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The Duolingo team just ruined the Android app.

  • 1777

I was excited to get an update for the Android app on my phone earlier today. It seems that they removed ALL exercises where you had to type your response (either in English or the target language) and replaced them with those silly "pick-each-word-from-the-list-until-you-complete-the-sentence" exercises.

If this won't be fixed soon, I think I'm just going to let my streak wither away and turn to other resources for my learning.

EDIT: It turns out that I still get some 2-3 writing exercises for some lessons, still way too few to change my opinion! At least be courteous enough to let us choose the types of exercises that we want and that we find to be better suited to our learning.

EDIT 2: No need to quit in dispair yet: if you update the app by mistake like I did, just uninstall it and search for "Duolingo apk" in your phone's browser. Version 3.15.1 is the old one, the one you want. Download the .apk file and install it by tapping on it (make sure to enable "allow applications from unknown sources" in the Android settings before doing so, and disable it again after the app is installed).

February 6, 2016



Duo does A/B tests this way to see what works out well with users. So if you want to show you hate the new way, you should fail the lessons on purpose and not use the app. On the other hand, that's easier said than done for those of us who have long streaks that we don't want to lose! In your case, maybe you could stick around a while and use the desktop version instead? The desktop version is much less dumbed-down than the apps anyway. Or, as people already said, keep buying streak freezes. I'm getting really tired of how Duolingo is dumbing down things lately, especially without adding any opportunity for the user to customize the level of difficulty. I wouldn't mind an 'easy' setting for people who just want a matching game if I could customize my own experience so that I'd get to translate more into the language I'm learning, and get rid of the less useful multiple choice questions altogether. (I basically only use the desktop version already).


I'm getting really tired of how Duolingo is dumbing down things lately, especially without adding any opportunity for the user to customize the level of difficulty. Exactly my thoughts, Arnauti, even though I only use the desktop version (and rarely the Windows Phone app).


> _I'm getting really tired of how Duolingo is dumbing down things lately . . .

Agreed. Thank heavens for reverse trees and "transverse" trees. To some extent they help.

--A Desktop User


"transverse" trees, is that what you call a laddering tree?


Somebody used the term on the forums yesterday, and I liked it. I'd forgotten about "laddering." Yes, a "transverse" tree is a laddering tree.

(Man, you answered fast!)


I was going to comment on that conversation yesterday, but didn't get around to it: What would my Catalan from Spanish would be called then, since Spanish from French was already a transverse tree for me. Subverse? X-)


There ought to be an even better term, maybe "circumverse" if you're trying to get around your native language, but I've not come up w/ anything.

I'm learning English from Russian. Started it because the Russian from English on Duo was a l-o-n-g time in coming . . . but looking at it, I'm not sure what language the "8" is for on my profile line, as currently En4Ru is at level 24 (and far, far away from level 25!).

So far all the languages I'm practicing on Duo are languages I could at least read before starting here. I'd really like to learn a language from zero on Duo to see how that goes but hold myself back, because just what I need is to be half good at still another language. I'd like to be good at speaking (or at least writing) the languages I already know how to read, first, before starting another.

How is your German? That would be a great language to know, and, from my point of view, especially to know how to read.


I guess I had good timing. I like the term; I think I'm going to start using it. Out of curiosity, what language(s) are you learning English form?

Edited for clarity.


My German isn't great, I went through the tree awhile ago, and I'm only now going through the updated one. I did a lot of immersion, so I am fairly comfortable reading it. I find it easier to understand than the Romance languages, but harder to speak.

I do think the German tree might be my favourite, though.


I like to call them 'cross trees' when I know both languages approximately at the same level. For instance I do French-German and I'm improving both languages just as much. Laddering makes it sound as if I'm learning one language 'from' the other, when I'm really not. But I'm not sure I have the right idea.


I done some where I kinda know the language I'm doing it from, and ones where I have a pretty solid base. I don't think I have done any where I feel the same in my abilities in both languages.


