’s free AND high quality. Win win. As we all know, homeschooling is not cheap, and when you’re spending money on other curricula, it’s nice to be able to save on language learning materials. (If you’re struggling with homeschooling on a budget, here’s some specific encouragement for you). I’m happy to say, however, that with Duolingo, what you get is not what you pay for. The app is excellent for a free resource.
It has an extremely intuitive design that you and your children will pick up immediately. The app is just plain cute, aside from being easy to navigate. Since it’s gamified, the progression of curriculum is already decided for you. There’s no wondering what to study next, since Duolingo funnels learners directly into the next unit based on their skills. That’s a relief for homeschooling families!
Duolingo provides students with regular, encouraging reminders to practice their language skills. For families with older children, this means that you don’t have to remind your kids to practice daily—Duolingo will send an e-mail directly to their personal e-mail account.
The app can be used by families with limited Internet access. If Internet access is hard to come by—as is a concern for some rural homeschoolers—you can pay a nominal fee to download Duolingo lessons directly onto your device. This is also a great idea for families who want to use Duolingo when worldschooling, roadschooling, or just during the drive to swim practice. You can avoid using up your data on Duolingo by choosing this option.
So that, in short, is a summary of all the positives that I found with Duolingo. I really was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the app—especially since I never used any language learning apps when I was a student myself!
Of course, no app (or curricula) is perfect, so there are a few things that I considered less than ideal in Duolingo. Here they are:
What I DON’T like about Duolingo, as a language educator:
The lack of writing practice. By this, I mean the physical tracing of characters. This was a serious issue for me while I was trying to learn Korean, as the characters of the Korean alphabet were totally unfamiliar to me. While the app provided plenty of activities that taught me to recognize the characters, if you asked me to write them out on paper, I wouldn’t be able to do so—and therefore, my writing skills in that language would be woefully underdeveloped. I also think that I would have been able to learn the letters more quickly had I had the opportunity to practice writing them out. This is less of an issue for languages that use the Latin alphabet (like Spanish, French, and Portuguese), but for homeschool students studying Russian, Chinese, or Japanese, this could be a real stumbling block. Considering that the technology exists to have students practice writing on touch screens, I would imagine that Duolingo could develop this capacity in the future, but for now, it's just not there.
No background/overview of content to orient language learners. When you begin a language with Duolingo, the app immediately starts teaching individual letters of the target language's alphabet—without necessarily providing information on how that alphabet functions, overall. Since the Korean alphabet was totally unfamiliar to me, it would have been helpful to know, for example, that the alphabet has 24 letters and that each letter is formed by a combination of 1-3 basic shapes: straight lines, circles, or squares. If Duolingo had provided a quick summary of that information at the beginning of the Korean exercises, it would have helped me set my expectations of what I was learning and how I would use it in the future. This is just a basic best practice in education: students should have a sense of the road ahead of them and how the information that they’re learning fits into a larger goal. (Classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, I know that you hear me on this—it's all about that synthetic learning). Yet because of Duolingo’s lack in this area, I ended up having to leave my Korean studies to search for articles like this one, so that I could contextualize for myself what I was doing. And that’s all well and fine for a motivated adult learner like myself, but it would be problematic for a homeschool student—especially a young teenager. Not all children would want to expend the extra time and effort to find information like I did, and could therefore experience significant (unnecessary) frustration trying to figure out why the app is progressing in a certain way.
No opportunities to self-correct (on certain activities). When language learners make mistakes (which are normal and even good!), it is important for them to correct those mistakes in order to set correct patterns of speech and writing. Yet many of Duolingo’s activities did not allow for self-correction—if I responded incorrectly, the app simply displayed the correct answer and then moved on to the next activity.
Some activities are designed to be solved by guesswork (not application of learning). There were a few activities in my Korean alphabet review that caught me off-guard, as the app jumped from teaching individual letters to asking me to translate a word (a skill I was totally unprepared for). And again, as I mentioned above, Duolingo offered no explanation of how Korean letters combine to form words. So I was left just randomly picking word after word to see what fit—and that’s not learning, it’s guessing. Not good.
There are still some software bugs that leave language learners in the lurch.In my Portuguese program, I came across one matching activity that had errors, and there were also some bugs related to the drag-and-drop writing activities—mainly, the swiping feature was too sensitive and would order my response incorrectly. While there’s nothing to be done about the former, the latter is just something to be aware of. If you remind your child to review his final answers before submitting these kinds of activities, you will spare him undue frustration.
