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Do you know a second language? German is a great language to learn if you already know English. In this post, you’ll get a glimpse into how it is to learn German on Duolingo and whether it’s worth your time.

When you are traveling to a country it’s nice to know the local language at least a little bit. It’s nice to know at least how to say Thank you. Guidebooks usually have some touristy phrases which you can memorize, but that doesn’t mean that you understand what each word means and how they are put together.

I haven’t been to Germany for a long time. But as I had some free time and some prior knowledge of the language, I decided to refresh it with this free app. Here are my thoughts on whether it’s a good idea to spend some time on Duolingo.

Duolingo review: how it works

At this point, I’ve been learning German on Duolingo for 134 days. Some days it’s been just 5 minutes, and some days 30 minutes. More days on the short side though.

You can use either the mobile app or open Duolingo in your web browser. I prefer the web version as you don’t run out of “lives” there when you make mistakes.

There are two main ways how to learn a language on Duolingo: “Learn” and “Stories” tabs.

In the “Learning” tab you get a roadmap of topics that you can learn. As you finish some easier ones you get to unlock the more difficult ones. Each lesson is quite short and straightforward.

If you take a break it’s easy to continue from where you left off. And there are a few kinds of different exercises to mix things up and learn hearing/writing/speaking.

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In addition, there are deeper explanations for each lesson on what is taught. Not just the example sentences which you can drill and know by heart.

In the “Stories” tab you get a lot of independent stories. The scenarios are fun and it gives an empowering feeling when you understand whole sentences in the conversations.

And while you are completing lessons and going through the stories, Duolingo keeps counting experience points and different kinds of achievements to motivate you to keep progressing. They have somewhat annoying notifications and emails about your progress, which I actually haven’t turned off?

Why?

Because they do what they are intended to do. I haven’t missed a day in my Duolingo streak for months now.

Why is Duolingo a great tool for language learning?

Don’t you feel great when you can become smarter in an easy and delightful way?

That’s how learning a language can feel on Duolingo. It’s fun, there is lots of gamification, and it’s conveniently always on your phone.

Here are some reasons why I think that Duolingo is a great tool for language learning.

Motivational

Simple tasks, clear roadmap, leaderboards, and achievements are all part of the app’s appeal. It’s gamification, and it’s fun for a reason. Each time you complete a lesson or a story you get instant experience points which may lead to a dopamine reward.

This is all motivational.

And notifications on your phone and in the email keep you coming back to the app to get more.

And in this case, it’s not a bad thing. You are learning new things as a result after all. Duolingo helps you to achieve the goal you wanted when you first joined the app.

Easy to follow

The step-by-step roadmap is really clear to follow. You get to chose which lessons you want to work on now, but the choice is limited.

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This is a good thing, as the lessons keep getting harder as you progress. And in a way this keeps you motivated, as you simply don’t have access to things which would be too hard at this point.

Explanations everywhere

It’s nice that these are hints and explanations along the way. You can scroll over each word and get a translation. When you make a mistake, the app shows exactly which part was not correct.

Don’t you feel that you can learn from mistakes better then from the perfect score?

I usually remember the sentences where I had made a mistake and corrected it much better than the ones I got right on the first try.

Some drawbacks of Duolingo

It’s not all sunshine and roses with this app. A language is something complex, and actually a big thing to learn. You can’t really expect to be fluent as a local by spending just 5 minutes a day on learning it.

Here are my thoughts on what you can and can’t expect from Duolingo.

You won’t be fluent

You’ll learn to hear/write/speak the language. But you can easily skip the speaking part (as I’m doing). And that is quite unfortunate because any language is best used as a spoken language during travel and work.

Silly sentences

Some sentences are just not logical and will not be useful in practical life. And some are just downright silly.

But that’s ok. It’s a part of learning. Even the textbooks at school sometimes have weird sentences just to demonstrate some part of grammar.

Overall I’d say that the lessons are quite practical and you can use a lot of them in real life.

Repetitive

For the first 50 lessons, the format keeps the interest, but after that, it feels a bit old.

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I’m not a language teacher to gauge how effective the tasks in the lessons are. To me, they feel informative and I can learn from them.

But after 134 days of the same task format each day I feel a bit bored.

Limited topics

In the roadmap you get the topics according to your skill level.

That’s nice if you wan’t to learn the whole language.

But what if you want to just learn a few new words for a certain domain and don’t want anything else? What if you’ll be using the language just for a trip? You’ll probably be interested in knowing words for food, money, and numbers, and less interested materials, education, and science.

If all you need is a specific topic, then this is not the best tool for you.

Can you learn a new language in just 5 minutes a day?

You can probably already guess the answer. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It would probably take a couple of years to finish the learning roadmap if you spent only 5 minutes a day. And in the end, you wouldn’t really be fluent, as it takes more practice of speaking. And you probably would have forgotten the first topics when you get to the last ones.

But that doesn’t mean that Duolingo is not worth your time.

You just have to manage your expectations and use it wisely.

It’s a great addition if you already have some background in a language and want to refresh it. You’ll still learn new words and some grammar from the lessons.

And you can do the learning anytime you have some spare time. On a commute, waiting in a line, during your lunch break. It’s quite convenient. And more useful than watching some TikTok.