Duolingo Max Review [2023] – Is It Worth The Cost?

If you’re looking for a comprehensive review of Duolingo Max, then you’ve come to the right place!

Duolingo launched Max in early 2023 to a select group of users. Max leverages some of the latest AI technologies to bring exciting new features to the Duolingo experience.

But as great as this sounds, is Duolingo Max actually any good? Is it worth the price? Will it help you to become fluent in your target language?

Well, in this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know!

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What is Duolingo Max?

Duolingo Max is Duolingo’s new subscription tier, becoming the third tier in the lineup.

It sits ahead of Super Duolingo, which was originally Duolingo’s only paid subscription plan, and the basic membership, which is free.

Duolingo Max comes with all the benefits of Super Duolingo, but introduces some special AI features to certain courses and devices. It uses OpenAI’s GPT-4 technology to provide a more personalized, authentic, and effective language-learning experience.

How to get Duolingo Max?

As of August 2023, Duolingo Max is only available to a very select group of users.

The current requirements are as follows:

  • Platform: IOS
  • Courses: English-Spanish, English-French
  • Countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States

However, even if you meet all of the above requirements, you still might not be able to get Duolingo Max. This is likely due to A/B testing groups.

Having said that, there is a workaround that has worked for some users. So if after reading this review you decide you’d like to take Max for a spin, then be sure to check it out!


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How much does Duolingo Max cost?

Duolingo Max currently starts at $14 a month in the US and £9.99 a month in the UK.

This is based on taking out a 12-month subscription, which means, in total, Max will set you back $168 in the US and £119.99 in the UK.

Duolingo Max UK prices

If you’d prefer to pay monthly, Duolingo Max currently costs $30 in the US and £19.99 in the UK.

You can also get Duolingo Max on a Family Plan, which allows you to share your Max subscription with up to 5 other Duolingo users. This will set you back roughly $200 in the US and £179.99 in the UK.

Duolingo Max vs Super Duolingo

Whether you’re a free user thinking about upgrading to a paid plan, or a Super member considering making the leap to Max, you might be wondering what the major differences are between Duolingo’s premium tiers.

For the most part, they’re very similar, especially if you’re learning a language that isn’t Spanish or French!

The first big difference between Super and Max is the price. Super starts at $6.99 per month, whereas Max starts at $14 per month.

Another obvious difference is the theme. This doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but still: Super comes with a galactic, greeney-pupley style, while Max opts for a darker more futuristic theme.

You’ll also get different app icons depending on which plan you go for (IOS only).

The biggest differences, however, are the special AI features that Max introduces. As of August 2023, the main AI features are Roleplay and Explain My Answer. These are both fairly self-explanatory, but we’ll take a deeper dive into them in a moment!

What do you get with Duolingo Max?

Now, let’s take a closer look at the special goodies that come with a Duolingo Max subscription.

Roleplay

Roleplay is one of Duolingo Max’s two flagship features.

It gives users the opportunity to take everything they learn in their ordinary lessons and use it in a conversation with one of Duolingo’s characters.

In Roleplay, you enter into a fictional scenario in which you and one of the characters take on different roles.

For example, one of the first scenarios in the Spanish course is at a café. Lily takes on the role of a barista, and you take on the role of a customer.

She’ll ask you questions like:

  • What do you want to order?
  • Would you like anything else?
  • How would you like to pay?

To which you’ll have to respond as best as you can in either written or spoken Spanish.

Each response has a target number of words to use. The more words you use, the higher your score at the end of the round (so long as it makes sense, of course).

You can respond however you like. Lots of detail. Little detail. Expressive. Reserved. It’s entirely up to you!

If your answer makes enough sense, the conversation will continue and the character will respond according to what you say. If it doesn’t make sense or you make some mistakes, Duolingo will correct you and show you where you’ve gone wrong.

Roleplay is one of Duolingo’s first-ever opportunities to practice conversation skills in your target language. It’s not perfect (as we’ll get to a little later), but it’s an exciting step in the right direction!

Explain My Answer

Explain My Answer is the second major feature that comes with Duolingo Max.

As the name suggests, Explain My Answer goes into detail on the answers you provide in your lessons, highlighting what you got right, where you’ve gone wrong, and where you can improve.

Explain My Answer explains specific parts of the question you answer and gives you further examples to demonstrate how it works.

