I travel a lot internationally, and I’ve been REALLY embarrassed to (often) be the only person in the room who speaks one language. Okay, technically I can speak (yes, that’s the correct word) American Sign Language, but ASL doesn’t come in handy very much outside of the USA.
And, as I’ve been working steadily away on the “French Tree” on Duolingo, I’ve tried to find resources from the company on how long it takes to finish a language.
I tried googling a variety of search terms, which led to various Quora and Reddit search results – but nothing from Duolingo?
- “How many hours to finish a language on Duolingo?”
- “How long to complete a language tree on Duolingo?”
- “How many minutes a day will it take to finish a lnaguage on Duolingo?”
But, I realized! I have a dang engineering degree! I can figure out how long it will take to finish a language on Duolingo. I did some back of envelope calculations, and WOW did it open my eyes to how much time I need to dedicate a day to learning a new language.
Below, I’ve shared my math, as well as three use cases, on how long it takes to finish a language on Duolingo.
First Task: Defining Terms
Okay, SO. Each language is called a “Tree” on Duolingo. You can work on different “Trees” or languages at the same time.
Each tree is sectioned into “checkpoints.” (French has 8 checkpoints.)
Each checkpoint has 5-20 modules (French has 155 modules), and each of those modules has LEVELS, with a different number of Lessons. Each lesson has ~12 questions per level.
- Level 0: 5 Lessons
- Level 1: 10 Lessons
- Level 2: 15 Lessons
- Level 3: 20 Lessons
- Level 4: 25 Lessons
That’s a total of 75 lessons per module.
How Many Minutes Does 1 Lesson Take to Complete?
To calculate how long it takes to finish a language on Duolingo, one needs to know how long it takes to finish 1 lesson.
Using my handy timer on my iPhone, I timed how long it took to complete 20 different lessons. After taking an average, I found it takes approximately 2 minutes to finish a lesson on Duolingo. That’s going at a conscientious pace, and repeating all the sentences aloud as one goes along.
The goal isn’t to zoom through a language as fast as possible – the goal is to LEARN.
How Long Does 1 Module Take to Complete?
So, at two minutes per lesson, and 75 lessons per module, that’s 150 minutes per module, or 2.5 hours.
How Many Hours Does 1 Language Take to Complete on Duolingo?
Sooooo, on Duolingo French there’s 155 modules. At 2.5 hours per module, that’s 387.5 hours to complete one language.
<< TIRE SCREECHING SOUND>>
Here’s the thing tho– all of these time estimates make a KEY ASSUMPTION. I’m assuming that you keep your hearts or “lives” and can continue doing lessons.
Let me explain. On Duolingo, “Hearts” are like “lives” in a video game. On Duolingo when you run out of hearts (lives) you have to go practice to earn hearts. Your practice helps you learn the language, but you don’t advance in levels.
You’re learning, but the time spent practicing doesn’t count towards your progress.
i’ve been sprinkling assumptions throughout this post, so let’s share them all here:
- One doesn’t need to use the practice feature to earn more “hearts” or lives
- One isn’t spending time watching ads, ie you’re using Premium. (Further on down I share how much time is spent getting through ads if one completes a language with ads enabled)
- The language has 155 modules
- You don’t test out of levels
Okay, now that I’ve shared my laundry list of assumptions – let’s discuss specific use cases:
Use Case 1: 15 Minutes a Day
When signing up for Duolingo, you set a daily goal. You can choose between 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes a day. Most of the Duolingo marketing touts “Spending 15 minutes a day learning a new language.”
So, if you have 387.5 hours of material to get through – and you practice for 15 minutes a day – that’s 1,550 days.
(387.5 hours is 23,250 minutes. Divide that by 15 minutes per day, and you get 1,550 days to finish a language.)
NO WONDER there’s so many memes about Duolingo taking forever!!!! 1,550 days is 4.2 YEARS.
Don’t get me wrong – 15 minutes a day is better than nothing, but it’s gonna take a long ass time for you to finish a language at this pace!
Here’s a breakdown of how long it would take to finish a language, based on the goal settings:
- 5 Minutes a Day: 4,650 days // 12.7 years
- 10 Minutes a Day: 2,325 days // 6.4 years
- 15 Minutes a Day: 1,550 days // 4.2 years
- 20 Minutes a Day: 1,163 days // 3.2 Years
Use Case 2: How Many Minutes a Day Does It Take to Finish a Language in 6 Months?
If you want to finish a language in 6 months, that means you’ve got 387.5 hours of material to go through. (You can test out of levels to speed things along, but we’re keeping things simple for this thought experiment!)
To finish a language tree on Duolingo in 6 months, you will need to spend a minimum of 130 minutes per day on Duolingo, for a full 180 days. That’s 2 hours and ten minutes.
Use Case 3: How Many Minutes a Day to Finish a Language in 1 Year?
This last one is the easiest, because we’re doubling the time we had in Use Case 2. To finish a Duolingo language in one year, you’d have to spend 60 minutes per day on the app.
Keep in mind we’re assuming you don’t have to practice to earn more hearts (lives), AND that you’re not testing out of levels.
Is Duolingo Premium Worth It?
Duolingo premium is about $13 USD per month, and you get some fun features. But most important is that you don’t spend time on ads. If you’re committed to practicing daily – and finishing a language in under 4 years – you’ll want to get rid of the ads. Spend your practice time practicing, not waiting for an ad to load.
Tips to Get The Most Out of Duolingo
Learning a new language is all about consistency, which is why gamification works so well. To get the most out of Duolingo, and also complete the dang language tree, I recommend:
- Adding friends on the app. Post your username on social media and let your competitiveness kick in
- Set a time of day you always open Duolingo. I usually practice Duolingo throughout the day, but I always practice before I go to bed. Create a “trigger” (for me, putting on pajamas) that reminds you to open the app.
- Get Premium. Life is too short for ads.
- Remind yourself *why* you’re learning the language. Are you traveling somewhere fun? Want to be able to communicate with clients in their language? What’s your motivation in learning a new language?
- Turn on notification reminders
- Leave behind an “all or nothing” attitude. You may miss a day or a week – but all is not lost! If you have a moment of, “Oh crap, I haven’t done Duolingo since Tuesday!” then open the app RIGHT THEN and do it.
Going the Extra Mile – Tools
Okay, so if you want to get some extra credit, I would recommend that you practice Duolingo with a small whiteboard nearby!
Here’s the one I use, it’s less than $10!
Practicing writing words by hand engages your brain differently, and so I like to have a whiteboard around to practice vocabulary. (Also especially helpful if you’re learning a language like Chinese, and need to practice characters.)
Time Spent Watching Ads
For a language tree with 155 modules, and 75 lessons each, that’s a total of 11,625 lessons. A 5-second ad plays after each lesson.
You’ll spend 58,125 seconds getting through Duolingo ads. That’s 968.75 minutes, or 16.1 hours.
Question: How Long Did it Take YOU to Finish Duolingo?
This blog post made quite a few mathematical assumptions. I’m really interested to learn how long it took other folks to finish an entire language on Duolingo, as well as what year you finished it. (They’re always tweaking the courses!)
Please share in the comments your experience + tips!
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