Can Duolingo Make You Fluent In 2022? - duoplanet (2023)

Ah yes, the be-all and end-all question: Can Duolingo make you fluent?

Given that Duolingo is one of the most popular ways to learn a language, it’s a question that gets asked more times than the owl can tell you “It’s time for Spanish!”.

Back in 2016, I was asking this very question.

I remember being absolutely determined to learn Italian but I wasn’t 100% sure how to go about it. I’d dabbled with Duolingo for other languages previously, and given it had a lot of decent reviews on the App Store, I figured it would be worth a shot.

Fast forward 5 and a half years, and I finally have an answer — which I’ll share with you shortly!

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To do so, we’ll consider a few things, such as the hard-hitting research, Duolingo’s stated objectives and how each course differs from the next. We’ll also take a look at what’s required in the language acquisition process, before arriving at the all-important conclusion.

But first things first…

What do we mean by ‘fluent’?

It’s funny. Everyone wants to know if Duolingo can make you fluent. But how many of them actually know what ‘fluent’ is?

Fluency, and what defines it, is an idea that gets batted around more than any other in the language learning community.

If Jessica says she knows a bit of Spanish, I can almost guarantee that Bob will respond: “But can you speak it fluently?”

The funny thing is that 99 times out of 100 the person asking doesn’t even know what fluency means.

Jim might have you believe that to be fluent in a language means to comprehend and produce it perfectly.

Sarah might argue that fluency simply means that you’re able to hold a conversation.

Abdul might contend that to be fluent means to know a language nearly as well as your mother tongue.

And Gertrude might suggest that it all comes down to whether you know how to order a pizza.

Truly, there are many different flavours of fluency. It comes down to personal definitions.

My definition of fluency?

(Video) Can Duolingo Make You Fluent? I used Duolingo everyday for a year to find out

To be able to transfer a wide range of ideas from one mind to another.

Even if you don’t know every word in the dictionary or fully understand every grammatical rule, so long as you are able to express an idea and have another person understand (and vice versa), that, to me, is fluency.

Proficiency frameworks

The good news is that if you don’t like my, or anyone else’s, definitions, then you can always refer to one of the many language learning proficiency frameworks, which give us some hard and fast definitions.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, otherwise known as the CEFR, is a popular framework and actually underpins how Duolingo ranks proficiency (we’ll get onto that a little later).

The basic model is as follows:

A1Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
A2Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
B1Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
B2Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
C1Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
C2Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.

As you can see, it’s fairly clear cut.

If you fall into the A1-A2 bracket then you would be considered to have basic proficiency.

Make it into the B1-B2 bracket and you would be considered to have independent (or intermediate) proficiency.

And if you find yourself hitting the heights of C1-C2, then you would be considered to be highly proficient in your target language.

The cool thing for Duolingo users is Duolingo use this same model to not only evaluate their courses but also to help them set targets for where they want to get their learners to.

This is something Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn outlined at Duocon 2021. Using the CEFR, the guys at Duolingo want to get their users to B2 — the upper intermediate tier — which is considered enough to get what von Ahn describes as a “knowledge job”.

Basically, if you can get to B2, then you can get by in a language with minimal discomfort. You won’t be perfect, but you’ll be more than capable of functioning.

This pretty much marries up with my definition of fluency. And so, if you subscribe to my definition, it could be said that Duolingo aim to make you fluent.

But does this mean that Duolingo can make you fluent?

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How fluent can Duolingo make you by itself?

B2 is a solid target, but one some might consider a little optimistic for a free language learning app.

So how far can Duolingo really take us by itself?

To answer this, it’s worth considering a couple of things.

Firstly, the research.

Duolingo have conducted some research into how their courses stack up against university courses. For this they focussed on learners taking their French and Spanish courses and examined their progress in listening, reading and speaking.

These learners disclosed that they had limited to no knowledge of their target language and used Duolingo “as their only learning tool”.

Duolingo compared their learners’ proficiencies after 5 units with the studies of Tschirner (2016) and Rubio and Hacking (2019), who, like Duolingo, used the ACTFL (American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages) proficiency ratings for their measurements.

When it comes to listening and reading, they found that 5 units of Duolingo is comparable to 4 university semesters.

Can Duolingo Make You Fluent In 2022? - duoplanet (2)

As for speaking, they found that at least 50% of learners that had completed 5 units of the French and Spanish courses reached at least an A2 level of speaking. That means they’re able to hold basic conversations about everyday topics.

