"How Duolingo Leveraged Crowdsourcing and Gamification to Build a Successful Language Learning Platform"


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 25, 2023

3 min read


"How Duolingo Leveraged Crowdsourcing and Gamification to Build a Successful Language Learning Platform"


In the world of language learning, Duolingo has emerged as a game-changer. The language learning app has managed to build a $700 million company without charging its users. This article explores the strategies and decisions that led to Duolingo's success, focusing on their unique approach to monetization, the power of crowdsourcing, and the importance of gamification.

Tapping into a Larger Market:

Duolingo's founders, Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker, believed that true equality in education meant that spending more money should not determine the quality of education one receives. They noticed that language learning giant, Rosetta Stone, was targeting a small market and relying on an expensive business model. Duolingo saw an opportunity to provide language education to the hundreds of millions of people who couldn't afford expensive software. By offering their app for free, Duolingo tapped into a massive market of motivated language learners.

Leveraging Crowdsourcing and Translation Services:

To monetize their app, Duolingo focused on their business translation services. They designed their early app with the goal of eventually selling crowdsourced translations. This concept was inspired by von Ahn's previous company, reCAPTCHA, which used free labor to verify words that scanners couldn't recognize. Duolingo's pitch to investors centered around creating a sustainable way to generate human translations of the web on a large scale. By leveraging the scale of their target market and the power of crowdsourcing, Duolingo was able to beta test their idea and refine their product.

Building User Engagement through Gamification:

Duolingo understood that for language learning to be effective, it needed to be a habit. They focused on gamifying the user experience to encourage daily usage and improve user retention. One of their most successful gamification features was the introduction of streaks, which tracked the number of consecutive days a user logged lessons. The growth team tirelessly A/B tested various elements of the app to optimize user engagement. They also introduced Duolingo Incubator, a program that allowed volunteers to create courses for languages not yet available on the platform. This further increased community engagement and added value to the product.

Evolution of Monetization Strategies:

Though initially hesitant to serve ads, Duolingo eventually saw it as a necessary step to monetize their platform without compromising user experience. They ensured that the ads were unobtrusive, and users had the option to remove ads by subscribing to a paid plan. Duolingo also introduced Test Center, a service that allowed users to take English language certification tests at home. They continued to explore new avenues for monetization while upholding their core value of providing high-quality language education for free.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Bifurcate your focus: Consider targeting both consumers and businesses simultaneously with multiple products. This strategy allows for broader market reach and diversification.
  • 2. A/B test and track everything: Continuously experiment with different ideas and track the results to optimize user experience and engagement. Utilize analytics tools to tie data and actions to specific users.
  • 3. Embrace evolving business models: Don't be afraid to adapt and change your business model to align with your product's value proposition and market demand. Innovation often requires flexibility and a strong vision for your product.


Duolingo's success story showcases the power of tapping into a larger market, leveraging crowdsourcing for growth, and prioritizing user engagement through gamification. By constantly evolving their business model and exploring new monetization strategies, Duolingo has managed to build a massive user base and a sustainable business. Their journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs and startups in the field of edtech and language learning.

Hatch New Ideas with Glasp AI 🐣

Glasp AI allows you to hatch new ideas based on your curated content. Let's curate and create with Glasp AI :)