When you’re trying to learn a new language, it’s important to use a reliable platform that works for you. Duolingo is probably the most popular language-learning app in the world, so if you’re looking to learn Spanish, this app is a good place to start.
Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the entire world, so it’s well worth learning, especially if you’re thinking about traveling. It’s the first language in the majority of Central and South America as well as a ton of islands in the Caribbean, and, of course, Spain.
Not to mention it’s the second language in a whole host of places, including plenty of states across the US. So, if you’re looking to learn a new language, Spanish is an awesome option.
With that in mind, is Duolingo good for learning Spanish? Here’s my deep dive review into the pros and cons of this super popular language-learning app.
What is Duolingo and How Does it Work?
So, Duolingo is an app that uses games and quizzes to help you learn your target language in a fun way. As well as games and quizzes, Duolingo has a series of emails and notifications that remind you to check in and learn more!
There are a ton of memes about Duo the Owl, the Duolingo mascot, being a tyrant when it comes to these notifications. They sometimes get badgering and guilt-trip you more the longer you go without completing a lesson which can be a lot at first, but it definitely gets you to log back in and learn!
Basically, on the free version, you click through lessons that last around 5-10 minutes long, that range in question style.
You get five “hearts” which are your lives. Each time you make a mistake, you lose a life. These lives regenerate in a few hours so you don’t have to give up altogether, you just have to wait it out.
As you go through, you earn points that can help you get up the leaderboards, or you can use them to buy more lives. It’s a pretty easy-to-use platform and is self-explanatory.
The courses are separated into themed units which you complete in a set order unless you pay for the premium subscription. This means that you can’t really skip ahead if you don’t think a specific topic is relevant to you.
That’s kind of annoying if you don’t want to learn every Spanish animal when you really just want to know how to order something in a bar. Aside from that, it’s a pretty comprehensive app that helps you learn vocabulary from the get-go.
Is Duolingo Good for Learning Spanish?
So, the big question is “Is Duolingo good for learning Spanish?” and the answer isn’t exactly straightforward. The problem with Duolingo is the same with a lot of gamified language-learning apps – the lessons are super short and are more focused on building vocabulary than focusing on well-rounded language skills.
If you’re looking to learn some basic Spanish skills or get a handle on the language over a long period of time, Duolingo is great.
As the lessons are only 5-10 minutes long, it’s good if you’re not trying to learn Spanish on short notice. It’s a little bit of learning every day so that the language really sticks.
There’s a wide range of question types that keeps you engaged and tries to address the different pillars of language learning: speaking, listening, writing, and reading. So, if you’re trying to pick up some Spanish or gradually build up your skills in a consistent way, Duolingo can be pretty good for learning Spanish.
How Much Does Duolingo Cost?
One of the best things about Duolingo is that it’s completely free. That’s because one of the main purposes behind the app is to make language learning accessible to everyone.
You can access all the key features and platforms without having to pay a cent which is super cool.
However, that does mean that you have to deal with a ton of annoying adverts to pay for the platform and daily caps on your progress. This is done through your limited five lives and having to wait for new lives to regenerate.
So, you have to weigh up how quickly you want to learn Spanish and if you can deal with the near-constant stream of ads.
That being said, if you want access to premium features, you’re going to have to pay for Super Duolingo. It works out at around $7 a month which is a steal compared to paying for in-person Spanish lessons or many other language-learning apps.
When you get premium subscriptions, you can look forward to an ad-free experience, unlimited lives, and the ability to skip to the units and lessons that actually interest you.
If you’re wanting to learn Spanish quickly, I’d recommend paying for the premium subscription, but otherwise, you might as well suck it up and stick with the ad-laden free version.
If you want to save even more money, there’s a Duolingo family plan if you have some friends or family members who also want to learn a language. This can bring the price down to as little as $2 per person, per month.
So, if you can find some friends that also want to learn a new language, this is a super cost-effective method to get a Duolingo Plus subscription.
