https://www.duolingo.com/Xefjord

Duolingo vs Lingodeer; What can Duolingo do to improve?

Some of you may have heard, some of you may have not; but a new app was recently released by a Chinese company called Lingodeer. It specifically teaches East Asian Languages in a very Duolingo style format; but it has been near universally praised by every user it has had as being better than Duolingo. Why is this? What is Duolingo doing wrong (And right)? and what can Duolingo do to be more competitive?

Warning this will be a little long.

I have always been a supporter of Duolingo and Duolingo's ability to provide free education at a fairly high level of quality in the face of competition. Duolingo strongly outperforms resources such has Rosetta Stone which had been the flagship for language learning for a long time and still manages to be better at getting people to learn new languages as opposed to other free apps such as Memrise. (Because of its ease of use and gamified learning). But very recently a new app came out (Completely free with no ads or in-app purchases) that focuses on teaching East Asian languages (The languages Duolingo is striving to offer now). This app is called Lingodeer. To be frank, in regard to teaching East Asian languages, Lingodeer is better in almost every single way.

Lingodeer has very Duolingo and Chineseskill style exercises (With Hanzi/Alphabet drawing exercises to help teach the east asian character sets) and has a tree that is long and encompassing a lot of the core beginner subjects for Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. It offers in-app tips and notes that can be found on the lessons page, and can be brought up in the middle of exercises if you click on a grammatical particle or word with grammatical properties. With almost textbook level grammar explanations for languages that really need them; this feature alone sets Lingodeer above Duolingo, but it doesn't stop there. Lingodeer also offers in house flashcards and review mechanisms with those flashcards over grammar, vocabulary, and chinese characters that you encounter as you go through the course. The flashcard system takes inspiration from Anki in its design (One of the best SRS flashcard systems available). Some people dread flashcards, but flashcards remain an incredibly useful way of reviewing material that most serious learners take use of. And its totally optional as well regarding if you want to use these or not (As they are not built into the lessons themselves). Lingodeer offers crisps vocals for each of the languages and is incredibly receptive to user feedback and constantly improving their app.

So what is Duolingo doing wrong and what is it doing right? To start, Duolingo does not offer Tips and Notes in the app. They offer Tips and Notes on the website, but the lack of priority on getting tips and notes to the app and seemingly apathetic view towards tips and notes in general in some of their recent staff created courses (I am looking at you Japanese) is downright appalling. Remember that one of the biggest complaints about Rosetta stone is that Rosetta stone tries to teach adults a language the same ways kids learn. Which is not compatible. Adults can't just pick up grammar without it ever being explained to them, and if they do it won't be near as efficient as it could have been if it were just explained flat out then used in practice. Especially with Asian languages, you can NOT and I will flatly say CAN NOT expect people to learn the language well or to teach the language well if you do not include grammar explanations. And Duolingo is seriously shooting itself in the foot in this regard. It was all fine and dandy when people had little other choice of free apps to learn Japanese, but now that Lingodeer is here with a free and better alternative that teaches grammar. I can not in my right mind suggest the Duolingo Japanese course to anyone looking to get their feet wet with Japanese.

The second issue is one regarding flashcards. As I said, some people love them, some people hate them. But they ARE an incredibly effective device for language learning. Especially for memorizing useful phrases and vocabulary. I have always felt like Duolingo taught sentence structure and grammatical properties well in its exercises but many a duolingoer has had incredible amounts of frustration when they come out of a course unable to remember the useful vocabulary and useful phrases they need to actually communicate in their target language. And having a flashcard vocabulary/phrases review feature would remedy SO MANY of these issues. This feature does not have to be mandatory. It can be completely optional, but if you include a feature like this it would make the app a hundred times better for serious learners. It could also promote usefulness in the app after finishing a tree because you can keep returning to the app to review your vocabulary flashcards.

Not all is doom and gloom however as there IS some things that Duolingo does much better than Lingodeer. First off, The obvious advantage to point out is the number of languages. Lingodeer has not ruled out tackling more languages in the future, but it is pretty well concerned with only Japanese, Chinese, and Korean for the present time. If you want to learn a non-east asian language you are pretty much only able to use Duolingo when it comes to free gamified app language learning resources of this level of quality. Another thing is that Duolingo teaches MUCH more vocabulary in each of their exercises/lessons than Lingodeer does. Duolingo imaginably has a bigger team and much more testing and programming capabilities than a Small Chinese company that just started (Lingodeer). Duolingo has testing out capabilities in their courses (Although this is a high priority on Lingodeer's to-do list) and Duolingo is offered on numerous platforms (Android, iOS, and Web). Lingodeer is also working on expanding to all three of these platforms (They are currently on Android and almost done creating iOS)

