This post was updated April 2020.
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Mondly vs Duolingo
Duolingo is a very old friend to the language learning world, but Mondly is now coming along to challenge it. When comparing Mondly vs Duolingo, we see two language learning apps built for those who have never seen the language before.
However similar they seem, Mondly vs Duolingo are even more different, which means they’re best suited for very different types of language learners. So Mondly vs Duolingo: which one should you use to start learning your foreign language from scratch?[convertkit form=1363388]
Mondly vs Duolingo: how they’re similar
Both platforms function mostly as mobile phone apps, but are also available on desktop. They’re both meant for beginners with no or next-to-no knowledge of the language they want to learn. And they both support the following languages:
Both Mondy and Duolingo are gamified apps, and teach you with short, 5-minute lessons, and also remind you to study every day. Both apps keep track of how many days in a row you’ve studied to help you keep up your motivation, and give you a little map by your username so you can show off how many languages you’re learning.
Both resources also have free and paid options and review just a bit of grammar, but mostly focus on vocabulary-building.
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So, as you can see, both Duolingo and Mondly are very, very similar in a lot of ways. However, this is just about where they each branch off into their own methods of bringing language learning to their audience.
Mondly vs Duolingo: the differences
Time to rub our palms together and take apart these resources! First things first, there are some differences in the languages that they teach. Besides the languages already mentioned above, Mondly is also a resource to learn:
- British English
- American English
Duolingo does not cover those languages, however, you can use it to learn:
- High Valyrian
Using a base language other than English
Besides being able to learn some different languages depending on the app you’re using, there’s a difference in the language you’re learning from as well, which is great for those whose native language is something other than English!
Mondly really excels in this, by offering every language course in each of its 41 languages, which is amazing! You can use Mondly in Hebrew, for example, to learn French, and vice versa. This is not only great for language learners of all backgrounds but is helpful for learning more than one language, as it allows you to immerse yourself in one language while studying another.
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Duolingo also offers something similar, but not with all languages. Most lessons are only available in English, with a handful also available in French, German, Spanish, or others.
Learning foreign language concepts
While Mondly and Duolingo are both primarily a way to get new vocab into your brain, they both teach new vocab by presenting sentences, and you can’t make sentences without grammar! Grammar, though, is another concept entirely that language learners have to set aside time to figure out. Grammar is like the math of language learning.
Duolingo does this pretty well by having forums. Whenever you answer a question, if you get it wrong, you can easily click through to the comment thread on that particular question. There you’ll see all the questions other users have asked, as well as any answers that have been provided.
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If your question isn’t answered, ask away! You’ll also find other users share resources outside of Duolingo that might be helpful for you, so this is also a good way to expand your tools and find help outside of the app.
Mondly…doesn’t. At least not as well. As you go through your Mondly quizzes, you sometimes have the option to tap a word that you might not understand, and the app will translate it or present you with a conjugation table.
But that’s about as far as Mondly goes. It’s helpful, don’t get me wrong, but I do really like seeing the conversations that other people have had about sentences on Duolingo. I also like the community aspect of the Duolingo forums. You have other language learners right there with you, trying to figure out the same things that you’re struggling with, as opposed to being all alone.
Syncing between mobile and desktop
Both Mondly and Duolingo are more commonly used as mobile apps, but their content can be accessed on a desktop, too. I know that 99% of you are going to stick to mobile, but I thought I’d touch on this, just for the sake of being thorough.
Going to Duolingo on desktop is pretty much the same thing as mobile, but there are a couple other features that you won’t find on the app. We’ll talk about those perks in a sec, but for now just know that you can’t get to them via mobile.
Other than that, your accounts and all your languages will sync seamlessly between desktop and mobile, so you can use whichever device at whatever time you want to work on your Duolingo.
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Mondly is also accessible via desktop, but not quite as smoothly. For one, there are no extra perks to be found on desktop – it’s literally just the app on a bigger screen. Not a big deal at all, right?
There is one slightly big deal, though. While you can switch from desktop to mobile, you can’t do it seamlessly. Either your account won’t stay logged in to both devices, or you’ll lose your history for a little bit. I tell ya, I got real scared when I logged into Mondly on my computer and my 100+ day streak (at the time) was GONE. It did come back a little while later, but I was definitely disappointed.
