Using Duolingo? (the horror!)

I’m sure everyone that learns Japanese, or has even looked into learning Japanese has heard this advice from someone: “Never ever ever use Duolingo, its awful!!!” Which for most things, yeah I can see it. But I find myself using Duolingo at least a little bit every day (331 day streak woohoo :partying_face: ) just for sentence practise and picking up bits of vocab here and there that I haven’t come across in Wanikani yet. I personally don’t see the harm in it, as long as you don’t use it as one of your main resources.

So I was wondering: what are everyone else’s experiences with Duolingo?


Duolingo bad


I agree that it shouldn’t be used as a main source if you’re really serious about learning, but some people aren’t super serious. I think the problem with it is that it’s far too game-ified, and it just expects you to figure out how the language works by answering easy questions over and over, with minimal written instruction or information. However, for some people, that may very well be just what they need. Some people want to try learning a language, but struggle immensely with the mountain of (shudders) actual studying it requires. Duolingo can be a nice way to get going for those people. For the serious studiers who want to speedrun or learn a language on a deeper level, I think Duolingo should just be used to possibly expand vocabulary and increase daily exposure.

In short: bad way to learn a language, but useful for people who can’t handle the best methods.


I mean, you’ve said it right there.

Good for some languages, bad for Japanese.
Use an app that is designed for learning Asian languages like LingoDeer.
That at least has proper recorded voicing, grammar lessons, and N5-N3 content.


This thread has a lot of good posts about it, and it’s been less than a month since the last post in it


Too rigid given the differences between Japanese and English grammar. For free-typing questions, there should be at least some indication of what sort of structure the system is expecting, because there are often multiple ways to translate the same thing, and each has a slightly different nuance. I also felt like a lot of sentences were things I would never have to say in real life, like sentences involving 河童 (kappa). It’s also no good for learning to parse complex sentences, because everything on Duolingo is far too short. Like you said, it’s only good for basic practice and vocabulary acquisition. It doesn’t teach you much else.


I really disliked it. But I’m really here to plug Mango Languages which I use for free via my public library. It has really helped fill the gap for me with speaking/listening practice and understanding basic sentence structure. Many libraries subscribe to Mango so you can use it for free using your library card. Definitely worth checking out.


Tried it but didn’t like how it felt like the randomness and game-gimmicks were distracting from the actual learning exprience. I have really tough time getting into Genki workbooks but I’ve been using Japan Foundation’s free online courses which feel much more approachable to a beginner. It’s really rewarding fun to go back after little bit of WK as you start recognizing some of the kanji in the material they use.


If I wasn’t using duolingo I don’t think I’d be doing any studying at all, ultimately, and whether this is a matter of priorities, stuff I’m busy with, self discipline or something else I don’t have the space to sit down and study seriously on a regular basis.

I think the emphasis, through the gamification, of doing a little bit every day is very healthy. Obviously I combine with WK, and again I try to fit that in everyday, I’ve just started trying to use Satori Reader, which is a massive stretch for me, and in any case I can’t fit in every day.

My approach to learning grammar is very haphazard, as points come up in any of the above I’ve been googling for explanations, using tofugo etc.

None of this is best practice, but I’m in no hurry, I don’t see languages as a strength, so anything I can do, and keep up, feels like a positive.


I personally like it, in spite of its flaws. It definitely doesn’t cover grammar enough and especially using polite vs. casual, but it’s improved for kanji a lot over the last couple of years and it’s good to be exposed to a lot of spoken Japanese.
Generally, if someone’s learning Japanese with Duolingo, I’ll suggest other resources to add, but if they’re learning from other resources, I’m not likely to suggest Duolingo as an additional resource.


