Lingvist vs. Duolingo: Which One To Choose?

Looking to learn a new language? Language learning apps have been around for a while now, making it easier for people to learn a new language outside of a classroom and without the help of books and tutors. Today, there are many apps and platforms that are used by millions of people around the world, and we’re here to talk about two of the major ones: Lingvist and Duolingo.

Before choosing Lingvist or Duolingo, we suggest as a first step to identify the reasons why you want to learn a new language: is it for traveling or for business, for education or just for fun? Based on your answer, you can define exactly what you need from a language learning app to achieve your goal.

But if you still haven’t made up your mind about which app is best for you, we’re here to help you make this important decision. So let’s dive into this review of Duolingo and Lingvist!

Lingvist vs. Duolingo: A Quick Introduction

Duolingo is an American language learning platform that’s been around and available to all since 2012. With 38 different languages for English speakers to choose from (including Klingon and High Valyrian), it is no wonder it has a large community of users.

Lingvist is an Estonia-based language learning platform and app, created by alumni from CERN and Skype. Launched in 2014, it offers 8 different languages for English speakers: German, European Spanish, Latin American Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Dutch.

Both apps are available on the App Store and Play Store, and they both have their own web platforms.

Although at first glance Duolingo seems to offer a larger volume of content to learn from, this doesn’t mean that it is better. Choosing a language learning app should be based on whether it has the right approach and format to help you achieve your goals.

So, how do these two apps compare to each other? Let’s find out.

Lingvist vs Duolingo

Content, Features, and More

Vocabulary: Basics vs. Everyday Use

When comparing Lingvist vs. Duolingo, one of the major differences is in how they approach vocabulary learning.

With Duolingo, you begin your journey with the very basics, starting with colors, animals, food, etc. You repeat sentences like Je suis un homme (“I am a man,” in French) or La niña (“The girl,” in Spanish) until you master them, without making any mistakes, to be able to move forward with other basic vocabulary and slowly level up. A similar method is used by classroom teachers and books.

As for Lingvist, you will start learning new vocabulary based on the frequency of the everyday use of these words in your target language, without skipping basic but important words like connectors or nouns.

Lingvist’s approach is to help you learn the most common words first – those that are more likely to come up more often. These words are shown in example sentences, so that you will learn how to use them correctly, depending on the social and cultural context in which you find yourself.

The benefit of learning the most common words first is that you will be able to have conversations about daily life or work situations with other native speakers and colleagues from the start.


Learning Games

Duolingo is always described by its users as a fun app because of its highly gamified design. Using the Duolingo app feels like a competition: you complete, re-arrange, or translate words and sentences to win XP points and enter a leaderboard.

You can also win gems, crowns, and other rewards as long as you keep your daily streak. If for some reason you don’t complete a full set, Duolingo won’t save your progress, and you will have to start the set all over again. If you like games, this is a good option to entertain yourself.

Lingvist, on the other hand, has a more focused way of retaining your attention and learning. The main focus is on the flashcards: when you hit the Learn button, a card will appear with a context sentence and a blank space that you have to fill in with the correct word. Lingvist also provides a few clues to help you along the way.

The more right answers, the less you will see this word in the future. The goal is to complete a full set of 50 cards every day – once that’s done, you can move on to other activities, or you can choose to continue learning.

It’s a very simple and efficient experience, without any distractions or pressure along the way.

Lingvist understands that not everyone has the same amount of free time or energy to learn every day or to complete 50 cards, so if you’re not able to do a full set – even if you only do a single cardLingvist will save your progress, and it will form part of your learning curve and daily stats. Everything counts!

Other Exercises

Duolingo will take you through different topics and vocabulary, starting from the very basics, and along the way, as an extra, they offer “bonus skills” that you can unlock with gems. These are vocabulary sets focused on topics like flirting or idioms.

It also features Duolingo Stories, small sets of conversations (or short stories) to help you improve your reading and listening skills.

