Learning a new language is tough. Your first hurdle is choosing what language to learn. This is difficult because there are over 7000 languages in the world! How are you meant to pick just one?
Once you’ve chosen your language, you need to choose a mode of study. With much of the world locked down, online courses and mobile apps are becoming the most popular way to learn a new language.
However, even choosing an app can be difficult. This is because there are hundreds of them, all purporting to offer a unique, better-than-the-rest learning experience.
To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve created a series of articles exploring some of the best language learning apps. In this article, we’re going to be comparing the linguistic juggernaut that is Duolingo with the relative underdog, LingoDeer.
‘Learn languages smarter, not harder’ is LingoDeer’s mission statement and it’s a statement I can fully support. In a chaotic and busy world, any app that can help me achieve goals with less work is worth investigating. The question is whether LingoDeer delivers on its promise.
LingoDeer has 11 different language courses. They are Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, English, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, and Vietnamese.
Like many other language learning apps, LingoDeer uses games, quizzes, and flashcards to help you acquire new vocabulary and learn grammatical patterns. However, LingoDeer places more importance on grammar than many similar apps.
Instead of simply playing through levels and learning grammar rules passively, LingoDeer provides detailed explanations of grammatical rules. They rather poetically explain their methodology in the following way:
‘Learning a language without understanding its underlying principles is like building a house without blueprints. It may appear complete from a distance. But upon closer inspection, you notice that the hallways lead to nowhere and the staircases are only half complete. There’s no way to get from one place to another!’
According to the LingoDeer method, grammar is the blueprint of a language which is why they place so much importance on it. This approach is rare in language learning apps and ideal for those who want to deepen their understanding of a language.
LingoDeer courses are created by language teachers. The content is screened and developed by fluent speakers with pedagogical training. This is one of the best things about LingoDeer. You can tell from the way the course is laid out and progresses that the creators have a firm understanding of learning patterns and education.
Duolingo is probably the best-known language learning app. It has over 300 million active learners across 38 different courses.
The popularity of the app is down to the inviting, engaging design, the wide variety of languages, and the quality of the free content.
For many people, Duolingo is the only choice for their language. Smaller languages like Welsh, Irish, Hawaiian, and Ukrainian aren’t available on many competing apps. The huge range of courses is one of Duolingo’s strongest features.
The full list of courses is Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Turkish, Dutch, Latin, Swedish, Irish, Greek, Polish, Norwegian Bokmål, Hebrew, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Danish, Indonesian, High Valyrian, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Romanian, Finnish, Czech, Swahili, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Klingon, Esperanto, Navajo.
One of the biggest differences between Duolingo and LingoDeer is the fact that Duolingo courses are not created by linguistic experts. Instead, they are community sourced. That means that volunteers, often sourced from the existing user base, create, and oversee lessons and courses.
The crowd-sourced courses are great at reducing the overall cost of the service, but it does mean that there is quite a bit of difference and disparity between courses.
Duolingo users learn their language through matching, fill-the-gap, and translation games. They are encouraged by Duolingo’s adorable owl mascot, Duo who pops up with some inspirational praise every so often.
|Pricing Options||Free access to some content.$11.99 per month with discounts for buying quarterly or annually.||Free access to all lesson content.Premium subscription costs $6.99 a month.|
|Features||Flashcard function, printable knowledge cards, encourages speaking and listening through stories, detailed grammar notes, native voices, daily reminders, competitive ranking.||Huge range of language courses, public ranking, and challenges, point-based reward system, premium subscription option, daily reminders.|
|Usability||Cross-platform synchronicity, offline lessons, silent lesson modes, background, and appearance personalization.||Account and progress synchronized across platforms, muted lesson options, offline lessons, engaging graphics, and app design.|
|Conclusion||A detailed, well-developed app that more people should know about.||As far as free language learning apps go, you can’t beat Duolingo.|
Both apps offer free accounts that let you access all the language courses. You can upgrade to a premium or membership account on both apps to access additional features.
The major difference between the two apps is the amount of free content available and the price of the premium membership.
With Duolingo, free users have access to all the course content. Lessons are not hidden behind paywalls. You can start as a beginner and finish as a fluent speaker without ever having paid a cent to Duolingo.
The company’s commitment to keeping learning free for everyone is to be commended for sure. There are very few apps or services with as much free content and support as Duolingo.
LingoDeer’s free account gives you access to the introductory courses. These cover the basics of the languages including the alphabet and sentence structure. They also cover topics that are important to know as a beginner like foods, directions, and country-specific terms.
To be fair, the introductory courses are incredibly detailed. You’ll have access to hours of lessons and information.
Both Duolingo and LingoDeer offer paid membership options. With LingoDeer, a membership gives you access to the rest of the course content as well as some functionality and useability features.
Duolingo’s premium subscription lets you remove ads and opens some functionality and useability features.
The cost of a LingoDeer membership is $11.99 a month. You can reduce the cost by paying quarterly or annually.
A quarterly subscription will cost $29.99 which saves you about $5 overall. An annual subscription costs $79.99 which means you save a massive $63.98!
You can also buy a lifetime subscription to LingoDeer for $199. If you’ve got the cash to splash, this is an awesome offer!
LingoDeer does sometimes run offers and discounts, particularly around the holidays. It’s worth keeping an eye out for these deals as they can save you a lot of money.
Duolingo offers their Plus membership for $12.99 a month making it ever so slightly more expensive. However, they also offer a half-yearly price of $47.99 which saves you around $30 on the monthly cost.
Their annual subscription price matches LingoDeer’s at $79.99. Of course, the added dollar to the monthly cost means you technically save more by buying Duolingo’s annual subscription.