The 'transverse' trees are the best. I've also recently started to fail all multiple choice questions on purpose. That makes my experience much better. I do a lot of timed practice, and when I fail all these questions, it takes longer to regild a skill and I learn more.


I must be unique in that I don't mind a bit of dumbing down :)

For what it's worth, If I want to do 'hard mode' on any language, then I just go out and read it or listen to it one way or another. No need to hold my hand, I can make my own exercises. Duo is a nice non-threatening diversion that you can do even if you are stressed or tired and just want to relax, and you get something out of it to boot. It's fine for a beginners resource, and everybody can move on after they have finished here anyway, with a very hefty chunk of the initial 'pain of ignorance' behind them.

More importantly though, whether it is by accident or not, by stepping into the schools and educational market, Duo has found itself in charge of a massively important duty: get kids interested in languages and keep them interested. Every single other encounter they will have with foreign languages has one thing in common, it is designed to be hard work, and no prizes for guessing, most people devote an incredible amount of energy into avoiding hard work. If I remember my track record of handing in homework accurately , I was particularly good at that skill in my time :). "Sorry teach, I am afraid I have to tell you that I had better things to do."

I didn't have more important things to do, I was playing Sonic and doing vigilante justice in Streets of Rage. I really learned more French from Asterix comics than I ever did at school. I regret nothing >:D

That's where everybody goes wrong. Learning languages isn't supposed to be hard and frustrating. If you want results, it is just time consuming, requires a lot of commitment, and is really reinforced by deep, abstract thought, almost meditation I would say. You have to be able to relax and enjoy something before you can trick your mind into actually thinking about it. That is where Duo has struck gold. They aren't trying to make it difficult, they are trying to make it enjoyable. You can make it difficult yourself, if you want to, that's the beauty of it.

What school does is usually the complete opposite. It tries to dodge these responsibilities by teaching languages as if they were a science or a glorified quiz. Everything is crammed into at most 2 hours a week of classes, where the pupils are generally force fed information completely out of context like so much foie gras, because the teachers are duty bound to be devoted to a textbook and an exam curriculum instead of the individual understanding and ability of the actual students themselves. I don't know about you, but it sounds painfully stupid to me when actually put in writing. The whole process is usually traumatic enough for everybody that once it is finally over they will all try not to think about it until the next class, where the teacher and the students will awkwardly find themselves in the position of discovering that no one has really learned anything, except for the one or two people who are lucky enough not to be constrained by this horrible way of thinking.

When you turn something into an experience that everybody hates and no one thinks they have any reason to take seriously, you get the situation that actually exists today, where US and UK have pretty much the most apathetic attitude towards languages in the entire world, and the most awful statistics to reflect it. I mean for Christ's sake, we even dropped the requirement to study a foreign language after a certain age at all for a while here in the UK. I think it has only just come back.

Sorry Arnauti for saying it, but I would be delighted if Duolingo dumbed down even more ;), if only for the sake of encouraging even the most hesitant of students. I sincerely believe that language isn't just something that is only for some people, it needs to be for everybody, just as much as basic maths, physical health, good music, 3 square meals and loving parents. This site has been an incredible breath of fresh air in my lifetime. If you look past just the simple fact that it is a free giveaway to all 7 billion of us, the fact that it is completely unassuming, the fact that it uses the secret ninja technique of positive reinforcement...

I need to stop talking.

  • 1777

Of course, you make a good point. But this is the reason why video games have different difficulty levels, like easy - medium - hard. Duolingo should realize that it can not only drive people away if it is too hard, it can also drive people away if it's too easy, because something that is not challenging at all tends to be very boring and repetitive. This is why implementing difficulty levels should be the perfect solution, because it doesn't drive anyone away.


Well, on that I agree, nothing wrong with voluntary difficulty levels. I was just poking controversy with a stick :)


I don't think making it easier will necessarily increase engagement. I personally wouldn't spend hours playing video games like dark souls if they were easy. I think the most important thing is to not make it boring.


