Can I learn Japanese with Duolingo? - The truth about it and better alternatives in 2024

May 2, 2024
Can I learn Japanese with Duolingo? - The truth about it and better alternatives in 2024

Duolingo has gained popularity as a language-learning platform, offering courses in various languages, including Japanese. However, many learners wonder whether Duolingo is an effective tool for mastering Japanese. In this article, we'll delve into the truth about learning Japanese with Duolingo, examining its advantages, and disadvantages, and exploring alternative methods for language acquisition.

Japanese tops as one of the best languages to learn due to the opportunities it offers. Due to its growing popularity, more and more online Japanese language learning platforms have been created. One of the most popular platforms for students to learn Japanese online is Duolingo. However, concerns raised online from people who have used the app to learn Japanese lead to the question: Is Duolingo really an effective platform for learning and mastering the Japanese language or are there other better alternatives out there? 

In this article, we will uncover the truth about learning Japanese with Duolingo, explore its advantages and disadvantages, as well as compare it with other methods for learning Japanese. So, if you’re interested to know more, keep on reading!

Advantages of Learning with Duolingo:

1. Accessibility

Duolingo provides a convenient and accessible platform for learning Japanese, which allows you to engage in Japanese lessons and practice your language skills anytime, anywhere, through its mobile app or website. So, if you have a busy schedule or have limited access to traditional language learning resources, Duolingo can still help you learn Japanese. Additionally, the accessibility of learning Japanese with Duolingo allows you to integrate language learning seamlessly into your daily routine, whether during commutes, breaks, or spare moments at home.  

2. Encourages Developing a Daily Study Habit

Earning a reward for reaching daily goal
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Another great thing about Duolingo is that it helps students develop daily study habits. When you first sign up, Duolingo allows you to pick a daily goal between 5 minutes (Basic), 10 minutes (Regular), 15 minutes (Serious), or 20 minutes (Intense) duration of learning Japanese. Whatever you choose, you are making time to study Japanese every day. Additionally, Duolingo employs gamification techniques such as daily streaks and XP points which reward you for consecutive days of practice. This helps foster a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to learn Japanese with the platform consistently. Moreover, Duolingo sends reminders and notifications that prompt you to practice regularly, helping you establish a routine. 

Having a daily study habit or routine is an important factor when it comes to learning the Japanese language. It requires constant repetition and practice over time to help you truly grasp the topics and concepts as well as learn how to communicate with natives effectively. So, if you want to develop a daily study habit, Duolingo is your best friend.

3. Gamified Learning Experience 

Duolingo’s gamified approach to teaching Japanese
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Duolingo is an interactive and engaging platform which is also one of the reasons for its popularity among students. Duolingo incorporates game-like elements such as levels, achievements, and rewards, which make the language learning process more enjoyable and motivating. You can track your progress, compete with your friends, and earn virtual currency by completing lessons and practicing regularly. This gamified approach not only fosters a sense of accomplishment but also encourages you to stay consistent with your learning. 

Disadvantages of Learning with Duolingo:

1. Limited Speaking Practice

One disadvantage of learning Japanese with Duolingo that you should take note of is that it focuses primarily on a text-based approach when teaching the language. So, while it offers exercises focusing on reading, writing, and listening comprehension, Duolingo lacks substantial opportunities for you to practice speaking Japanese aloud. Although there are speaking exercises where you repeat phrases, these are relatively few and don't provide interactive conversational practice or feedback on pronunciation and intonation. 

As speaking is a crucial aspect of language acquisition, especially for a language like Japanese with its unique phonetics and pitch accent, the lack of comprehensive speaking practice on Duolingo may hinder you in developing fluency and confidence in real-life conversations.

2. Lack of Cultural Context

Duolingo's Japanese Course often falls short of providing insights into cultural practices, historical references, and societal norms that greatly influence Japanese usage. Japanese culture is rich with unique customs, etiquette, and traditions that significantly shape the language. For example, the concept of "keigo" (polite language) is crucial in Japanese communication, varying depending on the social hierarchy and relationship between speakers. Without proper explanation and exposure to these cultural intricacies, you may struggle to understand why certain phrases or expressions are used in specific contexts.

