If you’re thinking about learning Spanish, then it stands a chance you’ve come across Duolingo’s Spanish course.
Spanish is one of the most popular and widely spoken languages on the planet. It’s thought to be spoken by over 559 million people globally, and is by far the most popular language on Duolingo for English speakers.
It was also the first language I had a stab at on Duolingo all the way back in 2014.
The course has changed A TON since then, to the point that it’s now easily one of Duolingo’s best courses. Not just because it’s so long, but because it gets all the latest and greatest features before the majority of Duolingo’s other courses.
So does that mean Duolingo is good for learning Spanish?
In this article, I’ll give you all the essential details, such as:
- How Duolingo’s Spanish course is structured
- A closer look at the course’s special features
- Other features you need to be aware of
- The pros of Duolingo’s Spanish course
- The cons of Duolingo’s Spanish course
Shall we get to it?
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What you’ll find in Duolingo’s Spanish course
If you’re new to Duolingo, then it’s worth pointing out that all of Duolingo’s courses are structured in pretty much the same way.
They all follow what is commonly referred to as the lesson tree.*
The tree is broken up into a set of units…
Each unit has a set of skills…
Each skill has up to 6 crown levels…
And each crown level has a set of lessons…
The basic goal is to work through the tree by completing every lesson… in every level… in every skill… in every unit.
As of July 2022, Duolingo’s Spanish course has a total of 10 units, broken down into a total of 268 skills, 29 of which are grammar skills.
There are 1282 crown levels in Duolingo’s Spanish course (not including the legendary levels).
The Spanish course has a couple of bonus skills you can buy from the Duolingo shop. These focus on idioms and flirting.
The exercises in the Spanish course are basically the same as in all the other courses. Some of the common exercises you’ll come across include:
- Complete the translation
- Mark the correct meaning
- Picture flashcards
- Select the missing word
- Sentence shuffle
- Speak this sentence
- Speak the correct response
- Tap the pairs (standard and audio)
- Tap what you hear
- Fill in the blanks
- Listen and respond
*Duolingo are switching up their courses to a brand new format known as the Learning Path. It’s only been rolled out to a handful of users so far, so the majority of users will get the traditional lesson tree above. However, if your Spanish course looks different to the above, then you’ve probably got the new lesson path. Check out this post from Duolingo to learn more!
Special features in Duolingo’s Spanish course
Although English speakers can learn nearly 40 different languages on Duolingo, it’s important to point out that not all of the courses are created equally.
Some courses have special features that others don’t.
As of July 2022, Spanish is one of Duolingo’s most feature-packed courses. It currently has 288 stories, 9 packs of audio lessons, and a massive library of podcasts.
Duolingo Spanish stories
Duolingo’s Spanish stories are designed to improve your reading, listening and speaking. They’re entirely in Spanish and most of them are only a few minutes long at most.
They’re written for learners of all levels and come with the usual hints you find in the normal lessons. So once you’ve earnt enough crowns to unlock the first set, you can feel free to jump in whenever you feel ready.
Every now and then you’ll have to answer a question to make sure you understand what’s going on, which is a great way to measure where you’re at with your comprehension.
Check out this video to see one of Duolingo’s Spanish stories in action!
Duolingo Spanish audio lessons
Duolingo’s Spanish audio lessons offer another great opportunity to start speaking some Spanish.
They take on a podcast-style format, with a couple of presenters discussing various aspects of Spanish.
Here you’ll pick up some useful vocabulary for a whole bunch of different scenarios, whether you’re trying to order food, book a doctor’s appointment, or trying to find the bathroom!
Every now and then you’ll be prompted to repeat what you hear or answer questions entirely in Spanish. So not only is this a neat way to practice your speaking, it’s also useful for when you’re multitasking (e.g. walking, driving, washing up etc).
As of July 2022, audio lessons are currently only available on IOS devices.
Duolingo Spanish podcasts
Duolingo’s Spanish podcasts also offer a cool way to practice your Spanish when you’ve got your hands full.
Like the audio lessons, you only really need your ears. However, unlike the audio lessons, there’s not really any speaking involved — you just sit back and listen.
They’re described as “Fascinating stories in easy-to-understand Spanish”. They’re split into healthy measures of Spanish and English, so they’re fairly easy to follow, even at an early level.
The podcasts are a great complement to the standard Duolingo course and work wonders for your listening comprehension.
If you’re using an IOS device then you should be able to find podcasts in the audio lessons tab.
However, if you’re not, or you prefer listening to your podcasts on another platform, then they’re also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, PocketCasts, iHeartRadio and Overcast.
Other features in Duolingo’s Spanish course
Duolingo’s Spanish course is built on the same stuff as all of Duolingo’s other language courses.
We won’t go into too much detail here, but some of the features worth knowing about include:
- XP – As you work through the Duolingo Spanish course, you’ll earn experience points, which are more commonly known as XP. You’ll earn XP for pretty much everything you do. Some lessons, tasks and exercises will earn you more XP than others.