Sorry I didn't read all of your post, just scanned it, but it seems to me what you're saying proves that they really, really need to let us customize things. One size does not fit all. It just doesn't.


Yes, I as I said to wyqtor I could go along with that. I'd prefer it not to splinter into lots of fiddly options, but there is nothing wrong with having extra challenges. There could be different levels of completion for each unit, one would be "basic completion", others could be "complete the unit without hints" "or complete the unit without a single typo", or one that everyone always seems to ask for "complete the unit purely in the target language".

Give each challenge some sort of badge you can collect that shows your achievement and just like magic you'll have people coming back like addicts, "just...one...more...go".... It certainly works on me even though I can see straight through it. It goes back to what I mentioned about positive reinforcement, you can't just make something difficult on purpose and say "that's your lot, if you can't deal with, tough". Some people will stay for the challenge, most people will just think "meh, sod this then"


With all respect, dumbing things down is not going to be effective ever. During education things must be a little challenging, there should be something that makes you think, makes you focus, something that sets a plank a little higher above your comfort zone. Not too high but still not right in front of your nose. It's needed both for motivation and learnibg per se. If it's so easy that it goes thoughtless and effortless, it's virtually useless.

Basics of educational psychology.


I said "I don't mind a bit of dumbing down" with a sense of tongue-in-cheek. I was hoping it was absurd enough that people wouldn't take me literally. All I really wanted to do was ask people to consider the other side of the coin.

Duo already is a little challenging, but you can hardly see it because it seems so easy. It is basically a memory game, it feeds you roughly 10 words at a time, and makes it impossible to progress very far without you actually absorbing them, because they recur at random intervals. You can also always use the hints to cheat, at any time, but you only ever get a sense of satisfaction if you actually remember all the words. Every individual step along the way is trivially easy, but the progress you make is real and concrete. Some people might think "oh this is too easy", but they are missing the point, if you can complete a language tree here and reliably remember everything, the thing has effectively smuggled an entire dictionary into your brain word by word without you even noticing.

I don't understand peoples obsession with wanting to make it difficult just on principle. Sure, learning a language is a big challenge. Walking around telling people that though is no use to anybody, it's just telling people what they already know while at the same time putting people off. Like I said before, if I want an actual challenge, I am quite capable of making them for myself, I don't need this app to hold my hand. I am far more happy about the fact that this app somehow has the ability to get people interested and hooked on the idea of taking on a new language, people who never would have bothered before. It does a lot to convince people that they actually can in the first place, which is a valuable psychological advantage.


It is basically a memory game, it feeds you roughly 10 words at a time, and makes it impossible to progress very far without you actually absorbing them, because they recur at random intervals. You can also always use the hints to cheat, at any time, but you only ever get a sense of satisfaction if you actually remember all the words. Every individual step along the way is trivially easy

I think this can be true for grammatically less challenging languages (like Swedish and Dutch).

But for those where mastery of the language relies more heavily on understanding more complex grammar (like German and Russian), merely being able to recall the words and even place them in the correct order doesn't mean much. If one doesn't learn explicitly how genders and cases work, which usually takes some actual effort, one will likely need 5+ years of total immersion (just like German and Russian kids have) to get these right.

I agree that feeling confident and having a positive expectation of one's ability to learn is very valuable. But it doesn't replace actual learning. And complex structures remain complex, however positive one feels about them.


Sorry I have to reply to myself because the nesting level has gone too deep, but I had to say one more thing: I have had trouble with noun genders from the day I was born. The extra layer of complexity for seemingly no apparent reason, with no pattern and no discernible logic - every single thing about them sends my brain haywire.