Lingvist, depending on the language you are learning, offers you different vocabulary decks on topics like food, business, the environment, travel, etc. The format is the same: it will show you an example sentence that you have to complete with the right word.

You’ll also have access to tips and hints about grammar, as well as to a list of all the words you have seen at least once, where you can see alternative meanings and multiple example sentences, add notes to them, and even add them to a playlist. For example, you can create a playlist of the words that you struggle with the most and play it as many times as you want while you do other tasks – this can help you learn these words and sentences passively.

And last, but definitely not least, Lingvist has a great feature called Custom Decks. Find out more about it below.

Custom Decks

One really cool feature Lingvist has is Custom Decks. This is a tool that allows you to create a new vocabulary deck from scratch, where you get to choose the content. Plus, it only takes a few seconds for the new deck to be ready to go!

If you want to learn vocabulary about a very specific topic, you can add a list of words, take a picture of some text, or upload a file to Custom Decks. This article gives a step-by-step explanation how to use and benefit from it, and it has a video tutorial as well.

Lingvist vs. Duolingo: Who Is Each One Best For?

Duolingo is easy for complete beginners to use. If this is the first time you’re trying to learn a new language, starting from very basic vocabulary is a good plan. Or, if you’re looking for a new hobby and something to pass the time while feeling somewhat productive, this might be a good fit.

Lingvist is good for beginners, intermediates, and advanced users. If you already know a few words, this will help you create a good base for your learning journey. Intermediate and advanced users will find Lingvist a great app to challenge their knowledge and pick up more vocabulary adequate to their level.

If you’re learning a new language for career reasons, Lingvist can help you learn the proper vocabulary for your industry with Custom Decks.

Lingvist users have also said this is a great add-on tool to achieve progress faster if you’re already learning with the help of language tutors or books. You can read about Ryan’s story here and his experience learning German with Lingvist, as well as how it helped him get accepted into a university in Germany.

What About Pricing?

Duolingo offers all of its content for free, but this also means that you will see a lot of ads. However, if you pay a monthly subscription for Duolingo Plus, you will have access to more features, such as no ads or unlimited mistakes.

Lingvist is a subscription-based app. It offers a free trial for all new users, but to be able to continue learning after the trial you have to purchase a monthly or yearly subscription. Once you become a subscribed user, all of the content from Lingvist will be unlocked: all languages, vocabulary decks, custom decks, word playlist, etc.

Lingvist vs. Duolingo: Pros and Cons

It’s time to do a final comparison of these two apps:

Languages30+ languages for English speakers15 languages for English speakers
DesignPlayful and easy-to-use designClean design and easy to use
DesignThe free version has adsNo ads or distractions
Learning experienceHighly gamified, complete sets to earn points.More focused learning, every small step counts. Learn vocabulary in example sentences
Learning experienceTranslate, type, or re-arrange words or sentencesLearn grammar inductively (the way children learn their first language)
Learning experienceSlower progress, get everything correct in order to see new contentFaster progress, repeat the content you get wrong in parallel to learning new content
Other featuresComplete storiesVocabulary decks on specific topics. Or create your own vocabulary deck with the Custom Decks tool
Other features“Bonus skills” vocabulary setsGrammar tips and hints
Other featuresWin or buy gems to get unlimited hearts and mistakesCreate a word playlist to keep practicing, add notes and listen to the pronunciation
PricingFree, with the option to purchase a Plus program (monthly subscription)Subscription-based, offers a free trial to new users. Two subscriptions available: monthly and yearly (check out family sharing for iOS)
Who is it best forComplete beginnersBeginners, intermediate, and advanced users


Hopefully, this review will help you decide which app is best suited to you and your language learning goals. Some users enjoy playing games and keeping themselves entertained, while others prefer a more focused style of learning. Whichever your preference, the important thing is that you are learning a new skill, and remember: to keep this skill for the rest of your life, practice is the key.

If you haven’t made up your mind yet, you can sign up for Lingvist today and try the app for free. Happy learning!

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