Are you looking for ways to learn German for free and wondering if Duolingo's free language learning app is effective? Find out how much German we could speak for at least 30 minutes a day (+60 hours) after 4 months of learning German on Duolingo.
Anyone who has ever tried learning a language has probably tried Duolingo. It's accessible, easy to use, offers tons of language courses, and best of all, it's free! Because of this, Duolingo has become one of the most popular language learning apps of all time. But is Duolingo really a good or effective way to learn languages?
We tested this theory ourselves to find the answer! We tried to learn German every day for at least 30 minutes (so over 60 hours) via the Duolingo app for 4 months to find out how much German we could speak and understand when we arrived in Germany.
Find out how much German we learned from one app after 4 months, the pros and cons of Duolingo, hidden features in the app that most people don't know and whether it's worth upgrading to Duolingo Plus.
Table of contents
- 1. Is it difficult to learn German as a native English speaker?
- 2.How to learn German for free with Duolingo
- 3.Is Duolingo good for learning German?
- 4.Advantages of learning German on Duolingo
- 5. Disadvantages of learning German on Duolingo
- 6. FREE hidden features on Duolingo
- 7. Is Duolingo Plus worth it?
- 8. Duolingo vs. language school
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Why we started learning German on Duolingo
You may have read in our last guide that we recently moved to Berlin. We love the change of scenery and embrace all new experiences of this dynamic city, including learning German.
Yes, we know what some of you are thinking... Berlin is probably the worst city to learn German. The city has a huge expat community and most locals here can speak English. Nevertheless, we decided to learn the language anyway, since Berlin has become our new home.
We started learning GermanDuolingofor 4 months before arrival in Berlin. We did classes for at least 30 minutes every day for 4 months.
Needless to say, we expected to understand and speak some sort of German upon arrival. But was that still the case? Read on if you're curious if our Duolingo experiment paid off.
Related guide:Are you learning German on Duolingo to prepare for your move to Germany? Experience21 Life in Berlin pros and consbefore the big step abroad.
Is it difficult to learn German as a native English speaker?
Learning a new language is exciting, but it can also be intimidating, especially with a language like German. If you don't believe us, google "funny German language memes" and you'll be laughing and giggling for hours.
At first we thought it would be easy for us to learn German as we both speak Afrikaans (an official language in South Africa derived from Dutch). Little did we know that German is much more complicated, with its numerous grammatical cases, remembering which German nouns are masculine, feminine or neuter (most of which make no sense), and its peculiar sentence structure.
Now that we've come to terms with how difficult the German language can be, we're glad we got a head start with free language learning apps like Duolingo.
How to use Duolingo to learn German for free
The wonderful thing about technology these days is that with an internet connection (and some willpower) you can literally learn anything, anywhere. So we could start learning German while traveling.
We studied German on Duolingo for 4 months, for an average of 30 minutes each day, before arriving in Berlin. Yes, we tested it completely to test the theory of whether 34 hours of Duolingo is equivalent to a freshman course in learning German.
We calculated that in 4 months we probably spent more than 60 hours learning German on Duolingo, which is almost double the published claim.
We used Duolingo's free subscription as it offered everything we needed, but we also tried the Duolingo Plus 7-day free trial to see what extra features the premium subscription offers.
Is Duolingo good for learning German?
How much German could we speak and understand Duolingo after 4 months?
After geeking Duolingo for 4 months we were super excited to test our newly acquired skills in Berlin. We were quite excited when we were able to decipher some of the written signs and advertisements we saw around the city.
However, when it came to listening to announcements on the train or an attempted wiretapping on the bus. We found that we couldn't understand anything except a few words here and there. We could ask short questions or order coffee in a restaurant or café, but could not understand if the person answered us in German.
That's when we realized that we knew a lot of vocabulary, but couldn't string together any sentences or understand spoken German.
Related guide:Are you looking for other free language apps to learn German? Read oursBusuu reviewto find out how it differs from Duolingo and if it's worth it.
German language schools in Berlin
As real adventurers, we didn't give up, of course. Instead, we researched German schools and decided to sign up for courses to see if that would help improve our German.
When registering, we had to take an online placement test to see which class we should start in. Michael was assigned to class A1.2 and I to class A2.1 (Can't beat an Asian).
That's when we realized that Duolingo's claim that 34 hours of language learning on Duolingo is equivalent to one semester course might be true to a certain extent.
Now that we've explored both Duolingo and attending a German language school, we can share the pros and cons of Duolingo's free language learning app.
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Advantages of learning German on Duolingo
- It's free – that's probably the biggest advantage as German school can cost anywhere from €200 to €750 per month.
- You can learn anywhere and set your own pace.
- Great for learning vocabulary - this is especially important in German because you need to remember the gender of the noun as it affects the article you use before it. The gender of the noun does not always make sense, as nouns like skirt, wine, bikini, chair are considered masculine. Whereas trousers, an orange, jeans and shoes are considered feminine. There's also a neutral gender, but let's not scare you any more than we do.
- Gives you a head start before starting German school so you are less overwhelmed in language school.
- The social aspect of competing with friends and family motivates you to practice every day.
Disadvantages of learning German on Duolingo
- Pronouncing words can be challenging because Duolingo doesn't teach you how to pronounce the letters of the alphabet.
- Listening comprehension is not particularly good for a language like German, where the written and spoken language can be very different.
- Some complex grammatical concepts such as dative, prepositions, perfect and past tense can be somewhat ambiguous and difficult to understand using Duolingo alone.