Looking at the different features of each app is a great way to decide whether the paid membership is worth the cost.
Let’s look at the number of courses first. Obviously, with 38 languages, Duolingo wins in this department. LingoDeer’s 11 languages do seem a bit week in comparison. That being said, it is one of the few multi-language apps that offers Asian languages. Competitors like Babbel and Lingvist only offer European languages.
When you look at the course content and the way it’s delivered, you’ll find it a little bit more difficult to decide which is best.
One of the best features of LingoDeer is the flashcard section. When you complete a lesson, you can access the vocabulary flashcards from that lesson. These vocabulary refresher sessions help build and improve your vocab. It’s something that is sorely missing from Duolingo.
In Duolingo, you can’t access a list of vocabulary or words you’ve come across in Duolingo. This means you’ll have to make your own notes if you want to practice your vocabulary.
Another great feature of LingoDeer is the story section. These stories take the form of short videos. You can choose whether you want to practice your reading or your speaking skills before the story starts.
If you choose speaking, you will need to record the audio for the video. This will be a few short sentences to accompany the video. You can hear the sentence before you read it to check your pronunciation.
This feature is fun, especially when you watch the video back and hear yourself voicing characters. It will make you more aware of your pronunciation, but it doesn’t actively check or correct you. Despite this shortcoming, we love this feature. It an engaging way to get users to practice their speaking skills.
Both LingoDeer and Duolingo allow you to learn multiple languages simultaneously. You can swap between languages by clicking on the language badge at the top of the screen or app. Of course, the limit to this is your ability to manage two languages in your head!
The learning tips section of LingoDeer is where you’ll find the detailed grammar notes. These notes explain the grammatical premises you’ll need to complete your lesson. It is possible to complete the lessons without the grammar tips if you particularly dislike grammar.
The notes are detailed but easy to read. They make good use of tables and charts to break down words and word classes. They’re not interactive so you might want to find a way to make it more memorable by making some of your own flashcards.
When it comes to the lessons themselves, both apps use similar methods. The ‘games’ include matching exercises, blank filling exercises, translation games, and sentence forming games. The games are simple and easy to get the hang of.
They can become slightly repetitive especially when you’re seeing the same sentences or words across a few lessons. Repetition is key to memorizing and acquiring the language.
In terms of the gaming element, Duolingo wins. Duolingo allows you to compete and compare your score, streaks, and badges to your friends. You do this by following your friends.
You can also rank and compare yourself to global users in the world rankings. Each week you have a chance to move up into a new league, but you have to place higher in the rankings to move up. To place higher, you need to get more points by completing more lessons.
LingoDeer also allows you to rank against all the users studying your language. You don’t move up into different leagues, but you do get a weekly rank. Again, this rank is based on the amount of XP you earn from completing lessons.
Even though these ranking and streak sessions seem to be quite similar, the emphasis is what makes the two apps different. Duolingo pushes the competitive aspect more than LingoDeer. It has more users, so the ranking system is more competitive.
Streaks are super important to most Duolingo users. They make a big fuss about protecting your steak and even let you buy streak protectors to keep your streak safe. The streak system is encouraging, though I think both apps could make better use of it. Offering rewards based on the length of your streak could encourage more users to practice consistently.
Both apps have a simple, easy to work layout. You just click the lesson you want to take and then work your way through the exercises. I like that you only get one question at a time, so you don’t have to scroll down through pages of questions.
Once you answer a question you have time to review the feedback. The lesson only moves on when you click continue. This is a great feature. It means that you can stop and take notes or take time to work out where you may have gone wrong.
An interesting feature built into LingoDeer’s app is the ability to change the color schemes, font sizes, and scripts. This is super important if you’re learning a language that has a completely different script from your native tongue.
Duolingo gives you the option to choose between light and dark mode but it doesn’t give you the option to customize further.
Both LingoDeer and Duolingo allow you to set your own daily goals and reminders. They also synchronize your progress across different platforms. That means you can log in on your laptop or your mobile without having to start again.
You are also able to toggle the speaking and listening lessons on both apps. This means that if you’re in public and can’t listen to audio the games will adapt. This is super helpful for those who like to learn on the go.
Duolingo does let you switch the audio tasks mid-lesson. You can click ‘I can’t listen right now’ during a lesson and it will switch up the games for you.
When comparing LingoDeer and Duolingo, it’s difficult to choose an outright winner. A lot of the features are remarkably similar, and the lesson games are pretty similar too.
LingoDeer’s strengths lie in the extensive grammatical notes provided. It helps you to understand how to construct sentences and why the language conforms to particular rules.
The other wonderful thing about LingoDeer is that it takes the time to explain new alphabets and scripts. This is incredibly helpful for learners who have no understanding or knowledge of different scripts.
Duolingo, on the other hand, sort of throws you in the deep end. Your learning is more passive and relies a lot on trial and error. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but some users might find it difficult and discouraging.
Duolingo’s biggest boon is the sheer amount of language course they have to offer. For many languages, Duolingo is the only app that teaches their language.
That being said, you shouldn’t think of Duolingo as a consolation prize. It’s a great app with an enormous amount of free content. You can hone your linguistic skills without having to pay which can’t be said for LingoDeer.
The pricing options are also almost identical. However, the Lingodeer membership feels like it’s worth it because you get access to more content. With the Duolingo Plus membership, all you get is no ads and unlimited lives. When you’re paying around $12 a month, you expect to get more than just an ad blocker.
If you’re only looking for a free language learning app, then Duolingo is clearly the winner. You get access to everything wh
Jacob has a background in finance and engineering. Outside of his day job, he is a lifelong learner, who enjoys reading, taking online courses, and writing about what he's learned.
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