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How To Build An App Like Duolingo

Duolingo came on the scene in 2011 operating as a teach and translate language learning app. It has since transformed into a $700+ million business, and become the first EdTech app to top $140 Million in annual revenue.   

Pretty good numbers, for a language learning app that still doesn’t charge its users a penny, and went several long years without any revenue. 

2021 is a good time to be investing in EdTech app development. Research shows that the impact of COVID-19 has led to a 335% increase in revenue — but few entrepreneurs know what it takes to build a competitive EdTech platform.

Believe me, we see these all the time when solo founders throw in the towel and start calling agencies. So, with these promising figures and the technology at your disposal, don’t be the person who skipped over AI-powered technology replacing human educators.

This guide breaks down the tech used, components needed to compete, and ballpark how much each part costs. Be sure to check out the competitor analysis at the end to see where your app will fit in the competitive landscape.

What The DuoLingo App Does

Duolingo operates as an augmented reality app embedded with a multilingual chatbot, boasting speech recognition capabilities. This 24/7 virtual language learning assistant provides interactive sessions to hundreds of millions of learners worldwide in close to 40 languages.

These trending technologies play a critical role in everything the Duolingo app does. Equally as impressive, is the machine learning technology embedded in the app, which allows it to also learn from its users while teaching them.

The app achieves this by ensuring it’s content is not just rigorously checked and tested by its AI-based algorithms, but by also seeking verification from its learners. It does this by selecting the answers offered by the majority of users, constantly updating its knowledge base of languages. 

The language and logistics behind the Duolingo app provide an interactive experience to its users where they can translate words, phrases, and sentences to their chosen language of learning, from their native tongue. 

The app isn’t just the driving force behind the DuoLingo platform, as the website is also stacked with its own family of software and algorithms, put in place to provide innovative learning features to the DuoLingo community. 

Can You Build an App Like Duolingo?

So, is it possible to clone the language learning app described by TIME Magazine as ‘holding the secret to the future of education’? Is it realistic to compete with the education app currently boasting a 4.5-star rating from over 10 million users?  

While it is doable, there are important factors to be taken into consideration, most notably tech and budget-related. For example, how do you build a tech stack capable of instantly translating the world’s predominant languages into one another?

Do you have the tech resources to maintain a multilingualism chatbot with machine learning capabilities to not only teach but also learn from its users? This type of voice-recognition technology is still at an early stage and will require the services of experienced developers to incorporate it into your build. 

Let’s not forget about the multiple language requirements. Do you have the access and finances to work with leading language experts? If so, what about the software and algorithms needed for storing and analyzing this complex language data.

This type of immersive learning experience could take the place of traditional forms of education, as AI-powered learning technology has the capabilities to potentially replace human teachers. 

EdTech apps like DuoLingo are learning to utilize these trending technologies to pierce through the education industry like never before. Let’s take a look at what’s needed to bring this type of language learning app to the market.

Language Learning App Features

To build a Duolingo-clone app you will need to overcome specific technical challenges to ensure you have the following core features embedded in your language learning app.

  • User Profiles

This feature is needed for user onboarding and registration and will need to include the option to sign up via Google and social media accounts. This feature will include personal information as well as privacy settings.

  • Language Courses & Levels

These features will be used to test the language level and/or standard of a user, to provide them with suitable courses and goals to hit. It should also include personalization elements allowing users to plan their own unique learning path.

  • Practice Sessions & Revisions

This feature is needed for monitoring and tracking a user’s process & performance. It can include a history of activities, achievements, and punishments, such as the DuoLingo ‘Hearts Feature’. This part of the build should also include speaking & listening exercises, as well as translating options.

  • Gamification + Animation

While gamification is not a requirement, DuoLingo’s gamified approach adds a level of fun to learning and makes the process more stimulating for its users. A language learning app will need sounds effects and animation of some sort to function accordingly.

  • Push Notifications 

As with any app, push notifications help increase conversions and retain users. It is a key feature for any language learning app. Duolingo has made great use of this by using its push notification mechanisms for reminders and tracking through insistent daily commands. It also provides a learning structure that helps prevent users from slacking off. 

  • Social 

Again, not a complete requirement, but there are benefits to having a community of learners interacting with one another via your app. DuoLingo originally had a ‘Club’s feature’ which they then developed into a ‘Leaderboard’ feature. This was aimed at encouraging the Duo community to hold conversations centered around their current standings. Users can also compete with one another by completing courses.

  • Chatbot w/ Voice Recognition 

An absolute necessity for a functioning language learning app is a 24/7 multilingual chatbot embedded with speech recognition capabilities. As mentioned, this is not just for teaching purposes but also for improving the performance of the app via machine learning. 


While a chatbot is one of the trickiest features to integrate, this type of AI-powered technology has unlimited potential in the EdTech industry. Google’s Cloud Natural Language API is a natural language technology developers can use to incorporate this feature into a language learning app.

Tech Stack Behind Language Learning Apps

To successfully build a fully functioning language learning app, you will need an understanding of the different layers of the technology behind such a build.

