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So, I'm a top 1% Duolingo learner, huh?

Duolingo world champion

Recently I got an email from Duolingo telling me to go check out my stats for 2023. Being the huge statistics/analytics/charts fan that I am, I had to go and check it out as instructed by the little evil green owl. I'm being serious here, this owl can even launch rockets if you don't practice on time!

Duolingo meme evil owl

So I was really surprised when the subject of the email said that I was a top 1% language learner, because I don't study that much using this app anymore these days (or maybe not, I really enjoy learning languages so the time passes real quick when I study or practice). But maybe this is also just a case on how people lose interest quickly in things that require perseverance and dedication.

So I said why not write a review (or maybe a rant?) of the Duolingo app for my blog? I mean, I am a top learner (according to Duolingo), I got a 2600+ day streak, which is almost 7 years of continued use, so I suppose I have the authority to give my opinion on this app.

Over the last 7 years the app has suffered many changes, some that were good and some that weren't. The most notable one for me was the discontinuance of the discussion forum, which was pretty useful for a lot of users. The lingots (the red gems currency) went away and hearts and gems were introduced, which essentially makes Duolingo a pay-to-win app. If you are a free user and you run out of hearts, you either have to wait some time or pay (for gems) for them to get replenished. You can also do some quick exercises, which in my opinion are a bit of a hassle because they distract you from the main lessons.

Another thing that I miss and went away were the chat groups in the mobile app, that allowed people to communicate with each other and play games. I learned a lot from those actually, since I had to type my messages in my target language, which was French back then.

Even with all its flaws, I don't think Duolingo is a bad app. I use it mostly for practicing my vocabulary in a fun way, but I wouldn't recommend it to people that are still learning grammar, because it seriously lacks in that department. If you already know the grammar of your target language, and just want to memorize and learn new vocabulary, Duolingo is a decent app. This is especially true for the Japanese and Chinese courses, you need to already know the grammar of those languages to enjoy the app to its fullest.

Any alternatives?

Right now I'm learning Mandarin Chinese. And for that I'm using HelloChinese, which in my opinion is a really good app. You can practice your pronunciation, listen to native speakers and play games. And if you pay (I think it's worth it), you get access to conversations with podcast-like commentaries. It may look like I'm being paid by HelloChinese (I'm not), but I've learned quite a lot with this app.

In the end, what really helps to learn a language is to speak it (and a lot!). That's the only way to become fluent. And for that you got apps like HelloTalk. We are in the age of Artificial Intelligence, so why not leverage apps like ChatGPT and AI companions like Character.IO and Replika for practicing languages?. That's also a good way to practice languages, because you can talk about any topic you want while practicing a language. What I like about this method is that AI companions respond to you immediately (unlike humans!) and won't judge you if you make mistakes. It's worth a try.

Duolingo language learner top 1%


So there you have it, my two cents on Duolingo. Please let me know in the comments below if you have used any other apps for language learning that are worth trying. Hate comments are allowed too (jk!).



About the author

With more than 15 years of software development experience, working for renowned companies like Axa and Pinterest, Raúl Bojalil is a passionate of all things IT. He is always learning and looking for ways to make life easier using technology. He can speak Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, so use any language you prefer to get in touch with him!

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