French is one of those languages that is taught in schools all across the world as a modern language staple. That being said, outside of the classroom, many of us turn to language-learning app juggernaut, Duolingo, to help us master the historic and beautiful French language.
As someone who speaks a few languages, including French, and has learned them all in completely different ways, here is my completely honest review of the Duolingo French course.
Is Duolingo good for learning French, and what are those crucial pros and cons that you need to weigh up before getting invested in the journey? Let’s dive in and find out more!
Is Duolingo Good for Learning French?
This is a great question and honestly, Duolingo is pretty good for learning French if you’re a beginner. Of course, like many great language learning apps, Duolingo isn’t so hot when it comes to speaking and listening skills, especially conversational pronunciation. After all, there’s only so much an app can do!
On the whole, I think Duolingo is worth using if you’re trying to learn French or brush up on your skills. Compared to some of the language courses on Duolingo, French is much more comprehensive and has a ton of extra features like podcasts and stories that other language courses just don’t have yet.
This does go some way to help with conversational practice and listening skills, which is refreshing to see. It’s obvious that Duolingo is aware of its blind spots and trying new features on popular language tracks to try and fill in those gaps.
So, with this in mind, let’s dive into the details behind Duolingo’s popular French course.
8 Reasons to Use Duolingo to Learn French
Okay, so we’ve deep-dived into the features and cost behind the Duolingo French course, now it’s time to get into the pros and cons of learning French in this way. Like with any learning method, there are plenty of benefits and drawbacks that you need to consider before committing to Duolingo fully.
Let’s start off with all the good stuff about using Duolingo to learn French – and trust me, there are plenty of great things to consider!
1. The Price
Right, starting with the big issue for a lot of language-learning methods, Duolingo has an amazing price point. Even if you do pay for a premium, $7 a month is really low compared to a lot of competitors for the wealth of features that you get within the Duolingo French course.
That being said, the free plan is amazing and definitely a good place to start if you’re a beginner learner or if you need a French refresher. Although I have tried the premium plans for Duolingo, I always go back to the free version as it’s got everything I need and I wasn’t using the extra features enough to make it worth paying the subscription fee.
Let’s be honest, there are not a lot of high-quality free things in the world, especially when it comes to education and travel, so the fact that Duolingo is a free app is a huge plus point.
Another problem with language learning can be accessibility. Classes might be difficult to find in your area, or the times of the lessons might not work with your schedule.
Duolingo is accessible anywhere and at any time. This means you can effortlessly fit learning French into your busy life!
Okay, so I’ll admit, it hasn’t always been this way, but right now, the Duolingo app is really well-designed. It’s super easy to navigate and see where you’re at in your French language-learning journey.
You’d be amazed at the maze you have to go through on some of the other language-learning apps to try and find the right lesson, tasks, or setting that you’re looking for.
The Duolingo team refreshes their design and user experience pretty frequently based on user testing and feedback, so it’s a pretty seamless experience at this point.
4. Beginner Friendly
Honestly, I cannot recommend Duolingo high enough for beginner French learners. It’s packed full of useful vocabulary and phrases that you’ll need to know, and it gradually builds up your skills over time.
This spaced repetition way of learning is done on purpose to help you retain more information, so it’s ideal if you’re just starting out on your French language learning journey.
5. Quick Lessons
Got a busy schedule? Don’t we all! The fact that you can learn French for as little as 15 minutes a day is massively attractive to a lot of Duolingo users.
Of course, if you want to, you can spend more time learning, but speed and timing are important in building habits, so the fact that you can just easily slot in lessons around your life is a huge bonus.
6. Variety of Questions
Well, you know what they say, variety is the spice of life. With Duolingo’s large range of question styles, you work all four key language-learning skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and don’t get bored while you’re doing it.
Staring at flashcards day after day can get old quickly. The same goes if you’re just doing a ton of fill-in-the-gaps exercises. By mixing up the question styles, Duolingo’s French course keeps you engaged for a lot longer than some other language-learning apps on the market.
7. English Translations
In some language-learning apps, some of English translations can be a little off-base. It might sound weird but it’s true.
