He describes the learning experience as being well-structured and clear about the progress he is making.
A graduate last year, Mr Livingstone works as a postman and hopes to make full use of his languages in the not-too-distant future as he resumes his international travels.
“I’m interested in languages because they are a window into worlds different from mine,” he said.
Mr. Brothers of HolonIQ said that one in four people in the world learn a language. “It’s not like being at home in Sydney because it’s an English-speaking market where there’s not a lot of incentive to learn another language,” he said.
“But if you’re sitting in Asia, Latin America, or Africa, English is essentially a ticket to doubling or tripling your earning power and multiplying your job prospects.”
Indeed, of the 1.8 billion people learning a language, Mr Brothers estimates that 1.4 billion are learning English.
The rise of language learning apps poses a threat to colleges and traditional English language testing providers, and could change recruitment patterns for international students.
HolonIQ has estimated that the global direct-to-consumer language learning market will double to US$115 billion ($160 billion) by 2025, driven by a tripling of growth in digital platforms.
Traditional educational institutions have taken notice and are increasingly using apps like Duolingo as proof of English proficiency when enrolling international students. This is accepted by 1700 institutions worldwide, including 37 in Australia. In 2019, 6 million students studied in a country other than their place of birth.
In May, Duolingo’s financial results showed a 55% increase in bookings, with 2.9 million paying subscribers. Monthly active users grew to 50 million, up 25% from the prior year quarter.
Moment “Uber” to test the oligopoly
Claire Field, a consultant in the higher education sector, says this trend could in the future disrupt English language test providers such as IELTS, TOEFL and Pearson, who have an oligopoly in Australia for purposes visa.
“Traditional English language test providers think they are safe because they are regulated. But it’s like taxis and Uber. Taxis thought they were safe because they were regulated. But that hasn’t stopped Uber from encroaching on their space,” Field said.
Australia has been a laggard in opening up English testing outside of the big three providers, said Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia.
“Other study destination countries have approved far greater numbers of English tests. And it remains to be seen whether the new government will be in the mood to do so,” Mr Honeywood said.
At least one of the test providers, Pearson, is moving digital, having bought digital language platform Mondly in late April.
While apps have opened up the world of language acquisition to billions of people around the world, Brothers said face-to-face learning will remain intrinsic to the industry because of its ability to teach culture and additional context.
Language learner Mr. Livingstone agreed that Duolingo had its limitations.
“It just becomes apparent the further you get into the language of the app. There is an obvious distinction between classroom learning and self-learning, as the latter takes a lot more effort” , he said, “And you can’t ask the app questions.”