Is Duolingo 'safe?'

I have just started using Duolingo and found it a fun way to learn German as a complete beginner. My intention has been to use it daily over the Summer to build up a level of experience so that when I take my college German course, I will have a easier time.

However, I've found some reviews online of how Duolingo is a 'dangerous' method to learn as a beginner and that it builds bad habits for learning and comprehending German and that things like fluidity and choice in sentence structure are obstructed by having the learner narrow down to only a few options. I don't know if this is true or not, but I am afraid of having to relearn German when I start my class. I don't want to learn the 'wrong' way and I don't want to develop any bad/incorrect habits for understanding German.

I have two questions for two different groups: To members who gained proficiency (high level on Duolingo) in German through mostly Duolingo, how is your German? Is it 'proper' according to native speakers?

To members who used Duolingo as preparation for school classes, did you feel Duolingo helped you in your school lessons? Did you have to relearn anything/adopt a different method of learning?

Thanks for the help, you guys. :)

April 23, 2015


The way I see it, DuoLingo is a springboard that helps you understand the basics of a language. Completing your skill tree and getting level 25 will do wonders for your reading skills, and will give you all the basics for listening and speaking. Besides DuoLingo, I've made a lot of use of YouTube to watch movies, or even video games in other languages. I also read books in another language when I can and will watch the evening news in the language I'm learning.

I've heard some people say that you can become fluent by just using DuoLingo, this is absolute nonsense to me. The vocabulary is too small for that (between 1,500 and 2,000 words for each language) and the sentence-by-sentence format makes it too static. However, when combined with methods just as watching movies, reading books, and above all: speaking with people who are fluent in the language you're acquiring, you can come a long way. Personally, DL has been a huge help. I've already had conversations in German and Spanish with native speakers, and they sincerely told me my language command was good.

long story short: DL is a fantastic starting point, but learning another language requires more than on-line practice. Keep up the good work and you'll get there eventually.

April 23, 2015

I also share FrankKool's perspective, having studied with a personal tutor for almost 6 years while I was employed by a German company here in the US. We used the Themen Aktuel series of German books as part of that coursework, which were very good for teaching grammar and sentence structure. Unfortunately I think this is sort of difficult to do in DL.

However, I recently started DL as a way to refresh my skills. I think one of it's strengths is that the user is constantly hearing the language in each exercise. This will develop your ear for it and get you used to sentence cadence. Unfortunately in many classroom settings, this element is often lost in regular class routines, so it's nice to seek out alternative sources to supplement your learning. As you progress, you may also want to check out the immersion resources and other helpful reference from fellow users here in the forums.

I would definitely encourage you to keep up with DL as it can only enhance your classroom experience.

April 23, 2015

Indeed. DL opens the door to further learning. you can talk with a native speaker and be able to ask them to explain the meaning of the worgs you don't understand. From my experience basics of a language have to be taught and the more advanced aspects can be learned from he live language

April 25, 2015

Duo gives you an understanding of german words (in the listening sense). You can also make viable sentences. That does not make you fluent - whatever fluent means anyway. But it is a good start. Making more ineresting and natural sentences will come automatically when using german together with natives.

It is like someone learning a language with song texts. Do you learn words? Of course. Do you learn a basic grammar? Yes, even with songs (but harder I would guess). Do you learn to speak like a native? Hell no, only speaking with natives can make that.

I am a person who needs to get a feel for a language and a few hundred words before I can say anything positive about it. I started with a very bad mark in school in english and slowly got up, and a big part in that played a computer game with text I wanted to understand (btw. my dictionary didnt include "gotcha", it took me 2 years to find out what that meant - pre-internet era ^^) I ended up being 3rd best of my school year in english. But I would NOT dare to describe a kitchen. spoon, fork - and then it ends. Never needed other words. But IF I ever needed it I could do it very fast. For me, Duolingo works, because I know I can slowly go to the point where I can learn the rest without "work".

If you, on the other hand, are a theoretical language person, meaning you first learn all the rules and try to use them, then you should not use duolingo alone. Start with a theoretical book and look on the appropriate pages for every lecture you encounter here.

