Language learning apps like Babbel and Duolingo have been around for years, coaxing millions of people around the world out of their linguistic comfort zones.

But who takes the leap, and why do they do it? This August, CivicScience surveyed more than 2,100 U.S. respondents age 13 and up about their experience with language learning apps to find out.

One in four respondents said they had given these apps a whirl, representing an absolutely massive potential user base for these companies. When it came to why they use the apps, the answers were varied:

Many people said they were using the apps for practical reasons, including a desire to become fluent in another language, or for speaking some phrases of the language on a trip. The most popular explanation, though, was simple curiosity. One-third of language app users said they were just curious or wanted to learn. 

The Apps’ User Base Contains Multitudes of Different Demographics

Users tended to skew female, urban, and young.

The user base of these apps is also relatively quite diverse.

And while a quarter of language app users said they wanted to become fluent, it appears that tactic hasn’t borne much fruit. Users were essentially no more likely than non-users to be fluent in two or more languages. Still, the aspiration is to be admired.

Users were, however, more likely to consider themselves world travelers.

Why Are People Using These Apps?

Different groups of people had different reasons for using language learning apps. For example, women were more likely than men to want to learn for travel or fluency purposes.

Meanwhile, younger generations were more likely to view these apps like games.

Gen Z produced some interesting results. Not only did 13- to 24-year-olds use these apps as forms of entertainment most often, but they were also nearly twice as likely as respondents age 25 and older to say they were using them to connect with their ancestry or heritage. 

Finally, it seems as though companies like Babbel and Duolingo would be wise to funnel more resources into smartwatch compatibility. Language app users majorly over-index as smartwatch owners.

Overall, language learning apps are well-positioned for the future. Their user bases are young, diverse, and curious about the world around them.