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Busuu vs Duolingo
Find out whether the Duolingo or Busuu app is right for you in this detailed language learning review
Duolingo and Busuu are two of the most popular language learning programs in the entire world, with each company having millions of monthly active users. However, when it comes to deciding which app to use in order to learn a new language, people are often torn due to the similarities between these two companies. In this article, we directly compare Busuu and Duolingo by highlighting the main differences between them, so you can better understand which course may be better for your individual needs.
Given this is a somewhat lengthy comparison, we’ve included jump-to links above for quick navigation.
Video Comparison: Busuu vs Duolingo
In the video above, John (from the TPI team) discusses everything you need to know about each of the language apps from Duolingo and Busuu, including coverage of how they specifically compare. For more detail, please continue reading below.
What The Busuu/Duolingo Lessons Are Like
From a high level, the core lessons from both Busuu and Duolingo are fairly similar in terms of length and format. In short, the lessons from both companies take about 5 to 15 minutes to complete, and are made up of a series of short, interactive exercises and quizzes that span reading, writing, listening, and speaking. This includes drills like fill-in-the-blanks, matching pairs, verbal practice, writing sentences, and multiple-choice questions.
Now, you may have noticed above that I stated the lessons are fairly similar, and that’s because there are three major differences. First, the Busuu lessons incorporate video clips of native speakers into their lessons. This is something Duolingo doesn’t do.
The second difference is that Busuu makes grammar rules and principles more of a priority within its coursework than Duolingo. Of all the language apps on the market, Duolingo is about the lightest on grammar.
The third difference is that Busuu utilizes its entire user base to provide feedback on your verbal and written practice exercises. I’ll talk about these three topics in more detail a little later in this comparison.
Pricing & Subscription Options
When it comes to pricing and subscription options, the first thing you should know is that both Duolingo and Busuu actually offer free plans. However, as you might imagine, the free plans are somewhat restricted.
In short, they don’t include all of the features and content that Duolingo and Busuu have to offer, and as a result, most people choose to upgrade.
With Busuu, that would be either their premium plan or premium plus plan. These plans cost anywhere from $3 to $14 per month, depending on whether you sign up for the 1-month, 1-year or 2-year option. On the other hand, Duolingo calls their paid subscription their plus plan as well. This costs $7 per month (or $84 per year).
When comparing the two companies in terms of pricing and trying to find a winner, it sort of depends on what you’re looking for. If you just want to dip your toes in the water and sign up for one or two months, then Duolingo is the more affordable option.
With that said, if you’re serious about learning a new language and want to sign up for a year or longer, then Busuu is technically cheaper. I should add though that Busuu does offer a 14-day money back guarantee if you want to kick the tires on one of their premium plans before fully committing.
Why Choose Busuu Over Duolingo?
Now that we’ve covered lesson format, subscription options and pricing, let’s dive into the main reasons why someone would want to select Busuu over Duolingo to learn a new language.
Lessons Are More Diverse
First and foremost, I really like that Busuu incorporates video clips of native speakers into their lessons (similar to Memrise). This is something that is missing from the Duolingo lessons and ultimately makes the Busuu program more diverse.
I think video adds a whole new dimension to the learning experience. Having the ability to see a fluent speaker and observe their body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture are super important in my opinion. I think it’s these nonverbal cues that really help you pick up your target language faster.
Detailed Grammar Lessons
Next, I appreciate that Busuu makes grammar instruction more of a priority than Duolingo. Their grammar lessons not only occur more frequently within their overall course plan, but in my opinion, Busuu’s grammar lessons are also more detailed than Duolingo’s (similar to Rocket Languages and Babbel).
In fact, about every three to four lessons, Busuu will focus the content solely on an important grammar topic like future tense, comparatives or direct object pronouns. Plus, Busuu weaves in more cultural insights as well. For example, within its Spanish course, Busuu takes the time to explain differences in pronunciation and grammar between Latin America and Spain.
Feedback From Fluent Speakers
I love the feedback system Busuu has integrated into its course. This really helps promote a community-like feel among the millions of Busuu users out there. As you complete lessons, some of your practice exercises (written and verbal) are sent to the Busuu community for feedback.