It takes on a chatbot style (kind of like ChatGPT) in which you’re essentially having a conversation with Duo about your answer. However, for now, at least, you can’t ask it any custom questions — you’re just limited to three pre-determined responses.

Question hints and tips

In recent weeks, another new feature has quietly started rolling out to Duolingo Max users.

It doesn’t appear to have a name yet (I’m guessing it’s still in beta…) so we could just call it “Explain My Question” for now.

It’s a little button in the bottom left corner of the screen that you can tap to get some hints about the question you’re answering. This buddys-up nicely with the standard hints that come from tapping on the question words.

It will give you some tips on things like grammar, sentence structure, and translations to help you better understand the question.

Aesthetics + Super perks

The other goodies that you get with Duolingo Max are more style than substance.

As above, Max comes with a cool, futuristic color scheme, and gives IOS users the option to whip out the Max app icon.

PLUS, Max members also get everything that comes with a Super subscription, which includes:

Duolingo Max – Pros and Cons

Now we know everything that comes with Duolingo Max. But does it justify the monthly price?

Let’s weigh up some pros and cons.

Duolingo Max pros

More explanations in-lesson

One of the best things about Duolingo Max is that it FINALLY gives users proper feedback on the answers they provide.

A common criticism of Duolingo is that there isn’t enough explanation about why something is the way it is. Aside from the pre-lesson guidebooks, Duolingo doesn’t really give that much guidance, so the user is just expected to figure everything out through trial and error.

And while this definitely has some merit — helping you to develop a gut-level understanding of concepts — this doesn’t remove the need for detailed explanations.

Things like grammar, cases, conjugations, tenses, moods etc.

With Explain My Answer, users can finally get explanations on how all of this works within their lessons.

Whether you get a question right or wrong, Explain My Answer gives you the option to look under the hood of the question. The handy chatbot format unpacks the answer in an easy-to-understand manner.

The “Explain My Question” feature is also a nice addition, giving users a lot more direction when answering their questions.

Opportunity to practice conversations

Another big drawback of Duolingo over the years has been the lack of opportunities to practice using the language.

It’s always been a great way of picking up vocabulary and getting some basic exposure to the language. But beyond this, Duolingo could only take you so far.

But now, thanks to Roleplay, it looks like this is about to change.

While it’s still far from perfect — and is definitely not a replacement for talking with a real human being! — it’s definitely an exciting addition.

It already comes packed with a set of realistic scenarios in which you can really flex your knowledge of your target language.

The hints that run along the top of the text box also help to get the creative juices flowing. You can take the conversations in a lot of different directions, which gives you the freedom to respond in pretty much any way you want.

I’ve been really impressed by just how flexible and responsive the AI is. Not only does it react to a lot of the weird and wonderful things you say, but it even seems to pick up on the different tones you take. All of this gets fed back in the end-of-lesson report, which gives useful feedback on how you can switch up your styles.

More things to do

Duolingo already has a decent number of activities to keep you occupied. From working through the learning path and tackling legendary levels, to racing against the clock in timed challenges and reading stories.

There’s usually always something to do — even if you’ve completed the course.

However, the standard Duolingo experience can sometimes leave you wanting something a little less gamey, and a little more authentic.

In this respect, Max has you covered.

Both the Spanish and French courses already have a decent number of Roleplays to work through. And the cool thing is they can be reattempted as often as you like, which is a great way to work on situation-specific vocabulary.

And of course, if you’re upgrading from a free plan, then you’ll also get all the benefits that come with a Super membership, including the unlimited legendary and timed challenge attempts, plus the full range of personalized practice sessions.

Duolingo Max cons

The new features need work

The special AI features that ship with Max are definitely an exciting step in the right direction.

However, they are still far from perfect.

For all its positives, Roleplay isn’t a replacement for real-life interaction. Despite the hints provided, even the early scenarios could be challenging for beginners. And I don’t think this is helped much by the super dark and imposing color scheme.

Don’t get me wrong – Roleplay is great. I’m sure it’s going to be a massive help for a lot of users. But make no mistake – it’s not a replacement for human interaction. As flexible as it already is, it can still feel a little cold and predictable, especially after repeating a scenario a couple of times. Even if you offer a really fleshed-out answer, the character can still respond as if following a script. It could do with loosening up a bit.