So this was not meant to be a sheer Duolingo bashing event, and the real question is (Because I do still care about Duolingo and cohost for a large discord server dedicated to promoting duolingo and language learning), what can Duolingo do to improve and stay competitive? I understand Duolingo is a big company and that change can be slow moving. But with their biggest push as of late being the transition into teaching Asian languages they HAVE to do it right otherwise this push will have been wasted. Instead of fixating on working within the limitations of Duolingos current platform you should be trying to improve it (And I will give credit where credits due, I know you guys are trying). The two main flaws I addressed were the lack of tips and notes/grammar teaching in the apps, and flashcards/good vocabulary teaching. I am sure you have heard every complaint under the sun about these but know that they are very valid complaints and little has been done to address them.

When tackling tips and notes know that they do not have to be perfect. They just have to be there. And for every language as needed. That means you have to add them for Japanese too. Toss out the notion that you can teach East Asian languages without teaching grammar because you are only making yourselves look pathetic in the light of the language learning community. You can say you developed a new revolutionary method for learning a language without grammar teaching in a course, but that is about as helpful towards our language learning as saying we can learn a language fluently in a mere month. Its a joke and we don't want to paint the hard work your course contributors put in as a joke. I haven't seen any studies that claim your method is working in the Japanese course, and I have encountered more people frustrated than not because of the lack of your tips and notes.

When tackling flashcards, we already know you have experience with developing flashcard apps. The fact you went through the trouble to develop tinycards means that you do infact see the value in learning with flashcards. But your flashcard app is going to do nothing for you in the face of competition already out there that has been doing it for much longer and much better than you (Such as Memrise and Anki). What it can do however is seriously increase the value of Duolingo as an app if you can manage to integrate the two together. If you had a flashcard feature to review vocabulary and new alphabet systems, even if it is not nearly as detailed as Memrise or the flashcards in Lingodeer. You will be putting yourselves incredibly far ahead towards language learning app hegemony. It will increase the retention of vocabulary learned in your courses, and it will increase usage from serious users who really care about doing well in their target language, as they continue to review the vocabulary they learned in the app's flashcards long after they finish a tree. It is also one of the best ways to teach new alphabets in my opinion and can be a great way to quickly teach new alphabets or to review alphabets/character systems in Duolingo.

I will reiterate, I really want to see Duolingo be successful and I have been a long time supporter. Honestly even if you don't implement these changes its not like you will suddenly become irrelevant, as you were the crucial first step to moving language learning in the right direction and you are still the biggest free language learning app available in the massive amount of languages you offer. But I have had to exert large amounts of effort to defend your guys choices at times and to help spread the good word about Duolingo. Because of your recent choices and lack of flexability towards languages that need a deviation from the current Duolingo system, especially with the languages I myself study (The East Asian Languages). The fact competitors have bested you so far in that area means I just can't really use Duolingo anymore. And I can't suggest it to anyone trying to learn an East Asian Language. So while I am excited that you finally announced your decision to teach Chinese. I don't really have any hope that it will even be able to compete with your rival apps Chineseskill, HelloChinese, and Lingodeer simply because the current system of Duolingo can't teach Asian languages well.

If you are making the true amount of neccesary changes to Duolingo to make teaching Asian Languages possible I can't see it. You need to be more open with the community as well regarding this issue. Because giving us the minuscule changes you do and expecting us to see it as the monumental progress Duolingo needs to teach Asian languages is a joke and tarnishes your good name, if you have much of one anymore in this section of the language learning community that is.

9/21/2017, 5:17:46 PM

27 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Szei
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Completely agree. I love Duolingo and am the leader of an in app Korean and Japanese club. It's a lot of fun competing and learning together with fellow 'Duolingoers' but I'm not sure what I will do once Lingodeer reaches the iOS store. If it is anything like the HelloChinese app but for Korean and Japanese I might have to regretfully switch from Duolingo to Lingodeer.

I really do not want to do this because I'm enjoying playing Duolingo with my friends but at the end of the day I am here to learn languages and I find HelloChinese (and apparently Lingodeer when it comes out on iOS) has many helpful features that Duolingo does not.

Like the original poster said, features like in app grammar rules and flashcards would go a long way towards addressing the issue and remaining competitive. I want to reiterate that I love what Duolingo is doing and really hope that they take this seriously because I want them to succeed!

Side Note: I cannot believe how self-destructive so many people in this community seem to be. How can you possibly think that Duolingo should rest on their laurels instead of adding features that their competition are bringing to the table? Absolutely ridiculous how many downvotes the original post has...