What are the Duolingo Spanish Lessons Structures?
So, now we’ve dived into the cost of Duolingo and how it actually works, let’s take a look at the different kinds of lessons that you can find in the Duolingo Spanish course.
One of the most common Duolingo Spanish lesson types is listening drills. Simply listen to the Spanish words or phrases and you’ll either have to click on the translation or, in more advanced lessons, type in the translation yourself.
In this Duolingo lesson type, you’ll be given a full phrase or sentence that’s missing a word or two. Underneath, there’ll be a bank of potential words that could fill in the gap and you need to select the right one to complete the phrase or sentence.
This is a classic language lesson style. It’s easy to understand – you’ll have a list of English terms on one side and the Spanish translations on the other. All you have to do is match them up!
When you’re learning a language, pronunciation, and speaking practice is crucial. Luckily, the Duolingo app includes a mic section where you can speak into your phone or computer microphone and the app will pick up on your pronunciation.
You’ll be given a phrase in Spanish to repeat and the app will tell you if you’re saying it correctly.
Writing Full Sentences
This kind of does what it says on the tin. You’ll be given a sentence or phrase in Spanish and you’ll have to fully write it out in English, either by typing it or selecting from a dedicated word bank below.
Alternatively, you’ll be given a sentence or phrase in English and translate it back into Spanish instead. It helps you get a feel for sentence structure and grammar, which is rare for Duolingo questions to cover.
Again, this kind of question type is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll be having a pretend conversation with the computer and you’ll either have to fill in the gaps or type in the Spanish answers to keep the conversation going.
This is one of the longer question types and it normally comes at the end of a unit when you’ve had a bit of practice with the relevant words and phrases.
Pros and Cons of Using Duolingo for Spanish
So, with all the features and structure of the Duolingo Spanish course in mind, let’s get into the pros and cons of using Duolingo for Spanish. Obviously, a lot of these are subjective, but these are my personal takeaways from using Duolingo to learn Spanish.
Pros of Using Duolingo for Spanish
Let’s start off with all the positives about using Duolingo for Spanish. There are quite a few to get through so let’s get started!
First things first, one of the biggest pros of using Duolingo for Spanish is the price or lack thereof! It’s really rare to find a completely free language learning app so the fact that Duolingo is predominantly free of charge is really cool.
Of course, there is the Duolingo Plus subscription service for around $7 a month, but honestly, I don’t think you really need to purchase it unless you need to learn Spanish really quickly.
The benefits of the Plus subscription are pretty great – no ads, unlimited lives, and the ability to jump to different sections of the course – but personally, I don’t think it’s really worth it.
On the other hand, even if you do pay $7 a month for Plus subscription, it’s by no means the most expensive language-learning platform on the market. So, if you don’t want the faff of dealing with the ads, it’s not a ridiculous subscription cost.
Another great thing about Duolingo is that you can access it anywhere and at any time. Whether you’re learning on the app or on the desktop version, you can download the app on your phone, on your tablet, or just log in wherever you are.
You can also learn Spanish on your own terms. The lesson times aren’t set like they might be if you were going to a study group, and while you get reminders at certain times of the day, you can do your daily dose of Spanish learning at any time of the day.
Who doesn’t love flexibility? After all, we’re all busy people.
Over the years, Duolingo has gone through a ton of redesigns. The result now is a really user-friendly interface that’s sleek and easy to use.
You can easily navigate through the different units, and check out your ranking on the leaderboards through different tabs at the bottom of the screen.
You can also see how many lives you have left at the top of the screen as well as keep track of your XP and Duolingo lingots (the currency the app uses), really clearly. All this great design makes it really easy to focus on what matters – learning Spanish!
Now, this might be both a pro and a con depending on your position, but I think it’s pretty great that you can learn Spanish in just 5-10 minutes a day. As long as you have lives to spare, you can always learn for longer if you want or if you have time.