- Leagues – Every week you’ll be entered into a league with other Duolingo learners. There are 10 leagues to work through, starting at Bronze and ending at Diamond. The leagues are basically leaderboards — simply earn more XP than others in your league to have a chance of winning.
- Gems – XP and crowns aren’t the only things you’ll earn as you learn Spanish. You’ll also earn gems, which you can spend in the Duolingo Shop. There isn’t really much you can buy here, but you can use your gems to pick up things like Streak Freezes, bonus skills, Timer Boosts for timed challenges, and some costumes for the owl.
- Friends – Duolingo is a social experience, so you’re able to follow other users and compare your progress. The guys at Duolingo reckon you’re 5 times more likely to finish your course if you follow people! To get you started, feel free to give me a follow — my username is DCiiieee!
- Duolingo Plus/Super – This is Duolingo’s premium membership. Pay for Plus/Super and you’ll get access to some useful features, including unlimited hearts, no ads and Practice Hub.
Is Duolingo good for learning Spanish?
Now it’s time for the main event:
Is Duolingo good for learning Spanish?
To answer this, let’s weigh up some of the pros and cons.
Learning a new language can be pretty intimidating, especially if you only speak the one language.
This is why one of the nicest things about Duolingo is just how accessible and welcoming it is.
Regardless of the language you’re learning, Duolingo presents its courses in a really warm, vibrant and inclusive way. So whether this is your second language or your tenth, you can feel at ease straight away!
This is the case for the vast majority of Duolingo’s courses, but it’s particularly true for the Spanish course.
It’s easily one of the best-supported courses on the app, getting new updates on a regular basis, with loads of support from the start of the tree to the end.
The bespoke tip sections are a big selling point of the Spanish course, as they generally do a good job of unpacking the complicated aspects of a skill. This is super important for helping you understand Spanish grammar, which can be a bit tricky at times.
And as with all of its courses, Duolingo’s Spanish course comes with the usual placement test when you first start, so you can rest easy that you’ll start your tree from a place you find comfortable.
Duolingo’s Spanish course has received a lot of updates over the years, to the point that it’s one of Duolingo’s elite courses.
With a whopping 10 units of Spanish skills and lessons, the Spanish tree is comfortably one of Duolingo’s biggest.
This will take you A LONG TIME to work through. And that’s a good thing!
Some of Duolingo’s courses are really short, so you can breeze through them pretty quickly but not come away feeling as though you’ve learnt much.
But rest assured, you’re unlikely to experience this with the Spanish course. Not only is it jampacked with vocabulary, each skill comes with a bespoke tip section to help you get your head around the tricky aspects of Spanish grammar.
Duolingo have also totally redone the voices of a lot of their characters, making them sound alive and engaging.
Duolingo’s Spanish course has more special features than the majority of Duolingo’s other courses.
It’s one of only two courses to have audio lessons and podcasts, and one of only a handful of courses to have stories.
Duolingo’s Spanish stories are among the best on the app. The Spanish course has one of the largest libraries of stories, coming in at a gigantic 288 as of July 2022.
They all have authentic, animated voices, so they sound real and engaging. They’re genuinely hilarious and binge-worthy!
The audio lessons are really neat as well and they’re adding more all the time. It’s one of Duolingo’s best features for practicing your speaking and does a good job of building up your conversational vocabulary.
The same goes for the podcasts. Duolingo roll out new ones on the regular, and the episodes are usually pretty interesting and meaty. You can listen to them in the mobile app to earn XP, or you can tune in on a wide range of other platforms.
This doesn’t just go for Duolingo’s Spanish course, it’s the same for ALL of them!
One of the best things about Duolingo is that it’s more than just a language learning tool.
It’s also a game. And although this isn’t to everyone’s liking, it’s a big part of why so many people show up every day to do their daily lessons.
For everything you do in Spanish, you’ll earn XP, which contributes towards your position in the weekly leagues.
Now this isn’t something you should take too seriously (you can read more about why here) but if you take it lightly it’ll definitely make your Spanish a lot more enjoyable.
Because ultimately, the more you enjoy something, the more likely you are to do it. Learning Spanish is going to require A LOT of your time, so the more enjoyable it is, the better — and Duolingo definitely has you covered here.
Another great thing about Duolingo is that the Spanish course is 100% free.
There is a premium subscription — Duolingo Plus/Super — but this isn’t something you need in order to complete the course. The whole thing is completely free; Plus/Super just adds a few features that make things a bit smoother.
This is great if you’re just dabbling with Spanish and aren’t ready to commit just yet. But also if you’re keen to get started with the language but don’t want to fork out on special software or tuition.
I take it you’ve seen the owl memes? Spanish or vanish!
Yes, the owl can be *a bit* of a stalker at times, pestering you at all hours to do your daily Spanish lessons!
But relax, contrary to popular belief, he’s not gonna kidnap your family anytime soon!