What I DON’T like, as a mom:
It is extremely difficult to work Duolingo’s “family sharing” feature. Unless every child in your family has his/her own device, you will have to either assign a different language to everyone (not practical) or sign your children in and out of the app as they use it, since each account needs its own e-mail address (annoying). If the Duolingo message boards are any indication, many parents have complained about this to the company, but there has been no fix for it yet.
The social features of the app require parental vigilance. Duolingo offers language learners the opportunity to join clubs with other students studying the same language—but there is absolutely no filtering or moderating of these groups. While I didn’t see any objectionable content on the groups that I joined, I would be wary of your child’s or teen’s participation in such groups. If your child has access to the app with his/her own e-mail account, I would suggest reviewing basic safety rules for social media before use and doing random checks to ensure that they are not communicating with other language learners. If you need some ideas to start the discussion with your children on social media etiquette and rules, I highly recommend Leah Nieman’s resources—she’s a homeschooling veteran who now works to help families manage technology wisely.
In sum, each of these things is something to consider when deciding whether or not Duolingo is a good fit for your family. No app is perfect, and none of these would necessarily be deal breakers in and of themselves. But it is good to be aware of these potential issues, so that you can plan accordingly and protect your children.
How to Use Duolingo for Homeschool Language Learning:
If you've decided that Duolingo will be a good fit for your family, here's how you can make the most out of this app for homeschool language learning:
Since Duolingo is structured by short, daily practice sessions, think about where those might fit into your typical schedule. Of course, you can make this part of your morning basket, or before lunch routine, but given its portability, Duolingo can also be used effectively during your childs downtime. Got a twenty minute drive to sports practice? Duolingo time! Does your teen need to decompress with some screen time at the end of the day? Duolingo time—it’s so fun, I promise that it won’t feel like studying.
Consider which additional resources you might be able to provide to your language learner. Duolingo is great, but to really learn a language, your child needs more than what an app can offer. Audiobooks are an excellent way to boost your child’s listening comprehension, but there are other ways to do this as well. Could you pool resources with other homeschooling parents to organize a small conversation class? Could your child volunteer at a community center where he/she might have an opportunity to practice the language?
And again, make sure that you’re using Duolingo in conjunction with a solid foreign language curriculum. I’ve got round-ups of foreign language homeschool curricula here on the blog, so you can check out which options are available to you: here’s my Spanish homeschool curriculum round-up, my French homeschool curriculum round-up and my Latin homeschool curriculum round-up.
And for conversation practice, I highly recommend that you check out iTalki, which is what our family uses for affordable and age-appropriate practice with a native speaker. And, since it’s online, it’s a great option for this school year, when in-person tutoring might be off the table.
Up the ante. If you have a number of children learning languages (or even better, the same language), enhance the Duolingo experience by making it into a competition. While I don’t recommend speeding through each activity—your child’s brain needs some time to process and retain new language skills—you could create some friendly rivalry by encouraging your children to see who can keep up the longest Duolingo streak. Whoever wins gets a Twinkie (or whatever your reward of choice might be).
Use cultural education to give your child’s Duolingo use a real-world meaning. Language learning without culture is like studying math without ever using money—there has to be a real-world connection, or the subject will quickly lose its appeal. If your child wants to travel abroad in college, use Duolingo as a way to prepare and stoke that passion for travel and cultures. If he/she has a favorite author who writes in another language, use Duolingo to help your child be able to read that author in the original. Above all, contextualize what your child is doing on the app within a larger goal—this will give your child a real motivation, which actually helps students to learn languages better.
And that’s it, folks! I hope that this review has given you the confidence and tools that you need to use Duolingo in your homeschool. And in case you've decided from this that it's not a good fit, I encourage you to come back next week, since I'll be providing another in-deth review of Mango Languages for homeschool language learning.
If you’re already using Duolingo in your homeschool, I’d love to hear about your experience—please share how it’s worked for you in the comments!