The tech stack refers to the combination of different technologies built on top of each other flowing up and down the stack.

The following is an overview of the type of tech stack required for a language learning app.

DevelopmentFunctionalityTech Stack
Front-EndDownloading apps
Layout of components
Resides on app’s device
Visual & interactive elements
CSS3, 
Java, JS,
Bootstrap,
Objective-C

Back-End
Storage & analytics
Access data via API
Servers/microservers 
Runs behind the scenes
AngularJS,
React.js, Kotlin,
Scala, Ruby,
JavaScript,
Python, Django
NativeProgramming language
for specific platforms 
Java, Kotlin,
Objective-C,
Swift, Scala, 
UI/UXOnboarding
Voice recognition 
Push notifications
Artificial intelligence
Design + wireframes
Layouts + transitions
Speed + functionality
CSS,
jQuery,
Bootstrap
Database ManagementOn-site data storageCassandra, MongoDB,
MySQL, Postgres, HBase
AnalyticsData analysisApache, IBM,
Spark, Hadoop
Cloud StorageOff-site data storage 
Google Cloud, 
Amazon Web Services
Android AppsAndroid programming languageJava
iOS APPsiOS programming languageSwift

DuoLingo’s Original Tech Stack

Even in 2011, Duolingo was making technological advances by incorporating a type of machine learning to aid in the development of its product. As well as teaching, the app ran tests to determine how quickly users were learning languages, and how they could update their platform to provide a more efficient learning experience. 

From the early days, DuoLingo ran on Amazon Web Services and used SQL and DynamoDB to store data and user vocabularies. The back-end was written in Python, whereas the front-end consisted of backbone.js, jQuery, and Twitter Bootstrap.

Fast forward to 2021 and there have been many new languages and tools added to this build. The following table displays the current tech stack being utilized by the DuoLingo tech team.

Application & DataUtilitiesDevOps Tools
Amzaon S3
Amazon Cloudfront
Google Analytics
Google Tag Manager
New Relic Google Fonts
Javascript & Objective-CAmazon SES WebpackZendesk
Modernizr & CloudFlare GitHub PagesVarnishG Suite
JQuery, Bootstrap & Fastly MixpanelRollbarGmail
Ubuntu, NGINX, MathJaxShopify

Duolingo Website

Behind every fully functioning app is a website actively using many different technologies holding everything together. A website also serves as a base and online presence for customer sign up, marketing, advertising, and more.

The Duolingo website is built on the WordPress management system and is currently using 67 active technologies. Some of these include Apache, LetsEncrypt, HTML5, webpack, Google Analytics, and Google Font API.

The Duolingo website has over 45 million monthly visitors, with 25% of the traffic generated in the United States. This volume of traffic ranks Duolingo’s website at number 1,060 globally.

How Much Does it Cost To Build an App Like DuoLingo?

Now that you know the type of technology and features needed to build a language learning app, let’s look at the potential costs to bring your app idea to life.

If you do not have tech resources at your disposal, hiring a custom software developer is the best approach. This phase of app development is not cheap, and the overall cost is generally determined by a developer’s location, reputation, and hourly rate. 

The following factors will determine what you end up spending here:

  • Number of hours to design UI/UX
  • Number of hours develop app platform
  • Number of hours to develop backend servers 
  • App developers hourly rate

While there are more cost-effective nearshore options available, the average hourly rate for the top U.S. tech hub cities (SF, LA, NYC), is generally between $100 – $199 per hour. The minimum project size requirements for SF and LA tend to start at $10,000, whereas New York City is closer to $50,000.

If you have tech resources at your disposal but need technical expertise and guidance, IT staff augmentation is a better option. There is no shortage of U.S. tech companies utilizing IT staff augmentation to effectively build apps at a lower cost.

The time and money need for every app differ, as it depends on the scope and complexity of the app, as well as the number of developers needed to build it.

But to give you an idea, the following table is a broad example of Rootstrap’s app development approach successfully used by the likes of MasterClass, Google, Tony Robbins, etc.

Project PhaseTasksTimeCost
DiscoveryStory mapping
Market research
User demographic
App idea validation
1-2 weeks$18k-$36k
App Scoping & AnalysisArchitecture
App category
App complexity

1-2 weeks
$18k-$36k
Design & DevelopmentWireframing
Infrastructure 
Data Storage
UI/UX Design
Design assets
12 – 16  weeks $200k-$280k
Deployment & Warranty PeriodBeta-testing
Approval
1-4 weeks$18k-$72k
Post-launch MaintenanceDesign changes
App Updates
Monitoring
Bug fixes
Analysis
TBDTBD

Business Model & Strategy

While the purpose of this guide is to provide a technical overview behind a language learning app, none of this will function without a solid business strategy for your language learning app idea.

Now that you have an idea for the technology behind a language learning app, you will need to put a plan in place to generate a return on your investment from your app idea.

This may not happen overnight which is evident from Duolingo going several years without enjoying any revenue. Unlike the development of an Uber-like app where a freemium service is not an option, monetization is necessary to make a profit when building an app like Duolingo.