Free & paid options
Both Mondly and Duolingo provide you the option to give them your money (surprise, surprise!), but for two completely different reasons.
Duolingo advertises itself as free forever, which is true (technically…there’s a strong theory that Duolingo’s getting money-hungry with the new hearts system). Everything I’m talking about here and what I talked about in my Duolingo review is accessible to everybody for absolutely free.
Fairly recently, Duolingo also introduced a $10-15/month subscription (depending on your commitment) service, called Duolingo Plus, which allows paid users an ad-free experience as well as offline access. There are some other perks as well, but no new content.
Mondly, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. You can use Mondly for free, but you won’t get a whole lot. You basically get a preview of the app: 6 lessons, 1 conversation, 1 vocab section, a chatbot conversation, and new lessons every day, week, and month.
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After that, you’ll be shut out behind a paywall. The rest of Mondly’s content that’s available only to paid members include 250 lessons, 33 conversations, 36 vocab sections, and over 1300 daily lessons. That paywall is $10/month and $48/year for one language (or get 20% off!).
In this context, I’m gonna have to side with the angry Duolingo users who believe Duolingo is using tricky tactics to get everybody to pay. Not to say that I’m getting behind this theory, but in using both Duolingo and Mondly…I’m more of a fan of Mondly being upfront about charging.
The fact that each app provides daily push notifications to get you practicing your language every day was already mentioned, but they’re not quite equal. If you’re one of the literally millions of language learners that have already used Duolingo, you know you get a quick notification every day to prompt you to open the app and study.
If that works for you, that’s awesome! It never did anything for me, though. Plus, if you just ignore it enough, it gives up on you. Literally. The little Duolingo owl basically says “well, you’re clearly not coming back, so I’m going to stop wasting my time on you”. Ouch! That hurts the ego and is also not very productive to inspire people to get back on the horse.
Mondly is a little different. Yes, it gives you the same kind of reminder, HOWEVER. While Duolingo tells you to do something, anything, Mondly has new lessons every day for you to work on. They might not be new content for you, but you do get a monthly calendar to keep track of every lesson every day.
Once you’ve completed that day’s lesson, you’ll get a little green circle on that day on the calendar. If you complete all the lessons for the week, you get a new weekly quiz. If you complete all the daily and weekly lessons, you’ll also get a new monthly quiz. That is definitely more motivating than a generic message to get back to Duolingo.
Language skill development
Every single language learning resource I ever try gets this test because it’s not only super important, but also because a significant number of language learners stop learning when they conquer basic vocab, because they don’t know what to do next.
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The 4 language skills are reading, writing, listening, and speaking (that’s right, vocab isn’t even one of them!). Let’s look at Duolingo first. Remember those desktop-only perks I mentioned a bit ago? Let’s talk about them now.
Duolingo recently published “stories”, where they take a story and walk you through it. They present the text accompanied by audio, and as they continue on you fill in the blanks to complete the story. Therefore, you’re practicing reading, listening, and a bit of writing.
Then, as long as you keep the speaking lessons enabled (despite my personal issues with speech recognition), you get speaking practice as well! So, technically, you can satisfy all of these skills for free. It’s pretty shallow practice, but it’s practice nonetheless.
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Compared to Duolingo’s very minimal conversation practice, Mondly’s got it going on! Depending on the format of the question you’re working on, you’ll also get that little microphone option in the bottom right-hand corner.
Honestly, sometimes it takes a few hits to get it to record (again, I’m not a fan of speech-recognition) . But when it does work, it’s very satisfying. I answered this question correctly by speaking it, which is very good practice.
Just like Duolingo, you can also opt to have questions that you answer with your microphone, but I personally like to have it just as an option, considering how iffy speech recognition is as a whole.
And this isn’t even where Mondly really hits the speaking practice well!
The thing that Mondly does better than anybody else is the Chatbot and Augmented Reality experiences. Using both these tools, you essentially have a real-life conversation in your target language with a robot. You’re offered a collection of reasonable responses and contribute to an authentic conversation.
Besides having conversations in your language with real human beings, I do believe this is the best you can get. The tech isn’t quite 100% just yet (the AR lady isn’t particularly life-like, for example), but I’m excited to see how Mondly continues to improve on this.