Duolingo’s translations from both English to French and vice versa are really accurate. Especially if you’re just starting out this is an important plus point.
8. Tons of Extra Features
If you’re unsure which Duolingo language course to try next, French is a great shout. Not only is it a far-reaching language with millions of speakers worldwide, but the course is also jam-packed with extra features.
I’ve gone into them in detail further above, but features like podcasts, stories, and AI conversational practice are all massive benefits when it comes to learning French through Duolingo.
Reasons Not to Use Duolingo for French
Okay, so we’ve had all the positives and now it’s time to investigate the downsides of using Duolingo to learn French. Let’s get into it.
1. The Lack of Focus on Grammar
Honestly, this is a problem in pretty much every language-learning app, so it’s not just Duolingo that struggles with this. French grammar rules can be difficult to learn in a fun and gamified way, especially for beginners, so it might be worth picking up a French grammar book to use alongside your studies.
2. Limited Speaking Practice
Again, although Duolingo has some speaking-focused questions using the microphone feature, there isn’t a lot due to the limitations of the app. It’s hard to correct pronunciation using pre-programmed prompts and trying to match your audio to a native-level original!
If you’re looking to improve your conversational skills, I’d recommend joining a conversational group in your area or online using video chat. There are plenty online if you’re not located near an in-person group and they can really help boost your speaking confidence and your overall skills.
3. Annoying Ads
Yes, if you buy the premium subscription to Duolingo you don’t have to deal with the ads, but for the vast majority of us, the ads are an annoyance every time we log into the app.
Look, I don’t mind an ad or two to keep the experience free, but at the moment it’s two or three ads between every lesson – it’s a lot!
4. Limited by the Five Lives System
Again, if you pay for Duolingo Plus, you can have unlimited lives, but if you’re on the free plan, the limited five-lives system can be a bit demoralizing.
If you’re in a particularly tricky or new unit and make five mistakes, you have to wait hours to be able to try again. Depending on the time of day that you practice, this might mean losing your precious Duolingo Streak.
When you have to wait so long to try again, you might not bother coming back as you’ll feel you’re not making any progress. It’s a weird feature, especially when the app is largely nurturing in its learning style.
5. Sometimes You Learn Some Weird Phrases
Okay, so Duolingo is pretty notorious for throwing out some weird phrases for you to learn. I’m talking about phrases that you’re unlikely to use. The elephants eat the bees is one I came across recently.
Duolingo is trying to make its content more relevant and real-world specific with its features like Stories and Duolingo Max, but that doesn’t mean you won’t also learn some downright bizarre phrases along the way.
How Does Duolingo Structure Its French Lessons?
So, let’s get into detail about the Duolingo French course. Like all Duolingo language courses, there is a wide range of question styles that are designed to help you improve your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
Each lesson tends to last around 15 minutes, but you can always carry on and go for longer if you wish or if you have a spare few minutes.
This is a pretty straightforward one. You’ll have to listen to a word or phrase in French and put together the correct translation from a word bank below.
In more advanced parts of the unit, you might have to type out the translation instead of selecting it. It also works in reverse: with the audio clip speaking in English and you have to write the French translation.
In this Duolingo question style, you’ll be given a phrase or sentence with one or more words missing. Either select the correct terms from the word bank below or type them out using your keyboard.
Another self-explanatory one here! On one side you’ll have a selection of French words and on the other side, you’ll have the English translations all muddled up. Simply match the correct translations.
This one is super simple – see an image of something relevant to the unit you’re studying and select the translation from the word bank given.
One of the cool things about Duolingo is the in-built microphone setting. You can listen to a Spanish phrase or sentence and then hold down the microphone button and repeat it back into the app.
Duolingo will analyze it almost instantly and let you know if your pronunciation needs work or if you’re ready to go.
Exclusive Features of Duolingo’s French Course
As French is one of the most popular language courses on Duolingo, there are a few bonus features that you won’t find on other language tracks.
These exclusive features focus predominantly on practical language use and conversational skills which was sorely lacking in Duolingo’s French course beforehand. So, let’s check out these special features in more detail.
