Duolingo is a great (and FREE) way to learn a language, but not everyone uses the app to its full potential. This process is what I follow every time I begin learning a new language and I follow through until I repeat it again with a different language! Follow these 14 steps and you’ll discover the best way to use Duolingo to learn a new language.
1. Turn All the Skills Before Checkpoint 1 Golden
The best Duolingo strategy when starting a new language on the app is to get the basics down really well. You do that by getting all 5 crowns on all the subject bubbles up to Checkpoint 1. This will turn the topics golden!
These are the first topics, grammar, and vocabulary that you need to get a beginner’s understanding of the language, so you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of your Duolingo course with a good foundation.
I seriously would not be able to learn languages without italki (I’m taking 3 classes per week right now) try out a class and you’ll thank me later. They’re usually $9 or less!
2. Buy the Bonus Lessons (If Your Language Has Them) with Gems
After you’ve completed step one of the best way to use Duolingo, you now should have enough gems to buy the bonus lessons if they are available for your language.
If your language has bonus lessons, it will show up before you start Checkpoint two like the photo shows below.
If there is a space for the bonus lessons, you can head to the “Shop” and use your gems to buy them! It’s better to buy the bonus lessons early on so that all the gems that you earn after you buy them can go towards buying more health or streak freezes.
You don’t have to complete these bonus lessons now. In fact, I would save them until you’ve worked through more of the steps in this process.
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3. Get to Crown Level 2 from Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2
Now that you’ve made it to Checkpoint 1, we have to start working towards Checkpoint 2! For this section, I recommend earning at least 2 crowns per subject.
This will make the process go by a lot slower and I must admit that I don’t follow this to a T.
However, the subjects from Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2 are presented earlier on in the Duolingo tree because they are important to understand and master before moving on to more complicated subjects.
If you are impatient to finish the tree, you can just skip this step and try step 4.
4. Earn 1 Crown Per Skill Until You Reach the End of the Tree: Earn Your Golden Owl!
The main first goal to get you motivated on Duolingo is to earn at least 1 crown in every single subject on the Duolingo tree. Why do you want to accomplish this?
Because it will earn you the coveted Duolingo Golden Owl! (Read this post to get a better understanding of Golden Owls and why you want them!)
Once you have earned at least 1 crown per subject bubble, you can scroll to the bottom of your Duolingo course and a Golden Owl trophy should appear at the bottom!
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It may seem small, but this is a huge accomplishment in the Duolingo community and you should be proud if you make it this far! This is definitely how you make the most of Duolingo and your time!
Most users don’t even know the Golden Owl exists (here are a few other things most users don’t know about Duolingo).
5. Go Back and Focus on Grammar Skills: Get tHem to 2 or 3 Crowns each
Once you have earned the Golden Owl on Duolingo, you are still far from being done with your course! The best way to use Duolingo at this point is to go back and focus on the grammar subject bubbles.
Try to get each of them to at least 2 or 3 crowns each.
The reason I think you should focus on grammar first is because it is the building blocks of the language.
Once you get the grammar structures down, then adding vocabulary is much easier because you can actually use the new words that you are learning in real sentences.
In case you’re not sure which ones are grammar subjects, look for the bubbles like Present, Present Perfect, Infinitive, etc. There will usually be a symbol of movement on the topic like a person running or a bike like is shown on the screenshot above.
6. After Grammar, Focus on Vocab that Is Difficult for You
Once you feel like you are getting a good grasp of conjugating verbs, head to the vocabulary subjects that have been difficult for you to remember. I always start with the ones that are presented earlier in the Duolingo tree and work from there.
I always struggle to remember animals and colors since I don’t actually use them often in conversation, while I focus less on jobs and house objects since I use those more often and remember them more easily.
7. Resist Always “Restoring” the Broken Golden Skills
Once you have some of the skills completely Golden (you should have all of the skills before Checkpoint 1 turn golden like we talked about in Step 1!) then you will notice that after a while they start to break and you will need to “restore” skills in order for them to go back to normal.
