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Is Duolingo Good for Korean? (Read First!)

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Duolingo is a very famous app for smart devices. It’s a way for people to teach themselves a huge array of languages. 

There’s Italian, Chinese, Spanish, French, and German, along with Russian, Japanese, and even Navajo Native American. 

However, they also give lessons for learning Korean.

But is Duolingo good for Korean? It is good enough for beginners and as a refresher for those who know some Korean. But, for advanced speakers or those who wish to undergo deep conversational Korean, you will have to use Duolingo in tandem with another educational feature.

Let’s dive deeper.

About Duolingo & Its Platform

Duolingo is a language-learning app for most smart devices like phones and tablets. 

They have about 300 million users and offer over 30 different tongues. 

It is by far the most popular and largest platform for learning new languages, with a global user base.

Part of its attraction is that it’s 100% free to use with optional paid features. It has taught people all over the world to speak new words outside their own language. 

But, as with many things, there are some shortcomings to Duolingo, especially in regards to its presentation of Korean.

Ways Duolingo is Great for Learning Korean

The way Duolingo teaches people to speak new languages is in a very implicit way, using patterns to help them learn subconsciously. 

It also uses the process of learning by example, often referred to as inductive. 

Both inductive and implicit ways of learning Korean are how children begin understanding the language.

Duolingo’s Gaming-Like Experience

The video game-like experience users get makes learning Korean very interactive. 

This is excellent for retaining information, which gives it a more exciting edge. 

It’s slightly addictive to play, so it ensures people come back wanting to learn more.

The awards and badges users earn along with the ability to connect to social media provides a bit of a competitive atmosphere. 

This idea of fun goes further when people can play against family and friends.

Easy Lessons & Vocabulary Building

The lessons are very basic. The first few lessons deal with the Korean alphabet, called Hangul. 

These follow with terminology that includes verbs, phrases and sentences common in daily life. 

These come with listening, speaking and translation exercises too.

For instance, between lessons the owl will have a text message conversation with you. 

This allows you to test and practice the material learned thus far. 

So, Duolingo makes for a fantastic vocabulary builder while learning present, past and future concepts.

The Downsides of Using Duolingo for Korean

While there are many good things about using Duolingo, there are some areas where it falls short.

It therefore doesn’t fully explain the language or put certain words into context. 

There is no specific order necessarily and explanations are rather lacking.

To illustrate, let’s say the app gives you an image of a chicken. It will let you continue to pick an answer until you get it right. 

But there’s no explanation behind the reasoning for getting it right. The course simply moves onto the next section.

Lack of Grammar Rules

Another downside to using Duolingo to learn Korean is the obvious absence of grammar rules. Korean employs very complex grammar and vocabulary. 

So, the exercises are truly the ultimate guessing game. 

While it may be useful for those who are familiar with some Korean, it will leave first-time beginners in the dark.

Limited Vocabulary

Even though it is true that Duolingo can be great for building vocabulary, there are some limitations. 

There are only 3,000 total Korean words taught by Duolingo. 

Certainly, there are far more many words than this in Korean. 

This limited vocabulary set contains only the most common and frequently used ones.

Lack of Honorifics

One very important aspect to the Korean language is the use of honorifics. 

These are very specific speech patterns done in accordance to social and familial respect and formality. 

Younger people who speak to the elderly use an entirely different mode of speech than when they are talking with friends.

Duolingo’s inclusion of honorifics leaves much to desire. While they do include things like “polite” and “formal polite,” it’s random and there are no explanations.

If a foreigner were to use some of this in real life, they would be displaying the utmost disrespect for their elders.

Poor Exposure to Hangul

The same is true for the Korean alphabet, where Duolingo has no explanation for Hangul. 

It doesn’t distinguish consonants from vowels or how the letters merge to become ideas, words and concepts. 

This is an imperative aspect to understanding the Korean language.

Who Should & Shouldn’t Use Duolingo for Korean

So, while Duolingo is excellent for learning Korean, it really depends on the difficulty level of the person learning it.

For those starting to learn Korean and have not had any other education in it, Duolingo will not be of much help. 

Also, students who wish to pass Korea’s TOPIK test should not use Duolingo.

However, for those with a basic understanding of the alphabet and a fundamental familiarity with Korean, it will be hugely beneficial. 

In the case of those who already speak conversational Korean, Duolingo will be a good refresher. 

Anyone with advanced knowledge of the language should look to other means to match their skill.

Regardless of the skill level, anyone who uses Duolingo to learn Korean should supplement the education. 

It’s imperative to find something or someone who will present a more all-encompassing way to understanding it.


While there are many good aspects to using Duolingo for Korean, it’s not the best thing. 

The main takeaway here is that it’s good to use in tandem with other educational methods. 

This may mean finding another app to learn the language and/or finding a teacher/tutor.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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