Duolingo is one of the most popular ways to learn a language. Stacks of courses, easily accessible, well-presented, and a bustling community on-hand to help with any and all questions.
And the best bit? It’s free. Every language, open to everyone, everywhere.
But nowadays everything has a ‘Plus’ — a premium service that seeks to entice you away from the basic membership — and Duolingo is no different.
So what is Duolingo Plus? How much does it cost? And is it worth it?
Let’s take a look.
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What is Duolingo Plus?
If you’re familiar with Duolingo then you’re probably already familiar with Duolingo Plus. It’s that thing that puts the owl in a spacesuit and gives the app a galactic blue makeover.
Put simply, Duolingo Plus is Duolingo’s premium membership. It opens the door to some fancy new features and gets rid of some annoying ones. That’s all there is to it.
Currently, Duolingo Plus costs $12.99 a month, or $83.88 for the year.
Yep, it’s steep.
But do these swanky, other-worldly features justify such a sizeable outlay?
Why you might resist subscribing to Duolingo Plus
In my case, I resisted subscribing to Duolingo Plus for a long time. Several years to be exact.
For a start, Duolingo is famed for being a free way to learn languages. It’s quite literally their mission to make language learning ‘free, fun, and accessible to all. ’ Even though it’s billed as supporting free education, I couldn’t see how a premium service was consistent with their mission.
And make no mistake: Duolingo Plus is a very premium service. The monthly price is hefty, especially when you consider how solid a free membership already is.
That, ultimately, is why I was on the fence for so long. The free plan gives you access to complete courses across a range of devices. 38 languages in your pocket or at your desk, free to learn anywhere at any time. It’s easily one of the best deals in language learning.
But as we all know, the owl is persuasive, so eventually I gave in and subscribed.
And I have absolutely no regrets.
So should you join me in the land of Plus?
To answer that, we’ll have to consider a couple of things: the features, and you.
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What do you get with Duolingo Plus?
As mentioned, Duolingo Plus adds new features and removes others.
The additions include:
- Offline lessons
- Progress Tracker
- Streak Repair
- Unlimited Skips (so you can test out of any level if it’s too easy)
- Free XP Ramp Up entries (IOS)
- Pronunciation Review (currently in beta)
- Mistake Inbox
- Legendary Levels (unlimited attempts)
The things that Duolingo Plus removes include:
- Hearts (in the form of ‘unlimited hearts’)
It’s important to note that Duolingo have a habit of rolling out new features on IOS before Android, so some of the above (such as Mistake Practice and Pronunciation Review) might not be available on all devices. This also applies to their A/B testing, which selects users at random to receive certain updates.
The core Plus benefits, however — specifically the offline lessons, unlimited hearts and removal of ads — are available to all Plus subscribers, which is ideal because these are the features that make all the difference.
Why you should consider subscribing
Even so, the question remains — do these additions and omissions justify the price?
To answer this, I’ve broken it down into three areas that will affect your experience. This should help you get a better understanding of how these features stack up in context.
Let’s start with what I consider to be the biggest perk of Duolingo Plus.
As great as the free membership is, something that really grinds my gears is the heart system. Duolingo claim that it’s designed to discourage binging. But what it really discourages is making mistakes. Get too many questions wrong, and you temporarily lose your licence to learn your language.
This is problematic because making mistakes is an essential part of learning a language. Exposure, repetition, immersion — these are non-negotiable pre-requisites on the road to fluency. The heart system erects roadblocks that can eventually make you consider turning back.
Duolingo Plus clears the way with unlimited hearts.
No more worrying about making mistakes. No more avoiding the hard lessons because you’re worried about losing your licence to learn. With Plus, you are free to fully commit to learning your language.
For me, this was the big game-changer. Sure, I could always watch an ad, complete a practice, or splurge gems to refill my hearts. But these are distractions. I just want to learn a language, not mess around watching ads about energy providers I have no interest in switching to.
Let’s be honest: Duolingo’s free membership is already convenient. But Plus takes it to a new level.
It gets rid of those pesky ads, paving the way for a smoother and quicker journey between lessons.
It allows you to download entire courses for offline learning, which means no more waiting for service or asking around for the WiFi password. Even if 90% of the time you have access to the internet, this gives you a welcome safety net for the 10% of the time that you wander into any dead zones.