If you are still struggling with that particular topic, feel free to go back and restore it.
However, if you are going back and wasting time on things that you already know just for the satisfaction of fixing the broken subject, then you aren’t using your time to learn new things.
I’ve definitely fallen into this trap more than once, especially when I’m tired and it’s easier to repeat lessons that are ridiculously easy now.
Instead, I should be moving on to the later parts of the Duolingo tree which would be much more challenging and match the level that I’m at.
However, if you are in a hurry to get a lot of XP very quickly, restoring subjects can be a quick way to do that!
8. Focus on “Leveling Up” By Watching Your XP on the DuomE
Once you’ve earned your Golden Owl and have started practicing the harder parts of the Duolingo tree, it’s time to get you motivated again. What is your next goal?! It’s getting to the next level!!
A lot of people aren’t even aware that Duolingo has levels, let alone that they should be a goal for you to set for yourself.
Basically, levels are decided by how much XP you have earned. So the more XP you earn, the higher level you are. The highest level is level 25 and is incredibly hard to attain.
You can read this post here to get a better understanding of levels and how to find out what level you are!
9. Set a Goal: What Level Do You Want to Be & By When?
After you’ve figured out your level, set a goal for yourself using the Duome website. (You’ll need to read the post about Duolingo levels first which explains how to use this website!)
If you hover over the Level (mine is level 18 for French from the English language) it will tell you at the bottom how far you are from the next level.
In this case I need 770 XP to get to the next level. Using that number, I can figure out what a realistic goal is to get to a Level 19. My end goal is to get to a Level 25, but for me it is easier to break up my goals by individual levels.
If I earn 100 XP a day, I can get to Level 19 in just 8 days! I’ll definitely need to use a few hacks to earn XP faster to get there, but it makes the goal seem closer and more attainable!
Figure out how much XP you usually earn per day and see if you can challenge yourself to earn more per day to get to the next level that much faster.
10. Try the Desktop Version to Earn Points Quicker & Not Lose Health
At this point, you are trying to level up and earn more points, so you should start using the Desktop version of the app to get through lessons quicker without having to deal with ads or losing health when you make mistakes.
11. Get Motivated by Winning Leagues & Earning Achievements
Another way to get motivated at this point that can encourage you to use Duolingo even more efficiently is by competing against other users in Duolingo Leagues.
Every week you have the chance to beat other users in leagues and move up to another league. The highest one is the Diamond League.
To see your league, just go to the shield icon at the bottom of the app. Only the top 10 users with the most XP earned that week can move on to the next league. If you are in the bottom 5, then you move down a league.
This can motivate you to earn a ton more XP since you don’t want to get knocked down a league or have to wait another week to advance to the next league!
You also can check your Achievements in the Profile tab on Duolingo to get you motivated (that’s the one with a head symbol). Scroll to the bottom to see what you have accomplished and how much you have left to get another Achievement badge!
Once you get into the Diamond League (the highest league available on Duolingo) then you can earn another Achievement badge by finishing #1.
12. If You’re Losing Motivation: Start Your Reverse-Tree
Once I start getting bored and unmotivated and have already worked on all the steps listed above, the best thing to do is start your reverse-tree!
I LOVE doing this and it is usually way more fun than the first tree was, especially because you can see how much you have improved and learned while earning your Golden Owl on the first tree.
A reverse-tree is when you start learning your language FROM that language. So instead of learning Italian from English, I switched to my second language (Spanish) and started learning Italian from Spanish.
You can also try learning from your language to English (or whatever your native language is).
13. Aim to Repeat This Process on Your Reverse-Tree
Your goals and the process of the best, most efficient way to finish or make it through a Duolingo course is the exact same this time. First, head towards your Golden Owl, then start focusing on XP and get your level up!
I was super proud to earn my Golden Owl from Spanish to Italian even more than when I earned it from English to Italian!