Having quick lessons makes it easy to fit learning Spanish into your daily life, and makes it easy to build a habit around it. Honestly, it can be really easy to start learning Spanish, but so difficult to stick with it. With the short lessons, it’s easy to stick with Duolingo on a long-term basis.
Variety of Questions
While many apps stick with one or two-question formats, Duolingo has a whole host of different structures to keep language learning interesting and engaging. Whether you want to improve speaking, listening, reading, or writing, Duolingo has questions to suit all of these needs in one way or another.
Sometimes we can get bored with our language learning programs because they’re so samey. It might be a lot of repetition or a lot of gap-filling exercises, but with Duolingo, you get a whole variety of question styles that will keep you coming back for more Spanish lessons again and again.
Now it’s not a given that Spanish language learning apps will offer you an English translation along the way. Duolingo always has clickable translations that are pretty accurate. Again, not a given for language apps!
This means if you’re running low on lives or going through a tricky unit, you can always click on the Spanish terms to see the translations before you commit to your answer. It’s a good lifeline to have and a way to give you some extra confidence when you’re learning Spanish.
Cons of Using Duolingo for Spanish
Okay, now we’ve looked at all the good stuff about learning Spanish with Duolingo, let’s move on to the downsides of the app.
The Lack of Focus on Grammar
This first con is not uncommon for language learning apps, so Duolingo isn’t alone in this. Most language-learning apps tend to focus more on vocabulary and less on grammar and Duolingo is no exception.
Grammar is an incredibly important part of learning any language, but it can be difficult to fit all the grammar rules in Duolingo’s trademark gamified style. When you have a whole Spanish course that focuses on bite-sized learning and repetition, it’s always going to be difficult to get the grammar aspect in there.
With that in mind, I’d recommend picking up a grammar book to check out alongside using Duolingo for Spanish. That way you get a much more well-rounded Spanish learning experience, and you’ll probably pick up the language a lot quicker!
Limited Speaking Practice
Another feature that is pretty rare on language-learning apps, Duolingo included, is speaking practice. This is because you need to load up your app with voice recognition tech that can flag poor pronunciation.
A lot of apps don’t have this and the ones who do can only really recognize basic stuff.
If you want to improve your speaking and listening skills in Spanish, I’d recommend going to a language cafe or study group to practice with other learners. You can also sign up for a platform like iTalki, which connects you with native language tutors over video chat so you can practice and be corrected in real time.
Okay, I am definitely not the only one who absolutely hates having my experience interrupted by ads. I get it – if you don’t pay for premium, Duolingo has to fund the platform in other ways, but still, having two or three adverts after every lesson feels like overkill to me.
Of course, you can always pay $7 to upgrade to the premium subscription and say adios to those pesky adverts, but if you want to stick with the free version, you’re going to have to put up with a ton of annoying ads.
Limited by the Five Lives System
I get that with any app that offers a premium subscription, you have to keep a few features behind a paywall, and the biggest one that Duolingo has limited for the Plus subscription model is unlimited hearts.
That means that if you don’t pay for Duolingo, you can only make five mistakes before you have to wait a few hours to try again.
This can be really annoying if you’re short on time and have a limited window to practice your Spanish, or if you’re trying a new unit with some tricky words and phrases.
Being limited by the five lives system definitely slows down your progress and can put a lot of people off learning with Duolingo. After all, if you keep trying and keep getting shut down by the five-error system, it can be pretty disheartening.
Sometimes You Learn Some Weird Phrases
This is kind of a running joke within the Duolingo community. Some of the phrases and sentences that come up in the Duolingo courses can feel pretty ridiculous.
Some are just downright useless! I remember one course where Duolingo thought it would be useful to learn the phrase “the elephants eat the bees”. I’m not sure when I’d ever use that phrase but here we are…
There are definitely apps and phrasebooks that offer much more useful phrases or more sentences that are actually practical for using Spanish on a daily basis. That being said, you can find plenty of useable phrases throughout your Duolingo journey, they just tend to be mixed in with all the weird and wacky ones.
