Duolingo vs. Babbel Review: Which is right for you?

Oct 24

TL;DR: Need help choosing between Duolingo and Babbel? Here are the pros and cons plus a deal on Babbel’s lifetime subscription for just $149.97 until 11:59pm Pacific on 10/31.

While many created their family tree with construction paper in school, I made mine with Ancestry.com as an adult. I wasn’t expecting to discover any earth-shattering news, but I did learn that my paternal grandfather was fluent in German. When asked about this, my relatives recited the words and phrases they learned from him. Was I really the first generation in my family to not be taught a little German? Yup.

I then found myself on a mission to learn a second language. With so many options to choose from in the ever-growing online world, I decided to give two apps a try: Duolingo and Babbel. I’ve been using both for a few weeks, and I want to share my findings to help anyone else on their own language-learning journey.

Duolingo: free or $6.99/month

Duolingo has a 4.7 out of 5-star rating on the App Store from over 2 million users. With over 39 languages for English speakers, its biggest selling point is probably that you can access any course in its entirety for free — or opt for Super Duolingo, the paid version.

The free version has several somewhat annoying limitations like regular ad breaks, only being able to make five mistakes per day, and having to pay with in-app currency to do review sessions. The ads are semi-tolerable, but I found it difficult to get a good practice session in with a limit on how many errors I could make. I mean, you really do learn the most from your mistakes.

If you want to try Super Duolingo, they currently offer a 14-day free trial. You’ll enjoy full access to every feature — unlimited mistakes and review sessions — without ad interruptions. Then, it’s $6.99 per month, amounting to around $84 each year.

Babbel: $150 for a lifetime subscription

Babbel has the same 4.7 out of 5-star rating on the App Store with over half a million reviews and 14 available languages. If you head to Babbel’s website, you’ll find 6- and 12-month plans, but the best value is opting for a lifetime subscription, which you can do right here. 

For a limited time, get full access to all 14 languages for life with a one-time $149.97 fee, discounted from its usual price of $599. That’s less than paying for two years of Super Duolingo!

This lifetime subscription gets you ad-free learning, unlimited mistakes, personalized review sessions, and built-in games.

Head-to-head: Shared perks of Duolingo and Babbel 

  • Learn from both desktop and mobile devices. I personally like the apps better because I can learn from anywhere, like when taking a walk.
  • Digestible lessons. Each one takes as little as 5 minutes or up to 15 minutes, depending on the content and how many mistakes I make.
  • A reading, writing, listening, and speaking approach. I feel both apps evenly mix content across all four areas.
  • Intuitive speech-recognition technology listens to pronunciation. On both apps, this can be turned off to practice without talking (like if you’re in public).
  • The ability to jump around courses. While I started at the beginning of each app, you might be someone who’s at a more intermediate level.

Additional pros of Duolingo: Habit-building and interactive

Duolingo has a gamified approach with goals, badges, and achievements. Create your own digital avatar, add friends, and work toward completing challenges together. And, don’t forget the infamous learning streak that can motivate you to come back each day.

Along your lesson path, you’ll also find stories mixed in. I’ll be honest, these are almost always cheesy, but they offer a way to mix up your usual mode of learning with some new terms and silly stories.

Additional pros of Babbel: In-depth learning, convos, and games

Babbel doesn’t have the same game-based approach, it’s more focused on the actual content. As in, fewer distractions. Even the app interface is easier to navigate and use. 

The biggest difference in the learning approach is that Babbel seeks to explain the “why” along with each new term.

For example, let’s say I’m studying the German verb “fahren” which means “to drive”. Duolingo gave me a basic definition, but Babbel added that it’s a verb commonly used to describe any transportation involving wheels. It seems like a small detail, but it allowed me to learn beyond just that new verb and its meaning.

Babbel has its own version of stories in the form of conversations that, I found, are more exciting than Duolingo’s. Some of these revolved around planning a bike trip or birthday party and motivated me to complete extra lessons in that sitting to see what happens next. 

Play built-in games as lessons of their own or as a review session. One focuses on conjugating verbs to build a tower and another is spelling words before a train runs off its tracks. They aren’t the greatest games ever, but they make review sessions more entertaining.

Duolingo vs. Babbel: Take your pick!

Now it’s time for you to decide which app is best for your learning needs: Duolingo or Babbel?

I think Duolingo is an excellent option for learners who want to study for free and don’t mind a few limitations, but, if you’re willing to pay, you should opt for Babbel over Super Duolingo. Not only is it far more expansive in content, but you’ll save more over time since it’s a one-time fee and not a monthly subscription.

Plus, if you’re interested in Babbel, you can grab a lifetime subscription right here for just $149.97 (reg. $599) through 10/31.

Prices subject to change.

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