The lack of hearts is also a great convenience. No more 5-hour waits for a heart refill. With Plus you’re free to dive in to your language wherever and whenever you want.
Individually these perks might not seem like much — certainly not enough to justify the sizeable subscription fee. But together they combine to make a significant difference to the flow and feel of your lessons.
The free membership is already plenty supportive (where would we be without Duo’s daily encouragement?) but with Plus, the owl is extra determined to carry you to language learning success.
Granted, some of the premium features are of little consequence. If you’re on the fence about upgrading, I doubt a new app icon is the thing that will convince you to hit subscribe!
But most of the features are genuinely useful. The Mastery Quiz, for instance, gives you a sense of where you’re at in your language. It measures how much of the course you’ve completed and how much of it Duolingo thinks you’ve mastered.
The Mistake Practice is another feature I use regularly. It does exactly what it says on the tin: it allows you to revisit questions you got wrong in previous lessons and practice them until you get them right.
Duolingo Plus also puts you at the front of the queue for new features going forward. Something Duolingo have recently rolled out is Pronunciation Review, which gives you the opportunity to listen back to your voice recordings and practice words you might be struggling with. This has actually made a big difference to the quality of my French pronunciation, which, beforehand, was nothing short of appalling!
This is why I describe Duolingo Plus as being more supportive. It dispenses with the punishing nature of the heart system and opens up an environment in which making mistakes—and deliberately practicing them—is actively encouraged.
Over to you
Now for the big one. The thing that matters most. We’ve considered the features. Now we need to consider you.
Why is this the big one? Because deciding if Duolingo Plus justifies the price is a very personal decision. It all boils down to your priorities, goals and circumstances. From this side of the screen I can never know what those are. All I can do is present the facts and share my experiences.
It’s also important to be clear about what Duolingo Plus can do for you. Even though it’s a premium service, Plus won’t make you fluent in your target language. Not by itself, anyway.
That’s because language learning requires a balanced diet of resources and practice. You can’t limit yourself to just one thing.
In my case, Duolingo features heavily. But I also use LingQ to work on my reading and listening; Benny Lewis’s ‘Language Hacking’ books — available in French, Spanish, German and Italian — to work on my speaking; HelloTalk to practice my messaging; and NordVPN, which allows me to watch a near-limitless number of movies and TV shows in my target languages.
Duolingo Plus simply enhances that one part of my diet. It isn’t an all-in-one superfood that meets all of my language needs.
So, with this in mind, does it justify the $83 a year?
As unhelpful as this may sound, only you can decide.
In my case, I think Duolingo Plus is totally worth it. Because I use it so often (every day for roughly 10-30 minutes) it works out at roughly $0.22 a day over the course of the year. As far as I’m concerned this represents excellent value, as it means I can get rid of the heart system and the ads, and take advantage of the Plus-only features.
But, again, everyone’s different. So here are my recommendations:
Stick with the free membership if…
- You’re just starting out on your language learning journey
- You’re not ready to commit to Duolingo or your target language long-term
- You’d prefer to spend your money on other resources
- You’re looking to cut back on expenses
- You’re happy with the free membership (e.g. you don’t mind the heart system, ads, always online lessons etc)
Consider subscribing to Duolingo Plus if…
- You’ve been using Duolingo for a while
- You use Duolingo every day (and have done for at least 30 days)
- You’re frustrated with the heart system, ads etc
- You want the extra features
- You need the offline lessons
- You’re in a position where you can justify it financially
If you’re still on the fence about Duolingo Plus…
If you’re still undecided then I’d highly recommend taking advantage of a Duolingo Plus free trial. Duolingo usually offer them on a 14-day basis, which I think is plenty of time to get a feel for the service and make an informed decision as to whether it’s worth subscribing.
If the 14 days isn’t enough or they aren’t offering free trials, then it might be worth subscribing for a month at $12.99 to give yourself a bit more time to figure out if it’s the right membership for you.
Have your say!
So, after all that, what do you think of Duolingo Plus?
Is it something you can see yourself subscribing to or are you happy with the free membership?
Have you already subscribed to Duolingo Plus? What do you think of it?
Be sure to let me know in the comments!