If you love the matching pair style of the question but want to test yourself even further, Match Madness is going to be right up your street. In this particular section of the Duolingo French course, you’re invited to match pairs against the clock.
As the rounds go on, the timer gets shorter and shorter, putting you under more pressure. It’s a great way to test your translation skills in a pinch.
Stories are a super cool feature that has popped up across a few language tracks and fundamentally they’re here to test your conversational skills. You’ll be given a written conversation that’s entirely in French.
It’ll be read out to you so you can listen along and test those skills too. Afterward, you’ll be given a couple of questions related to what you just read or heard. It helps you understand the context and pick out meaningful details from longer pieces of text.
Honestly, this is one of my favorite new features in Duolingo and I can’t wait for them to roll Stories out across more languages.
This new feature is super interesting, but it’s only available on the paid Duolingo Plus plan and only on certain language tracks, like French. Duolingo Max integrates GPT-4, the latest AI rollout from Open AI, and actually forms the basis of two new question styles: explain my answer, and role play.
This gives learners more options and flexibility as the answers don’t need to be rigidly pre-programmed by the Duolingo team. Explain my answer gives you more detail if you get a question wrong and explains in more detail why it’s wrong.
This is really useful when you’re dealing with tenses and verb conjunctions where grammar can be tricky.
Role play is exactly what it says on the tin and allows users to put their conversational skills to the test against the AI. This means you can have a whole array of scenarios that might be more relevant to you.
Prefer to learn languages in a hands-free way when you’re on the go? Duolingo’s French Podcasts have you covered. Presented by native-level French language tutors, each podcast dives into a specific topic, so you’re aware of the context before you even press play, which is super helpful.
So that you don’t get overwhelmed, the presenters switch between English and French. Here they help with context and explain more about the scenario and why they’re choosing the words and phrases that they’re using.
Unfortunately, Duolingo Podcasts no longer live in the Duolingo app itself, which is annoying, but you can still find them on all the major podcast streaming platforms.
Honestly, it’s better that way, because you can download them for when you’re commuting or walking your dog, which is something you couldn’t do when this feature was accessible through the app.
So, is Duolingo Worth Using for Learning French?
Overall, I’d say that Duolingo is worth using for learning French, especially if you’re a beginner. While it’s lacking in grammar and speaking practice, it does give you a great base to build from moving forward.
What I would say is that using Duolingo isn’t a particularly quick way to learn French. It takes time to build up your skills which is part of what makes it so good at long-term language retention, but if you’re looking for a few useful words and phrases for a trip to France next week, Duolingo might not be what you’re looking for.
I’d suggest using Duolingo alongside other language learning methods like conversational groups, grammar books, or more speaking-focused apps. There are plenty out there to explore and it’ll help broaden your learning experience.
What’s your favorite way to learn French or your favorite tip that you’ve learned along the way? Let me know in the comments below.
What Alternative Apps Can You Use for Learning French?
If you’re looking for an online conversational practice, I’d definitely recommend iTalki. It’s a platform that connects native tutors with students and allows them to conduct sessions over video chat.
You can read previous learner reviews, filter by price and time zone, and get started learning French on a one-to-one basis from the comfort of your living room. It’s an ideal way to build confidence in speaking French.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for resources to help boost your language-learning experience, why not check out Memrise. It might not be a language-specific app, but it’s full of materials and resources that other people have used to help them learn French.
From slides to flashcards to quizzes to French language media, you’re bound to find something that helps you out.
Let’s round out this comprehensive review with a few frequently asked questions when it comes to learning French using Duolingo.
What is Duolingo and How Does it Work?
Okay so first things first, what is Duolingo and how does it work? It’s a fair question!
Duolingo is a language learning app that uses gamification and some seriously persuasive notifications to keep you coming back and learning a language over a long period of time.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, honestly it kind of is. You simply login each day, complete around 15 minutes worth of lessons and, over time, you’ll see your level dramatically improve.
As it’s done through quizzes and interactive games, it doesn’t feel like you’re putting in so much effort and hard work. That keeps you coming back for more!
