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Duolingo is a gamified language-learning platform created by a company of the same name. The application was first launched in beta as a website for a limited number of users on 30 November 2011 and was later fully launched on 19 June 2012. As of April 2016, it offers 59 different language courses across 23 languages; with 23 additional courses in development. The app is available on iOS, Android and Windows 8 and 10 platforms with over 120 million registered users across the world.

You learn by progressing through a language tree consisting of various short lessons that are unlocked as you proceed. Most exercises are written translation exercises, but there are also optional dictation and speaking exercises. Completing lessons gives you Experience Points and lingots - the Duolingo currency you can use to buy power-ups, tests and bonus skills.

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     Courses Offered by Duolingo 
  • For English speakers: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hawaiian, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Klingon, Korean, Navajo, Norwegian (Bokmål), Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, High Valyrian, Vietnamese, Welsh.
  • For Spanish speakers: Catalan, English, Esperanto, French, German, Guarani, Italian, Portuguese, Russian.
  • For Russian speakers: English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish.
  • For German speakers: English, French, Spanish.
  • For Italian speakers: English, French, German, Spanish.
  • For French speakers: English, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish.
  • For Arabic speakers: English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish.
  • For Portuguese speakers: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Esperanto.
  • For Turkish speakers: English, German, Russian, French.
  • For Chinese speakers: English, Spanish, French.
  • For Dutch speakers: English, German, Dutch.
  • There are also some languages from which only an English course is available.


This gamified language learning platform provides examples of:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: The bear wears a blue scarf.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Duo is an owl that happens to be green.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: In the mobile app version, you can use some gems to buy three different costumes for Duo including Formal Attire, the Champagne Tracksuit and Super Duo.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Occasionally Duolingo teaches you how to describe what's going on if you encounter a normally-inanimate object doing something human:
    • The Norwegian course features "the apple speaks Norwegian".
    • From Danish: "The liver pate demands that the polar bear leaves the room".
    • The Dutch course teaches you to greet juice, to say you're a banana, and how to excuse yourself on the grounds that you're an apple.
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    • In case you ever find yourself suspecting that you are in possession of an intelligent and moral vehicle, the Dutch course teaches "does my car have a conscience?".
  • April Fools' Day:
    • For 2014, Duolingo added the languages Lolcat, Zombie, and Pirate to the Incubator.
    • For 2015, Duolingo purportedly would release the application as a set of 28 floppy disks.
    • For 2016, Duolingo released Duolingo Pillow, a pillow that would let the user learn a language in their sleep.
    • For 2017, Duolingo released a course preview for Emoji as a language.
    • For 2018, Duolingo released a fake line of alcohol called "Brewolingo" designed to help you get fluent.
    • The 2019 prank involved the owl going to the player's house to remind them of their lessons, aka "real life push notifications".
    • There was no April Fools joke in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
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    • For 2021, Duolingo released Duolingo Roll, toilet paper that teaches you phrases in other languages.
  • Art Evolution: Duo started off in 2011 as a static bird with his name making up the eyes and beak, then he became more realistic before settling as a simplified, cartoony owl. An interview with the developers explains that the simpler design not only makes Duo and other characters easier to animate but it also allows for more expressive emotions, making players more attached to Duo, citing Mario always appearing in different positions and with different expressions as a particular source of inspiration. Considering the memes attached to Duo, it's safe to say they've succeeded.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The two-part stories do this across languages. The first part sets up something menacing or bad, only for the second to establish it was some sort of misunderstanding or not what it seems at first glance. One stock story includes a man writing to a woman telling her he loves her and can’t wait to see her in a few weeks. It ends with his wife entering the room and asking who he’s writing to. In the second part, you find out it’s their daughter who moved away to attend university, not his mistress. His wife cheers him up and says they’ll get to see her soon for parents’ weekend.
  • Big Eater: French: "I eat a lot"
  • Blatant Lies: Some of the sentences don't fit the characters who speak them. It's possible for instance to get a middle-aged man saying that he's your granddaughter.
  • Book-Ends: The Swedish course features the lines “Du gamla, du fria” (Thou ancient, thou free) and “Ja, jag vill leva jag vill dö i Norden.” (Yes, I want to live, I want to die in the North.) These two phrases are respectively the first and last lines of the Swedish national anthem.
  • Buffy Speak: There's a German skill named "Stuff". Upon completion, the game will greet you with the message that "You have learned Stuff". Even better, try strengthening it along with several others, and you'll get something like "You've strengthened Plurals, Comparison and Stuff".
  • But Thou Must!: Several of the chatbots ask you questions like "do you want to do X?". If you say "no", they'll force you to do X anyway:
    • In "It's a Zoo!", Tina asks you if you want to help her with the animals. If you refuse, she'll call you out for "not being very nice" and ask again, but more politely. Refuse again, and she'll say she "knows you want to help [her]" and force you.
    • In "Pizza Time!", the chef will ask you if you want to cook with him. If you say "no", he'll ask again. If you refuse again, he'll insist that cooking will "take your mind off things" and proceed to start making a pizza.
    • In "To Catch a Thief", you can try to say "no" when the inspector asks if you should look for evidence. If you do, he'll reply "but it's our job!" and make you look for evidence.
    • In "Treasure Quest", the explorer forces you to enter the secret cave with her, even if you say you're afraid and don't want to.
    • In "Take a Trip", the bot asks if you want to go on vacation with her. If you refuse twice — even if you say you don't have time to travel — she'll say "don't be a grump" and force you.
    • In "Security", a security guard asks you if you want to help. Try to refuse, and he'll force you because "he's very busy" and "needs help". However, you can refuse to enter the metal detector when he tells you to, but then he'll send a guard at you, which ends the chat.
  • Cap: Level 25 for each language.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • The French course teaches you that the snake is an animal. Similarly, the German course teaches you to say that your horse is an animal.
    • The Swedish course teaches you to explain that a hospital is a building for sick people. It sounds even sillier in Swedish, where the word for "hospital" is a compound word meaning "building for sick people".
    • You're taught to say "a table has no gender" in German. Note that this is false if you're talking about grammatical gender.
    • Esperanto features "I am not you".
    • German teaches "Thursday is not a month" and "When I run, I am not standing".
    • French has "England is not in Africa" and "Prisoners are in prison".
    • Dutch: "One does not drink meat."
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: The Danish course has "A tiger is eating my husband", and Norwegian has "The wolf is eating me". As the sentences are read by a text-to-speech program, they sound disproportionately calm.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Possible case in German, which has "I am searching for the search engine". Good luck searching without a search engine to use...
  • Complete Immortality: The Spanish course has you translate "I cannot die".
  • Crazy Cat Lady:
  • Cultural Cross-Reference:
    • Norwegian: "Why is there a Swedish telemarketer in my bed?"
    • Swedish: "Why is there a Norwegian architect lying in my bed?"
  • Designated Driver:
    • Portuguese: "If I drink take me home."
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Portuguese: "The men offered money to the police officer."
  • Distinction Without a Difference: Pops up occasionally — while usually you have a good amount of wiggle room, the game likes to alternate between demanding and not demanding literal translations. For example, the Italian course's "Ognuno dei fratelli ha un'automobile" only accepts "Each of the brothers has an automobile" instead of the more natural "Each brother has a car".
  • Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Project: The "Leaky Pipes" story has Pamela and Jose reminiscing about how they met when Pamela attempted to fix some leaky pipes on her own before a big date, only to have to call Jose in because she manages to make things worse.
  • Drinking on Duty:
    • Hebrew: "The judge gets drunk before he goes to work."
  • Easter Egg: On the mobile apps, tapping on Duo 10 times on certain screens will cause him to be replaced with a literal Easter egg.
  • Eating Pet Food: The Swedish and Norwegian courses feature both "You're drinking my cat's milk" and "You're eating my dog's food".
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: Referenced in the Italian course, which teaches "Are we men or lawyers?".
  • Experience Points: Your progress is measured in experience points (XP).
  • Extreme Omnivore: "The cook cooks a snake" is bad enough, but there's also "Luis eats spiders" and "A bed is food."
  • Fake Difficulty:
    • Sometimes the game will reject perfectly acceptable translations because the devs made a mistake or simply didn't think of adding them. However, you get a chance to defy this trope by reporting the question and hope the devs incorporate it.
    • While very rare, the game doesn't mind throwing an idiom at you without any context. For example, the Italian course's "Medical" sectionnote  has been called out multiple times for including the phrase "In bocca al lupo", which literally means (and thus is often translated as) "In the wolf's mouth". The correct answer? "Break a leg!", because they are both phrases used by actors to wish each other luck. There's absolutely no indication that the game wants an answer that uses none of the words from the Italian text, and to even know the phrase's intended meaning you'd have to have learned it from somewhere else — not to mention that even in context, it's still out of place due to not being a medical term.
    • While the game is quite flexible about typos in general, sometimes you'll be marked as incorrect for the sake of a single mistyped letter.
  • Feather Fingers: Duo is able to use his feathers to give a V-sign in some old promotional art, although he is never shown using it for more dexterous purposes.
  • Five-Token Band: Some of the language courses have an animated character to pronounce the sentence, and react positively or negatively depending if you get it right. Those characters include Lily (white goth girl), Zari (veiled Muslim girl), Lucy (fat middle-aged Asian lady), Eddy and Junior (blond sporty white man and his equally white son), Bea (black girl with dreadlocks), Oscar (an Ambiguously Brown short, chubby, moustached man), Lin (light-skinned girl with a half-shaved head), Vikram (Sikh man)... and a bear
  • Floating Limbs: The characters shown in some end screens and speaking exercises have no ankles. Same with Duo in the loading screen of him walking. Their feet are a pair of ovals or thick lines. As shown with Eddie (the guy in the red tracksuit), the characters do have legs.
  • Fly in the Soup: The Italian course teaches you how to say there's a mouse in your soup. It also features other results of sketchy hygiene standards, such as "your insects are on my plate", insects in the sugar and an ant dying in the sugar.
  • Freemium Timer: If you don't have a premium subscription, the app gives you five lives. If you answer incorrectly, you lose a life. If you lose all your lives, among other options, you can wait 1 hour for them to replenish. Alternatively, if you complete a lesson without making any mistakes, you can get a life back.
  • Funny Animal: Animals doing human stuff is a common theme.
    • Certain courses in the app have characters who speak the sentences. Some of them are animals, so you may encounter a German-speaking dolphin who says he knows English or a self-conscious bear asking how much he weighs.
    • Apparently Danish bears "eat rice with knife and fork" and can "take the man's wheels and run". Dutch and Spanish bears prefer to drink beer, while Danish bears hand their beer to a cat. Danish birds also drink beer.
    • Danish ducks say (quack?) "good morning". Spanish ducks not only speak their own language, but know English as well.
    • "The cat reads a book". According to the Danish course, chickens also read a book. And in Italian, the monkey reads a book.
    • Irish ducks and Dutch birds apparently read the newspaper.
    • Dutch dogs can ride a bike.
    • Dutch teaches "the dog wears a coat" and "the bear feels insulted because he didn't get an invitation".
    • German teaches "The bear drinks beer," although the sentence has the practical benefit of showing differences in phonemes.
    • German also teaches "Why does the bear conduct the orchestra?"
    • Italian teaches "I am an insect".
    • Norwegian has some people hearing what a crab is singing. Norwegian bears also ride bikes.
    • From Russian: "My horse is not an artist, but an architect."
    • From the Welsh course: "Hi, I'm a dragon".
    • From the Spanish course: "The snakes have a hockey team!"
    • Drunken parrots are a bit of a Running Gag in Latin.
  • Furry Confusion: Duolingo is a cartoony owl, but he celebrates Thanksgiving and has dressed up as a turkey for the occasion.
  • Gold Digger: The Italian course has "She loves him for his wealth".
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Danish has ninjas that work at night and play with children.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: If you're about to forget your daily practice and have notifications turned on, the game will remind you that "learning a language requires practice every day". If you end up neglecting your daily practice, you may get e-mails telling you that you have to make the owl happy by doing the exercises. Previous versions even showed you a crying owl when you failed to meet your goal. This is subverted after several weeks, where the owl just doesn't bother with sending you notifications anymore.
  • Has Two Mommies: Esperanto includes phrases like "he has no father, but two mothers" and "my brother is visiting us with his husband and children".
  • He Knows Too Much: Implied in the Italian course, which features the ominous "He had known too much.".
  • Implausible Deniability: The Spirituality skill from Danish teaches you how to say "It's not my fault the alien steals my homework every day".
  • Inspirational Insult: Duolingo will happily throw sentences like "You are useless" (French) and "You learn nothing" (German) as part of its course content.
  • Interface Spoiler: One common exercise is to be given a sentence in your native language, and a selection of words in the language you're learning that have to be re-arranged correctly into the native-language sentence. The selection often includes more words than you need, and usually has at least one that is similar to one of the ones you need. Not sure which word starts the sentence? It'll usually be the only one with a capital letter.
  • Literal-Minded:
  • Lost in Translation:
    • Hebrew: “Every day fifty accidents are caused by cats.” However, in Israel the word תאונה which the program uses for "accident" is generally reserved for traffic crashes.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings:
    • Italian features "We have eighty grandchildren".
    • Dutch gives you "They have 29 children".
  • Metal Detector Checkpoint: "Security" has you checking people who triggered the metal detector at an airport.
  • Mood Dissonance: For some languages, the app features characters who speak the sentences you're supposed to translate. Their mood doesn't always fit the sentence, so you'll occasionally bump into stuff like happy ladies who excitedly ask if you've come to kill them, or a smiling lumberjack who gives the thumbs up while informing you that he's lost his wife and has yet to recover his son.
  • Mood Whiplash: The sentences range from mundane to hilarious or depressing. Getting them in certain orders will cause odd mood swings in the lesson. Some concrete examples:
    • The Spirituality skill from Danish. One lesson is all about zombies, aliens, and vampires, with such delightful sentences such as "It’s not my fault the alien steals my homework every day", and the next lesson can hit you right after with "I bought a nice tombstone for my son’s grave".
    • The Date and Time skill from Italian. It's full of mundane stuff like "Today is Monday", and then it suddenly throws "He dies in December" at you.
  • Mystery Fiction: The "To Catch a Thief" chat has you helping an inspector figure out who stole stuff from a museum.
  • Noodle Implements: The Swedish course contains the sentence "The fairy tale is about two hedgehogs and a bar of soap."
  • No-Damage Run: You get a lingot bonus for testing out of a skill with all hearts intact.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Duolingo's mascot is an owl, chosen for its association for being wise.
  • Play Every Day: The game emphasizes the importance of practising every day and encourages it by keeping track of your "streak" — the number of consecutive days you reach your XP goal. Although you get 1 lingot for the 10th day in the streak, 2 for the 20th, etc., the main appeal of maintaining a streak seems to be bragging rights.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In the story "You Are Not Mary", if Junior had simply told his father's date that Mary was the pet parrot when he was talking about her, she wouldn't have fed up and left after assuming Eddy was being dishonest with her.
  • Quivering Eyes: Duo when you lose all your hearts.
  • A Rare Sentence: Arguably one of the selling points is seeing what weird sentences you can find. A dedicated subreddit, /r/ShitDuolingoSays, exists purely to catalogue these sentences.
  • Rule of Three: The heart system. You have three hearts and lose one for every mistake you make. If you get another question wrong, you lose.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The Duolingo Story "Where's My Jacket?" involves Oscar looking for his blue jacket and having to go through all his neighbors and a donation center to find it. The reason he was looking for it? He had left 500 dollars in a secret compartment — which the donation center found, and put it into their funds. At this point Oscar gives up and lets the center have his jacket.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    • The Esperanto course teaches "a good person is a person who is good".
    • In German, "Ein Einhorn hat ein Horn." "Unicorn" translates literally to "one-horn", the sentence becomes "a one-horn has one horn".
    • Irish: "The darkness is dark".
    • Romanian : “A glass of glass” Although it does use two synonyms for glass in the original language.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skill Scores and Perks: When learning, each language has a "tree". It used to look like an actual skill tree in the past, but is now just a bunch of rows, each featuring from one to three skills, all of which must be completed before proceeding to the next row. Each skill typically contains from one to ten lessons, which give the user sentences with new words in them. After the tree is completed, one is given a "Golden Owl" marking that they have completed the course.
  • The Sociopath: In case you encounter one of them, the Spanish course includes the sentence "he does not have a conscience".
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Referenced in the Irish course, which gives us "The woman is in the fridge". Similarly, the Italian course has an engineer and a plumber in the fridge.
    • An eccentric man named Pól who lives in a refrigerator is a bit of a running gag in the Irish course.
  • Talking Animal: Spanish has "¡Mi gato habla inglés!", which translates to "My cat speaks English!"
    • The Welsh course has you asking "How are you, dragon?", and even claiming you ARE a dragon.
    • And of course, Duo himself.
  • Temporary Online Content: The Christmas bonus skill was available for purchase from December 23 - 26 every year before 2016. The skill was disabled due to site performance issues, so if a user didn't pick it up in earlier years, the skill was lost forever.
  • Textbook Humor: There are many odd sentences for you to translate. Ever wanted to ask a Norwegian why there's a Swedish telemarketer in your bed? Duolingo will teach you how!
  • Timed Mission: Practicing a completed skill gives you this option. Each correctly answered question adds a few seconds to the clock.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: Owen in the Welsh course really likes parsnips.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: Sometimes the game asks you to write/translate a word it hasn't taught you yet — usually the game gives you a translation when you tap/hold the mouse over the word to help you out, but this feature is not always available. It's particularly noticeable during the "listen-and-write" levels, since figuring out how some words are spelled isn't always obvious.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: One of the animated characters is a goth girl with purple hair.
  • Word-Salad Humor:
    • "The bear gave birth to a duck" from the Danish course.
    • "The green bears are invisible" from the German course.
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