Duolingo is the most popular language learning app in the world. But does popular mean that it’s effective? The answer depends on the language you’re learning. Their method for teaching basic vocabulary and grammar is effective for languages like French and Spanish.
But how does the Duolingo course hold up to the Vietnamese language? In this review we take a look at the pros and cons of Duolingo Vietnamese. We’ll take a brief look at some alternatives to Duolingo as well.
Let’s dive in!
The pros of Duolingo Vietnamese
It's is a large course
Unfortunately Vietnamese is not the most popular foreign language among English speakers. As a result language learning companies aren’t usually in a big rush to create Vietnamese courses. If you’re looking for an app, or an online course to learn Vietnamese your options are slim compared to other languages.
Duolingo offers one of the few Vietnamese courses around. There are a ton of lessons and it will take you quite a while to work through everything. This is a huge plus because many Vietnamese courses don’t have anything past the most basic levels
Duolingo Vietnamese uses the Northern dialect
Though people in the South of Vietnam tend to disagree, the Northern Vietnamese dialect is considered by many as the official or standard dialect of the language. Most news and media is in the Northern dialect. That’s probably why Duolingo uses the Northern dialect for its course. If you’re new to learning Vietnamese the Northern dialect is a good place to start.
The cons of Duolingo Vietnamese
Not a lot of grammar explanations
There’s an obvious lack of grammar explanations throughout the Duolingo Vietnamese course. The first half of the course does give some help and instruction, but by the time you’ve worked your way through to the second half, explanations are almost non-existent. The grammatical difference between one phrase or another is unclear. You’re left with a general impression of what a phrase means, but you’re not sure exactly what it means.
If Duolingo is all you use to learn Vietnamese this ambiguity can become a handicap when you’re trying to write or speak your own sentences.
It really feels like a lot of the phrases in Duolingo Vietnamese were generated by a machine. They grammatically make sense, but you will probably never be in a situation where you’ll need to use them. This is a bit frustrating if you’re learning Vietnamese in order to speak to people in the real world. It feels like a waste of time learning how to ask someone the address for their cat, or telling them to eat a mug (what does that even mean?).
Not good for pronunciation
Unlike a lot of other Duolingo courses which use computer generated pronunciations, Duolingo Vietnamese uses a native speaker for the audio in the course. That’s great in theory, but it often feels like whoever recorded the course forgot that they were making it for beginners. The phrases are spoken fast and if you’ve never heard Vietnamese before it’s hard to pick out words, even after listening multiple times.
Not beginner friendly
Duolingo Vietnamese works a lot better if you already have some Vietnamese under your belt. If you’re somewhat familiar with the pronunciation and grammar, then the app can be a great way to review what you know and learn some new vocabulary. If you’re an absolute beginner with no experience in the language, it will be easy to get lost or feel overwhelmed.
Alternatives to Duolingo Vietnamese
Pimsleur Vietnamese is an audio course that trains you to speak and think in Vietnamese. In each lesson you learn new vocabulary, and then you’re prompted to use what you’ve learned to ask and answer questions in Vietnamese. The prompts mix and match material from your current lesson and from previous ones, so you can never be certain what you’ll need to say (it’s the same feeling you get when talking to a native speaker in real life). You have a limited time to answer before the correct response is given.
Pimsleur Vietnamese also teaches you pronunciation. You’ll learn phrases syllable by syllable until you can say them completely. The course couches you through difficult sounds and points out sounds similar and different to English ones. The only drawback to PImsleur is that there’s only one level in their Vietnamese course.
Vietnamesepod101 is a Vietnamese course in the form of a podcast. It features hundreds of Vietnamese lessons for beginners all the way up to advanced students. Each lesson uses a real conversation between two Vietnamese speakers to teach you grammar and vocabulary. Each episode has two hosts who introduce the dialogue and explain any difficult grammar concepts. They also give examples of important vocabulary, and share insights on Vietnamese culture.
There are also a lot of bonus content on Vietnamesepod101 like video lessons, downloadable ebooks, a Vietnamese to English dictionary, and some other cool stuff.
Lingodeer takes a gamified approach to teaching Vietnamese much like Duolingo. Unlike Duolingo, Lingodeer provides in-depth grammar explanations. The phrases on Lingodeer are also much more practical and applicable to real conversations. Also the audio on Lingodeer has two different playback speeds. You listen back at a slower speed if you have trouble understanding what was said.
The first unit of Lingodeer is free. After that you will need to pay to access the rest of the lessons.