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5 Language Apps That Use Digital Tools To Encourage User Retention

March 22, 2021 Sarah Cavill

During the past year, while some consumers took on baking, puzzles and renovations, 30 million people around the world attempted to learn a new language, according to research and data from language app Duolingo. “During lockdown, learners around the globe looked for ways to feel connected, and so millions of people began learning a new language,” said Dr. Cindy Blanco, Duolingo’s senior learning scientist. 

duolingo graphs languages

Other interesting facts about the interest in language learning over the last 12 months include:

  • 40.5% of new learners were Gen Z.
  • Language learning for 13 and 14-year olds was up 85% year over year (YOY) compared to 2019.
  • In the U.S., Turkish was the fastest growing language, while Spanish was the most popular. 
  • Asian languages are growing in popularity.

The five following apps use digital marketing strategies to align with the diverse needs of language learning audience segments and encourage retention. 

Memrise Offers Video Support For Language Learners Who Want IRL Context 

Immersion is often the name of the game when it comes to learning a language. It’s easy to practice asking “where is the metro,” but when it comes time to ask in real life (IRL), accents and culture can play a big part in actually conversing and becoming a confident speaker. Memrise, a British language platform, offers videos of local speakers to help its members feel better acquainted with the languages they are learning. “Listening to lots of different speaking styles and real accents helps you naturally build your ability to understand the nuances and beauty of another language,” explains Memrise on its website.

Video was one of the big winners of 2020. With so many people stuck at home and increasingly online, time spent watching videos increased. Brands rapidly elevated their use of video as a marketing and information tool. With embedded videos on the app and website and a robust YouTube channel, Memrise used video as a way to attract and retain new users on its app. 

Duolingo Gamifies Language Learning, Attracting Audiences Who Enjoy Online Gaming


Duolingo is a free language learning app with more than 300 million active users. The app employs a user-friendly interface and leverages gamification to motivate users and promote a fun learning experience. Using badges, streak scores and other similar celebratory recognitions, Duolingo’s incentivized rewards-based approach to learning encourages users to come back to the platform again and again. The short competitive, fun exercises on the app tap into the growing desire for gamified experiences, with gaming a major trend for consumers in 2020. On average, 7 billion Duolingo exercises are completed by members monthly, creating repeat opportunities for Duolingo to reach consumers with in-app ads, purchases and targeting. 

Tandem Combines The Best Of Social Media Engagement With Immersive Experiences

At times referred to as “the tinder of language apps,” Tandem offers an alternative to in-person connections. Launched in 2015, Tandem is a free language platform that pairs language learners together, combining the engagement of a social media platform with the benefits of immersive conversational language learning. With more than 10 million downloads in 180 countries, Tandem promotes its platform as a collaborative community and promises language learning through establishing connections and building relationships, encouraging retention.

“Through a two-way process of direct communication and conversation, both learners are given the opportunity to improve their target language skills and proficiency while simultaneously fostering intercultural competence,” explains Tandem on its website. Once accepted into the community, Tandem members are introduced to language learners from all over the world. Connected members can text, record audio, discuss their progress and share cultural knowledge about their homes. Tandem Pro is a paid subscription service that allows users to elevate their community participation with access to the “near me” feature and a top position on the Tandem community stream. 

Rosetta Stone Leverages Augmented Reality (AR) For Immediate Translations

rosetta stone

Rosetta Stone recently launched an AR feature making it easier to learn nouns, an important part of conversational language learning. The new AR feature, Seek & Speak, lets Rosetta Stone app users point at objects with their phones and get immediate translations. “Going 100% digital has made us more nimble than ever, whether it’s responding to needs from our community or creating all-new experiences that bring learning to life,” explained Rosetta Stone at the time of the AR announcement. The AR tool is part of a larger suite of feature upgrades Rosetta Stone recently made to its app, including embedded translations, an app-based phrase book and a patented speech engine that helps with accents and pronunciation.

Pimsleur Offers Audio Lessons And Tiered Subscriptions For Language Learners 

Pimsleur offers a vast, on-demand library of 30-minute audio lessons and a “learn on the go” approach, with audio-only memberships featuring just the conversational and reading lessons. Users can sync their Pimsleur accounts with Alexa or download content for on-demand listening. 

“Just listen, respond and learn to converse in… French while commuting… German while jogging… Spanish while cooking. It’s really that portable and flexible,” explains Pimsleur on its website. Pimsleur provides older consumers a variety of options to develop new language skills based on their lifestyles and learning preferences. By focusing on optionality, Pimsleur is addressing consumer demand for products that align with their values and behaviors.   

Customer trial doesn’t always lead to long-term retention, so language learning apps have been rolling out new digital features to keep users coming back. Usable, fun and engaging content, delivered how users want it, are keeping language learning apps relevant in today’s world. 

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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