If you’re thinking about learning a language, then it stands a good chance that you’ve come across Duolingo.
Duolingo is easily one of the biggest and most recognized names in language learning, and a big reason for this is that it’s renowned for being free.
But is this really the case? Just how free is Duolingo? Are there any hidden costs?
Is it all just too good to be true?!
These are some really common questions that, in this article, I hope to quickly answer!
Below, I’ll give you both the simple answer and the long answer. You’ll want to stick around for both.
Let’s get into it!
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Is Duolingo free?
To save you some time, I’ll give you the short-and-sweet answer first.
Yes, for the most part, Duolingo is free.
The bulk of Duolingo’s content is freely available on all platforms and devices, whether that be mobile or desktop.
It was actually Duolingo’s founding vision that it would make language learning free, fun and accessible to all.
And although the wording has changed a bit since it was first launched, Duolingo is still, on the whole, a free language-learning platform.
The beauty of Duolingo is that everything you need is included for free. This includes:
- Complete language courses, including all levels and units
- Stories (for courses that have them)
- Challenges and quests
- Weekly leagues
- Streak rewards
- And more
This comprises pretty much everything you need to get the most out of Duolingo.
Super Duolingo – the premium tier
However, it’s important to note that Duolingo also has paid subscriptions. The main paid subscription is called Super Duolingo.
It isn’t necessary to subscribe to this as all the main features are included in Duolingo’s free membership. Super Duolingo simply adds a few new features that are designed to improve your Duolingo experience.
- Unlimited hearts
- Unlimited legendary attempts
- Unlimited timed challenge attempts
- Complete access to the practice hub/personalized practice
- Monthly streak repair
- Super Duolingo app icon
It also removes ads.
In the US, Super starts from $6.99 a month (or $119.99 a year), although all new Super plans currently come with a 14-day free trial.
Duolingo Max – the extra premium tier
In 2023, Duolingo started to roll out a brand new subscription plan called Duolingo Max.
Max incorporates OpenAI’s GPT-4 into the Duolingo experience. It allows you to participate in a series of role plays and also comes with a feature that will explain your answers.
The introduction of AI is designed to make the learning experience more authentic and plug gaps that have long been present in language-learning apps.
In the US, Duolingo Max starts from $30 a month, or $168 for the year.
However, as of May 2023, it is only available to select users on IOS devices learning French or Spanish.
Follow me on Duolingo!
Up for some friendly competition? Then be sure to follow me on Duolingo!
My username is DCiiieee 🙂
(If the link doesn’t work then just type my username into the ‘Search for friends’ bar on the app)
What can you achieve with a free membership?
The good news is that you don’t need to subscribe to Duolingo’s paid plans to have a great learning experience.
As I mentioned, everything that you need to be successful with Duolingo is included in the free membership. You’re not missing out on any important course material or special features.
In this sense, Duolingo really is free. But there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Premium makes things smoother
The reason I subscribe to Super Duolingo is that it makes my Duolingo experience a lot smoother.
If you’re new to Duolingo, then you may not be aware of the heart system. If you’re a mobile user, hearts are basically lives that limit how much time you can spend on Duolingo.
Every time you get a question wrong, you lose a life. And since you can only have a maximum of 5 at any one time, it’s not uncommon to run out in a single lesson.
At that point, you either have to watch an ad, spend gems on a heart refill, complete a practice session, or log off until your hearts replenish.
Premium also removes ads, which makes lesson progression a lot speedier.
Limited legendary and personalised practice
Duolingo’s free version limits the amount of time you can spend completing legendary challenges.
A legendary challenge is basically just a hard version of a level. Whenever you complete a level, you’ll be given the chance to tackle it on legendary difficulty.
You can see a quick example of a legendary challenge in the video below:
While you can still do this as a free member, each level will set you back a whopping 100 gems, which means you won’t get to do many.
It’s also worth noting that free members don’t get full access to the personalised practice section (also known as the Practice Hub).
You’ll still get some access, so you’ll be able to review mistakes and access the story library (if your course has stories).
But things like Unit Rewind, Listening Practice and Speaking Practice are limited to paid members only.
It won’t make you fluent
Probably the other big thing to keep in mind is that Duolingo’s free version won’t make you fluent in your target language.
Well, not by itself, anyway.
The same is true of Super Duolingo and Duolingo Max. Whether you pay for Duolingo or not, it’s not going to make you fluent on its own.
To reach fluency, you need to incorporate lots of different tools and practices into your language learning routine. Duolingo should be just one part of a varied and dynamic workflow.
That said, the free version will give you all the fundamentals of your language. Especially if you’re taking one of the more popular courses, such as French or Spanish.
These pack the most features and have the most content, so it’s realistic that, alongside other forms of learning, Duolingo’s free version can help you get to B2 on the CEFR.
It’s true that the guys at Duolingo have been pushing for more users to subscribe to the paid plans over the last couple of years, with little things like hearts, ads and gems subtly encouraging users to upgrade.
However, as I keep stressing, the paid plans aren’t necessary and is only something the hardcore Duolingo users will consider signing up for.
On the whole, the main Duolingo experience is free — and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
For more Duolingo chat, feel free to follow me on Twitter.
You might also be interested in some of these articles:
How to get unlimited hearts on Duolingo
Earlier today, I set up an account on duoplanet to save my favorite articles. I also just subscribed to the duoplanet newsletter so I don’t miss out on a single article.
I do subscribe to Super Duolingo. Now that you mention it, I AM a hardcore Duolingo user.
Thanks for your support, Cullen! Glad to have you on board 🙂
This is a great post. I am wondering though…duolingo has been advertising a new subscription tier called duolingo max. It seems like it would make you fluent, because it has “AI powered technology” that would apparently give to the chance to have an *actual* conversation with a robot. It would be great if you would make a post about this, it seems interesting!
Yeah I’m really looking forward to trying this out. Just waiting for Duolingo to let me upgrade, then I’ll drop a review 🙂