Disclaimer: I wrote this article in the November of 2018. I plan to redo this experiment and compare the results. Let me know if you’d be interested in such content.

As some of you may know, Russian is getting more and more popular in Poland. Now and then it’s possible to listen to some music in this language. I thought it would be a nice idea to learn at least the Cyrillic alphabet and be up to date with some Russian.  The additional motivation is that some of my colleagues in a new job speak Russian as a first language. 

My past

To start with – it’s not my first time learning Russian, and it’s not completely from scratch – I was taking Russian lessons in primary school. Back in the time, I had a lot of them but really hated everything about it. But let’s be honest – I completed my Russian adventure 13 years ago (all together with primary school) and never looked back.
So at the initial point, I knew some of the letters and still remembered song Я шагаю по Москве (translit: Ya shagayu po Moskve, eng. I’m walking the streets across Moscow).

I didn’t know where to start in the process of recalling the language, so I went down the most accessible possible road – I found and played the song mentioned above. I also bought a book called 15 minutes of Russian every day and a Cyrillic exercise book (even three of them).
But then I thought that I could reach my longtime forgotten friend – DuoLingo App. Has it passed the exam? Should you use Duo to reignite the flame of language learning? Keep reading. 


I signed up for a Russian Course on Duo. In this app, there is no possibility of choosing the right level adjusted to your skills – you can only sign for a language course. If you want to skip some part you already know, you have to Test Out a group of skills. You cannot choose which skills you want to test. They are grouped. However, the key in which they were linked remains mysterious.

I had a long break from learning Russian (13 years – it’s like half of my current lifespan), so I decided to start from the beginning. There were some straightforward words for starters, but something was lacking – and it was a Cyrillic alphabet! Unfortunately, Duo doesn’t offer single-letter questions in their courses. I was struggling the first day because I couldn’t recall the correct letters. But somehow, I got through it and achieved the first badge!

It’s all fun and games!

Yes, badge. DuoLingo uses various gamification tricks to keep you involved in learning (and possibly, monetize their product). There are 5 most basic gamification elements in Duo:

  • Health: for each incorrect answer, you are losing one of your five health points. You can restore it either by practicing or by buying them for diamonds.
  • Diamonds: Duo currency used in-app. You can earn diamonds for learning new skills and watching ads. You can also buy them for real money. 
  • Streak: Amount of days when you were learning. I think that it was designed to keep you learning every day. I don’t know if there are some rewards for a more significant streak. If you don’t want to learn someday, you can buy a Streak Freeze.
  • Badges: There are some rewards on your profile for various achievements – ex. Doing 20 lessons without getting anything wrong.
  • Leaderboard: A classic one. Compare your achievements with your friends. 
Badges in DuoLingo

DuoLingo Shop

Ok, so now we know how to use the Duolingo app. I went straight to work and was accomplishing about the three lessons a day. Every class consists of listening, writing, and speaking exercises. It is pretty complex and an excellent way to learn. 

I have to admit that ads and health points were annoying for me. Getting rid of them requires a Plus account. There are some other perks of a DuoLingo Plus subscription (price starts from 29,59 PLN/month if paid annually):

You can also participate in a community-driven Language Club. I haven’t participated in the club because of my shallow language skills. 

Pros of DuoLingo Plus

  • Ad-free experience,
  • You can download lessons and do them offline,
  • Unlimited health,
  • One streak repair for a month,
  • Supporting the creators of Duo.
Ads in DuoLingo

Summary – should you try it?

Duolingo is a great way to refresh your language or warm-up before a course or private lessons. There were some features that I painfully missed during my Russian adventure, including no single-letter lessons during the introduction and very irritating gamification parts of the app. DuoLingo is a fun, very playable app – and it’s probably one of the best choices if you are looking for free language learning. However, in my opinion, the Plus subscription offers too little, for too much. There are indeed better offers if you are ready to pay some money.

DuoLingo Language Club

PS: I love DuoLingo for being accessible for people all around the world also those in need! You can watch the DuoLingo documentary about the impact of language and education on Syrian refugees’ lives in Turkey and Jordan.

You can download mobile app here (iOS) and here (Android). It’s free. And you can also use the browser version of the service.

Disclaimer: I know that ten days is too little for an in-depth test. I don’t assess the overcomes of my learning but only the broad experience and some content.

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A psychologist who works in the IT industry. Interested in positive and social psychology and UX design. Fan of technology, Eurovision Song Contest, and Pepsi Max.
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