For me that doesnt work. I am a theoretical person, but not in language. In german the worst mark by far I got was in the theory Klassenarbeit. Only year I didnt get a 2 in german in my whole school time :D I can write better german then 95%, but I can not explain even the most simple of rules.

April 23, 2015

People who see and respond to this post will probably be those for whom DuoLingo works great (and that includes me!). Those who found DuoLingo ineffective probably aren't around. As others have said, it should be viewed as one possible tool along with books, grammar sites/blogs and YouTube.

It definitely makes sense in the beginning to read some of the criticisms of DuoLingo and compare those with your personal learning style to see if they're bringing up an issue that might apply to you.

I have really benefited from DuoLingo and have had a lot of fun doing it! Your mileage may vary.

April 23, 2015

Have a lingot for pointing out survivor bias in thread like this.

July 29, 2017

I would say that Duolingo is extremely dangerous... because when you start using it, it's like a drug and years pass and you notice that you have an addiction. I think I need Duo-rehab.

My german was already alright before Duolingo and I think you get the most when you already know the basics. My grammar and vocabulary definitely got better using duolingo.

April 25, 2015
  • 1975

I'm addicted too... I think I need Duo-kebab!

April 25, 2015

His Holy Grand Sensei of Duolingo, don't worry man ! As long as am the padawan behind you I will offer you the kebab for free. But I will make sure that doesn't last for too many decades. Maybe I'll even add some extra sauce to slow down your progress :D

I will chase your Iron Thrown until I die, but enjoy sitting on it in the meanwhile, and eating my family's world famous kebab.

April 25, 2015

[deactivated user]

    I laughed out loud when you talked about Duolingo addiction!!! I completely agree with you. I greatly improved my German with Duolingo. Still, I use other sources to progress.

    April 25, 2015


    June 15, 2017

    I completed the German tree but I hurried through it and did not learn as much as when I completed other trees. However I did notice that my listening had improved and I was starting think in German sentences although there's no way to know how accurate they were.

    Like Rewjeo was saying it is just a tool, I think it's a very powerful one but still a tool. Even in classes I was always told don't just come to class and think you get fluent, you need immersion and self study.

    I have attended and taught language classes and would say it probably does give you a feel for the words and grammar, I don't think you will have to relearn anything. However if you could know anything about the course content or curriculum in advance studying that is probably best.

    Hope that helps

    April 23, 2015

    You have many languages at level 25 can you have a basic conversation in those languages

    March 21, 2017

    I'm a native German speaker and did a placement test and some lessons once. The German taught here seems to be allright. Sure, it's a bit narrowed down but I doubt that any language learning tool would present all the possibilities to a beginner. It would be overwhelming and result in utter confusion instead of a better understanding! When you understood the basics, you can still add more complexity.

    I don't think that it would do any harm if you started here. Maybe not focus on the speaking as Duolingo is quite lacking here and you'll have better learning opportunities at your course. But learning a bit of grammar and getting used to the basic concepts (gendered nouns, capitalization etc.) should be useful =)

    April 23, 2015

    Hey! I'm no expert but I've been teaching my self for a while and I have been using duolingo as a way to make sure I get decent practice everyday because I listen to German music but it is another thing to hear it. I like to use this site: for practicing conjugation as well as picking up some new words to think about. ( I like adding to my vocabulary and then thinking about it when I see things or do things). Good luck in your ventures! I plan to get a degree in German as well :) Anyways- what the others said was pretty spot on. I thought you might like this site though for some extra practice to go with duolingo.

    April 23, 2015
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    Duolingo, when used with other resources, is excellent. After six months on here (and elsewhere) I joined a fourth semester college course. I was slow with speaking at first, but in only a month I was speaking as well as anyone. My understanding of German grammar is probably better than any of my classmates, and frankly I would say that I have hands down the best study habits in the class. Now, nine months after I started learning German, I have full conversations in it daily and read poems and short stories (and a full book starting this week) regularly in the language, and I have no doubt that Duolingo is responsible for a lot of that. I mean, I'm not reading Kant or Nietzsche, but I am reading Kafka. I have nothing bad to say about Duolingo as long as you don't expect it to do everything for you. At the end of the day, it's just a tool. An excellent one, but you need more than a hammer to build a house.