Jokes aside, Duolingo is brilliant for keeping you motivated.
Learning Spanish takes time. It’s not something you’re going to pick up overnight.
According to the US Foreign Service Institute, it takes roughly 600 “class hours” to reach “Professional Working Proficiency” in Spanish.
So yeah, if you’re going to learn Spanish, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul!
That means creating an unbreakable habit. And Duolingo’s amazing for doing that.
Put it this way — my current streak (i.e. the number of days in a row I’ve used Duolingo) goes all the way back to May 2016.
And that’s not just because I’m a bit obsessive! It’s thanks to Duolingo being such a great way of keeping me motivated!
If you’ve read any of my other articles then you’ll know one of the things I dislike most about Duolingo at the moment is the heart system.
Hearts are basically lives or chances. You start off with 5 then lose one every time you make a mistake.
If you lose all your hearts then you’re not allowed to progress through your course until your hearts replenish.
You can either watch an ad to get one back, do a practice session, spend some gems or wait 5 hours.
It’s far from ideal as it does the unhelpful thing of punishing you for making mistakes.
Which, as far as I’m concerned, is ridiculous as mistakes are absolutely essential and unavoidable when learning a language.
Not great for speaking
Spanish is probably one of Duolingo’s best courses for speaking thanks to features like audio lessons.
However, it still falls short in terms of getting you to a solid conversational level. At least by itself, anyway.
The main problem is that (audio lessons aside) the speaking exercises aren’t conversation exercises. You get a little bit of practice in the conversation mode on the stories (if available), but this just involves reciting what the characters say. You don’t actually come up with your own responses.
Speaking is a skill in its own right and to learn it you’ll need to practice it regularly, ideally with a native speaker, or at the very least using a program that has extended conversation scenarios (such as SpanishPod101).
Not a one-stop-shop
A common mistake people make with Duolingo is they expect it to take them all the way to fluency.
Of course, fluency is a funny thing to define. Everyone has their own interpretations.
And while Duolingo believe the Spanish course can get you all the way to B2 on the CEFR, this doesn’t tell the whole story.
Learning a language requires more than just an active learning tool (which is what Duolingo is for the most part). You also need to add an equal measure of passive learning to your lingo diet.
Passive learning is the stuff you do away from the classroom (or in this case Duolingo). It’s watching TV shows, listening to music, reading books, and having real-life conversations.
While the Spanish course does a lot more to hit on passive learning than most of Duolingo’s other courses (thanks to things like stories, audio lessons and podcasts), it’s still not an all-in-one solution for learning Spanish.
Whatever stage you’re at in your Spanish-learning journey, Duolingo’s Spanish course is undoubtedly one of the most well-rounded and polished courses currently available.
The course is so jampacked and overflowing with cool new features that it’s easy to see why Duolingo believe it can get you to B2 level on the CEFR scale.
You’ll learn the most important aspects of the language, get to grips with the pronunciation and pick up a sizable chunk of useful vocabulary.
You’ll also see the language in action in over 280 mini-stories, a massive selection of podcasts, and start speaking thanks to the growing library of audio lessons.
You’ll also have a blast working through the course as you compete in the weekly leagues and alongside your friends!
By the end of the course, you’ll definitely be more advanced than when you started.
As far as active learning tools go, Duolingo is one of the best for Spanish. And better still — it’s 100% free!
for best results…
However, if you really want to reach a decent level in Spanish, Duolingo is only part of the solution.
A good tool to use — either alongside Duolingo or after you’ve completed the course — is SpanishPod101.
SpanishPod and Duolingo complement each other beautifully, as they both target areas that the other misses. Duolingo is great for reading and typing things out, whereas SpanishPod focuses more on improving your listening and speaking.
It basically keeps the wheels turning once you’ve run out of audio lessons and podcasts on Duolingo, but also helps you get comfortable speaking Spanish right from the beginning.
With SpanishPod you’ll also get essential resources like grammar packs, cultural insights, and learn the 2,000 most common Spanish words — so by the end of the course, you should be able to understand as much as 80% of all Spanish conversations.
if you’re new to spanish
I’d highly recommend taking Duolingo’s placement test, figuring out what level you’re at, and then working through the first couple of units of the tree. This will get you familiar with the basics of Spanish.
At the same time, I’d recommend taking advantage of SpanishPod’s free trial to get familiar with how the language sounds, pick up some useful phrases and cultural insights, and practice speaking as soon as possible.
Once you’ve worked your way through the Duolingo course (this could take a while) I’d recommend coming back to it daily to keep the streak alive (habit is SO important when learning a language) and start to move through the intermediate to advanced packs on SpanishPod.
Finally, make sure you’re getting enough passive exposure to Spanish as well. It’s really important to experience the language in an authentic environment — so things like TV shows, music, books, real-life conversations — so you can see how everything you learn on Duolingo and SpanishPodworks in the real world.