For example, if you’re learning Italian, you may be presented with a picture of a man cooking pasta. You’ll then record yourself describing what’s happening in the image, and usually within an hour, one to two fluent speakers will respond with feedback regarding your description and pronunciation (it’s pretty awesome).
Busuu really makes it easy to make new friends, and the best part is that you can return the favor by providing feedback for people learning English. It’s just a really supportive ecosystem that Busuu has built.
Accuracy With Translations
Lastly, in my experience, it seems like Busuu is better with using natural sentences and phrases. With Duolingo, this seems to be somewhat of a common complaint. I also noticed a good amount of gripes online regarding Duolingo using incorrect translations as well.
Now, to be fair, some of these complaints may be outdated. It does seem like Duolingo has been trying to improve in this area as of late, but you still do occasionally come across a sentence or translation that sort of leaves you perplexed.
It’s not a huge deal and it doesn’t happen all the time, but it can interrupt your learning process from time to time. The key point here is that Busuu seems to be more consistent and accurate when it comes to using natural sentences and correct translations within its lessons.
Now that you know what Busuu has to offer, let’s turn the tables and discuss the strengths of the Duolingo language program.
Immediate Feedback On Pronunciation
While Busuu relies on its community for pronunciation feedback, Duolingo employs their own speech recognition technology. With Duolingo, as you complete verbal practice exercises, the company’s tech will immediately evaluate your pronunciation and have you repeat certain words, phrases or sentences if you mispronounce them.
That’s really the big advantage here – you receive immediate feedback. By contrast, with Busuu, you typically have to wait 60 to 90 minutes for other users to provide feedback. And even at that, the Busuu feedback can vary based on who’s listening to you.
More Language Choices
Duolingo simply covers more languages than Busuu does. With Busuu, you’re limited to only 12 language options, whereas Duolingo offers courses for over 30 different languages.
Thus, if you’re looking to learn a slightly less popular language like Hindi, Finnish, Danish, Romanian or a number of other choices, Busuu just may not be in the cards for you.
Extra Learning Resources
Lastly, I like that Duolingo offers users plenty of extra resources beyond their standard lessons. Now to be fair, Busuu offers extra resources as well, including access to private tutoring and live group lessons, but these services cost extra.
Duolingo, on the other hand, offers several different resources beyond their core curriculum for free. This includes:
Short stories to sharpen your reading and listening skills;
Forums so you can connect with other learners to discuss tips and tricks, and get answers to questions;
Podcasts for more exposure to your target language; and
A detailed translation dictionary.
Perhaps my favorite resource though is the series of online events where you can connect with other learners face-to-face via Zoom to hone your speaking and pronunciation skills. These are all great, free resources that learners can take advantage of with Duolingo.
Should you choose Busuu or Duolingo to learn a new language? That’s the big question. In the end, after testing each program, I have to give Busuu the edge. I just think Busuu offers the more robust and complete language learning courses from top to bottom.
Yes, Duolingo offers more immediate and consistent pronunciation feedback than Busuu, as well as a few other small benefits, but when you consider the factors that really matter, Busuu takes the cake.
The Busuu lessons are much more comprehensive and diverse in terms of the types of drills and exercises you complete, and the grammar integration is superior. I also think it’s great that you receive real feedback from actual fluent speakers on your written and verbal practice exercises, and overall, I found Busuu to be more consistent when it comes to translations and using natural language within its coursework.
Therefore, considering everything, I think Busuu is clearly the way to go if you’re serious about learning a new language.
After evaluating the courses from both Busuu and Duolingo, our expert team believes Busuu offers the more effective language learning program from top to bottom. Their lessons are ultimately more robust and effective.
How many languages do Busuu and Duolingo cover?
Busuu only offers courses for 12 different languages, whereas Duolingo covers over 30 different languages.
Are Duolingo and Busuu free?
Yes and no. Both companies do offer free plans; however, the features and content of their free versions are somewhat restricted. Therefore, a lot of consumers choose to upgrade to paid plans.
What is the difference between Busuu and Duolingo?
The primary difference between Busuu and Duolingo is lesson format. The Busuu lessons utilize videos of native speakers, place a greater emphasis on grammar and incorporate feedback from real users, whereas the lessons from Duolingo are much more basic.