Study Shows Duolingo Learning Outcomes Are Comparable to University Classes

A study found that, despite being a 1-week wonder-kind-of-habit, people who study languages on Duolingo perform as well as University students with years under their belts.

The most popular language-learning platform on Earth, Duolingo offers courses on more than 20 languages, but whether or not they materialize as useful is difficult to ascertain.

The experiment, published in Foreign Language Annals, demonstrated that Duolingo learners who completed five units in the Spanish or French courses performed as well on reading and listening tests as students who had completed four semesters of university language instruction.

What’s more is that Duolingo learners achieved four semesters of proficiency in reading and listening in less than half the time as their college counterparts.

“Our results indicate that learners who use Duolingo as a tool for self-directed study show substantial proficiency development,” said Dr. Xiangying Jiang, lead learning scientist at Duolingo and first author on the publication.

“We hope to have shed light on the potential effectiveness and comparability of Duolingo, as measured through standardized tests.”

Further research has shown no sign of plateauing, since Duolingo learners who completed seven units of the Spanish or French courses earned reading and listening scores comparable to five university semesters.

“It’s important for us to develop courses and teaching tools that deliver the highest-quality language education to all learners,” said Dr. Cindy Blanco, senior learning scientist at Duolingo. “This research represents real progress towards achieving our mission of providing high-quality education for everyone.”

As far as free apps go, it’s hard to top Duolingo. There’s a million ways to learn Spanish or French, but Duolingo includes courses on languages that may be harder to find free instruction for but that one might need for a vacation, such as Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, or the Scandinavian languages.