I think the problem is that anything Duolingo does, something else does better:
Grammar? Use Bunpro, Lingodeer, and Bunpo
Vocabulary? Use Kitsun
Kanji? Use WK

Use Duolingo if you are obsessed with cute owls. I will admit no other platform can compete in this.


i’m almost at checkpoint 4 in duo and I get why people say its awful but i actually like it. It definitely cannot be your ONLY resource but it’s a great place to go once a day and do a quick lesson. Sometimes I think it’s more clever than people give it credit for. For instance sometimes it will force you to use the word bubbles in ways you aren’t used to and suddenly something just clicks about grammar. I have had many AHA moments there. Today it finally clicked for me that no particle can turn a whole phrase into a noun. I have also learned TONS from helpful people in the discussion session. There are quite a few people like Tyrant who have a way of teaching a whole japanese lesson in one well worded answer. Ultimately I think anything you do will get you there as long as you are doing SOMETHING consistently everyday. Pressure and time, pressure and time.


i have a certain fondness for duolingo:

i’ve liked the idea of learning japanese for 30 years or so. but language learning was scary due to bad experiences at school. with duo i could just start.

i was broke: i was getting room and board, and wasn’t in a bad place or anything, but i didn’t have any money of my own. in particular not to spend on a whim. with duo, the whole course is free.

and i had no idea about how to learn japanese. but i knew about duo from friends.

so when i got a cough and a fever in march 2020 (very early in the pandemic) and was spending 2 weeks in isolation in a room which had a bed, a chair and wifi, duo was accessible.

without duo, i simply wouldn’t have started learning japanese.

does duo have many flaws? of course it does. i was getting additional ressources from day 2, and without them i wouldn’t have gotten as far as i have. but duo is also continuously improving their courses (japanese tree 5 is in testing currently).

does it attract lots of kids who decide to learn japanese on a whim and don’t have a clue what they’re doing? aboslutely. but i don’t think that’s a bad thing, it gives them a taste, and if they’re serious, they’ll find other better tools.

would i recommend it to anybody who is already learning japanese? definitely not. i’ve stopped using it myself (i did get my 1 year streak though).

but if somebody asked me where to start learning japanese, i’d definitely still point them at duo. it’s accessible, and it’s free. and if a month or two down the line they decide to get more serious about it, they’ll be in a much better situation to chose how to continue.


The problem is that Duolingo is the most widely known language learning app that tries to cover as many languages as possible.

For Japanese there’s no point to use it if you know about LingoDeer. Similar app much better content.


Those little animations half way through lesson batches are so annoying, I really wish they’d never added those. When I did the Italian tree they didn’t have them at all that I can recall and when I did the Swedish tree they were much less frequent and much faster, now they’re very intrusive.


Agreed. While I like good visuals, I hate intrusive ones. That’s what they achieved with those useless animations.


I’m actually trying a few things right now, WaniKani obviously, I started on LingoDeer last night, I have already started in BunPro, I started the very start of TaeKim last night.

I’m going to just divide my time and have a go at each and take notes of what I like / don’t like.

I’ve also used Anki, and I’m going to try - oh and I use KameSame.

It’ll be interesting in a month or two which I decide to keep using and which I decide to drop, I’ll definitely write a post about it after - I’m sure other people have already done similar but hear my out, everyone’s preference varies, and so it’s good to have a few different opinions.

Also worth mentioning I have a lot of free time so it’s fine for me to do this, and it’s better for me to try be productive haha.


Honestly despite it’s flaws it’s still pretty good for sentence practice.

Also it’s important to note that it has grown a LOT in the past year. The amount of content has doubled, hiragana and katakana are taught in a separate section, and grammar and kanji have clear explanations in the Tips section of each lesson. Unfortunately this tips section can only be accessed on the website and not on the app, which is a bit dumb.

I feel like a lot of people who commented here haven’t seen these updates yet. Duolingo is seriously working hard to be useful.

Nonetheless, I still don’t think duolingo should be used as a main source of teaching, but mostly as a way to naturally generate complex sentences.


I’ve been using Duolingo off and on for a while. It’s not bad for a free resource to have a little fun while learning, but where it struggles is that it’s always these single sentence structures that don’t have context… i.e., it’s not based on dialogues, and so you don’t really get a feel for how to speak/write Japanese naturally. They have to plug in pronouns unnaturally just to get people to use “he” or “she” in the English translations.

Their Tips are a bit scant about explaining the grammar, so people are often confused. Their strong point is that they have a pretty active forum, and individual forum threads for each exercise so that people can discuss them.

Right now I’m using Busuu and much prefer the dialogue-based approach, though it’s a paid subscription service. I like LingoDeer too, but it has no real support system and so feels very dry and detached compared to other sources.

Opportunity cost. Any minute spent on Duolingo is a minute better spent elsewhere.