How to Travel with Duolingo

We looked into how our learners use Duolingo before, during and after travel. Here’s a list of what we found, and some tips for making the most of your international travel with Duolingo:

  • Start early, and set a plan. The more you practice on Duolingo, the greater your language experience will be once you make it to your international destination. While travel is a key motivator for learning a language, we found that users don’t pick up Duolingo until they’re back home. In order to understand the language while you travel, you need to practice beforehand!
  • Practice speaking with our Bots. These virtual language tutors allow you to simulate conversations, just like the ones you’d have while traveling!
  • Review skills while traveling to your destination. Practice on the plane by downloading lessons with Duolingo Plus.
  • Enjoy your trip, and put your language skills to work!

How many users are traveling with Duolingo?

Travel is one of the best ways to put your language skills to the test. According to a survey of language learners across the globe, 15-30% of people are learning a language to make international travel easier and more enjoyable.

We were able to investigate some of these travel habits with our Duolingo users. In the month of June, 12% of our users logged onto Duolingo from multiple countries.

The data clearly indicates that our users are traveling with Duolingo, but this does not explain how they travel with Duolingo. So we set up a survey and interviewed Duolingo users who had traveled internationally in the past two years. From this exploration, we were able to generate a roadmap detailing how users best travel with Duolingo.

Inspired by travel, a little too late. Don't wait until you're home.

"I felt handicapped in Spain because I could only interact a small amount with others. I couldn’t actually do anything because I hadn’t prepared in advance."
-Duolingo Spanish User

Users indicated that the most optimal learning experience occurs before the trip. As Duolingo teaches a comprehensive understanding of the language, it’s important to make your way through as much content as possible in a well-paced manner. In fact, our research team recently found that one month in advance of a trip is the ideal time to start learning the language of your destination.

Although our users would agree that learning in advance is the most effective way to prepare for traveling, our June study indicated a different trend in behavior. By recording the total number of completed sessions leading up to, during, and after their travel dates, we were able to visualize when travelers actually use Duolingo.

Travel Trends

Duolingo use is visually higher in the weeks after a trip compared to the weeks prior. The median rate of usage in the week following a trip is 5 out of 10, while the rate of usage in the week before is only 2 out of 10. This indicates that users are motivated by their travels to better their language abilities, and return home to practice Duolingo more regularly.

However, travelers would gain the most value by learning the language of their destination in advance. This would allow them to learn more of the target language before traveling and improve their communication during foreign language encounters.

Based on our interviews with various users, we developed a list of steps to optimize travelers’ experiences while using Duolingo.

Set a plan far in advance.

"My goal is only 1 new lesson per day. It’s a slow pace, but makes learning less daunting and ensures I’ll have plenty of time to practice - that’s when I really learn the most."
-Duolingo French User

In order to maximize your language proficiency when you travel, you must start learning early. If you complete three to five lessons per day, you can easily complete an entire Duolingo course within two to four months. However, this approximation does not take practice into account, which is an essential part of learning a language. Users should pace themselves with new content, while returning to practice older content in order to keep it fresh in their mind.

Setting both a goal and a plan to reach it will allow you to achieve maximum language proficiency before your trip. If your goal is to complete the entire language course, you can determine the necessary pace with a simple calculation:

Number of lessons per day = Number of lessons in your course / Days until your trip

To calculate how many lessons you need to complete per day ahead of your trip, divide the number of lessons in your language course by the number of days until your trip. If this number of lessons per day comes out too high, then consider reducing your goal from the entire course to just part of the course. As a rule of thumb, starting as early as possible will ensure your pace is achievable. As soon as you know you’re traveling, start learning and stick to it each day!

Practice language conversation with our Bots.

Users indicated that the regular Duolingo lessons are excellent for gaining reading comprehension and translational proficiency. These skills are particularly relevant for orienting oneself and reading off a menu, for example.

However, the ability to effectively converse in a foreign language is essential to traveling, as it allows you to communicate with locals and makes for a more enjoyable trip. Duolingo’s Bots give users the perfect opportunity to practice topical and practical vocabulary within a conversational setting. Whether you talk to Robert at his new restaurant or Maya at her art studio, Bots will allow travelers to simulate speaking with locals.

A user can reply to the Bots with free-form text, and guided hints are available when they need assistance. Recently, we added speech recognition to the Bots, allowing users to input responses by speaking in a foreign language.

Chatbot Listing Chatbot Script

Use your commute wisely.

"Trains and planes provided excellent times to practice Duolingo, since I had a lot of downtime. However, I didn’t have a way to practice when I lost internet connection."
-Duolingo Swedish User

While before a trip is the best time to learn new skills, the hours while traveling to your destination give ample time to solidify what you’ve learned. Depending on your travel habits and route, you’re likely to have at least a couple of hours to practice on Duolingo.

Users reported that connectivity while traveling internationally is a routine problem. International cell phone plans are expensive, and users consistently could not get a connection while flying to their destinations.

Luckily, Duolingo Plus, our subscription option, allows users to download lessons for offline use. You can download lessons and practice sessions in advance to learn without an internet connection. Your progress is uploaded once you go back online, so you can keep your precious streak!

Enjoy your trip!

Users indicated that they only use Duolingo in small amounts while at their destination. Our initial study backed this notion: Duolingo usage was slightly lower during self-reported travel time compared to the week prior to travel.

Traveling is the time to relax and take advantage of your Duolingo language skills. Actively practice your language, and go out of your way to speak with locals. As one user reflects:

"Even though people could recognize my German accent, I still used my Swedish in Stockholm. When I ordered my coffee in Swedish, the waitress was so excited to see a tourist who had actually learned her language, and gave me the cup for free!"
-Duolingo Swedish User

At Duolingo, we’re constantly trying to improve the Duolingo product for our users. We’ve learned a lot from studying the learning habits of travelers, and are continuing to investigate how to best cater to their needs. Be on the lookout for some new features tailored specifically for travel!