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10 days of Russian – DuoLingo Test and Review

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 Cyrillic alphabet and be up to date with some of Russian.  The additional motivation is that some of my colleagues in a new job speak Russian as a first language. 

My past

For starters – it’s not my first time learning Russian and it’s not completely from the 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 (altogether 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, ang. I’m walking the streets across Moscow).

Didn’t know where to start in the process of recalling the language so went the easiest possible road – I found and played song mentioned above. I also bought a book called 15 minutes of Russian everyday and a cyrillic exercise book (even three of them).
But then I fought that I can reach to 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 to 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 a half of my current lifespan), so I decided to start from the beginning. There were some really easy words for starters, but there was something 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 right letters. But somehow I got through it and achieved the first badge!

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 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 everyday. I don’t know if there are some rewards for a bigger streak. If you don’t want to learn during some day 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: Classic one. Compare your achievements with your friends. 
Badges in DuoLingo

DuoLingo Shop

Ok, so now we know how to use DuoLingo app. I went straight to work and was accomplishing about the 3 lessons a day. Every lesson consists of listening, writing and speaking exercises. It is pretty complex and a nice way to learn. 

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

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

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

Summary – should you try it?

DuoLingo is a great way to refresh your language or as a warm-up before a course or private lessons. For me 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. Duo is 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 surely 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 DuoLingo documentary about the impact of language and education on the lives of Syrian refugees 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 10 days is too little for a in-depth test. I don’t asses the overcomes of my learning but only the general experience and some content.

Published in Experience Learning

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