Let’s take a look at how you can utilize monetization to generate a profit from your language learning app.

Monetization

There are four proven ways to make money from a language learning app. Let’s take a look at each.

  • Freemium (Free Subscription): Users download the app for free and have the option to upgrade to premium membership. 
  • Paid Subscription: Users avail of paid membership after downloading the app. A free trial is also a popular option. The Duolingo Plus offers a 14-day free trial before adopting a $6.99 monthly charge which allows for offline learning. 
  • In-app Purchases: Duolingo capitalizes on this by selling its virtual currency Lingot. This currency allows users to buy features such as bonus skills and power-ups from the Duolingo shop
  • In-app Advertising: Duolingo uses in-app advertising to promote its paid subscription and available purchase in between classes.

The Competition

While Duolingo currently offers the highest number of languages in the market, it does have some strong competitors, most notably Rosetta Stone. We touched on the importance of market research and knowing what the competition is up to, it’s equally important to know the type of tech stacks they are incorporating into their builds, as this will be behind any new innovative features they provide. 

A good example of this is a new language learning app on the market called LanguageChat. The app combines Google’s Cloud Natural Language API, Microsoft’s Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), to let users produce original content on their topics of interest. 

Mondly is another prime example of a competitor utilizing technology such as virtual reality to stay ahead of the game. Mondly was the first of its kind to produce a language learning VR app, with a built-in chatbot embedded with speech recognition for over thirty different languages.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular language-learning apps on the market.

AppLanguages Tech StackRelease 
UsersPrice
Rosetta30HTML5, Google Analytics, jQuery, LetsEncrypt1992TBDSubscription
Mondly33SPF, iPhone / Mobile Compatible, Viewport Meta, Google Font API, Apache HTTP Server, Adjust, NGINX 201720+  millSubscription
Babbel
14Javascript, Python, Node.js, React, HTML5, MySQL, ES6, TypeScript, Redis, Amazon S3/RDS, Ruby, Firebase, Django, React Native, Redux, Android SDK, Rails, AWS Lambda, Go, Swift, Kotlin, 2007
10+ mill
Subscription
Drops42Ruby & Ruby on Rails, TypeScript, React & React Native, Python, Airflow, PostgreSQL, Redis, ElasticSearch, Amazon Redshift, Docker, Kubernetes.2014
25+ mill
Subscription
LingoDeer10React, CloudFlare, Google Cloud Platform,
Lodash, Zepto, RequireJS
2017
10+ mill
Subscription
LinQ24jQuery, CloudFlare, Django, Google Analytics / Tag Manager, Mixpanel, Optimizely, Crazy Egg, New Relic2008
Freemium
Memrise25Python, Nginx, Django,
Amazon Cloudfront, and Headlebars.js.
2010
35 +mill
Freemium
Byju
 (w/ Disney)

1
jQuery, animate.css, Bootstrap, MySQL, PHP, Apache, Sendgrid, Crazy Egg, 201130+ millSubscription
Busuu12PHP, Java, MySQL, Nginx, PostgreSQL, AngularJS, Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, Amazon Elasticache, Objective-C, Ruby, Symfony, MemCached, Android SDK60+ million100+ millionSubscription

What To Take Away

Since the inception of DuoLingo, the technology behind education apps has developed at a high rate. Factor in the impact of COVID-19 on the education sector, and it’s no wonder investment portfolios are stacked with the latest and greatest EdTech stocks.

Duolingo is effectively utilizing augmented and virtual reality technologies to improve everyday language immersion. With a product offering so much potential and the technology at your disposal, you could be the founder of the latest innovative EdTech app to hit the Google Play and App stores.

While voice technology is still immature, it is arguably the feature with the greatest potential to spearhead us into the new world of tech-powered education. The real-time translation provided by Duolingo-like chatbots is changing the traditional approach of learning a new language.

To stay one step ahead of the game, it’s important to embrace and take advantage of the latest technological advancements at your disposal. The combination of learning and gamification has done just this for Duolingo.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to develop an app like Duolingo

To develop an app like Duolingo, you will need features such as voice recognition, sound effects, push notifications, and a multilingual chatbot. Duolingo used machine learning and artificial intelligence to create these features. See how you can use IT staff augmentation to build a Duolingo-like app.

What languages can you learn in Duolingo?

Duolingo currently has 36 languages to choose from. Some of the most popular courses available are English for Spanish speakers and vice versa, French, German, and Japanese for English speakers, as well as English for Russian speakers.

What software was used to develop the Duolingo app?

The Duolingo app was built on Amazon Web Services, Python was used for the back-end development, and jQuery, backbone.js, and Bootstrap were used for the front-end experience. The Duolingo app is currently operating with 23 different technologies. See why U.S. tech companies are choosing IT staff augmentation to build EdTech apps like Duolingo.

How to make a Duolingo clone

To build a Duolingo clone you will need to use trending technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality. Your Duolingo clone will need embedded features such as a multilingual chatbot, push notifications, and speech recognition. See how IT staff augmentation can help you build a Duolingo clone.

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