Since its release in 2012, Duolingo has become immensely popular among homeschoolers. I get why: it's free, it's fun, and it's easy to use. I've detailed its smart design in my extensive review of Duolingo for homeschoolers and in general, I consider it an excellent tool to help students practice foreign languages.Does Duolingo actually help you learn a language? ›
Research shows that Duolingo is an effective way to learn a language! But the truth is that no single course, app, method, or book can help you reach all your language goals.How effective is Duolingo study? ›
The effectiveness measure showed that on average participants gained 8.1 points per one hour of study with Duolingo. The 95% Confidence Interval for the effectiveness is from 5.6 points to 10.7 points gained per one hour of study.What curriculum does Duolingo use? ›
At Duolingo, we use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to set proficiency levels for our courses.Can I give Duolingo test without preparation? ›
Test prep vs. test readiness
That isn't necessary for the Duolingo English Test. The DET is designed to show your real proficiency level in English, so intense studying right before the test will not change your score. Your score improves as your English proficiency improves.
While Duolingo is advertised for children ages 4 and up, users should have a strong grasp of reading and writing in order to benefit from the modules. Duolingo is available on iOS and Android for free, with some in-app purchases.How long does it take to learn a language with Duolingo? ›
(You can test out of levels to speed things along, but we're keeping things simple for this thought experiment!) To finish a language tree on Duolingo in 6 months, you will need to spend a minimum of 130 minutes per day on Duolingo, for a full 180 days. That's 2 hours and ten minutes.What language does Duolingo teach best? ›
German for English Speakers
German has one of the highest number of crowns on Duolingo (behind Spanish for English Speakers, English for Spanish Speakers, and French for English Speakers), which places it high on our list of best Duolingo courses.
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.Is Duolingo certificate valid? ›
And if yes, is Duolingo certificate valid? Well, it does, and the certificate is valid for two years. It takes around 48 hours to generate this certificate, and it contains the student's scores. Last but not least, the Duolingo exam can be attempted as many times as you want.
About 60% of U.S. learners are under 30.
But our brains are built for learning languages!
Duolingo only uses simplified characters.What skills can Duolingo teach you? ›
Understanding the nuances of speaking skills
sentence mastery: producing words and phrases in complete sentences. vocabulary: recognizing common words when spoken by others and being able to produce them quickly and appropriately in sentences.
We'd recommend making a start at least one month before your potential exam date, or even six weeks just to be sure.Is Duolingo exam hard? ›
Although Duolingo is shorter than IELTS, however, one needs to have good language skills to answer the questions within the specified time frame. The difficulty level of any test is subjective, and Duolingo is also as hard as the other two English language proficiency tests IELTS like TOEFL.What is the pass mark for duolingo test? ›
The minimum score is 10 and the others are 15, 20-25, 30-40, 40-50, 55-60, 65-70, 75-80, 85-90, 95-100, 105-110 and 115-120. The highest band corresponds to IELTS 7.0. The highest possible scores in Duolingo are also 125-130, 135-140, 145-150 and 155-160.How much does Duolingo for kids cost? ›
You can learn languages on Duolingo completely free. You can use it on your computer and sync it with our free apps for your mobile device. You can even use Duolingo for Schools if you have students to track—with the same account. Also at no cost.Does Duolingo teach the alphabet? ›
It's especially hard in a language like English with so many spelling rules—and exceptions. Duolingo ABC includes all of the essentials of reading, from knowledge of the alphabet to understanding the meaning of words and sentences, and more!What gender is Duolingo? ›
Duo is a boy. It's okay to refer to him as "he" or "him." Duo mostly stands still. Duo opens up and slightly flaps his wings (if only to get someone's attention).What happens if you finish Duolingo? ›
Duolingo is terrific, but it has its limits. If you stop studying after you complete a Duolingo course, you”ll miss out on valuable grammar, vocabulary and listening practice, and your skills won't progress past the level Duolingo left you at.