Not until the day I stopped thinking about them too much did the concept finally sink in. I had to stop bludgeoning myself over the head with them before I finally realised it just is the way it is because that is how it is. The only way you remember them is by constant exposure, which French and German people get plentiful amounts of without even noticing, reaching a stage where the wrong word instinctively just 'sounds wrong'. Us on the other hand, are somehow expected to dutifully memorize them one by one, while having no idea as to what the purpose is, as if we have all some latent memory master talent :) Sorry, but I categorically do not have that talent, only the slow lane is going to work for me, but I'm happy with that too.

I honestly believe that this single stumbling block is the one that takes all of the joy out of languages for most people. Luckily, we have our revenge on the rest of the world with our infamous spelling system, but I digress :) . It's sad, because faced with the frustration and confusion so bluntly and so early on, people develop a terrible outlook. A million students a day basically say to themselves "Hmm, if even this simple basic part of the language is so difficult to master and I can't even understand what it is for, then how exactly am I going to be able to deal with the more complicated nuances of the language? You know what, I think I will just stick to Maths and English, less hassle that way". Society hardly lifts a finger to try and convince them otherwise, in fact it usually does everything it can to make it feel like a pointless chore in the first place.

Grammar, on the other hand, is really quite a neat subject. I only started to really get the idea of it after I needed to learn some Spanish, and believe me as I was looking at the book I had I could almost believe it was rocket science. I guess somehow my survival instinct kicked in, because I felt like "damn it if 500 million Spanish speakers have no problem with this, what is so stupid about me that I can't understand it?".

As it turned out, I wasn't quite as stupid as I thought I was, and now for the most part it makes sense to me. It's pretty straightforward, logical, many patterns to follow, easy to comprehend etc... so, why is it presented in a way that makes it look like rocket science? I will never know. I don't think it is possible to answer that question in anything less than yet another rambling post. That's something for another day and another beer...


This, exactly. I started German a month ago. Am I fluent? - of course not. Am I "24% fluent", as Duo claims. Nein!

BUT, I have learned a huge deal, and things that even a week or two ago seemed ludicrously arcane and complex now "make sense" and I can regurgitate them at will. i.e., I am learning, sometimes against my will (LOL).

IMHO, if you think the app is "too easy" then you need to get out and challenge yourself - pick up native language newspapers, attend immersion dinners, etc. Duolingo is a free app, for heavens sake, and people act as though it should be making them fully conversant savants.


This is where modern "educational psychology" makes an enormous mistake, especially with learning to read. As you say, challenging a student is necessary. But not at every instant. Let a learner relax sometimes and read what is easy as well as interesting to develop fluency.


The thing is...app is already simple due to a few natural restrictions.

You don't speak: you can only repeat sentences that are given to you, and many people complain they don't get this type of exercise even if they have it enabled.

You don't write: by writing I mean good ol' writing by hand that it enormously helpful during education but we naturally cannot ask for this from a phone app.

You don't create your own text: you only translate fixed sentences that are given to you. To be honest, sometimes it may lead to memorizing translations without actual learning.

With these three restrictions students are already cut off from three components of language leatning that are probably the hardest. It's no blame for the application though. Ergo, Duo is already simple enough to be attractive for beginners and people with various goals.

Finally, what you said doesn't contradict my starement in any way. True, there should be some rotation of "confidence streaks" and "uphill streaks", but how does click-a-word instead of typing it serve it? How removing immersion completely serve it? And those people who complain they never get speaking exercises - who knows, maybe they are part of yet another A/B test?

There is a certain difference between being simple and being primitive. I believe Duo is simple and balanced enough already and there is no need to dilute it more.


The bit you quoted implies need for challenge, but again, there is nothing about it being only challenge and nothing else. Just like if I say "you need to eat apples every day", it doesn't mean that you need to eat only apples.

As for educational psychology, it's an umbrella term for multiple disciplines dealing with education from different perspective. Their findings can be put in practice properly, or twisted, or perverted, or just ignored. Before claiming it "suspect, if not worthless", you need to be 100% sure that poor education quality stems from educational psychology and not from ignoring/twisting it, or other reasons such as lack of skilled professionals, imbalanced school programmes etc. Culprits are many.