Can Duolingo Make You Fluent In 2022? - duoplanet (3)

It’s fair to say that these are some pretty promising results!

Additionally, we can also look to individual case studies and examples.

In a recent article Duolingo shared success stories of three learners who used Duolingo (and only Duolingo) to learn French.

They had been using Duolingo for 2.5, 4 and 5 years respectively, and all three reached a point where they could communicate with others using the language.

Many would consider this sufficient to be labelled ’fluent’ — suggesting Duolingo can, in fact, make you fluent.

(Video) Can you learn a language with Duolingo and become fluent?? (Or Babbel or any app?)

Pretty exciting stuff!


It depends on the language… among other things

As promising as all this is, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

What the research suggests is that, using Duolingo and nothing else, you can get to as high as B2 in your target language. It’s not just their stated objective; the research and the French success stories suggest that Duolingo can carry you to a conversational level, period.

But this is misleading in at least two significant ways.

Some courses are better than others

If you’re a long time Duolingo user then you’ll know that not all of Duolingo’s languages are created equally. Just because English speakers can choose from nearly 40 different language courses doesn’t mean that they’re equally supported.

Some courses are overflowing with high-quality content and receive regular updates, whereas others are disappointingly lacking.

There is a reason for this: the general rule is that the more popular a language course is, the better supported it will be.

So courses like French and Spanish generally have all the latest features, tips, modules and voices. Whereas courses like Polish are significantly shorter and nowhere near as supported.

For instance, the French course is jam-packed with high-quality content spanning 10 units.

The Polish course, however, only has enough content for 4 units.

Can Duolingo Make You Fluent In 2022? - duoplanet (4)
Can Duolingo Make You Fluent In 2022? - duoplanet (5)

There is also a disparity in the quality of the units. The French course offers sophisticated lessons with specialised voicing. It offers an array of different exercises, as well as conversation-focussed modules (aka Conversation Lessons). Each skill also comes with a bespoke Tips section, which is useful (some might argue essential) for understanding the complexities of a skill, such as conjugations, cases and verb moods.

Sadly, none of this is present in the Polish course.

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Can Duolingo Make You Fluent In 2022? - duoplanet (7)

The French course leads the way when it comes to new features. It boasts one of the largest libraries of Stories, with nearly 300 to choose from. It was also the first course to offer Audio Lessons (now also available in Spanish).

The Polish course, however, doesn’t get a sniff.

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Can Duolingo Make You Fluent In 2022? - duoplanet (9)

Sadly, the story of the Polish course is the same for most of Duolingo’s language lineup. It’s not that the guys at Duolingo don’t care, it’s just that they only have so many personnel and contributors to work on their courses. It’s only natural that they would prioritise the courses that the majority of their learners are using.

Nonetheless, it’s important to be mindful of this when you’re about to embark on your language learning journey.

The study we looked at earlier only measures proficiency in the French and Spanish courses — these being Duolingo’s best supported and jam-packed.

(Video) Can You Get Fluent With Duolingo?

It’s one thing to argue that 5 units of the French course are equivalent to 4 university semesters, but you’d be hard-pressed to make the same case for the Polish course — not least because there isn’t enough content to even make 5 units!

Duolingo can’t make you fluent by itself

The other way in which the research is misleading is that learning a language requires more than just an app, in the same way learning just about anything requires more than just a textbook.

It’s clear that we can achieve a lot with ‘just’ Duolingo. The research and experiences of thousands of users (including my own) is testament to this.

But there are two sides to any learning process: Active and Passive. Duolingo nails the active but offers very little in respect of the passive.

This is something that both the research and the French success stories fail to acknowledge. In both cases, the learners state that Duolingo is their only “learning tool”, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t engaging with their target language away from Duolingo. It just means they weren’t using other software, enrolled in university courses, or receiving tuition.

Therefore, we can’t discount that the learners were engaged in passive learning — the ‘application’ side of the learning process. Things such as listening to music, watching TV shows, reading news articles, or talking to friends in their target language.

In my experience, passive learning is just as important — if not more so — as active. It’s in the passive that you see how the language is used in an authentic setting, where you can take everything you’ve ‘actively’ learned on applications such as Duolingo and put it into practice.

I’ve always found this pretty easy, as when I learn a language, it’s because I’m usually interested in the culture of the countries and peoples that speak it.

I had (and still have) so much fun learning Italian. It wasn’t easy to begin with, but over time doing ‘stuff’ in Italian became one of my favourite hobbies.