So, is Duolingo Worth Using for Learning Spanish?
Okay, so we’re at the big question. I personally like using Duolingo if I need to learn a language and have a long time to do it.
If you’re heading to Costa Rica next week and need to learn a ton of useful words and phrases, Duolingo probably isn’t going to be right for you.
The content and gamification of Duolingo is really great for keeping you engaged and coming back for more, time and time again. It makes learning Spanish more fun than you might think, something that’s super tricky to manage!
Also, with the persistent nudging of Duo the Owl, you can easily be kept accountable and on track, which is not super common in other language-learning apps.
Besides, with over 30 million people using Duolingo to learn Spanish, you know that you can trust the app to help you brush up on your skills and improve them steadily over time. The key here is over time.
Duolingo’s spaced repetition is designed to build habits that last and gives you the foundations to keep learning for months on end. That means that you need to commit to learning Spanish over time and not expect quick results.
So, if you’re looking for a long-term, accessible way to learn Spanish, then Duolingo is a great option. Whether you opt for the free version or splash out on the Duolingo Plus subscription, it’s a tried and tested method for learning Spanish.
As it’s completely free to sign up and try, you’ve really got nothing to lose by giving Duolingo a go if you’re looking to learn Spanish. It’s a pretty good way to learn the language and it’s super cost-effective, so it’s a win-win all around!
Give it a go and see if Duolingo’s super popular Spanish course works for you.
What Alternative Apps Can You Use for Learning Spanish?
If Duolingo isn’t for you, there are plenty of other language-learning apps that you can use for learning Spanish. One of the major downsides of Duolingo is the lack of speaking practice. So, using an app like iTalki is the perfect anecdote.
It’s a platform that connects learners with native tutors so that they can learn Spanish one-on-one. All the lessons are done via video chat so you can be anywhere in the world and get awesome private Spanish lessons.
You literally just select the language you want to learn, scroll through the list of available tutors, and pick one that works for you. Prices vary and are normally for 50-minute sessions, so you can filter by budget.
You can also read reviews from past students to see if that specific tutor is right for you. It’s a pretty awesome way to perfect your Spanish speaking and listening skills.
If you want to brush up on your vocabulary skills on the go, I’d highly recommend Drops. It’s a beautifully-designed flashcard app that simply gives you a huge bank of words and phrases in Spanish to learn.
It’s super easy to use and is perfect if you’re traveling around Spanish-speaking countries and want to have a quick refresher on the road.
Okay, let’s round out this review with a few quick frequently asked questions about learning Spanish on Duolingo.
What is the Best Way to Learn Spanish?
As with any language, the best way to learn Spanish is through immersion. This is essentially when you surround yourself with the language so that you pick up more along the way.
This might be going to a Spanish restaurant, it might be heading to Spain for a vacation, or it might be listening to a ton of Spanish-language music or shows while you’re at home.
If you can’t afford to go to a Spanish-speaking country, there are plenty of podcasts, music playlists, and Spanish shows on popular platforms that you can check out. It’s all about getting your brain and your ear starting to recognize the flow of the language and the vocabulary.
How Many People Learn Spanish with Duolingo?
Over 33.4 million users are learning Spanish with Duolingo. Honestly, that many people can’t be wrong! It’s the language with the most users on the entire platform.
The next highest is French with 20 million users, so you can see just how big the interest in learning Spanish is!
How Many People Speak Spanish Worldwide?
There are approximately 486 million Spanish speakers worldwide which account for roughly 7.6% of the population.
With so many people speaking Spanish worldwide, it’s highly likely that you’re going to know a native Spanish speaker or go to a Spanish-speaking country in your lifetime.
Why Should You Learn Spanish?
Really, given the global impact of Spanish, if you’re wanting to travel or speak to people in their local language, it’s a no-brainer to learn Spanish.
Learning a language takes a lot of time and effort, so if you’re wanting to learn a language that goes the distance and gives you the best possible return, I’d recommend learning Spanish!