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New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

NT students weigh in on Duolingo: Is it worth it?

Although the app is expensive, Duolingo remains a fun and interactive learning tool for many
Jamie Bloom
A drawing of the Duolingo mascot, Duo the owl.

Editor’s Note: Holly Nesbitt is a writer for the New Trier News and was interviewed in this article. She was not involved in the writing, reporting, or editing of this article. 

I wake up, sleepy-eyed and dazed. My phone, lying on my desk, illuminates the room. Pulling off my covers, I head over to investigate. As my eyes focus on my phone, “It’d be a bummer losing your streak, just saying” envelopes my screen. I sigh, reluctantly unlock my phone, tap on the Duolingo app, and further trap myself into the claws of the Duo bird. 

As I work to keep my 350-day streak, I wonder just how many New Trier High School students study a language on Duolingo? I also begin to wonder, as I’d guess many of my peers would too, do language apps like Duolingo work, or are they just a scam?

I questioned a range of Duolingo enthusiasts at New Trier to find out. 

Duolingo, which offers more than 106 languages to learn, gives users three sections (the stages of learning which encompass each language) to explore: a basic understanding, intermediate conversational skills, and an in-depth analysis of the language. In each section, users are taken through many units to increase their understanding of the language. The app seems to be foolproof in ensuring great education, but I had to make sure. 

Junior Natalie Weiner, who takes Hebrew, says using Duolingo outside of school has helped her improve her performance in the classroom.

 “I’ll be in Hebrew class, and I’ll be like, I know that [word],” Weiner says. 

The app also includes a variety of incentives, such as streaks, which users need to return to the app every day to keep. Another incentive is the leaderboard, which has 10 different ranks, or “leagues,” as Duolingo calls it. About every week, the leaderboard refreshes, as users scramble to enter the Promotion Zone, or, in some cases, out of the Demotion Zone. 

“It’s very visually appealing, it looks nice, and it’s satisfying when the fire goes off and you get your new streak,” junior Holly Nesbitt says. 

Nesbitt maintains an impressive 426-day streak, which I am quite envious of. These incentives seem to keep students on track with their individual learning programs. 

“It’s very visually appealing, it looks nice, and it’s satisfying when the fire goes off and you get your new streak.”

— Holly Nesbitt

Despite the educational and fun aspects of Duolingo, some may question whether the app is worth the cost. 

While users can complete lessons on Duolingo for free, they only acquire three hearts per day. These hearts correlate to the number of mistakes someone can make in a given day. Hearts may be earned by watching ads; however, this becomes very irritating. In order to navigate around these ads, users need to purchase a Duolingo subscription for $13 per month or buy a year package for $6.70 per month. 

Sophomore Tenan Cullis favors the subscription.

“I don’t think I would practice as much, as the app motivates me [through freeze refreshes to save a streak, and visually appealing icons] when I’m paying,” Cullis says. 

For these three New Trier students, Duolingo serves an integral role in their language learning process. Despite the wide range of features that Duolingo provides users to learn languages, the app does not have a way to develop conversational skills. Therefore, it may be beneficial in acquiring a basic foundation in a given language, but carrying a conversation might be a challenge if Duolingo is one’s only source of learning. Although the app might not allow someone to fully grasp a language, Duolingo remains a fun and educational tool.

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Comments (1)

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  • K

    May 21, 2024 at 12:27 am

    I had a four year streak on Duolingo and I was in some of the top battles when I realized that I was worrying more about keeping my streak and having the most points than I was about my language! I thought I was really learning it and I worked an few hours a day to do it but I still couldn’t speak it. I started doing voice exercises for more points but I really enjoyed the speaking. All of a sudden the computer started not working right or not give me my scores after I’d worked for hours. There is no one to complain to or to help you. All you can do is file Bug Reports and they never get back to you. It started to happen everyday no matter what device I was on. I wrote my Bug Reports but nothing changed Then right in the middle of competition they didn’t post over 2,000 points I’d made. I fell to the bottom and kept we writing. I couldn’t keep up with the points and the lessons and the whole thing was getting very stressful. So stressful that when it came to renewal day all I could think of was everything they had cheated me out of. There is a whole crowd of people on the site that play cheating games to get high scores. They used to talk openly about it on the Forum but they took the Forum away from us. Not good because that was the only place we could go for help. I thought about all this and how crushed I felt and the fact that I was more upset about the points than the language, and I quit. Lost my 4 year streak. I’ve been out for months and I’m still getting new followers. Duolingo isn’t real. It’s a trap. You may pick up some words and a little grammar but with no teaching at all and no one to ask questions to you aren’t going to get to far. Use it with another source, make sure you have someone to speak your language with and don’t spend all your time getting to the Diamond League, you’ll stop learning and start worrying only about points. There’s no support of any kind and you can get trapped without a trap door to escape.