Judging from what I see, in our schools the amount of psychology (any) being implemented consistently goes around 0.


Avoiding? I listed the main reasons, but if you want me to be more elaborate, here:

Reason 1. General neclection of psychology per se. When depression is treated as an indication that person suffering from it "just has too much free time" and and lacks will power, and phobias are seen as attention whoring, it clearly shows that hopes shouldn't go high.

Reason 2. School system is rigid. Education programmes are set by government officials who are, to put it mildly, far from reality and practice. Teachers are virtually drowning in paperwork. Schedule goals are unrealistic. Materials are often obsolete.

Reason 3. Lack of skilled professionals. In many areas (history, philology, some other) "he/she went for working in a school" is another way of saying "loser". Those who are not able to get anything better go teachers, because hey, schools always need teachers. Their professional level is questionable. Their motivation/interest is even more questionable. And payment is crap.

To sum it all up, we have professional leftovers in a stale and rigid environment who have a lot of other concerns to attend to if they don't want to be fined or fired. And you are asking why they are not implementing educational psychology they supposedly studied (and not skipped or slept through)?

PS in case you are interested in continuing this conversation, I would like to ask you to tone down a bit. I have no problem with you disagreeing with me, but I don't like feeling like a convict in High Court, and it starts to feel that way.


If you are talking, amaratea, only about the Duo phone apps, then I certainly won't argue with you. They are already so dumb as to be nearly useless. In that case we do agree. However, with your general statement ("during education things must be a little challenging") I don't agree, for the reason I already gave.


amaratrea, you seem to be hung up on "challenge." Challenge is necessary for someone to advance. But there also must be the chance to practice, so that what is at first a challenge can become an accomplished skill through practice. If a person is only being challenged and is always being stretched beyond what he is capable of, eventually he will become exhausted and give up. You keep almost admitting this but then add challenge back into the mix.

Now before you write me another long note, bring back to mind that I do not think that the dumbed-down apps are good any more than you do. I am objecting to your implication that there always must be some particular challenge. Sometimes what has just been learned must be practiced so that it will become easy--that's what the goal is after all--so that it will be an enjoyable skill and not always a difficult challenge.


sorry for the late response, and I have to use your previous message because there is no "reply" button anymore, but I can only repeat the thing that I stated above - our positions do not contradict each other. Yes, there should be some challenge in education AND yes, it should not be challenging all the time and the challenge should not be overwhelming. I don't know what your idea of difficulty is when you mention it and argue against it, but I definitely stick to casual one :) As you say yourself, "dumb as to be nearly useless" - learning tools/exercises should not be dumb, they should make students think, use their previous knowledge and different sets of skills and comprehensions (reading, speaking, listening, writing, improvising, memorizing, and a dozen of other -ings that bring both fun and aforementioned challenge).

Some of these cannot be implemented in an app, but making the app degrade even more from what it could be is...pathetic.


We will start going in circles now. Three days ago I wrote this: "True, there should be some rotation of "confidence streaks" and "uphill streaks"". "Uphill streaks" = challenge, the word you seem to dislike. "Confidence streaks"=no challenge, the thing you argue for. Today I repeated in in a different way - "yes, it should not be challenging all the time and the challenge should not be overwhelming". So, where exactly do I say that every single bit of education process should be challeging and complicated? Nowhere. My whole point was that some challenge during the whole process is needed - to keep motivation. But not that challenge is all it takes, for that would be ridiculous. So, I am saying exactly the same thing that you are. Sometimes what has just been learned must be practiced so that it will become easy. Yes. Exactly. I don't disagree with you, I support your idea, I say it myself, but you keep proving it to me again and again as if I am denying it. I am not.


> So, where exactly do I say that every single bit of education process should be challeging and complicated? Nowhere.


