Babbel vs Duolingo are two of the most popular language-learning resources on the market. While they’re both great for language learning in general and have really nice platforms, each of them has a different approach. This review will help you decide which app to use to learn a language
We’ll compare behind-the-scenes looks into the apps themselves and see what you can expect from each way to learn a language.
Babbel and Duolingo both offer a wide variety of languages, which means some significant overlap. Both apps can be used to learn:
The only other language that Babbel supports that Duolingo does not is English. Otherwise, the list of Duolingo languages is honestly massive. Because all the other languages cannot be compared to Babbel, I’ll let you read more in my Duolingo review.
It’s also important to know that not all languages are equal, especially on Duolingo. While you can spend months learning Spanish on Duolingo, a newer language won’t have as much content. Babbel is much more likely to have some uniformity in their languages.
Babbel vs Duolingo: what you’ll learn
The first significant difference between Babbel and Duolingo is the approach each language app takes to teach you a new language. In simplest terms, Duolingo is much more of a game, while Babbel is closer to a high-tech textbook.
In this lesson, while it’s obviously more intermediate (as in, you’re completing sentences, not just matching words with pictures), it’s important to realize that this is all still passive. You’re consuming the language and expressing that you understand it, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
This is an important flaw because many language learners get this far into their Duolingo learning path, but end up frustrated because they can understand a lot more than they can communicate themselves.
A surefire way to know that you’re not developing your speaking skills is if you’re not spending a lot of time speaking. Duolingo gives you a little bit of opportunity with some speech recognition exercises, but it’s definitely not enough to truly build those skills.
To compare, here’s a Babbel lesson at a similar level.
The lessons aren’t wildly different, but they are different enough that as you continue through them, you’ll end up with very different skills. You’ll find yourself tired after a few minutes of Babbel, because you’re working your brain and having to figure out the language, not just press the right button.
With Duolingo, you can expect to nail down a solid routine (shout out to that anxiety you get when you’re about to lose your streak!) and be able to understand quite a bit.
With Babbel, your skill set will be more complex, and you’ll be able to do more with the language. It’ll be less fun and less motivating over the short term, but if you can stay reasonably consistent in the long term, you’ll be great.
Duolingo Stories vs Babbel Live
Babbel and Duolingo’s lessons are similar, but the way that each app helps language learners to “immerse” in the target language is vastly different.
With Duolingo, each language has a “Learning Path”, which is essentially a handful of lessons followed by Duolingo Stories. These Stories used to be a separate activity from the Duolingo tree, but now they’re stuck right into the Learning Path, and you’re required to complete them to continue to the next lessons.
Objectively, this is a more helpful strategy to make sure you’re getting more realistic practice.
As you can see, Duolingo Stories takes you through a real-life conversation, so you can see the language in action. It’s still just tapping buttons and figuring out just the general gist of the conversation, but it’s a step closer to functional use of the language, and a step is a step.
In recent years, Babbel has taken a much larger step towards connecting language learners to useful skills: Babbel Live. This feature (outside the Babbel app) makes it easier for language learners to work with professional teachers in group classes.
These are online classes with real-life language teachers who have the material to support your language learning right alongside the lessons you’re learning inside the app.
Unlike Duolingo’s Stories, Babbel Live classes are not required; in fact, they’re an extra subscription (more on that below).
Babbel vs Duolingo: price
When comparing Babbel vs Duolingo, the biggest difference is the price.
One of the major parts of Duolingo’s brand as a whole is that its app is free. There are ways to pay, but you will never be restricted from educational material if you don’t want to or are unable to pay.
While this is true, many language learners believe that Duolingo intentionally changes their app so that it’s next to impossible to use without a paid subscription. Whether this is true, I can’t say, but it is worth noting when comparing paying for Babbel with Duolingo’s paid subscription.
On the other hand, the Babbel app is a paid service, through and through. You can see updated prices here.
Babbel Live, the group coaching platform, is another paid service. Here’s Babbel Live’s prices. Fortunately, if you do invest in a Babbel Live subscription, they throw in full access to the app for free!
Duolingo is always free, Babbel is not (especially not Babbel Live).
After comparing Babbel vs Duolingo’s lessons, goals, immersion activities, and price, it should be pretty clear which language app you should be using.
At the end of the day, Duolingo is free and fun, but it’s important to remember that it’s designed to make you feel like you’re making more progress than you really are. And unfortunately, most language learners don’t realize it until they’ve spent many hours in the app and then try to participate in a conversation.
You can learn more in my Duolingo review here.
Babbel is much more structured and is designed to help you build practical skills. Babbel’s primary goal is real-life, functional skills, in a way that’s logical but not boring. It’s not for everyone, but if you decide that Babbel is your best bet, the app (and Babbel Live) will get you far.
Read more about both in my Babbel review here.