Is Super Duolingo worth the money?

It’s been, give or take, 8 years since I started using Duolingo. It’s a language learning app that offers speaking, listening, and writing exercises to help you to become more familiar with a number of different languages. I started with French purely because it’s the main language that I learned while at school, but quickly swapped that out for Spanish when I realised how silly it was to not prioritise the language of the country I’d been visiting for the majority of my life. But the best part about Duolingo? It’s totally and completely free.

Well, it used to be totally free, but that’s not actually been the case for a while now. About six years ago, the creators introduced the upgraded app in the form of Duolingo Plus. That was replaced in 2022 with Super Duolingo. What is it? What does it promise for its users? More importantly, is it worth £60 a year?

What is Super Duolingo?

Super Duolingo promises users that they’re 4.2 times as likely as non-Super users to finish their courses. It removes any ads (usually a five-second clip about whatever it thinks is relevant to you) and the need to spend gems – its in-game currency – to take part in challenges throughout the week.

As well as this, you get a cool ‘SUPER’ plastered across your profile to let people know that you’ve dropped sixty quid on a free app and the personal satisfaction that comes with using money as a motivator to make you get on with whatever healthy habits you’re hoping to establish.

Personally, I never spent a single penny on the pro version of Duolingo. It came in a moment of desperation a few Sundays ago when I was incredibly close to completing a level I’d been stuck on. You’re given the option of spending 450 gems on a new set of hearts, which users need to complete new lessons (you lose a heart for every mistake that you make), or of subscribing to Super. Ordinarily, I’d have given up in frustration – but I had one exercise to finish before the lesson was done, and I wasn’t going to spend all of those gems for a single achievement.

Super was staring me in the face, offering a free trial for 14 days. I was brought up to never look a gift horse in the mouth, so obviously I had to start a free trial. Plus, I’d be able to review it for the blog – perfect!

How did I use Super Duolingo?

The effects that Super Duolingo had on my language learning were almost instantaneous. Recently I’ve felt a lot more motivated to learn Spanish anyway, having taken advantage of the double XP boosts that you can unlock every morning and evening to effectively double the amount of Spanish that I was doing. Before this period, I’d done one or two lessons a day, right before bed, to maintain my near-900 day streak.

Even with that in mind, the potential unlocked by my Super subscription was huge. I maintained my morning lessons but quickly stepped-up when 6pm rolled around. I started doing Legendary unit lessons. For those not in the know, Legendary lessons are said to be harder versions of your previous units of learning, and offer eight lessons for you to really push your learning to the limit. Regardless of your subscription level, you only get three hearts to complete this challenging piece of content. However, regular users have to spend 100 gems per legendary lesson. In spite of my increased learning, I only ended my subscription with 1000 gems, so completing a legendary unit without having to retake any lessons would cost at least 800 gems each. The main draw to these lessons is that, while normal lessons give users between 10-15 XP, these will give you 80-90 XP, and can be finished in the same amount of time. XP allows you to climb the leaderboard, which you can see down below.

With such an incentive, I was easily completing 20 lessons a day. All of this probably took 25 minutes or so, which might feel like a lot, but let’s not forget a really valuable point that the app frequently makes – ‘What can 15 minutes of social media give you?’

Just hanging on to sixth place

Is Super Duolingo worth it?

This is a really tricky question to answer. You might be surprised at this response – surely all of my raging positivity should make my recommendation obvious?

Not exactly.

I’ve really enjoyed this past fortnight of Super Duolingo. An ad-free experience has really changed the game, but that’s just it – that’s the problem: it’s a game. Was I really learning more Spanish, or was I enjoying the gamified part of the app? Lots of the Legendary-unit levels involved retreading old territory. As a teacher, I know that that’s one of the most effective ways to learn, but it did mean that I was artificially restricted from learning new content (because why wouldn’t I do the high XP levels to advance in the leaderboards more quickly?).

Likewise, the trial was only 14 days long. Would I feel less motivated if I had the Super subscription all year-long, without the same time pressures? Maybe. I think, for me, because of the increased exposure that I’ve had to simply doing more Spanish learning, it has, ultimately, been worth it. Would I have paid for the subscription? I think so, but I’m not in a rush to go out and subscribe anytime soon. Since Super turns off hearts, and gives you unlimited attempts to complete a lesson without worry, there is less of a pressure to ensure that I get everything right. In one lesson, I made 21 mistakes (which equates to finishing on the fifth attempt without Super), which suggests that I maybe wasn’t ready to move on to the new unit of learning. 

Whether you choose to subscribe is a really personal choice based on how you think you learn best. If you prefer to have the pressure of having spent £60 on language learning, go for Super. If you’d rather the pressure of not losing all of your hearts before finishing a lesson, you’ll be better off sticking to the free version. 

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