You can access Duolingo in a couple of different ways – through their app or through their desktop setup. Both have their pros and cons, and most people use the app so that they get all the notifications and can use it wherever they find themselves.
So, each time you log in you’ll be moved along a preorganized journey that’s separated into units. Each unit has a theme like animals, colors, verb endings, and more.
You can’t skip ahead to the units that interest you which is annoying, but it does give you a well-rounded bank of vocabulary.
As you go along, you earn XP which helps you level up and power up the leaderboards, and lingots which are Duolingo’s form of currency. You can use these to buy extra lifelines – or hearts – if you’re in a particularly tricky section and don’t want to wait a few hours for them to reload.
All in all, Duolingo is a simple and relatively fun way to learn French whether you’re a beginner, looking for a refresher, or a pro looking to bone up on certain words and phrases.
How Much Does Duolingo Cost?
One of the most attractive things about Duolingo is the fact that it’s largely free. The app operates on a “freemium” basis, so the majority of people just sign up for the free version, but if you want to, you can pay for a premium subscription.
This premium subscription, called Duolingo Plus only costs around $7 a month on an individual plan and you get a whole host of extra features. In my opinion, the two best Plus features are the fact that there are no ads at all and that you get unlimited hearts throughout your language-learning journey.
Sadly, neither version of Duolingo has offline mode anymore which is a huge shame, so make sure you’re planning on using it somewhere where you have WiFi or mobile data.
If you club together with some friends or family members who also want to learn a language, you can share a Duolingo Family Plan with you and up to five other people. The cheapest it works out at is roughly $2 per person per month. That’s pretty ridiculous!
Honestly, I don’t think the premium Duolingo subscription is worth it now that you can’t use it offline, but if you have enough people to get the family plan, then that definitely changes things. It’s all about how annoyed you are by ads and how much time you have.
If you need to learn French quickly, waiting for your free hearts to regenerate is really going to slow your progress. It’s up to you, but those are my two cents on the premium version of Duolingo.
What is the Best Way to Learn French?
Like with any language, the number one way to learn French is through immersion. Normally, this means surrounding yourself with the language so that your brain picks up the rhythm, and odd phrases, and so that you’re forced to use it each and every day.
That being said, not everyone can move to France or go on holiday to Belgium. I get it.
Instead, you can watch TV shows or films in French or listen to French music around the house. This will have a similar effect without having to spend a fortune on flights.
How Many People Learn French with Duolingo?
As of February 2023, there are approximately 20 million people worldwide learning French with Duolingo. After English and Spanish, it’s the most popular course on the whole of the platform and it’s easy to see why.
It gets a ton of extra features and it’s spoken all over the world.
How Many People Speak French Worldwide?
Roughly 274 million people speak French all over the world. Due to colonialism, French is spoken across Africa, in Vietnam, in parts of Canada, across Western Europe, and in some parts of the Caribbean.
Why Should You Learn French?
With such a wide reach, you can definitely get a lot of mileage out of learning French. No matter which continent you go to in the world, you’ll probably find a French speaker somewhere! If you love to travel, having a basic grasp of French is going to be invaluable to you.
It’s also a language that a lot of people learn in school, so it’s a second or third language for many people, especially in Europe. For instance, in countries like Switzerland, the national languages are French, German, English, and Italian in some cantons (areas), so children grow up bi or even trilingual.
Is French Similar to Spanish?
As both French and Spanish are Latin-based languages, there are a lot of similarities, especially when it comes to the basics. It’s commonly said that if you can speak one of these languages, you’ll be able to pick up the other fairly easily.
This generalization also extends out to Italian which is in the same family of languages.
Can I Learn Canadian French on Duolingo?
Yes, you can opt to learn European French or Canadian French – or Quebecois – on Duolingo. Although there are a ton of similarities and crossovers, Canadian French can have some big differences, much like European Portuguese versus Brazilian Portuguese.
If you know that you’re primarily going to be speaking French in Canada, it’s definitely worth opting for the Quebec French Duolingo course from the get-go, rather than confusing yourself with European French.
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Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.