LingQ vs. Duolingo (It's not the apps, it's the members)

I’ve been away from Duolingo for over two years, but when I found out that they finally started offering Korean for English speakers, I decided to give the app another shot. I’m having a lot of fun with it, but what strikes me most about the differences between Duolingo and LingQ is reflected in the comment sections and membership stats of the two services.

First off, I’ve always thought that Duolingo was an excellent secondary companion app to a proper primary language method, such as LingQ and/or Assimil and my re-engagement with it has reinforced that belief. The app forces to you test grammar and writing and basic vocab in a fun and effective way. At its higher skill levels, it’s challenging me to really put to use things like the conditional in French, for example. And the “gamification” aspect is certainly a strong factor there – I’m determined to build a gilded tree now with all my languages :slight_smile:

However, I’m struck by the approach of the people who use it heavily as their primary learning tool. In the Duolingo forums, heavy users brag about reaching up to 2700 words over months and months of exercises and attaining “fluency levels” of up to 60% based on the estimates of the new Duolingo algorithm.

In comparison, here on LingQ, the forum members talk about what books they’re reading in what language and their word counts often are in 20,000+ range. Even if you add the “dictionary word” vs. “unique word” mathematics and generously triple the Duolingo metric, you’re still under 9,000 unique words for the very top echelon of Duolingo users.

I know I shouldn’t look at it as a competition between the two services. It’s apples and oranges. But I’m just getting the sense that gamification is a double-edged sword. Duolingo is fun, but I think using it as a primary method is simply misguided. I’d be shocked to meet anyone conversant in a language whose primary source was Duolingo.


Yeah, I agree. I used Duolingo in my first stages of french and it had helped me a lot, but it led nowhere near even a intermediary level.
I think users at Lingq are more in touch with the debates about language learning and these kind of stuff, while in Duolingo they just wanna have some touch with the language, not knowing how long it can go, I usually find them more naive.
PS: Didn’t know they finally started offering Korean, i’ve been waiting for it.

It’s always interesting to compare one method with another, but I never oppose one to other - we can and have to take some useful things from each method.
What’s about Duolingo, I don’t use it for the languages in which my level is Intermediate or higher.
But I use Duolingo for the languages which I recently started like Greek or Turkish because I can start them there from zero, from some simple words what is impiossible in
That’s why I combine Duolingo and Lingq in these languages.
I have to wriite some words and phrases in target lkanguages in Duolingo - and I think it’s also good for a language learner.
The given sentences in Duolingo are sometimes a bit artificial but as a language teacher I understand that it is unavoidable for the first level of the language study.

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Duolingo to me is pointless in its entirety because there is something better for every level of your learning.

There are better ways to learn words, better ways to learn grammar, better ways to learn to speak.

Every hour spent on Duolingo could be better spent elsewhere and so I think it’s a huge waste of time.

Wanna learn words ? Listen and read here. Wanna learn to speak ? Shadow with the material on here, speak to yourself in the house, save phrases and collocations here. Wanna write ? Write online and in personal blogs and get it corrected if you want. Join groups on Facebook and write there.

Duolingo is inferior in every single way.

The only thing I pop on there for is if i’m just arsing about with a language and am curious about the sounds and basic words. Never for serious interaction with the language.

I remember when I started using Duolingo for Spanish when I had under 1000 words and the constant reinforcement of grammar and going through lessons which are super super basic and do not grab my attention what so ever and I did not enjoy the experience within the app.

Good post.

Your post got me thinking about DuoLingo. I’ve dabbled in it occasionally but not used it much, so I opened it last night after reading your post and did a level test in Portuguese. I wrote sentences like ‘The teacher drinks milk’ for five minutes, getting most right and some slightly wrong, and at the end they told me I was 39% fluent in Portuguese (when I scored 54% in Portuguese 18 months ago when my actual level was lower). The whole thing just seemed pointless. At LingQ yesterday (or using the LingQ philosophy), I finished reading one book and started another, and I listened to three radio/podcast interviews with Portuguese people living in other countries (Portugueses no Mundo). This was all real material and was so much more meaningful than rearranging words in a sentence.


Two years ago I started to learn Spanish. I did Spanish for a while on Duolingo before doing Spanish on LingQ. What I often had was that I sometimes recognised the word from Duolingo, but didn’t knew the meaning anymore.
Nowadays I use Duolingo here and there for Russian. Like said before, Duolingo doesn’t take you at a high level. I sometimes like to experiment on Duolingo with languages like e.g Greek, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian, because I like to do that. But when I come back to theselanguages after a while, I probably have forgotten more than 90% of what I have learned on Duolingo. Duolingo is a good for starting from scratch, but after a while you need to use other methods.

I think that LingQ is far better than Duolingo, but the latter has some features that are really needed here.
For example, the ability to change your daily goal.
And by the way, Duolingo has a great experimental project called Stories ( which lets you read & listen to full dialogues with a translation at your fingertips - much like LingQ but with very limited content yet.

After numerous tries, I gave up on duolingo. I find it incredibly boring. As someone mentioned before, they don’t use “real life” language. I get more out of looking over few pages of grammar book vs going through duolingo grammar drills. I don’t believe it’s possible to achieve any decent command of any language by just using duolingo. I find assimil method much better at the beginning stages of language learning before starting on native materials. At least, that’s what works for me.