The Complete Duolingo Russian Review – All You Need to Know

You’ve been interested in learning Russian and you are tired of traditional sit-down classes and private tutors. So you started searching for simpler ways to learn Russian. Duolingo attracts your attention. It claims to be the best way to learn a language in the world. It’s many people’s first stop to get around a language and you might even know someone using it right now.

But for a language as complicated as Russian, how does Duolingo handle it? Is Duolingo Russian a good choice? What else do you need to acquire Russian? Read this Duolingo Russian Review and learn what Duolingo Russian offers, its pros and cons, alternative choices, and get on the right track of Russian learning from Day 1!

What Does Duolingo Russian Include

Duolingo Russian course (beginner level) includes 6500+ words and 8400+ sentences. It’s aimed at helping you build basic conversation skills, supplement school classes, or prepare for business-level communication.

You can easily sign up for a free Duolingo account and get started right away. Before entering the main lessons, you’ll answer a few questions (why you want to learn Russian, what type of learners you are), and complete a 5-min placement test to see where your level is. 

Then you’ll enter the main course – a 4-unit lesson tree that comprises about 100 short lessons in different themes. They are short, gamified, and interactive. In terms of content, each lesson is designed in a way to help you build comprehensive reading, writing, listening, and reading skills. 

Apart from the lessons, Duolingo also has a huge community, where you can easily interact with other Russian learners and share thoughts. You can also join the leaderboard others to make learning more competitive and fun.

Pros of Duolingo Russian

It’s completely free (with ads)

Talking about Duolingo’s advantages, most people would think it’s for free. With the slogan “Learn a language for free, forever”, Duolingo makes language learning available to the majority and quickly became the most popular language learning app in the world.

Even though there are plenty of apps in the market right now and some of them probably teach better (like Babbel and LingoDeer), Duolingo remains one of the very few that doesn’t require purchasing to get full access.

So if you are unsure about whether you’ll learn Russian seriously and don’t want to spend 15 bucks a month on an unknown program, then Duolingo is a great starting point. You will quickly get a feeling for the Russian language, its unique pronunciation, the Cyrillic script, basic sentence structures, spelling rules, etc. The app will give you an overall feeling of how Russian learning feels like and get you confident in learning more. After a month or so, you can then decide if learning Russian is something you wish to do. And the best part is that this whole process with Duolingo costs you nothing but 10 minutes a day.


It’s encouraging and interactive

Another great thing about Duolingo is how interactive and encouraging it is. Within each lesson, there are animated characters that cheer you on whenever you give a correct answer. If you answer correctly 5 times in a row, the mascot owl will fly on the screen and say “Hey, you are good at this”, or “You’ll be speaking Russian in no time”. After you successfully finish a lesson, you’ll also get a huge confidence boost. This kind of positive psychology gives you a sense of reward and motivates you to achieve more.

Duolingo Russian lesson: translate sentences              cute characters in Duolingo Russian              Duolingo Rssian is rewarding

Duolingo is also designed in a way that encourages you to learn regularly. The combination of a stimulating day streak and frequent daily reminders helps you overcome laziness and just get things done. Every time you keep a day streak, you are rewarded with more points. Once you achieve a streak of about 15 days, you don’t want to see that number trickle down to zero again. This way, you are motivated to open the app and learn consistently, which is crucial to successful learning.

It’s fun and gamified

Learning Russian may seem like a daunting task at first sight, but with Duolingo, it’s easy and fun.

Duolingo does very well in keeping everything simplified, especially for relatively difficult languages like Russian. Its convenience and gamified experience set it apart from traditional ways of language learning like using word lists and completing translation tasks. By incorporating game concepts like points, levels, leaderboard, and streaks, Duolingo successfully makes Russian learning an enjoyable experience. You’ll like its lessons, and learn even more because of that!

Cons of Duolingo Russian

Despite being a free, interactive, and fun app to learn Russian, there are also disadvantages that make it not that an ideal choice for everyone.

Poor teaching of alphabet and typing

The unfamiliar Cyrillic alphabet is probably the biggest barrier that holds Russian beginners from moving on. You’d expect a language app like Duolingo to teach you the basics like the alphabet, pronunciation rules, and strokes. But Duolingo doesn’t do well in this respect. It just hopped into some phrases and vocabulary, ignoring the alphabet completely. While this might be less of an issue for learners of Roman languages like Spanish and French, it’s quite detrimental for Russian learners.

Another thing that troubles me is Duolingo doesn’t have a built-in Cyrillic keyboard. Typing is probably one of the most important language skills in the information age, even more so than writing. However, the fact that I can’t type in Russian makes it really inconvenient. Because the Cyrillic keyboard looks very different from the English one, it’s necessary to dedicate a considerable amount of time to it prior to using Duolingo. For example, read this practical guide to learning the Russian alphabet and you’ll be all set with Russian alphabet and typing!

Lacking logic and explanations

To me, Duolingo is more like a game rather than a serious language learning tool. Even though it might be fun and handy at the beginning, as you dig deeper into it, you’ll find so many places where it lacks logic and comes short in explaining underlying reasons.

Duolingo seems to expect you to figure out the rules and logic behind the Russian language like the way native speakers did when they were a kid. However, it fails to provide a similar language learning environment. For instance, the audio in the Russian lessons sounds quite unnatural and botlike, which we’ll cover in the following part.

an awkward sentence from Duolingo Russian lesson

Duolingo’s way of teaching is through error and correction. You fail again, again, and again to finally summarize some complicated grammar rules, which could have been provided for you all along by a more comprehensive language tool. So it’s highly recommended to find another tool, especially one that is strong in grammar, to supplement your learning.

