DuoLingo Chinese: The Final Verdict

On this week’s podcast I am joined by language app developer Karl Baker and language teacher Teo Valdés to discuss the world’s most popular language app: Duolingo. I’m a big critic of the app so it was great to hear some different perspectives! Check it out here and let me know your thoughts: The Final Verdict. How Effective is Duolingo Chinese? (Podcast) – I'm Learning Mandarin


Thank you for posting this.

It’s a really well made and interesting discussion you posted.

However, I would like to point something out.

I think they are focusing on the app (cellphone). For me, typing the answers on the PC (website) is a totally different experience, usually much more difficult (and effective) way to prompt active recall and sentence building.

For me, this is a critical matter. I cannot paste two pictures on this message, so I added pictures from my cellphone and website versions of Duo in two replies to this message to show what I mean.

It makes such a big difference! By comparing one tree on the cellphone VS the same tree on the PC no other factors are counted in.

I started Chinese on Duolingo when the Duolingo Chinese course was not available for English speakers, what I did was the reverse course (English for Chinese speakers). This way you are forced to type a lot more in Chinese and a lot less in English. The downside is that you do not get any Chinese audio input. I am currently working on the “Japanese from Chinese” Duo tree that I already completed one year ago on the phone, but I still have a long way to go to master it on PC.

There are several “hacks” you can use to make the most out of Duolingo, especially:

  • Use the PC (and type all the answers) instead of using the cellphone (rearranging words);
  • Do the reverse courses to force yourself into more active output in the target language;
  • Use Duolingo for “laddering” - that is, use Duolingo to learn L3 through L2. For example, Duolingo’s Spanish course from Chinese.

Long story short: Duo is an app that you can use for producing active output in L2 as sentences, so you practice both grammar and vocabulary; whereas in Flashcards you usually practice only vocabulary. For at least some of the languages it allows you to cover most of A1 and A2 vocabulary and grammar.

You can let me know what you think about this if you wish.

Thanks again for your post!

This is what my Japanese from Mandarin looks like on my cellphone (Android)

And this is what my Japanese from Mandarin looks like on my PC

I never would have thought to do courses in reverse like that.
It’s a intriguing suggestion.

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Thanks for your comment. I do remember there being differences between the app version and the desktop. I prefered to use the desktop version at the time. However, despite these differences I still don’t think DuoLingo is effective either as an SRS or for immersion. There are SRS systems out there that include example sentences, e.g. Hack Chinese, Anki etc.

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I did not know Hack Chinese, so I take notice of this, thank you.

When the DL course is well made (they are not all of the same quality) they accept different versions of the same sentences, admiting synonims and different syntactic variations as long as they are gramatically valid. This way it’s not simple root memorization.

That is something that, as far as I know, no other SRS does, and where the most added value can be found in DL. But I do not look for them too much either, I will be very happy to find other options of course. I will definitely that Hack Chinese.


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