14. Don’t Only Rely on Duolingo: iTalki, Music, Babbel & Netflix
Lastly, although Duolingo is an incredible resource to learn a language for free, you should DEFINITELY be using other resources as well. This is the language plan that I follow that incorporates all my favorite resources.
Use iTalki for cheap conversation classes (this is an absolute game-changer, I’m the biggest Italki fan).
Listen to music in your language, get a few months of the Babbel app to deepen your understanding of grammar (like a virtual textbook), and watch a ton of Netflix with and without subtitles. That’s it!
Keep using Duolingo even after you’ve earned all of the things we’ve listed above because the best way to use Duolingo is as a constant refresher of what you’ve learned!
Language Learning Must-Haves
- iTalki Language Classes: The #1 reason why I’ve been able to learn languages from home. Take conversation classes from a native speaker for only $5-$10 an hour.
- How to Be Fluent Books: Two of my favorite books about language learning have definitely got me super excited about learning a language and I highly recommend reading both!
- Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It
- Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World
- A Language Planner: Keep track of your scheduled language classes, set language goals, and organize your study schedule with my favorite planner ever.
- Harry Potter in Your Target Language: Reading a beginner book that you’re familiar with is an incredible way to learn vocabulary quickly!
- The Perfect Language Notebook
Thursday 10th of February 2022
I am learning German and I don't know how to add the specific German keystrokes such as B such as groB = tall. The B keystroke is incorrect should be groβ
Agree with Andrea E - so complicated
Monday 6th of June 2022
@June Schofield, on a computer hold in alt and the plus sign and then press 0223 for the ß
Saturday 29th of May 2021
I find this so unnecessarily complicated! You could spend hours trying to figure out how to optimize all these gems and hearts and crowns etc. or what they are for or how to earn them. Good heavens. What even are trees? There is nothing on my app in any sort of tree configuration. And bubbles turn back from gold to purple if I pay for "Legendary" challenges? I'll keep using the app as a supplement to my paid lessons, but really don't have the bandwidth to try to figure out these arcane bits. But, thanks for putting in the time to try to make sense of all of that!
Wednesday 3rd of August 2022
@Andrea E, "tree" just means the skill bubbles since they're arranged down-to-up, some people think it looks like a tree. The purple thing for legendary challenges is a recent feature that's just a promo for their premium version. Your crowns just track your progress (according to the duolingo algorithm, once you've earned a certain number of crowns in a language you've achieved fluency. Not exactly how it works in the real world imo but it's just a visual progress tracker). Gems are incentives for progress, there's a store of sorts where you can use the gems as currency to buy bonus skill bubbles and things. Your hearts are like your lives in a video game. Suppose you make a mistake on a duolingo course. It costs a heart every time, or one of your lives. Gems can also be used to purchase hearts or one ups. All this isn't really necessary to use duolingo but it helps to maximize and gamify the experience.
Saturday 22nd of May 2021
I want to learn Italian and Spanish simultaneously. I've been studying Italian for seven mos. I want to keep studying it until I become advanced. And I also want begin studying Spanish. How do zI Add Spanish on Duolingo instead of Switching to it?
Monday 24th of May 2021
Hey Colleen, if you haven't started the Spanish course yet, click on the Italian flag on the top left corner, then scroll to the plus sign that says "course." There you can click on the Spanish course you want to start. Since each course is in a different tree, you have to switch between the courses in order to use them. I hope that makes sense! You can definitely study both languages on Duolingo at once, you just have to switch between them.
Sunday 14th of February 2021
For the first two weeks do you recommended completely turning each skill gold before moving on to the next?
Wednesday 17th of February 2021
As far as this Duolingo Study plan goes, I wouldn't separate it out by weeks. I think you should just complete the steps at your own pace. Like Step 1 says to turn each skill golden until you hit Checkpoint 1, which for some people might take 2 weeks and for other people might take 2 days. If you are trying to learn Welsh as fast as possible, you're probably going to be putting in way more hours on Duolingo than others and you'll work through the steps much faster. Good luck and I hope to hear from you about your journey learning Welsh! (: