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Duolingo vs. Busuu: Which is better?

Duolingo sucks? Busuu is too difficult? What’s the truth about the two platforms and which one is best for me?


While Duolingo has five times the user base than Busuu with an insane total of 500 million user accounts created, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a better app, right?


In this article, we are going to go over the pros and cons of each language-learning app, and by the end of the article, you’ll certainly know which one is best for your circumstances.


Let’s dive deep and find out how you can learn a language the quickest so that as soon as possible you’re speaking with natives and new opportunities start entering your life.


picture of two people getting the opportunity to speak on stage

Summary: Duolingo vs. Busuu (Which is better?)

Busuu is the better language learning app for many reasons, but the score that I give for each app came very close with Duolingo at 3.1/5 and Busuu at 3.6/5.


Some of the reasons Busuu ended up beating Duolingo are:

  • Duolingo shows many useless sentences and unnecessary words

  • Duolingo only has computer-generated voices and no audio from native speakers

  • Busuu gets you ready to take real CEFR exams and provides a path to getting certified

  • Busuu gives important vocab, grammar, and cultural tips to help the learner


While Duolingo & Busuu both have their pros and cons which are mentioned in this article, Busuu comes out on top as a more reliable, and advanced form of study.


Want to know how we came to this conclusion? Let’s read the full article and go over it together!


picture that says "Busuu vs. Duolingo"


What Must One Do To Learn A Language?

When we start a language learning journey, we usually don’t know exactly what to do to get fluent in our target language.


The truth is that it’s probably simpler than you think. It doesn’t matter if you use an app, more traditional methods, or many of the passive methods mentioned here on the Acquire The Language Blog.


No matter what our approach is, we need to get a little bit of the following as often as possible.

  • Listening Practice - Hearing audio clips, watching videos, listening to music

  • Reading Practice - Reading stories, subtitles, lyrics

  • Speaking Practice - Having conversations, reading out loud, imitating native speakers

  • Writing Practice - Writing a journal, jotting down phrases, typing answers on a learning app


The methods we use don’t make a huge difference as long as we get to practice with all of these individual skills. You may ask yourself, "if I can read in my target language, how could I not speak it?"


The truth is, there are language interpreters who can understand at a native level but can’t hold a conversation. Why? Because they didn’t learn the other skills in the language.


Now let’s jump into the next section, where we’ll talk about each of these skills and how Busuu and Duolingo help us learn them.



Listening Practice - Duolingo vs. Busuu

When it comes to listening practice, both apps provide sufficient listening time to greatly help our ability to comprehend the language.


However, Busuu is the only one out of the two to integrate real native speakers' voices including audio clips, mini-stories, and videos. Let’s get a bit more specific and see how they both score on their listening exercises.



Duolingo Listening Practice

Duolingo provides us with constant tiny sentences and lets us hear them from a computer-generated voice.


Screen shot of a listening excersise on duolingo

Considering that the voices do pronounce the words correctly, they work pretty well for teaching us “perfect” pronunciation.


However, we must hear native speakers to understand native speakers, so Duolingo loses some points for teaching us only to understand the clearest (and unrealistic) version of the language.


Duolingo Listening Practice Score: 3/5



Busuu Listening Practice

While Busuu does use computer-generated voices, they also show us many videos and audio clips of actual native speakers. For this reason, Busuu won the listening practice competition.


A screenshot of what a listening practice question looks like on Busuu

Not only does Busuu give us native pronunciation of words and phrases, it also provides us with videos of native speakers explaining different topics, which makes for perfect listening practice.


Busuu Listening Practice Score: 4/5



Reading Practice - Duolingo vs. Busuu

Ouuf, Duolingo is going to take a hit to its score in this section. Unfortunately, Duo is well known for showing off ridiculous sentences that are hardly beneficial, and over-repeated at best.


In this section, we’ll compare the Duolingo and Busuu course’s sentence choices and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Let’s jump into it!



Duolingo Reading Practice

Duolingo gives us constant reading practice by showing us all of the questions in written form. This is super beneficial but unfortunately, the sentences are generally super basic.


screenshot of a reading excersise on Duolingo

Here are some examples of what Duolingo phrases look like for someone who has spent about 15 hours in the course:


Duo Reading Phrases You’ll Read With An A2 Level

  • They are happy.

  • They are funny.

  • They are intelligent


Duolingo Reading Practice Score: 2.5/5



Busuu Reading Practice

Busuu does an incredible job of giving us important sentences with more complex structures so that people who pick things up quickly don’t have to waste time seeing tiny sentences.


For those who want serious reading material with support to understand it, Busuu smashed Duolingo.


screenshot of a busuu reading excersise

Here are some examples of how Duolingo phrases look like for someone who has spent about 15 hours in the course:


Busuu Phrases You’ll Read With An A2 Level

  • What time do you get off work?

  • I am going to retire next year.

  • I have plenty of time to travel now that I have retired.


Busuu Reading Practice Score: 4/5



Speaking Practice - Duolingo vs. Busuu

Oh nooo… Busuu is really screwing things up in this section, you know how in Duolingo you sometimes are asked to say something and it tells you if you pronounced it correctly?


Yeah, that doesn’t exist in Busuu… And it gets worse, read this section to find out. Duolingo takes the cake when it comes to speaking practice!



Duolingo Speaking Practice

Now we're getting to Duolingo's territory! Unlike Busuu, Duolingo has voice recognition software built in so that you can do verbal practice in almost every lesson.


Although the sentences are simple and low quality, I think to some degree imitating well-pronounced phrases is important and worth the time.


Duolingo Speaking Practice Score: 4/5



Busuu Speaking Practice

Unfortunately, I don’t have much good to say about Busuu’s open-ended questions which provide us with speaking practice. For those who don’t know,


Busuu will give you a lesson - for example on “How to talk about your hobbies”, thereafter it will ask you an open-ended question like “Record yourself explaining your favorite hobbies.”


After you record your audio clip it gets sent out to the community so that native speakers can correct you or let you know that you pronounced and expressed yourself well.


For me, this seems like a bit too much pressure for a beginner (especially), and it’s highly debated as to whether this is even beneficial.


Busuu Speaking Practice Score: 2.5/5



Writing Practice - Duolingo vs. Busuu

That last section about the speaking practice got me nervous, but luckily our friends at Busuu took care of the writing practice.


With incredible sentences and vocabulary to learn, Busuu triumphs its owly competition!



Duolingo Writing Practice

The writing practice for Duolingo is quite similar to that of Busuu, the only difference of course, is the lower-quality sentences that you write with Duolingo.


We certainly won't forget how to write sentences like “I have no oranges”, however, many complex words and sentences will be far and few in between.


Duolingo Writing Practice Score: 2.5/5



Busuu Writing Practice

Busuu’s writing practice proves extremely useful as they teach us important verbs, nouns, and conjugations and they make sure we can write them correctly.


screenshot of a busuu writing practice lesson

This is especially important for a language like French, where the pronunciation and written form are not easily assumed (Example - Jouaient | Pronounced as “Jué”).


Busuu Writing Practice Score: 4/5



Extra Functions Of Duolingo & Busuu

Before we look over the costs of their premium plans, in this section we’ll go over the miscellaneous ways that Duolingo and Busuu bring unique value to the user.



What Does Duolingo Do That Busuu Doesn’t?

Duolingo brings unique value to its users with a method of speaking practice that uses voice recognition to ensure us all that we are pronouncing words and phrases correctly.


It also provides us with a fully gamified experience, including a competitive language learning community to battle against to rise in the leaderboard rankings while learning our target language.


Lastly, Duo also provides simple stories every once and a while that we can use to acquire words in a greater context.


picture of two diamons and a title that says "exclusives with duolingo"


Speaking Practice With Duolingo’s Voice Recognition

As mentioned above, this is a huge benefit for those who would like to practice speaking in a comfortable environment as soon as possible.


Duolingo allows us to practice our pronunciation with a computer, which breaks down the barrier to entry in a simplistic yet enjoyable way.



Gamified Community

While both have a community section, the Duolingo community seems to do a better job at making this community a competitive and enjoyable one.


When my brother and I used to do the Spanish course together, it was like we were always comparing our weekly progress and trying to rank higher on the weekly leaderboard.


screenshot of the duolingo leaderboard


Simple Stories

Duolingo provides us with simple stories that implement the vocabulary that it has taught us throughout the last lessons.


Even after quitting Duolingo due to its drawn-out approach, I still came back to read the stories.


Unfortunately, we can no longer do this, and to unlock new stories we have to continue working on the course where we might get one or two stories a week - which just isn’t enough.



What Does Busuu Do That Duolingo Doesn’t?

Busuu is full of surprises including that they are partnered with The McGraw-Hill Foundation, allowing them to issue valid certificates for the level of a learner.


They also provide us with many comprehensible input videos to practice comprehension skills with native speakers and acquire more natural accents than the Duolingo computer-generated voices.


We also get a more serious community that is less focused on games, and more focused on supporting each other to improve and express ourselves better in our target language.


Those benefits and more will be discussed in this section!


picture of two diamons and a title that says "Exclusives with busuu"


Busuu Certificates Awarded By The McGraw-Hill Foundation

Busuu certainly takes a more academic approach in their way of teaching a language, this means more grammar explanations, more reading, listening, and in-depth tips.


This of course leads the learner to have a more rounded and complete grasp of the language.


Once you reach the next level in the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for languages) you can get certified in the last level you completed.


These certificates are awarded by the McGraw-Hill Foundation and are considered valid and worthy of recognition by real companies around the world.



Comprehensible Input Videos

Busuu also includes comprehensible input videos about various subjects. For example, I was shown a video of a native French speaker explaining how to make Parisian Flan.


The way that Busuu goes about these lessons is brilliant.


First, they teach you the grammar and vocabulary you need to understand the video, then they show a transcript of the video for you to read, and lastly, you get to hear it from a native speaker.


This method helps us to better comprehend vocabulary and phrases coming from the lips of native speakers when we listen to more advanced content or speak with natives in person.



Little Grammar Lessons

Busuu gives grammar lessons quite often, personally, I would have thought of this as not such a desirable thing, but they do it in such a way that it’s not boring, and you use the info immediately.


Right after giving an explanation of a piece of grammar, they will show you so many of its uses in context that it will be hard to forget what you learned.


For example the other day Busuu taught me the Imperfect Conjugation in French, and after one day of studying it, I felt very confident in my ability to identify and use it.


screenshot of a practice grammar question that busuu gave me


Serious Community Of Learners

The Busuu community, while not as competitive, is extremely supportive and serious about learning. When you send in an answer to get reviewed by the community, a native will actually help you out.


Of course, this means that you should give back every once in a while and help another out, but they make it super easy and quick to accomplish this.



Read Life Sentences

Duolingo is famous for showing ridiculous sentences, I have seen Instagram pages that are dedicated to showing and joking about these ridiculous phrases. However, Busuu isn't like this.


The sentences shown usually sound very natural and if you become fluent in your target language, you will probably end up using them all many times.



Prices & Benefits For Duolingo & Busuu Premium

Unfortunately, Duolingo only has one flat rate that you pay monthly. Busuu on the other hand has three different pricing plans so that you can get the price down to ⅓ of the Duolingo price if you want to continue using Busuu to improve in your target language.


Let’s take a look at the benefits and pricing of both Busuu's Premium Plan and the Duolingo Plus Plan.


it says "Busuu VS Duolingo" and has a price symbol


Busuu Premium Plan

The benefits of Busuu premium are the following:

  • Full access to the whole course (Nice, but not necessary)

  • No ads (Really nice to avoid those 15-second ads every lesson)

  • A spaced repetition system to keep learned vocab fresh

  • Premium lessons that are only for subscribers

  • Busuu certificates to prove your level


Busuu Premium Prices

$13.95/Month (For 1 Month)

$8.45/Month (For 6 Months)

$2.78/Month (For 1 Year)



Duolingo Super Plan

The Duolingo Super Plan doesn’t really provide much value, to be honest, what it does include is:

  • No more ads

  • Unlimited hearts (mistakes)

  • Mistake reviews (to review what has challenged you)

  • Unlimited attempts at the “legendary reviews”


Duolingo Super Plan Prices

$6.99 (Per Month)



So Who Wins? Busuu vs. Duolingo (Score)

So after having reviewed both apps based on their ability to teach us how to read, write, listen, and speak - we have seen that both apps have their strengths and weaknesses. The average of all of the scores is…



Final Scores

  • Duolingo - 3.1/5

  • Busuu - 3.6/5


a picture that says "Busuu Vs Duolingo" with the score that I gave each of them next to their names


Conclusion: Duolingo vs. Busuu

Due to the (more) useful and advanced vocabulary, sentences, and grammar explanations as well as the ability to hear native speakers, Busuu wins the Duolingo vs. Busuu competition.


While both apps can help, Busuu is a far better course for serious learners who dream of one day being fluent.


On the other hand, Duolingo probably is a bit more fun on average, and it does a better job of creating a competitive and enjoyable environment to learn a language.



FAQ

people raising their hand to ask a question

Is Duolingo better than Busuu?

Duolingo for most situations is less helpful than Busuu. Whereas Duolingo doesn't let you hear native speakers, get profound reading practice, or learn important vocabulary first, Busuu prioritizes helping language learners in all of these areas.


What are the disadvantages of Busuu?

Busuu is an intense language learning app that moves at a fast pace, which might only be fit for more serious learners. It also lacks stories, and truly comfortable speaking practice opportunities.


Duolingo vs. Busuu Cost

Duolingo has a flat rate of $6.99 per month, while Busuu’s monthly rate is about double that ($13.99), if you buy the year-long subscription, the price for Busuu drops to $2.78 per month.


Is Busuu free?

Busuu is a free language learning app, however, to use it for free you are required to watch 15-second ads before every lesson. You can also pay for Busuu Premium which will take those ads away and give you many other benefits.


Is Busuu reliable?

Busuu is the most reliable language-learning app for many learners. Like any other app, it cannot teach you a language on its own. However, it can be used as an extremely important source of lessons along with your other study methods.


What are Busuu Certificates?

Busuu certificates are CEFR certifications (Common European Framework of Reference for languages) that are awarded through Busuu by the McGraw-Hill Foundation and they are valid internationally due to the standards they follow. These certificates can show future employers (for example) that you have a certain CEFR level in a foreign language.


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