Watching movies and TV shows in Italian was definitely one of my favourite ways to cement my learning. I’d just turn on my VPN, boot up RaiPlay and settle in for some quality Italian entertainment.

When I wasn’t watching Italian TV I’d usually be listening to Italian music. Spotify made it super easy to not only find awesome Italian music, but also created daily mixes filled with tunes the algorithm thought I would like.

I also spent a lot of time listening to audiobooks, one of the best ways I know to improve your listening comprehension. Audible was my go-to for this, as they have a massive library to choose from and offer a decent 30-day free trial.

Everything I picked up on Duolingo got cemented in the TV shows I watched, music I sang along to, and audiobooks I got lost in. These are things Duolingo simply can’t replicate by itself.


So, can Duolingo make you fluent?

By itself, no.

But when used in the right way, I would say it can — but this will depend entirely on your definition of fluency, the quality of your language course, and whether you actually use the language away from Duolingo.

Duolingo want to get their learners to B2 all by themselves. As a learning tool, the potential is there, and there are plenty of examples of learners reaching a conversational level using Duolingo as their primary tool (in French and Spanish, at least).

But it’s important to keep this in mind: whatever your target language, Duolingo is a learning tool. It is not an alternative to actually using the language in real scenarios.

(Video) I did Duolingo for 2000 days in a row

As such, I would always recommend incorporating an equal amount of passive learning into your daily language learning routine. If you spend 20 minutes on Duolingo, spend another 20 minutes doing something real: read a book, watch a TV show, talk.

It’s one thing to know the language, but it’s another thing to be able to use it. Duolingo (or any language learning app/software/book for that matter) is no substitute for living and breathing the language in an authentic setting.

The owl may be able to walk you to the door, but you have to step through it. Real-life ‘stuff’ is essential. The answer to the be-all and end-all question is incomplete without it.


Is Duolingo 2022 effective? ›

It's a good tool to use to review languages you've learned previously. Lessons go by quickly. It automatically helps you review material you already learned. Duolingo makes it easy to stay motivated and keep learning.

Can Duolingo get you to B2? ›

At Duolingo, we're developing our courses to get you to a level called B2, at which you can get a job in the language you're studying. Reaching that kind of proficiency requires dedication, varied practice opportunities, and a lot of time.

What is the most popular language on Duolingo 2022? ›

However, in 2022, we saw learners gravitate back towards the largest languages, with English, French, and Spanish holding strong as the most popular languages studied globally.

How long does it take to become fluent on Duolingo? ›

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.

Is Duolingo enough to be fluent? ›

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 become fluent with Duolingo? ›

You can learn as many words or sentences as you want, but until you're able to have a conversation with another person, you'll never be fluent. Or, according to the CEFR model, you won't even be halfway there.

What is the longest Duolingo streak? ›

The longest streak for a Duolingo employee right now is more than 3,000 days strong! We know our learners have extended their streaks in some wild and funny places – like the club, music festivals, and even on their wedding day!

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.

How far will Duolingo get you? ›

When it comes to listening and reading, they found that 5 units of Duolingo is comparable to 4 university semesters. As for speaking, they found that at least 50% of learners that had completed 5 units of the French and Spanish courses reached at least an A2 level of speaking.

What is the hardest Duolingo course? ›

It means they've gotten the word right every time it has been shown. Anyway, based on this linear regression, French is definitely the hardest language, insofar as it takes more instances of seeing a certain word before reaching the same number of correct productions as one of the other languages.

What is the fastest growing language on Duolingo? ›

Ukrainian language learning surged.

More than 1.3 million people around the world began studying Ukrainian in a show of solidarity following Russia's invasion in February, making it the fastest growing course this year.

What is the quickest language to learn on Duolingo? ›

Overall, it's typically easier to study a language more similar to the one you know best. For English speakers, that means many languages from Europe — like Spanish and German — will be easier to learn on average than languages that aren't related to English at all — like Arabic and Chinese. But even this can be murky!

What happens when you finish Duolingo? ›

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.

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 many Duolingo levels should I do a day? ›

Casual is one lesson per day, Regular is two, Serious is three, and Insane is five lessons in a day. I have my daily goal set to Serious, which requires completing three lessons daily, but I'll often do more lessons if I have the time, typically around five or six.

