Language learning apps, which combine gamification with language acquisition, have become an increasingly popular method to learn and practice a foreign language for both adults and kids. With the Q3 travel season in full swing, now’s the time to retarget your language learning app to maximize visibility, engagement and purchases. Below, learn the top language learning app trends and how you can market your app at this.

Language learning app trends

At the height of the pandemic, language learning apps became wildly popular — as cooped up users looked for meaningful learning activities while sheltering at home. In February 2022, the leading language learning mobile apps generated almost $27 million dollars in in-app purchases from users worldwide. Half of this total revenue was generated by market leader app Duolingo. Since 2022, Duolingo has hit its stride as a top app in the language learning market, leading in both downloads and in-app purchases (IAP).

The rise of education apps

In Q2 2022, Sensor Tower reported that education app revenue was up 183% from pre-pandemic 2019 levels. In the second quarter of 2022, U.S. consumer spending reached $274 million in education apps, a 13% increase year-over-year.

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Source: Sensor Tower

As of Q2 2022, language was the top subcategory of the education app vertical. The language subcategory’s market share grew four points from 2021 primarily because of Duolingo’s rapid growth and dominance.

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Source: Sensor Tower

Language learning top apps 

By downloads

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Source: Statista

As of February 2023, Duolingo was the most popular language learning app worldwide based on monthly downloads. Over 13 million users downloaded the app during the month of February. Language learning apps focusing on language acquisition for children were also popular, with second-highest language learning app OckyPockey generating roughly 2.18 million downloads, and children-specific app English for Kids generating 1.22 million downloads worldwide.

By revenue

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Source: Statista

By revenue, Duolingo was also the leading language learning app. The popular app grossed approximately 18.4 million dollars via in-app purchase revenues during the month of February 2023. Babbel ranked second, generating over 4.8 million dollars. Language learning apps targeting children specifically were also popular during the month. This included Lingokids with almost two million dollars and iHuman, which aims to increase literacy and Chinese character-writing ability in children, with 1.23 million.

Duolingo: A case study

Given the clear dominance of Duolingo in both the language learning subcategory and overall education app vertical, it’s worth a review of Duolingo’s features and marketing to learn from this app’s success.

Freemium model

Duolingo adopts a freemium monetization strategy, leaving users with the possibility to interact with many basic functionalities on the app while also offering paid subscriptions and in-app purchases. This is in contrast to the second-highest generating app, Babbel, which offers a limited free trial period before asking users to choose a subscription plan. Babbel's monetization strategy focuses on selling long-term subscription plans to users. It also limits in-app advertising to present a non-disruptive user experience.

It should be noted that despite Duolingo’s freemium-based model, more than 74% of the company’s revenue was generated by subscription plans in 2022.


Duolingo makes use of a highly gamified environment in which language acquisition is presented as a progressive climb to a final prize. In many ways the app lies at the crossroads of the education and gaming verticals. It features a reward system and a progress tree as well as leaderboards where users can compete in their chosen languages and gain badges to display their progress.

By comparison, Babbel positions itself as a more traditional digital language course, offering conventional dialogues and exercises with grammar focus. As we’ve written before, education apps that use gamification can stimulate younger demographics with creative learning techniques.

Persuasive communications

Duolingo has long been known for its “guilt-laden marketing”. This includes pointed push notifications that prompt users to come back to the app with emotionally activating messaging such as “It would be a bummer to lose that 7-day streak. Just saying.” According to Duolingo, these pointed communications are 5-8% more effective than less persuasive messages at getting users to re-open the app. This indicates that provocative ad copy could be a winning strategy when it comes to app marketing campaigns.

Retargeting tips for language learning apps in 2023

With travel season upon us, now’s the time to retarget budding language learners to brush up on their skills to prepare for their upcoming trips. Here are three top retargeting tips for language learning apps.

Advertise in travel apps

What better way to align with users who might be interested in learning a new language than to serve ads within travel apps. Create ads that feel “native” to the environment they’re served in. For example, for a hotel app promoting bookings in Latin America, create ads that highlight Spanish language learning. With more people planning to take trips and spend more on travel this Q3 2023 than last year, now’s a great time to retarget your ads in travel apps.

Retarget users planning a trip

If you have access to a user’s mobile browsing through their IDFA, segment users that have searched for or purchased a flight or accommodation recently. Retarget these users with ads that speak to their upcoming travel plans. As travelers tend to make their first search for a trip about five weeks before departure, keep a steady cadence of retargeted ads for up to five weeks after a user visits a travel app.

Launch summer promotions

According to travel booking app, Hopper, users checked travel prices 33% more in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels. This reflects growing price anxiety among consumers as the economy fluctuates. Meet consumers where they are in today’s economy. Launch a special summer savings sale with discounts to your subscription or a free trial. If your app operates with a freemium model, highlight upgrades and in-app purchases with a discount.


Language learning apps have gained significant popularity, largely driven by pandemic-induced lockdowns. Market leader Duolingo has witnessed strong growth, achieving the highest number of downloads and revenue from in-app purchases.

  • Education app revenue, including language learning, rose significantly by 183% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019 to Q2 2022, with U.S. consumer spending reaching $274 million, a 13% YoY increase.
  • Language learning app developers can capitalize on the travel season by retargeting ads in travel apps, targeting users who have recently searched for or made travel-related purchases, and launching summer promotions with special offers and discounts.

Ready to take your education app to the next level? Supercharge growth and sustain long-term revenue generation by retargeting your app. Our team of experts can help you get started today.