Explain My Answer, although being a welcome addition, only seems to explain one part of the answer — and there’s currently no way of selecting which part. Although it takes on a chatbot format, you can’t actually ask any of your own questions. Instead, you’re limited to a set of three responses: yes, no, and show me an example.

In this sense, it’s no different from the pre-GPT chatbots that have been around for the last decade. It can be like talking with a customer-support bot!

Limited

Another big drawback of Duolingo Max is that, at least for the time being, it’s only available to a very select group of users.

I know this will eventually change, as Duolingo works to tweak and refine Max’s AI features to work on other platforms and courses.

But, for the time being, only a small percentage of users will have the opportunity to take advantage of it.

And even those that meet all of the current requirements may still not be able to signup due to A/B testing.

If you’re learning anything other than Spanish or French, there really isn’t much point in going for Max at the moment, even if you meet all the requirements.

Expensive

Perhaps the biggest drawback of Duolingo Max is just how expensive it is.

Coming in at $168 a year (or $30 if you pay monthly) it’s currently one of the most premium subscription plans for a language-learning app on the market.

At this price point, you would expect a raft of game-changing features that really push the boundaries of language learning.

But unfortunately, Duolingo Max doesn’t currently do this.

Compared with Super Duolingo, Duolingo Max only really introduces two new features. And as cool as they are, I’m not sure they justify a 100% increase in the monthly cost.

At $30 a month, I think it’s reasonable for users to expect a suite of new features, extending to all language courses, and enhancing the experience significantly over the free and Super plans.

Until Max offers something like this, I think the current price point is going to be too much for most users.

Should you subscribe to Duolingo Max?

So, with all this in mind, should you subscribe to Duolingo Max?

Well, as I stress in my Super review, this decision will always come down to you as an individual.

What’s your situation?

What are your goals?

How committed are you to Duolingo?

Everyone’s different, so I can’t really say “yeah, it’s totally worth it,” or “no, don’t go there.” Some will get a lot out of it, others won’t.

So, to help you out, I’ve put together some considerations to help you decide:

Consider Duolingo Max if…

  • You meet all of the current requirements (e.g. platform, region)
  • You’re learning Spanish or French
  • You use Duolingo regularly (every day for at least a month and are likely to continue)
  • You’re getting bored of the ordinary course and you want to try something new
  • You need more in-lesson explanations
  • You want more opportunities to practice conversations
  • You can afford it

Stick with Super or free if…

  • You don’t meet the current requirements
  • You’re learning a language other than Spanish or French
  • You’re not bothered about the new AI features
  • You’re on a budget
  • You subscribe to other language platforms that help with grammar and conversations

What I think

Duolingo Max — and AI in language learning in general for that matter — is really exciting. I think speaking is the one skill that the majority of Duolingo users struggle with the most, so it’s great to see Duolingo finally doing something to address this.

The introduction of Explain My Answer is also great to see and should help users get their heads around the more complex aspects of their target language.

However, at the current price point and in its current form, it’s difficult for me to wholeheartedly recommend Duolingo Max. Here’s why:

I’m confident Duolingo are on the right track with the AI features they’ve introduced. They’re finally targetting areas that Duolingo’s always been weak in, and I know they will eventually make a massive difference. But these will definitely need further improvement in the coming months and years, alongside a wider range of AI-fuelled learning features.

With this kind of tech, I think they will need to take a more tuition-focused approach, in which courses and curricula are tailored to suit each individual user, targetting specific areas that the user may struggle with.

From this it would also be good to receive more in-depth feedback, building on what we’re already starting to see with Roleplay reports and Explain My Answer.

With features like these, the current price point would start to look a lot more reasonable. A lot of users already think Super Duolingo is too expensive, so I doubt they’re going to jump at the chance to pay double for Max in its current form.

As it is, I think Duolingo would have been better off adding the AI features to Super Duolingo. Super has been crying out for some swanky new features for a while, and I think Roleplay and Explain My Answer could have been exactly what it needed.

I’m sure AI will have a big role in the future of language learning. Duolingo has always embraced AI, so it’s unsurprising to see it jump onto GPT-4 so quickly. The new features are practical, useful and definitely improve the Duolingo experience.

However, right now, I don’t think Max has enough to justify the current price point. Most users will be better off either upgrading to Super, or sticking with the free plan and spending their money elsewhere. Max isn’t going replace human tutors any time soon, and, by itself, certainly isn’t going to make you fluent.


What do you think of Duolingo Max? Let me know in the comments!

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