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Duolingo vs Engramo

Duolingo is the most popular language-learning service in the world right now so chances are that that’s what comes to your mind when someone says “online language-learning app”.

Maybe you have tried it yourself, maybe you’ve heard about it from friends or just read about it somewhere around the web. So why introduce a new language-learning app when Duolingo is presumably so good, judging by its count of 300,000,000+ users?

While Engramo is in the same market, it’s not necessarily a direct competitor since the two platforms are quite different in how they work and what their goals are. Let me explain.

The first difference you’ll probably notice is the number of languages taught: Where Duolingo spreads its attention over 36 languages, Engramo focuses on English alone. But here’s the kicker: Duolingo makes you perform translation tasks all the time, and its interface is always in a language you already know. Engramo, on the other hand, immerses you in English, the target language, completely – just like in a good English lesson outside the digital world. Since the brain is picking up information non-stop and automatically learning from it, identifying patterns and so on, this means that in Engramo you’re literally absorbing English without even realizing it!

Closely related to the point about language immersion in Engramo is the fact that Duolingo teaches people mostly from the very beginning, while Engramo is intended for intermediate learners who already speak the language to a degree and who wish to improve their command of it. A typical Engramo learner could be imagined as someone who is not a native English speaker, encounters English regularly (e.g. in a workplace environment) and can communicate about what they are familiar with (e.g. job-related vocabulary), but has trouble understanding or expressing themself outside of that regular context. This learner likely makes mistakes often, has trouble with pronunciation and is not able to take advantage of more complex grammar to express themself more precisely or concisely. In short, the typical Engramo learner begins their journey at the B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This is reflected in the way the Grammar Book is organized and how the app’s content is written.

Then there is course design. Though both platforms use their own algorithms to employ “Spaced Repetition”, which means that they’ll adjust your learning experience based on what you have learnt before and when was the last time you practised it – so that you are exposed to information in a way that is ideal for long-term retention -, the courses in Engramo English are very fluid and dynamic, whereas Duolingo’s skill trees, frankly, force you into a rather linear and strict progression path.

The types of exercises used are also a little different, though there are overlaps. This divergence is due to the translation vs. immersion differences in design – with Duolingo, you are translating a sentence, phrase or word between the language you’re proficient in and the one being studied over several exercise types comprising filling in gaps, selecting correct answers from a given range, and constructing sentences or phrases from words given, but always (with the exception of transcription from listening) based on input from or output to the language you already know. This principle, introduced to mainstream education by John Amos Comenius in the 17th century, was a huge improvement in language learning compared to the previously prevalent method of pure memorization, but today isn’t to be relied on exclusively. In Engramo, you are constantly being challenged to use the target language, both actively and passively; you are learning to think in the language. And the roster of exercise types boasts a few more than Duolingo’s, featuring for example error correction, sentence transformation and word formation.

All in all, Duolingo is a great tool to start learning a language – it probably wouldn’t be so popular if it weren’t – but Engramo is your go-to app if you want to master it.

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