If you’re into learning languages, then you have heard of Duolingo before. It’s the king of free language lessons and many people go crazy on how this simple program (or app) has helped them a lot to improve their Russian. That’s why today I’ve decided to write a Duolingo Russian review. I’ll give the ins and outs of the program, for who the program is best, 5 things I liked about it – and finally some advice if you want to get more results from your Russian time (hint: this can be done with or without Duolingo).
Duolingo Russian review
For many people, Duolingo is the first stop to getting around a new language. It’s a free app that teaches you new words, how they are pronounced and new sentences – all done in a fun and easy to follow manner. This makes it extremely popular for learning virtually every language. Even my mom is using it right now to learn some basic Russian for her second trip to Moscow!
You can sign up for a free Duolingo account and then you can get started. First, you’ll have to do some basic test (around 5 minutes), to see where your level is. Duolingo offers progressively tougher lessons – so you don’t want to start too difficult. After that you can start learning Russian right away – the program itself recommends to start with at least 5 minutes per day. That’s enough to do a couple of short lessons and if you can keep the daily streak up, you can learn a lot of Russian in several months.
This is me speaking Russian. My level is fine, but I didn’t get there just by Duolingo-ing. It can be a valuable tool in your arsenal though 😉
5 Things I like about Duolingo Russian
#1 It’s free
If you’re just learning a language and are unsure if you like the language, or want to continue learning it for 1-2 years – then you don’t want to pay $500 for an extensive course. No, you want a good, structured program that will teach you the basics and give you an overview of the language. Even better if it’s for free. And that is a good description for Duolingo.
It’s one of the best ways to quickly get a feeling for Russian. Install the app, do the daily lessons (5 minutes) every day for 2 months. After that you will know if 1) learning Russian is something you can do and 2) if learning Russian is something you want to do. And this knowledge is priceless. And all it took you was about 5-10 hours and exactly $0.
#2 Daily lessons keep you motivated
Already touched upon the subject, but Duolingo’s short daily lessons are great for keeping you motivated. Every day you complete a lesson the chain grows longer. If you’ve been doing lessons for the last 58 days – you’re not going to skip the 59th because you’re not in the mood. Heck, even after forgetting about it all day – I bet you’d get up from your bed at night just to do a couple minutes just to not lose your streak.
What other Russian learning program would motivate you like that? Exactly. And your streak is shown everywhere in the app + visually. So that will make you think twice about skipping a day. Perfect for those who otherwise have trouble following through with self-learning.
#3 Gamifying makes learning fun
You win coins for good answers. Go up in levels for completing lessons. Heck, you even lose hearts for wrong answers and when you run out – you have to start the lesson again. I like games. And I like learning a new language. Get these 2 together and you’ve got a potent Russian earning machine.
Apart from those ‘fun’ things, there are a couple of really good things. For instance, you get instant feedback on your answer. That means that you will be able to learn faster. At every step you know exactly what you did right and what you did wrong.
If you get all the answers after you’ve done an entire lesson (or worse, not at all), then you’re going to seriously handicap your learning capability.
#4 Great way to learn Russian vocab and some grammar
The app shows you Russian words/phrases and you can then write what they mean in English. And if you don’t know it will show you. This means that it’s basically a large interactive flashcard list. Which works great for learning vocabulary. You can also do it the other way around – from English to Russian. You start with basic vocabulary such as learning how to say thank you in Russian, and then gradually improve on that.
Do install the Russian keyboard on your phone. Here’s a short tutorial for that.
While the focus doesn’t lie much on grammar, you’re able to pick up quite some things just by doing the phrases. It’s almost a bit like Glossika. You can be sure that after practicing for a couple of weeks (or months!) you’re going to learn a good deal of Russian words. Plus when you turn on the sound you will hear the right pronunciation. So the words will come to live and you’ll learn them both visually and audibly.
#5 Community behind it for questions
Duolingo has a large community behind it. People from all over the world who are learning different languages. Chances are, if you’re stuck somewhere, that someone else has been there too. And maybe they posted precisely that question on the forum. And if they haven’t, then you can be that person. With all the people on the forum, you’ll be sure that some knowledgeable comments will be able to help you out.
Who will benefit the most from learning Russian with Duolingo?
In general, I think Duolingo is a great tool for learning Russian. Everyone can benefit from following the program. You’ll learn new words in a fun and easy manner. I even know of people who are just practicing new languages all the time on Duolingo just because they like the process so much. To see if you can benefit from using the program, I decided to add this section into this Duolingo Russian review. In my opinion, there are 2 types of people who can benefit the most from learning Russian with Duolingo:
- People who have trouble motivating themselves – if a private tutor is too expensive but other programs don’t make you follow through. Then the gamification + streak feature in Duolingo can be very powerful to make you do daily lessons. It doesn’t feel like a chore (or an extra thing on your already too long to do list for the day). Plus it’s on your phone, which makes it surprisingly easy to start a new lesson.
- People who want to get an overview of Russian – if you’re unsure whether to commit to learning Russian or not, Duolingo is a perfect tool. Just sign up and do anywhere from 10 days to a couple of months. You’ll quickly find out if you want to continue learning Russian or not.
Dark side of using Duolingo to learn Russian
It’s free. It’s fun. You’ll learn useful Russian vocabulary and grammar and pronunciation. You’ll be motivated every day again to at least do 5 minutes of learning. So why isn’t everyone doing this all the time to learn a new language? Well, the answer is simple.
I’ve seen it with quite some people. They’re all into learning a language with Duolingo. But that’s it. They’re just doing 10 minutes of Duolingo every day. Nothing more. That’s something I want to warn you for in this Duolingo Russian review.
Duolingo at times feels a bit too much like a fun and innovative game. And the reality of learning any difficult skill (especially learning Russian) is that you have to put in the time and effort. When you want to learn how to speak Russian, you’re going to have to practice speaking. Which is not something Duolingo can do for you. Yes, you can repeat all the phrases and words. But that’s hard. And you don’t get any points for that. If you take the gaming aspects a bit too literally you’ll end up completing Duolingo but not being able to have even simple conversations. Yes, you’ll recognize some words and can read Russian – but your conversational ability won’t be good.
What to do instead of Duolingo Russian?
So, please, go ahead and use it in the beginning stages to get a little grasp on the language. And to build some momentum learning. But then start doing a real course. I personally prefer Russianpod 101, since it’s a very conversational program (it’s an audio course). The lessons are around 15 minutes each. And every lesson starts with a conversation in Russian, which is then repeated slowly (so you can understand everything better). After each Russian phrase is individually repeated with its English translation, so you’ll know what it means.
Then al the new vocabulary words are explained. After that you’ll learn some of the grammar from the conversation. And in the end, some commonly used expressions are discussed. Throughout the lesson you’ll learn a lot about Russian culture and the people. And in the end the conversation is repeated so you can see what you’ve learned.
P.S. If you want to improve your Russian on 'autopilot', my best recommendation is to just listen to 1 single Russianpod101 podcast per day (about 15 minutes). Ideally you do this when commuting to work to create a lasting habit. You can also take a daily walk. I did this for about 6 months, and it's the reason my Russian improved so quickly. There's a free 7 day trial with just an email address, so you're not risking anything. Give it a try and see how fast your Russian skills improve.