9/26/2017, 1:41:43 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/CarlosLM.
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Apparently Duolingo zealots downvoted the original post without reading anything, maybe they considered it as spam. As for me, I had upvoted it because I thought it had valuable information regarding Asian language learning.

9/26/2017, 6:58:40 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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The original post had a vote count of at least +5 or +6 for several hours at the start. All of the comments posted were positive and most expressing their thanks to Xefjord for letting then know about this app.

But then, the next time I saw this page, it suddenly had a vote count of -22! Yet not a single comment had been posted by anyone saying why they didn't like this discussion... And there are still no negative comments even now!

It stayed like this for a couple of days, and now it's suddenly gone down even further to -37! And this happened even though the discussion won't have been listed anymore by that time! (I think discussions are usually removed from the discussion listings once their vote count reaches minus five?)

I imagine that it was just one individual person who mass downvoted this using a bot or hack, or just someone with lots of dummy accounts who manually spent much of his own time downvoting this discussion with the aim to prevent people from ever seeing it... Or maybe someone posted on an external site or social media asking for people to gang up together and downvote this...

I'm sure a fair amount of time and effort was put in to write that long post, only to have some shameless person try to force it to get delisted. Really makes me sick to see such despicable fascistic behaviour being tolerated here on Duolingo. :|

9/26/2017, 7:37:04 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/CarlosLM.
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I agree, it's very sad this kind of intolerable behaviour!

9/26/2017, 7:42:03 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Xefjord

It actually got up to about +20 to +30 votes then plummeted to the number now. Thanks for the support. While I do want to see Duolingo do well, Lingodeer is mainly who I am rooting for right now because they are hell bent on constantly improving and making the best app they can. Incredibly receptive to user feedback. I have a back up of the discussion now but was surprised to see it open again (For a while the page was just 404). As I said thanks for the support! If I ever make a post like this again I will probably post it on reddit as well to add an extra safety net.

9/28/2017, 2:57:57 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/isnottogive
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And they even downvoted some comments such as mine. Tbh some people have very thin skin and too much free time.

9/26/2017, 7:45:46 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Xefjord

You may be happy to know that the iOS version of Lingodeer just released a day or so ago. Please feel free to check it out!

9/28/2017, 2:58:28 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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Seems that this topic isn't really "Duolingo vs. Lingodeer", but rather "Duolingo Android app vs. Lingodeer Android app".

I installed Lingodeer a couple hours ago after seeing someone mention it in the "こんにちは! Japanese" thread. It sounded like it was going to be similar to Duolingo except designed only for the three languages I'm most interested in. However, it turns out it doesn't have the thing I've always thought to be the main feature of Duolingo: answering by typing the translation of sentences. Not only this, but it also copies all the other reasons why I don't use Duolingo's app.

Japanese, I've been learning for years; Korean, I've barely started other than hangeul and beginning skills on Duolingo; Chinese, I've not really started learning at all. However, I tried all three on Lingodeer and quickly got too fed up of doing the repetitive tile sorting and matching questions.

I'd say Lingodeer (which is app only) is almost definitely better than the app version of Duolingo, but it's nothing like the real Duolingo on web. Lingodeer is a very well made app and does a great job of making the studying process easy and simple, but my brain feels like it's slipping into a coma doing those tile pairing questions! ^^;

9/21/2017, 7:30:41 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Xefjord

Lingodeer is most definitely not perfect, that is part of why I made this overview, so as to say that Duolingo can take the good from Lingodeer and on top of the good it already has to be quite competitive. But there is one pretty big difference in Lingodeer's favor.

Go on Lingodeer's facebook page and send them a message about that exact complaint and you will probably get a response within 24-48 hours, and they will mull it over with the team and consider implementing it. Lingodeer prides themselves as being an app made by the community for the community and are incredibly receptive to feedback, as they have responded to every single suggestion I have tossed to them (And I have even seen a fair few of those suggestions implemented in real time) including having Hepburn Romaji support alongside Kunrei Shiki romaji support for Japanese.

Also keep in mind that Lingodeer as an app is VERY new. And they have plans to expand into a website as well, its just that they managed to release an android app first (And will have their iOS app out in a week or two)

9/21/2017, 8:23:37 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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The character drawing exercises are nice they way they've made them. I liked the way they've designed the flash card feature (except for having to do the lessons for cards to be added to it). The audio is very good. I like that it can be used offline. I was also impressed with its options for kanji, kana, furigana, and even offering a choice of kunrei and hepburn romaji systems (not that I like romaji, but still).

In fact, I just realised I never checked what different options it has if you are on Chinese or Korean, since I only looked at the options page while I happened to be on the Japanese tree. So I've reinstalled the app to have a look...