Is Duolingo good for your brain? ›

Understanding the study

Duolingo learners and BrainHQ learners both demonstrated improved executive functioning and working memory, despite only one of the apps being an explicit “brain trainer”!

How long should I be in 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.

What is a decent 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.

Did you actually learn a language with 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!

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.

How much XP does it take to learn a language on Duolingo? ›

Individual lessons = 10 XP (+possible bonus XP) Practice (accessible via the barbell icon via desktop web or Hearts tab in the iOS/Android app) = 10 XP.

What happens when you hit 365 day streak on Duolingo? ›

But you get it once you hit the big 365. Hit a year and you unlock the Wildfire achievement!

Who is the best Duolingo user? ›

Congrats to John Arnold, who has the highest-ever Duolingo streak of over 2000 days! He's a horse farmer and chemist... shubhamyadav__21 @marco_fornero now ?

What is top 3 finishes Duolingo? ›

Bronze, Silver, Gold, Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, Pearl, Obsidian, and Diamond.

Is Duolingo as good as a university? ›

Duolingo: Data shows popular language-learning app is equivalent to 4 years of university study. New data shows that those who use Duolingo — a popular language app — can learn the equivalent of four semesters of university study.

Do colleges see Duolingo interview? ›

The video interview and writing test

This section of the exam will not be graded but will be available to any institutions that receive your score.

Is 105 Duolingo score accepted universities in USA? ›

The requirements for Duolingo test accepted universities in USA usually lie in the range of 105-120. A score above 120 is considered to be quite good in terms of graduate study programs like MBA, MS in Finance, Masters in Civil Engineering, etc.

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 shortest Duolingo course? ›

The shortest course on Duolingo is Navajo with only 11 skills. The Navajo Duolingo tree is the shortest Duolingo tree with only 28 lessons total. The maximum amount of crowns you can earn is 55 and there are only 143 lexemes to learn.

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.

Is anything better than 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.

Why is Duolingo not certified? ›

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.

What age group uses Duolingo the most? ›

About 60% of U.S. learners are under 30.

What is the highest XP in Duolingo? ›

Each level requires reaching a certain amount of XP. The maximum level is 25.

Why has Duolingo changed 2022? ›

Overall, the changes feel like they'll make learning a language even easier and more accessible. Duolingo told me that's by design. Anton Yu, Duolingo's product manager, said the app's redesign was shaped by feedback: Users wanted more guidance and content with less complexity.

What's the hardest language to learn? ›

Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.

Which is the world's toughest language? ›

1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.

What is the shortest 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

What is legendary Duolingo? ›

What are Legendary Levels on Duolingo? Put simply, a Legendary Level is designed to be the toughest level in a skill. To reach it, you need to complete four challenges without any hints or tips. It's the ultimate test of how well you know a particular skill.

What's 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.

What is the success rate of Duolingo? ›

The 95% Confidence Interval for the effectiveness is from 5.6 points to 10.7 points gained per one hour of study.

Is Duolingo accepted in 2023? ›

Yes, Duolingo is accepted for 2023 intakes. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, certain universities and colleges have begun recognising the Duolingo English Test as well as the IELTS or TOEFL exams for admissions. Many foreign universities are also accepting Duolingo scores of international students.

What languages will Duolingo add in 2022? ›

New Duolingo languages for 2022 and beyond

So far, Duolingo have launched two new languages in 2022: Haitian Creole, which they released in February, and Zulu, which they dropped in August. Prior to Duolingo closing the Incubator, Māori and Tamil were in the early stages of development.

Why do I have super Duolingo? ›

Super Duolingo is a premium addition to the Duolingo experience. With Super Duolingo, your benefits include: No ads: Learn without interruptions. Unlimited Hearts: Enable unlimited hearts so mistakes won't slow you down.

What are the disadvantages of Duolingo? ›

  • Its speech recognition software has a long way to go. ...
  • Keeping up with constantly decaying skills can feel discouraging. ...
  • Some of the translations are iffy. ...
  • If you're serious about learning a language, Duolingo does NOT stand on its own.

Who has the longest Duolingo? ›

Congrats to John Arnold, who has the highest-ever Duolingo streak of over 2000 days! He's a horse farmer and chemist... shubhamyadav__21 @marco_fornero now ?

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

What age is Duolingo aimed at? ›

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.

Do all colleges accept Duolingo? ›

Be it the University of Florida, Arizona or Colorado, most universities have accepted the Duolingo English test as an approved language test. About 1700+ universities now accept the Duolingo test.

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).


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