Additionally, the Japanese language is deeply intertwined with culture, and without this contextual understanding, you may struggle to grasp the subtleties of expression, politeness levels, and appropriate usage of language in different social situations. Moreover, learning Japanese with Duolingo will help you become proficient in vocabulary and grammar but does not help you have the cultural sensitivity necessary for meaningful communication in Japanese-speaking contexts.

3. Passive Learning Approach

Duolingo primarily relies on translation exercises and memorization rather than actively engaging learners in meaningful language production and comprehension. While it may provide some exposure to Japanese vocabulary and basic grammar, Duolingo's format often lacks opportunities for speaking and listening practice, which is crucial for developing fluency and real-world communication skills. 

Passive learning methods like these can lead to a shallow understanding of the Japanese language and hinder your ability to construct sentences independently or understand Japanese texts beyond basic translation. As a result, you may find yourself ill-equipped to navigate real-world language situations or engage meaningfully with Japanese speakers and culture.

Duolingo: A Look Behind the Curtain

Now, let's delve into the truth behind learning Japanese with Duolingo and discuss its lesser-known aspects that you can only uncover once you fully engage yourself in the platform. We will also present the experiences of students who, having transitioned from Duolingo, have chosen to continue their Japanese language journey with Japademy. 

Over-Reliance on Translation

Translating a Japanese sentence into English
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Duolingo's approach often relies heavily on translation exercises, where users translate sentences from Japanese to their native language or vice versa. While translation exercises can be beneficial for understanding vocabulary and basic sentence structure, they may not effectively develop speaking and listening skills, particularly in a language like Japanese.

Moreover, translation exercises don't always provide insight into the cultural and contextual nuances of Japanese language usage. Japanese expressions, honorifics, and politeness levels often require a deeper understanding of cultural norms, which translation exercises alone may not adequately convey.

Unnatural Phrases

One common criticism of Duolingo is its tendency to teach unnatural or awkward phrases that are unlikely to be used in real conversations. While the platform aims to provide learners with a broad range of vocabulary and sentence structures, some of the phrases taught may sound odd or outdated to native speakers.

This issue arises from the limitations of Duolingo's algorithm and course design. The sentences used in exercises are often generated based on linguistic patterns rather than real-world usage, resulting in sentences that may technically be correct but lack authenticity. Additionally, the lack of context provided in Duolingo exercises can contribute to the presentation of unnatural phrases. Learning unnatural or outdated phrases can be frustrating for learners, as it may lead to confusion or embarrassment in real-life conversations.

Motivation Issues

Duolingo's gamified approach, which includes earning points, leveling up, and competing with friends, can initially boost motivation for language learning. However, some of our students report that they find their motivation waning over time due to several factors.

Firstly, Duolingo's repetitive nature, with its focus on completing exercises and earning points, can become monotonous and lead to learner fatigue. After a while, users may feel like they're going through the motions without experiencing meaningful progress.

Secondly, Duolingo's content may not always be engaging or relevant to users' interests or goals. While the platform offers themed lessons and stories, these may not resonate with all learners, leading to disengagement.

Exploring Better Alternatives With Live Japanese Lessons

Japademy: Personalized and Cost-Efficient Learning

Learning Japanese with Japademy
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Japademy stands out as a premier Japanese language school, offering comprehensive 10-week Japanese Online Courses. Our strength lies in our dedicated team of native Japanese teachers, who bring their extensive qualifications and teaching expertise to deliver live, interactive lessons via the Internet. With a minimum of three years of teaching experience, our teachers are adept at supporting students across all proficiency levels, tailoring instruction to suit individual learning preferences and goals. 

At Japademy, we prioritize interactive learning experiences tailored to our students’ needs. Unlike Duolingo's primarily passive learning approach, our Japanese Classes emphasize active engagement through immersive exercises, live tutoring sessions, and real-time feedback mechanisms. This fosters deeper comprehension and retention of Japanese language skills, empowering learners to actively participate in conversations and cultural exchanges.

