Gamifying language learning: Duolingo

Duolingo (1)

Each month the TEL team will be introducing you to a useful resource. This time we are looking at an app that gamifies language learning.

Duolingo is a free app designed to supplement language learning by gamifying the learning experience and utilizing the competitive nature in all of us. To get you started and to keep you hooked, Duolingo separates language learning into stages and levels and offers experience points, currency (called Lingots), and the ability to play competitively against either, another user or a ‘Duobot’.

For English speakers, the app currently offers courses in French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese (Russian, Dutch, Turkish, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian are all on their beta site though, suggesting more to come). Update – Welsh has just been added.


Duolingo assists in improving your language skills by:

  • Breaking down language learning into manageable stages and levels, starting with the basics before getting progressively more difficult, whilst grouping together vocabulary and grammatical structures (e.g. phrases, food, animals, past tense etc.)
  • Using all key skills at each level so that you are reading, speaking, typing and listening to the newly introduced words and phrases. As well as this, in the earlier stages images are used to assist you in associating words with objects.
  • Awarding more experience points for not losing lives or producing more accurate translations.
  • Encouraging you to go back and redo levels you may have completed in the past to ensure that vocabulary and grammatical structures are reinforced in your mind.

Duolingo encourages you to keep on learning by:

  • Using a ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ life system on each level to ensure that you cannot proceed to the next level without successfully answering a minimum number of questions.
  • Offering experience points which can be used as a daily benchmark that you set yourself, or as a success indicator during duels with either your friends, online opponents or the ‘Duobot’ – whoever has the most experience points after 10 challenges wins the duel.
  • Offering a currency called ‘Lingots’ which can be spent on power-ups (refilling your lives), outfits (to “learn in style”) and bonus skills (for extra learning).
  • Allowing you to set a daily goal and notifications to remind you if it looks like you may not reach a target in the time period set.

Is it free?

Yes! Duolingo is completely free and has no ads, hidden fees or premium content. Duolingo is able to offer this as it uses your answers to assist companies (e.g. Buzzfeed, CNN) with the translation of their websites.

Will it work on my device?

It’s possible to get Duolingo on any device that uses Android or iOS but it is not currently available on either Blackberry or Windows.

Where can I get the app?

What are the alternatives?

If you need any help in getting to grips with Duolingo, or any other tool, please get in touch with the TEL team at You can also find us on Twitter (@SussexTEL) or Googleplus.

For more apps, view our A-Z of mobile apps on the TEL website.


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We are the Educational Enhancement team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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