Unnatural audio and limited materials

So far, the worst part of the Duolingo Russian course, in my opinion, is the audio quality. The male voice seems to be alright but the female audio is unnatural. For beginner Russian learners, the effect can be detrimental because you need to develop good pronunciation and listening skills the most. And exposing your ears to what native speakers say, not what robots say, is a must.

Despite being a fun and easy tool to use, Duolingo actually offers very limited learning materials. The app started by using free translation materials from language learners and it’s hard to say if their current database is any different from the past. So if you wish to learn Russian seriously, you’ll soon need to look for a more professional learning tool other than Duolingo.

Duolingo is constantly updating its courses and I hope these issues can be solved in the near future!

What else to use other than Duolingo Russian

So if you wish to give Duolingo a try to get a grasp on Russian in the beginning stages, go ahead as it won’t cost you anything and boost your confidence. But for serious learners, you need a variety of resources to get fluent in Russian. Check out these alternative or supplementary resources we’ve put together for you:

Best Alternative to Duolingo – LingoDeer

LingoDeer App icon

For those who enjoyed Duoling’s bite-sized fun lessons, LingoDeer is the best alternative. It’s an all-in-one language learning app that doesn’t require supplementary resources for beginners. Instead of using translation materials, LingoDeer’s courses are professionally curated to cover speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills all at once

At first sight, LingoDeer may look a lot like Duolingo. It borrowed many ideas from Duolingo like gamified lessons, leaderboard, and xp. But the similarity stops there. As you dig deeper, you’ll see LingoDeer has a lot more features that make it a comprehensive language learning tool, rather than just a game. LingoDeer uses native-speaker audio with customizable speed. It covers key grammatical points in each lesson so you don’t need to figure it all out all by yourself. It also includes AI-assisted speaking practices and applies speech recognition technology to help you master the correct pronunciation right from the beginning.

Best Speaking Supplement – HelloTalk

HelloTalk app icon

If you are a more social type of person or prefer learning Russian by putting it into practice, then HelloTalk is a great place for you to find native speakers and practice communication skills!

HelloTalk is a language exchange program that supplements many other resources’ biggest shortcoming – little access to native speakers. You must have heard the importance of communicating with native speakers in your target language, especially in the early stages of language learning. With HelloTalk, you can find Russian native speakers who wish to learn your native language and exchange! But be careful not to get distracted and end up using too much English.

Best Russian YouTube Channels to Watch

YouTube is also a great treasure land for language learners. It provides so many engaging and fun videos to learn Russian.

There are immersive learning channels created by native Russian speakers. For example, Russian with Dasha is an educational YouTuber focused on culture and daily life in Russia, while Maria Petrova teaches Russian from the very basics in Russian.

Once you know some vocabulary and daily expressions, check out Moscow Streets, a channel that does street interviews with Russian natives in Moscow. You can also learn some daily vocabulary, topics, and get a sense of what real life in Moscow feels like.

Explore more on your own interests!

Commonly Asked Questions about Duolingo Russian

>Who is Duolingo Russian for?

I believe everyone who learns a language has their own goals and learning styles. So choosing a resource that fits your style saves you a lot of time in the latter stages. 

Personally, I think Duolingo Russian is a good starting point for beginners to see if they like the language and want to learn more. But its lack of grammar explanations, nonsensical phrases, and poor audio meant it’s probably not the best choice for serious language learners.

>What about Duolingo Stories for Russian learners?

Story is a new feature on Duolingo that targets reading and listening comprehension skills. For English speakers, the feature is not yet available for learning Russian. It’s currently available in: Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, and Japanese.

>How hard would it be to learn Russian using Duolingo?

Russian is a relatively complex language for English native speakers and learning it without a big effort is almost impossible. Is it hard to learn Russian with Duolingo? No. You’ll probably enjoy the learning journey and pick up many useful words and expressions.

Can you learn Russian with Duolingo alone? Probably no. Even though Duolingo provides plenty of vocabulary, grammar, and sentences, you still need to spend some effort learning and practicing with other resources in order to truly grasp the language. Therefore, learning Russian solely on Duolingo is very difficult, or as some may think, nearly impossible.

It’s never too late to start learning a new language, even a difficult one like Russian. The biggest advantage of Duolingo Russian is that it allows you to get started easily for free. It’s great when you have 10 to 20 minutes to kill as you will certainly learn something than wasting that time away. The fact that it’s free and addictive makes it a valid complementary tool to a more comprehensive resource.

However, just like any language, Russian learning takes more than games. There is no shortcut and it requires dedicated time and effort to fully grasp the intricacies and understand the language. Therefore, we’d highly recommend using a more comprehensive tool, like LingoDeer, and expanding your search to more native-curated contents:)

Interested in reading about the best way to learn Russian? Check out our Essential Guide to Learning Russian!


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Claudia Ehrhardt
Claudia Ehrhardt
1 year ago

I totally agree! Just for daily practice I use Mondly (daily exercises are free, lead to weekly and monthly exercises which can be redone as much as you want), Drops and now LingoDeer.
As Duolingo erased the forum and set ‘sentence discussion’ to read-only, I recommend Doume forum to ask questions and communicate with other language lovers.
I also recommend a podcast to train your listening skills. I like Как это по-русски .