Language Apps Are Racking Up Subscribers

How language learning apps are building up hundreds of millions of users

To say a single app has over 120 million subscribers or is collecting new subscribers at a rate of 1,300 each hour, you’d automatically think of Netflix or Spotify. That’s a fair assumption, but those figures also belong to DuoLingo and Babbel respectively, the two giants of language apps. Whether you’d like to learn to speak Spanish or brush up on your French, language apps are becoming the go-to for consumers all over the world.

How are they doing this?

How are these apps convincing hundreds of millions of people to sign up to their platform? Well, that depends on the app, itself. Some are letting users in for free. DuoLingo doesn’t charge its users, but instead focuses its efforts on providing a “private tutor experience through technology.”

They understand that maintaining motivation is one of the keys to effectively learn to speak a language, so their differentiator is the gamification of language. They make learning to speak a new language as fun as possible, with points and other incentives for engaging every day. Couple that with the fact that Duolingo is free, then you begin to understand how they’ve amassed well over 120 million users.

Babbel has taken a different approach. They’re a paid language subscription service employing hundreds of teachers to help support its platform. They boast of being the number one selling language app in the world. Babbel’s value is having language experts design their lessons and native speakers voicing them. They also claim that speech recognition technology will help with proper pronunciation.

Other notable players include Tandem. They add a human element to its platform by letting users connect over video chat. Each person teaches the other their “mother tongue.” With over 3 million users in its community, it’s become fairly popular. It’s certainly a different kind of commitment, as you’re speaking with a real person and not just jumping into a lesson at your leisure. But that’s also Tandem’s biggest advantage, the person to person interaction that is absent from most other language learning platforms.

What’s Next

Both DuoLingo and Babbel are thinking about scale. Because there hasn’t been a defined model, the future for both are still up in the air. Babbel is already branching off into the language travel marketplace. It’s something that’s big in Europe and not so popular in North America, but they’ve already started on a platform in this space.

For DuoLingo, although their English proficiency test is accepted in over 90 US colleges, they’re not trying to replace any kind of educational institution. They’re more focused on users who are looking to improve or learn a new language.  

If you’ve never tried any of these language learning apps, you should. Babbel usually offers a free trial period and Duolingo is also free. Butter can help you manage both of these apps, plus any other you think can help you learn to speak a new language.