> During education things must be a little challenging, there should be something that makes you think, makes you focus, something that sets a plank a little higher above your comfort zone. Not too high but still not right in front of your nose. It's needed both for motivation and learnibg per se. If it's so easy that it goes thoughtless and effortless, it's virtually useless.

> Basics of educational psychology.

If that isn't a general statement, nothing is..

You and I do agree about the value of the App update. It's too dumb. For me, however, any appeal to the authority of "education psychology" is suspect, if not worthless, considering how poorly reading, basic arithmetic, and foreign languages are taught in our schools. Judging by the results, if that's its best shot "educational psychology" needs an overhaul.


> . . . Judging from what I see, in our schools the amount of psychology (any) being implemented consistently goes around 0.

So it is taught in education courses but according to you no one uses it when teaching? What exactly is it good for, then, and how can you appeal to its authority?


Do you really want me to start political rambling?


> Do you really want me to start political rambling?

No. Nor do I want you to avoid answering the question.


The problem is that the matching exercises are so easy that I probably could have passed them from day 1 just by guessing. If you are learning French from English and you know Latin roots well, you will probably be able to pass even the most advanced matching exercise without a thought. But you wouldn't be learning any French.

As a complete beginner, I wouldn't have found that fun, I would have found that boring and unhelpful. I probably would have ended up using a pen-and-paper textbook or Anki and foregone Duolingo entirely if it was like that.

Learning a language doesn't have to be miserable... but it is work. Fun is great, but it still has to be educational to be useful.


I feel for you with the windows phone app. I am still stuck on the hearts system when I don't have access to the computer. Not to mention it doesn't even have the lingot store.

  • 1439

I was going to download the update but I guess I'll stick to the older version..I hope they'll fix it soon because the typing exercises are the best

  • 1777

Thankfully I managed to uninstall the current version and grab the older one as an apk from the internet. Thanks for giving me the idea, here are 25 lingots.

  • 1439

thank you :)


I stopped using the Android Duolingo app entirely because of this shift in my app. I lost a long streak but honestly I don't care; the "pick words from a list" exercises are a total waste of time.


I have noticed that the app is getting easier and easier which is why several months ago I pretty much stopped using it entirely. The desktop version is way better. You get extra features such as the discussions and tips and notes and the exercises are more challenging. I only use the app if I have no time in my day and/or need to strengthen a lot of things because it is very quick and easy.


I just wanted to add my voice to this in saying i am not in favor of dumbing down the ap version. For me in the past as a nightshift employee, the app was all i ever had time for. I will be sticking to the destop much as possible which is inconvienient and makes it less user friendly for me. However, i strongly dislike being forced to take on changes that was not warned or explained to users, many users of which have been faithfully been using the site for a year plus. Anyone that has an issue with this needs to speak up. :)


Your streak will go to zero after a day of inactivity!!!! It doesn't gradually reduce by one point at a time each day. Four hundred is a magnificent streak indeed! Maybe go into the Duo Store on a daily basis and buy a 'Freeze Streak' for 5 lingots (which will maintain your streak for 24 hours) until they resolve the problem? Nice array of skills you have there wyqtor!

  • 1777

Thanks! I'm going to stick around for a while, hopefully they will fix this eventually. But it is worrying to see that they are making everything easier and easier to the point that you can't learn anything properly anymore.


Other options are Lingualeo (Portuguese) and busuu (at a cost however).

  • 1777

I managed to calm down for the time being and will continue with the older app, although this temporary fix will probably turn out to be a problem once they will add new languages that I'm interested in.


Is it just on the android app? 'Cause I really don't see that on my app. I still get fair amount of these exercises


Same here, I haven't notuced a recent change on the Android app (I'm now on version 3.16.2), my feeling is thst it was dumbed down ages ago. Perhsps I was pat of the A/B testing and it has now gone to everyone,

  • 1777

It is the same on the Windows store app. I don't know about the Apple app though.

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