Because Mondly’s quizzes are all fill-in-the-blank, you’re not going to get any writing practice in, sorry. You’ll get some reading and listening practice as each word and statement that is presented to you also has an audio track, but where I think Mondly is going to be a real game-changer is using AR to provide language learners with easy, low-risk speaking practice.
As a language learner (and a human who cares about the ethics and privilege that goes into learning foreign languages), the accessibility of learning a language is an important subject for me.
And when I say accessibility, I don’t mean that free apps are good and expensive apps are bad. Let’s use Mondly and Duolingo as an example.
As I’ve mentioned, while Duolingo is technically free, they are slowly but surely putting all of their users on the heart system. More on this here, but the basic idea is that in the new system, you can only make 5 mistakes before you have to earn hearts back.
If you’re a Duolingo Plus user (if you pay), you get unlimited hearts and you can focus on learning, without the added pressure of losing hearts (including in the middle of a lesson, at which point you lose your progress and you start over).
Meanwhile, though Mondly is a paid app, it can be cheaper than Duolingo. No trickery, no nothin’.
And don’t even get me started on the non-English base languages: Duolingo offers the ability to learn some languages from non-English languages (though the options aren’t consistent and the content isn’t complete), while Mondly offers the ability to learn all of its languages from all of its languages.
Overall brand message
The overall brand message of a language learning business is really important because, to be honest, it’s usually complete BS. There are a lot of products out there, for example, that claim you can get fluent in a foreign language when the product includes little to no actual speaking practice. That right there is a lie.
Unfortunately, these businesses choose the message that will get people to buy their product, and that message is usually something do with fluency. That being said, how legit is the message chosen by Mondly vs Duolingo?
First: Duolingo. Duolingo makes no such claim that you will achieve fluency using the app, so kudos! Their main message is that you can learn a language for free, which is (technically) true, albeit vague. Fortunately, I don’t see any outlandish claims on their homepage, so that’s good.
The one message that I see that is kind of iffy is that “34 hours of Duolingo are equal to 1 university semester of language courses”. This might be true, but it’s important you keep in mind that it’s talking about beginner language courses, as Duolingo only has beginner content.
Also bear in mind (and you’ll know this if you’ve ever taken a language course in high school/college) that this says nothing about active use of the language. Learning a language to take exams does not equal using the language in the real world.
Mondly has two major messages: “learning languages gives you freedom to travel unexpected roads with confidence, and nobody gets you talking new languages faster than Mondly”. The first statement is obviously accurate; the second? Ehhhh…I’m not so sure about that.
It’s been proven again and again that the fastest way to speak a new language is to actually speak it, and speak it a lot. That being said, I don’t think this statement is true. That’s more true of Verbling or iTalki than anything else.
One more thing to note about Mondly’s messaging: the home page does state that it’s faster to learn from your native language, from which it goes on to talk about how you can learn foreign languages using any of their 41 languages.
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This means Mondly is great for either those who don’t speak English natively or those who are laddering languages or learning another language through a non-native language that they’re at an advanced level in.
All that said, neither Duolingo’s nor Mondly’s marketing is entirely accurate, but I also didn’t expect that. As time goes on, however, Duolingo’s message seems to become less and less accurate.
Mondly vs Duolingo: which one is for you?
Whether Duolingo or Mondly is your preferred app at the moment is a totally personal decision. In my personal opinion, I do think they’re both great starting points for learning languages, though as time goes on Duolingo is getting more restrictive and Mondly is constantly improving.
I’ve used both for long periods of time for different reasons; Duolingo because it’s clearly structured from beginner to intermediate (though the way it goes about “testing” your understanding of these concepts isn’t the most accurate, it’s still an okay place to find that direction), and Mondly because of the languages available.
Personally? Experiencing both Mondly and Duolingo over the long term, I’d go for Mondly any day (especially considering my 20% off discount!). For one, I’m excited to see their AR blossom and grow into the future tech that all language learners need (while Duolingo seems to consistently become less and less usable without paying).
At the end of the day, I’d recommend you trying both out and seeing what they do for you. Honestly, they both utilize slightly different strategies and methods.