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Has any research been done on Duolingo for older people?

I'm 72 and finding it very difficult to recall words that Duloningo says I should know. I hoped learnig a language would keep my brain sharp into old age. After 3 years of doing Duolingo and Memrise I am making very, slow progress. I find that i can often anser Duolingo questions but not use the language in everyday conversation. White hair and computer learning....basis for a Ph.D study?

June 17, 2017



I am 65 years old and have had a stroke in April. I am studying German just to keep my brain and mouth working properly. I probably go slower than the young, of course, but I am learning and am 54% fluent in German. Took me many months but here it is. Hope this helps you. And on Duolingo you never have to learn at any speed but your own.


54% is ver good. Nice work!


I'm a youngster at 65. I initially learned German when I was younger, but it was never very good except when I was in a bar. I've been using Duolingo for two years and think I'm doing pretty well. But it wasn't a completely new language. I am doing 50xp a day, so in two years have accumulated quite a lot of points, finished the tree, and arrived at the highest level. I think the daily practice is key.


Older brains don't learn language as easily as younger but they do learn. It's all about practice. Do something enough times and you will remember it. Just find ways to keep the learning interesting.


At 81 I need to write the new word on a tiny card together with r, e, or s indicating männlich, weiblich, sächlich with the english answer on the reverse. I have many of these cards scattered about. I just have to keep at them until I remember. I was hopeless in Adult Education Class, teacher would have thrown bits of chalk at me if any was available, thankfully no longer. I can make errors on Duolingo without embarrassment. I have similar (larger) cards for the principle parts of the verbs. I am at 55%, very proud. Next month, I venture alone into the field, Bavaria, I'll know at once if I really have made any progress since a year ago as soon as I get off the train to meet my host. Wish me luck. I'll be playing truant from Duo for a whole week, will get goose pimples, that is for sure!


Sehr gut gemacht! Viel Spaß in Bayern! Good luck to you!


Dear Brian,

I hope you have a good trip. It was heartening to hear from you and the many others who sent words of encouragement. While in Berlin on holiday a couple of weeks ago I found that most people talked back directly in very good English. Watching films and news on German TV has never been very rewarding for me at my level. Tatort often has little dialogue. Ads on the commercial channels obviously spoke good simple German and these were beneficial to watch. I would recommend them to beginners. Thanks, David.


try harder! If you did three years the Duolingo exercises, how can you still be in Level 14? White hair and age is no excuse! If necessary, tint your hair!
Aber ernsthaft: deutsch ist sehr schwer und ich bin froh, dass ich es nicht als Fremdsprache lernen muss. Da hilft nur: üben, üben, üben! Good luck to you! btw: where are you from?


He probably wasn't always on duolingo (notice his streak is 6 days, not a lot of days). For me, I've been registered with Duolingo for a long time, but I'm at level 12, since I don't always go on. However, I would say my French level has advanced since I used other resources to learn French and I have been practicing for some time. Maybe he practiced on other websites?


Duolingo only has one study comparing Spanish college courses to Duolingo, it does not have studies by age groups or other languages.

German is a difficult language and remembering words is challenging at any age, so do not think that you have difficulties just because of your age. It may be more difficult to remember at 72, but you know the value of patience and perseverance. Do you know Steve Kaufman? He is an older polyglot in Youtube. Try to do things beyond Duolingo, like try to read topics you like, maybe one paragraph a day, or write short stories such as describing a cat or listing all object in a room. Youtube has a lot of good resources I like German with Jenny and German with Ania, Jenny has grammar exercises and I think they are very effective.


I saw an Easy German Episode recently which suggested that vocabulary was harder than grammer in German learning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JQjnKreDmQ I thought that was interesting.

I am 74 and have been working on German study for almost two years. I practice with Duolingo just a little daily but everyday. I also do a small amount of Memrise, Clozemaster plus watch various You Tube videos and listen to German music daily. I find some words hard to retain also.....mostly longer words where the subject matter isn't all that interesting to me personally. What really seems to lock words into my memory is encountering them in songs that I like. Neither my grammer nor my vocabulary are stellar but they are getting better. I would say, just find what seems to work best for you and keep it up on a daily basis.


I think one bit of good news for those of us who are a bit older (I'm 48) is that we tend to have larger vocabularies in our native tongue. Since German and English are related, this means we may be more able to find the English cognate of a German word, even when it's not obvious. For me, at least, this makes new vocabulary much more likely to stick!

An obvious example is "Hund", which comes from the same root as the English word "hound". Even though I use "dog" more often, making the connection between "Hund" and "hound" helps the meaning stick in my brain.

A less obvious example is "Gegner", which comes from the same root as "against" and "again". Similarly, "Kleid" is related to "cloth".


Ich finde, dies ist ein sehr wertvoller Hinweis. Vokabeln, die bei mir nicht gleich haften bleiben, versuche ich mit einer "Eselsbrücke" anzubinden. Das funktioniert erstaunlich gut, wenn man es ein bisschen geübt hat.


Was ist eine Eselsbrücke? Wie ein Witz oder ein komisches Bild?


Ok, I try to explain in english: Eselsbrücke is the expression for a special way to remember a certain thing. I mostly do it as follows: When i meet a new word, of which i do not have any idea of the meaning, I say it loud and notice the first thing (a picture, a sound, whatever) that comes to my mind. Then i try to find a way of associating it to the meaning. Some times it takes more than one step to find a connection, but it's worth it. That will stuck in my mind. It is not easy to make a donkey cross a bridge.


That sounds a lot like Memrise's approach. Sometimes that works well for me, too. I wish we could combine Duolingo and Memrise into one site.

Danke für die neue Wort. :)


you are welcome, gern geschehen


Don't worry. I'm 24 and still find I need to review words before Duolingo indicates I need to. I was never really concerned. I just assumed this was due to Duolingo not wanting to demand too much of learners and risking putting them off. Duolingo is very upfront that it wont get you to fluent conversational german but it is a good place to find a large amount of basic vocab and grammar in a single place. On studies I don't know but I don't imagine there are a great number of older language learners using online resources so it might be difficult to get good statistics. But generally studies have confirmed your hope that language learning is one of the most effective ways to keep your "brain sharp" later in life.

[deactivated user]

    I'm 67 and just started German. I'm also reviewing French which I used to be fluent in It takes a little longer to memorise at our age but anything that you are working on helps the brain keep active. What is your primary goal for learning German? If only to keep your brain active maybe you aren't interested enough to put in the practice. If your goal is to speak German then find someone to practice with. If it is to read/write then find resources in German about something that you're really interested in. Find youtube videos in German about your hobbies/interests and go from there.


    Yes, I think that is good advice: you need to have a goal other than just keeping the mind limber. Personally, I hope to eventually be able to read works by economists like Ludwig von Mises, Wilhelm Röpke, and others in the original German. In the shorter term, learning more German helps me enjoy some of the German, Austrian, and Swiss musicians I enjoy.

    Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.