- Duolingo's curriculum does not follow the level of the GER (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and therefore you cannot receive a formal certificate stating that you have reached a specific language level. Of course, this isn't necessary if you're studying on your free time (why would you do that to yourself?), but if you don't speak German and are looking for work in Berlin, Duolingo won't cut it.
- We found it very difficult to put together a sentence of more than 5 or 6 words when learning from Duolingo alone, as the emphasis was more on vocabulary than grammatical rules and sentence structures.
Related guide:Duolingo and Busuu are often considered the best language learning apps in their class. But is one better than the other? Find out more in ourBusuu vs Duolingocomparison guide.
Of course, being able to attend a German language school would be ideal, but we personally understand that it is a big investment and not everyone can afford or have the time to attend the classes.
So we've put together some tips and tricks to help you improve the Duolingo learning experience. You may not be aware of these features if you've only used Duolingo on your phone. So absolutelyTry Duolingo on your computerto access all hidden special features below.
Duolingo Stories has finally become a permanent feature that you can access directly from the app (and not just from their website). It used to be a Duolingo lab feature that is experimental and can be discontinued at any time. Now it's permanent - YAY!
This is great because it's probably the most useful tool in the Duolingo app that will help you improve your German listening and pronunciation skills.
Basically, you listen to a short story and answer a few questions as you go through the story. We love it because you can see the English translation easily by hovering over the word. It also helps bridge the gap between written and spoken language. This is a great tool and the best part is that it's FREE!
Grammatical explanations for Duolingo
This is another hidden feature that you can only access by using Duolingo on your desktop. You can access brief grammatical explanations on the topic by clicking on the topic and then selecting the lightbulb icon. The explanations are brief but help in understanding more complex grammatical concepts.
One thing we love about going to a German language school is meeting nice people from all over the world. You can also do this at Duolingo by registering for one of the Duolingo events. Availability depends on someone organizing one in the city you are in. We were lucky enough to attend one and had a blast! I didn't learn much German, but we made great friends.
Skip lessons on Duolingo
Repetition is great for memorizing new vocabulary, but sometimes the topic is just too easy and you just want to complete it and skip to the next topic. To do this, click on the topic and then on the key icon. Duolingo will then give you a short test on the subject, and if you can complete it with fewer than 3 errors, you can skip that level.
Is Duolingo Plus worth it?
In short, no. This makes Duolingo one of the best language apps for learning German (or any other language) because you don't have to pay to access all the lessons. So far we have not found another language learning app of the same caliber that is free and gives you access to all the learning content.
The only additional features you get with Duolingo Plus are:
- No Ads
- You can also take your lessons without an internet connection
- Complete a championship quiz to see how much of the course you've completed
- Fix your monthly streak
- Skip as many lessons as you like
- Change your app icon to the Duolingo Plus icon
Other than that, the lessons are exactly the same. We love that this aligns with their mission to bring free education to millions of people.
Duolingo vs language school
We have continued to learn German on Duolingo since our 4 month experiment and are now approaching the 6 month mark. We have improved our progress dramatically since combining it with German language school and are now able to hold a basic conversation in German. We'll most likely continue with both as we find they work best hand-in-hand.
The pandemic has definitely made it more difficult to attend German language schools. But we found a way out by taking online German courses at Lingoda.
You can find out how effective they are and their advantages and disadvantages in our detailed articleLingoda Review. Or read oursLingoda versus Duolingo and BusuuGuide for an in-depth comparison.
Are you learning German to prepare for moving to Germany? If so, be sure to check out our other useful onesmove to germany guide. We've included helpful guides likeTips for renting a house or apartment in GermanyAndBicycle traffic rules you should know before you cycle in Germany.
Is Duolingo good for language learning?
When you have done 4 months Duolingo the German course A1.1 will be quite easy but A1.2 will be more challenging in comparison as you will start learning past tense and future tense at school while Duolingo will teach you so much later .
If you find German difficult to learn, don't be discouraged. Even locals admit that the language is difficult. Just keep going and eventually you'll get a feel for the language. When all else fails and you need some German language humor, look up some Mark Twain quotes about the German language. That should put a smile on your face.
Or if you're looking for other fun, creative, and FREE ways to learn German (or any other language), check out ours22 ways to learn German online for FREE. We have personally tried and tested all of them. Whether you're looking for online German courses, other free language learning apps, the best YouTube channels, and free podcasts for learning German, we've got you covered.
Have you tried learning a language on Duolingo? We'd love to hear about your experiences!
Moving to Germany: Free Resources
Are you planning to move to Germany? MustOpen a German bank account managed in Englishwhile you work on your German? Then be sure to read our guide to opening a German bank account, as you don’t need to register beforehand.
Do you still have to apply for your registration? Don't worry, we're here for you. Find out how you canyou can easily get your registrationwith our simple 3-step guide. We even translated the registration form from German into English for you if your German isn't that good yet.
If you're planning to join us in Berlin and are curious about the monthly expenses you'll need to budget for living in this incredibly vibrant city, read ourCost of Living in Berlin Guide.
And when you're done with all your administration, take a break and go on a self-bike tour of Berlin.Trace the history of the Berlin Wall by bikeand see most of the most important historical sights in our beautiful city.
Don't have a bike? No worries! We will tell you the best and cheapest way to rent a bike in ourBerlin Bike Sharing Ultimativer Guide.