I'm glad to see it actually offers traditional hanzi and able to disable pinyin. Same with being able to disable romaja for Korean. And I've noticed a few extra things, such as how much longer the trees are and that the "alphabet" skill in each of the languages isn't actually compulsory. I thought I wouldn't be able to do any of the skills on the left side of the tree without first completing the alphabet skill. But I realise now that the tree isn't actually two separate columns...

I am very impressed by LingoDeer's app. I wasn't really planning to ever install it again after trying it that first time. But, now that I've realised these extra things such as the text display options, I'm thinking I might actually come back to it when I feel like starting Chinese.

However, I'm still not sure how much of that tile matching stuff I'd be able to put up with. If LingoDeer ever gets the same kind of sentence typing answering as Duolingo, especially if they make it for web too, then I'll be very excited should that happen. ^^

But, at the moment, Duolingo on web is a very different thing to LingoDeer.

9/21/2017, 9:22:48 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Fayke
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I have completed the Japanese tree on the web version of Duolingo some time ago and I think there is a lot of room for improvement. However, after reading the opening post of this thread I tried out Lingodeer (mainly attracted by the promise of "upper intermediate level") and got a glimpse of what the Duolingo Japanese application on smartphone must be... and it's just terrible. I actually kind of feel bad for people who have to learn Japanese that way and share your opinion about the tediousness of rearranging tiles (not only is it boring but I really don't think you can really learn properly that way).

On the plus side I appreciate the Japanese web version on Duolingo a lot more now, despite its shortcomings. If they manage to recognize more kanji and more casual structures it will be a pretty decent course to reach about the same level as the first two thirds of Genki I.

9/21/2017, 9:36:09 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/isnottogive
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Mind if I ask how you access the web version of the Japanese tree? Because I only find it in the apps (at least at the moment)

9/21/2017, 9:40:49 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Fayke
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There is a workaround to access it, same for Korean by the way. It's pretty simple if you use Chrome https://www.reddit.com/r/duolingo/comments/6bpz34/start_the_japanese_tree_easily/

9/21/2017, 9:51:22 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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That animated gif image on that page is slightly out of date. Following its instructions won't work if you do it while on the "home" page of a tree (unlike how it shows in that gif). Since Duolingo switched to the new site code, you now need to be on the "discussion" page for it to work (or on any other part of the site which is still on the old site code).

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/23192662$comment_id=23208625

Also, I'm surprised more people haven't mentioned that about the Korean course. I had fun trying to figure out the Korean keyboard layout when it asked me to type the answer in Korean. The grammar notes for Korean are so good too. I haven't used the app on this account at all, which includes when I was doing the Korean course. ^^

9/21/2017, 10:53:58 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/isnottogive
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Thanks to both for the links! I'll try them to see if they work for me (if not, well, the app is still there)

9/21/2017, 10:57:12 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Xefjord

Seems like this post got mass downvoted. Someone didn't like my review and probably botted us. Oh well. Some people don't like healthy debates. Thanks for your detailed contribution. Hearing detailed opinions such as yours make my writings and reviews worth it!

9/22/2017, 5:15:55 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/Xefjord

TL;DR Version: A new app was released that teaches East Asian Languages in a Duolingo style, but does so in ways that are significantly better than Duolingo is currently capable of. Namely in that it has tips and notes in-app and flashcard reviews (While also being completely free). I feel like Duolingo could easily remain competitive if they added these features into Duolingo, and I also do not feel like it would be in any way impossible for Duolingo to add these features into Duolingo. So until Duolingo can acknowledge the serious changes and work needed to teach East Asian languages, I can not suggest Duolingo over the competitors app in regards to teaching East Asian Languages.

P.S. I will also add that I am making this post now not just because this competitor app came out, but because Duolingo has made leaps and bounds in improvement in being open with the community. It still isn't great as I stated in my above article. But it has improved drastically from what it WAS. So I feel like its only right that since Duolingo has made serious efforts to be more open with us, that we be more open with them. And this is the elephant in the room.

9/21/2017, 5:29:08 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/OldPalHappy

Lovely post. Thanks.

9/21/2017, 6:08:32 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Woof.
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I don't see why this got -30 downvotes.

Thanks for introducing me to LingoDeer! The little Chinese I know has improved so much since I started LingoDeer.

But I disagree with you on one point: LingoDeer is not better in almost every single way.

And I do not like flashcards, so I don't care very much that Duolingo doesn't have them. But that's just my opinion.