    April 23, 2015

    Beautifully put :)

    April 25, 2015

    That's amazing! Here, have a lingot!

    April 25, 2015

    Hi, I haven't finished the German tree but I'm a native speaker of German and I did the tree partially. I can tell you that the resources are excellent. However, if you really want to learn and understand the grammar you should look through the grammar before doing the exercise. If you just start doing the exercise without learning the grammar first, it probably won't make your German course easier for you next year. Translating random sentences is not going to help you so you should consider the exercises themselves as a fun way to understand the grammar. Always take reading and understanding the grammar as a major priority. Viel Erfolg!

    April 23, 2015

    I don't know how 'safe' is duolingo but so far, I have no VDs... :P

    As far as learning, I don't think any 'system/program' is perfect. Mixing two or more system/programs will probably help a lot but, in the end, you got to get out and practice with people, not with computers. My Spanish is ok for me to get by and I have to admit, that although I learn a lot here, it's when I'm out there with real people that I see the real progress. Usually (read: all the time) native spanish speakers know that Spanish is not my native tongue, so they understand that I may be making some mistakes....

    April 24, 2015

    I am in my first semester of exploratory Spanish (basic spanish) and Duolingo helps me a huge amount. I mostly get high A's on assignments, and I even get to have very small conversations with classmates. I am level 5 in Spanish currently, and I have even translated a few relatively basic sentences in Spanish. Duolingo really helps me in the classroom. I don't have much experience, but it has made class so much easier.

    April 25, 2015

    Duolingo is perfect to begin. I've started here 4 months ago, and i'm learning more than I expect. But you need focus(studying in others platforms too) like podcasts, assimil, etc

    April 25, 2015

    I started duo lingo in January and feel like I already have the knowledge of two years on school. I have taken foreign language courses in the past and barely get past the basics. I did the Spanish course and am only about 2/3 through my tree and I can already listen to the radio and watch tv in Spanish and actually understand a lot of it. I am able to communicate simply with clients at work. I am participating in a free class and I feel I have more skill than many who have been in the class for a year. My grammar is better than the teacher, who has Spanish as a primary language. I feel duo lingo teaches the sentence structure but it doe not help with the communication aspect. That is hard to simulate. That is where your class will come in handy because you can practice with your peers. The format of duo lingo helps with memorization and recall of the words and their meanings.

    April 25, 2015

    I do not have much new to add other than to say, I studied German in school for several years. Now, I am returning to the language after over 20 years. Even back in school, we were encouraged to use German via several different sources - once we had learned the basics. We started with vocabulary and simple phrases from our German text book. From this we learned reading, writing and our teacher led us through oral drills for listening and speaking. Once our class was ready, the teacher brought in other sources for language such as magazines, movies and other non-scholastic sources.

    So the point is, use DuoLingo as one of many tools to learn German.

    You might even want to talk to your teacher about using DuoLingo or other resources to get a jump start on your German education. Your teacher will appreciate the extra effort you put in.

    April 24, 2015

    Personally, I'm learning German both on Duolingo and in school and I think something similar is the best. German is a hard lanuage,: placing he verbs in sentences, forms of pronouns (der, den, dem, etc) and gramaical rules can't be understood only through examples. As for oher languages: I'm learning Swedish (which seems to be gramatically easier) only throuh Duolingo and for now it seems all right. By the way: I think this site is perfect for learning new words, revising them regularly, getting the pronounciaion right and keeping the motivation up. Good luck with learning!

    April 24, 2015

    i take german at school and on doling, and i can say the german is pretty good, except for one thing: the usage of kennel and wissen is a little fishy in the excersises. I would make sure to use more than one method, so you can catch things like that. Also, it helps to have someone to explain things about the culture and grammar. And, I know you will probably hate this, but writing out a conjugation chart for trouble terms really helps.

    April 24, 2015

    Duo is not dangerous. Duo is very fun.

    April 23, 2017

    It all depends on your expectations. If you expect Duo to teach you an entire language than you are very delusional. Duo is just one of many methods available for learning and retaining vocabulary and practicing short sentences. Duo won't take you much beyond a A2 level.

    June 15, 2017

    it helped me lots in school

    June 4, 2017
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