Our curriculum encompasses everyday conversations, grammar, and vocabulary, accompanied by personalized feedback to cultivate a nurturing and motivating learning atmosphere facilitated by our native Japanese teachers. Our 10-week courses are competitively priced at US$14 per hour, making Japademy an accessible choice for direct engagement with native instructors. In addition to live sessions, we enhance our students' learning journeys with supplementary resources such as PDF handouts, flashcards, Japanese blogs, and complimentary access to Japanese video courses

If you’re interested in our Online Japanese Classes, you can contact us at or visit our website to learn more information!


Nihongo-Pro boasts a team of Japanese teachers who are all professionally trained, possess credentials, and boast extensive experience in both online and traditional classroom settings. Their faculty includes government-certified Japanese teachers with advanced teaching acumen. What sets Nihongo-Pro apart is their meticulous selection process for teachers, coupled with rigorous training to ensure optimal preparedness for each lesson. Continuous professional development is emphasized, with teachers engaging in workshops and simulated lessons to uphold the highest standards of Japanese education. 

In terms of pricing, Nihongo-Pro's private lessons range from US$28 to US$35 for each 50-minute session, positioning them at a slightly higher price point compared to other online Japanese language schools. However, with private lessons, students have the flexibility to select their preferred teacher and determine the number of lessons to purchase, with savings increasing as more lessons are bought.

Nihongo Online School

Nihongo Online School prides itself on its team of highly qualified Japanese teachers dedicated to educating students. Many of these instructors boast extensive teaching backgrounds spanning over five years, delivering Japanese lessons to learners worldwide. 

What truly distinguishes Nihongo Online School's Japanese teachers is their genuine passion for teaching and their exceptional ability to connect with students. They empathize with the challenges faced by international learners embarking on the journey of mastering a new language. Drawing from their wealth of experience, they cultivate a nurturing and immersive learning environment that fosters engagement and support. 

In terms of affordability, Nihongo Online School offers 1:1 Skype lessons at a competitive rate of US$30 (¥4,500), making quality Japanese education accessible to learners. However, it's worth noting that there is a one-time fee of approximately US$170 (¥25,000) for first-time students, which may pose a barrier to those considering a trial experience.

Concluding Thoughts on Learning Japanese with Duolingo

Learning Japanese with Duolingo
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Duolingo is a widely popular language-learning platform that has garnered attention for its accessibility and gamified approach to learning Japanese. However, while it offers advantages such as convenient access, daily study habit encouragement, and a fun learning experience, its limitations become evident when seeking a deeper understanding and mastery of the Japanese language. It’s very important to consider both its benefits and limitations before deciding on making it your primary platform for learning Japanese to make sure that it aligns with your goals and doesn’t lead to regret over time.

To maximize your language-learning journey and achieve fluency in Japanese, we recommend supplementing Duolingo with other methods such as taking an Online Japanese Class with skilled Japanese teachers. By adopting a multifaceted approach, you can enhance your language skills and gain a deeper understanding of Japanese language and culture.

You can easily make your Japanese skills more than just a hobby. Check out platforms like Jooble that provide many remote job opportunities for Japanese language speakers to start your career journey.

So, in light of these insights, we also encourage you to explore other alternative platforms for learning and mastering the Japanese language such as Japademy, Nihongo-Pro, and Nihongo Online School. These platforms offer personalized, interactive, and culturally immersive learning experiences facilitated by native Japanese teachers. With a focus on active engagement, real-time feedback, and tailored instruction, these alternatives prioritize the development of practical language skills and cultural understanding. 

While each option has its pricing structure and unique features, they all aim to provide high-quality Japanese education that surpasses the limitations of passive learning methods like Duolingo. So, for those aspiring to master Japanese effectively and authentically, exploring these alternatives could be the key to unlocking fluency and cultural competence in the language. Happy learning!

Start learning Japanese. Join the September 2024 intake for our Japanese 10-weeks Online Course while seats available. Don't wait more!
Kanami Iwasaki, Japademy Founder

Japademy | Learn Japanese

We are a Japanese language school with students in worldwide and native Japanese teachers located in 7+ countries. We provide students with high quality engaging lessons from beginner to advanced levels. Start learning Japanese with us today.