And Everyone was looking at Japanese when you said ''the lack of priority on getting tips and notes to the app and seemingly apathetic view towards tips and notes in general in some of their recent staff created courses...'' not just you :) I do agree that duolingo could do better with the tips and notes as they are the only way duo teaches grammar.

10/12/2017, 8:23:42 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Thomas_Wesley
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Great write-up, very well thought-out.

duolingo is also available on the web, which is great for those of use who don't want to do such things on a phone or tablet. I know you specifically mentioned that lingodeer was an app, but it seemed worth highlighting this distinct feature that (for me, at least) makes duolingo the better choice.

9/21/2017, 7:24:56 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Xefjord

Lingodeer has plans to create a web version.

9/21/2017, 8:16:43 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/xMira_
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THIS IS GOING TO BE A LOT HARSHER THAN MOST PEOPLE EXPECT FROM ME

TBH, I know the Korean course is in beta blah blah blah blah blah blah. It will get better. I think that's gonna take too long for my taste.

Honestly, I learned more from lingo deer in the first two lessons than I have in the first 8 with duolingo. Mostly just because it introduced WORDS and not SENTENCES. And it also has focuses on speaking and not just reading. And, I don't think Duolingo will be able to do the speaking very well...

Okay, so I agree with you somewhat that duolingo has more range if you're just trying to learn a lot of languages at a like "hello nice to meet you" level (semi conversational, able to get around but not easily) but I think Lingodeer, if you're just trying to learn east asian languages, is much better. It's the same way with any other languages, actually. There are lots of great centering apps for Spanish, if you're just trying to learn Spanish. I think Duolingo just bit off more than it can chew, at the moment. Like I understand having a high demand for Japanese and Korean, but people can wait and use a different app, or just learn Korean via videos and things.

I see Duolingo quite like how I see Kahn Academy. A great resource for review, homework, if you don't understand a class lesson... etc. But not as your sole language learning resource.

2/16/2018, 10:09:24 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/testmoogle
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I'm impressed you managed to find this thread, given that it got downvote bombed into oblivion. Unfortunately I'm not sure how many people will get to read your post. ^^;

I see Duolingo quite like how I see Kahn Academy. A great resource for review, homework, if you don't understand a class lesson... etc. But not as your sole language learning resource.

I strongly agree with this part. I've always thought of Duolingo as the best place to get used to constructing sentences in the language you are already learning. I think they should advertise themselves as being for this, rather than making it sound like this is a good place to learn a new language from scratch with no other resources required.

Duolingo's system, where it asks the user to type their translation of the sentence and then instantly marks it correct/wrong, is pretty unique and very valuable. For Japanese I've learnt vocabulary, kanji and grammar elsewhere, but there was never a decent site for practising sentence composition on your own. There are sites like lang-8, where you have to think of your own things to write for other people to read and correct, but there doesn't seem to be anywhere else using a system anything like Duolingo's. It's really neat being able to try out various different ideas of how to translate each sentence and seeing whether it will get marked correct or not.

Because I've always viewed the site this way, I never understand how people come here trying to learn a completely new language — its script, grammar, vocabulary — all via Duolingo. All of those things can be learnt better elsewhere. I chose to learn hangeul elsewhere and learnt it much much faster than the people who try to learn it on here. Duolingo is great for sentence composition practice. ^^

2/16/2018, 11:55:35 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/isnottogive
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Thanks to this post I know now of the existence of this app, so thank you! Tried both the first lesson of japanese and korean and it looks quite excellent. I shall continue with Duolingo too because once I start something tbh I need to finish it but I'm adding this one too to my learning of these two languages (and maybe Chinese too if I ever feel like it) Thanks again!

9/21/2017, 6:48:42 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Stysis
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They promised to release iOS but I'm not really sure when it's going to happen. I used an emulator to test the app. The grammar notes are nice but some of the interface design is questionable. Something that I can recall is the question/answer matching questions because they jump around whenever you pick an option. The interface can also use some colors to make it less serious and more fun. I like Duolingo cartoonish interface a lot more. I think I also read somewhere that they got the stroke order wrong for some of the Japanese hiragana. Not sure about this because I tried Korean, not Japanese.

9/21/2017, 11:01:09 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Xefjord

iOS was just released a day or so ago. If you encounter any issues with the app please report them either on reddit or on facebook. They are incredibly receptive to suggestions and criticisms and are constantly trying to make the app better. Give the app a try and have fun learning and if you enjoy the app please give it a good rating!

9/28/2017, 2:59:38 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/Stysis
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Thanks for letting me know. I'm working on Korean now. The course seems to be slower than Duolingo with less vocabulary but they're actually making it fun and easy to understand. The Korean course on Duolingo is filled with frustration.

9/29/2017, 4:15:00 AM
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