According to FSI research, it takes around 480 hours of practice to reach basic fluency in all Group 1 languages.What is the fastest language to learn in Duolingo? ›
If you're looking for an easy language to learn quickly on Duolingo, Esperanto, Navajo and Indonesian would be the ones that I would choose. They are short courses on Duolingo with easier grammar structures. Want to learn a language quickly and never forget it?Has anyone completed a Duolingo course? ›
Yes, I did finish the free version of Duolingo for 2 languages. It was helpful, but it cannot be the only resource to reach fluency. Duolingo helps as one of the resources, if one is already actively learning a language. I study Japanese using English.Can I trust Duolingo? ›
The Bottom Line. Duolingo is the best free app for learning a language. Unique features and a clear structure make it a reliable place to learn new languages or sharpen your skills. PCMag editors select and review products independently.Is Duolingo good for kids? ›
Duolingo Kids is among the best free apps that teach a new language. It offers unique features and a user-friendly structure which makes learning new languages and sharpening skills both simple and fun for its users.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.What happens when you reach 365 days on Duolingo? ›
wildfire. This one isn't *technically* part of being in the Streak Society. But you get it once you hit the big 365. Hit a year and you unlock the Wildfire achievement!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.Can I take Duolingo 3 times in the month? ›
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 a 30 day period. This period starts on the day you purchase your first test.Is Duolingo accepted in USA? ›
Some of the countries accepting your Duolingo scores are: USA. Canada. United Kingdom.
I received an email stating that you were unable to certify my test results. What happened? If you are suspected of violating any of the rules of the Duolingo English Test, Duolingo reserves the right to not certify your test results. In this case, please review the test rules and requirements before retaking the test.How many months is the Duolingo valid for? ›
Results for the Duolingo English Test are valid for two years.What percentage of people finish a Duolingo course? ›
Unfortunately, there is a wealth of difference between installing an app, and learning a new language. 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.How much Internet does Duolingo use? ›
You will need an internet connection with at least 2 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed.Can Duolingo be used for homeschool? ›
Since its release in 2012, Duolingo has become immensely popular among homeschoolers. I get why: it's free, it's fun, and it's easy to use. I've detailed its smart design in my extensive review of Duolingo for homeschoolers and in general, I consider it an excellent tool to help students practice foreign languages.What is the best way to practice 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.What is the main purpose of Duolingo? ›
The Duolingo language learning app is the world's most popular way to learn languages. The company's mission is to develop the best education in the world and make it universally available. Learning with Duolingo is fun, and research shows that it works!What are the advantages of taking Duolingo? ›
Rather than rote memorization, Duolingo teaches by context
Because Duolingo presents everything in context, you will get used to using the vocabulary words and grammar points in a variety of constructions.
Get started with Duolingo for Schools by navigating to schools.duolingo.com, signing into your Duolingo account, and creating as many classrooms as you need.
Generally no, this wouldn't be considered an extracurricular.
Our curriculum includes sentences and expressions that children can apply in their daily lives - in this way, they will gain a great advantage as they begin to develop their bilingual skills. (Note: This app is also available from Google Play, for Android devices.)Is Duolingo still accepted in USA? ›
Ans. Yes, Duolingo English tests are accepted for USA student visa applications. There are over 100 universities in USA that accept DET. Even after the pandemic, the universities are still accepting Duolingo as proof of proficiency.In which countries is Duolingo accepted? ›
Duolingo is accepted by over ten countries, including the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, Qatar, Japan, Thailand, Ireland, and the European countries (Spain, Germany, Austria, France, Hungary, Italy).Which Schools use Duolingo? ›
- Adelphi University.
- Alliant International University.
- Arizona State University.
- Baylor University.
- California State University, Los Angeles.
- Chemeketa Community College.
- College of San Mateo.
- Colorado Mesa University.
A note from the Fluent in 3 Months team before we get started: You can chat away with a native speaker for at least 15 minutes with the "Fluent in 3 Months" method. All it takes is 90 days.What happens when you finish Duolingo? ›
When you finish a language (also called finishing a tree) nothing special will happen. You can level up individual skills up to level 5 however to keep practicing and get increasingly more difficult lessons.How long should you practice Duolingo 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.Can you do Duolingo without being in a league? ›
But there is a workaround. To get out of Duolingo leagues, you will need to make your Duolingo profile private. To do this, simply head over to the Duolingo website, hover over your profile picture and click Settings.What is counted as extra curricular? ›
An extracurricular activity is anything that falls outside the scope of a regular curriculum. It typically doesn't carry academic credit but can be related to school. For example, athletics and student clubs are considered extracurricular activities.What is Duolingo for kids called? ›
Duolingo ABC is the fun, hands-on way for your child to learn to read and write in English! From preschool to first grade, engage kids with interactive stories and over 700 hands-on lessons. Duolingo ABC offers bite-sized lessons to help kids learn the alphabet, phonics, sight words, vocabulary, and more!