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Experiment: use gamification principles from Duolingo to learn language from book

Today is my 70th day in a row of studying here. I find this interesting, because most days it was really easy to do this, while normally I find it quite hard to develop new habits. I am sure that the gamification of this site played a big role in this. I want to analyze this further and apply these principles to learn something else. So, I think that for me the most helpful gamification elements from Duolingo are:

  1. The streak. I don't want to lose it. I also like the streak saver, because it allows you to miss a day occasionally at the cost of some lingots. Only happened once.
  2. The tree design: the learning experience becomes very structured, you have a little bit of choice of what to do next, but not too much. It's nice to unlock new skills and to really see your progress.
  3. The fact that you earn lingots for making progress. I have >1000 lingots now, but still it's nice to earn them. I don't know why ;)
  4. The idea of the store is also nice, although I don't buy much there, it would be nice if there were more things for sale.

So, I write this post because I want to do a little experiment; I want to see if I can apply these gamification principles to develop another habit: learning Spanish from coursebooks. Now that I have finished my tree and that it is golden I want to work through a language learning book, called "Spaans voor Zelfstudie" (it's dutch, but I guess you can figure out what that means). I will take an A4 and hang it on my wall, with the following things written on it:

  1. A streak counter. I will start with 10 minutes per day.
  2. A skill tree based on the chapters of the book. At first it will just be a list of, but I may add other Spanish activities such as watching episodes from series or reading articles in magazines in between, so that I will have a bit more variation and it will become shaped like a tree.
  3. A point counter (based on the lingots). For every 10 days that I will extend my streak I will get my my total streak divided by 10 points for it (same as Duolingo). I also get 2 points for finishing a chapter of the book. I may work through the book several times, if I find this helpful, or get another book (with a higher level) when I am ready for it.
  4. I will make my own lingot store on another A4, where I can spend my points on rewards. Spanish magazines, music, books, et cetera. These should cost many points, it should not be too easy to get them.

I will make these A4s now and hang them on my wall, and I will start learning today. I will report back in a week or so to let you know if it works! :)

Edit: the levels also stimulate me. I will also incorporate a leveling system in my experiment, I have to think about how to do this (ideas are welcome).

March 13, 2016



I love this idea! I think I'll have to copy at least parts of it (especially the streak counter and the giving yourself rewards).

I have several course books at home, but I never seem to get around to using them, because the shiny streak or time counters and easy accessibility of Duolingo, Memrise, and Lingvist are just too inviting... I also like buying books, which I then don't always get around to reading, and with this system I would actually have to earn the right to buy books, which I might then at least be more capable of reading, and at the very least more committed to reading since I had to work hard for them.

Let us know how it's working out for you!


Thanks! Feel free to copy everything that you want, I am also just copying from Duolingo! ;)

I will report back to you! Will you try this system (or your own variation) too? If you do I am interested in hearing how it went!


Great idea and it includes what, in my opinion, is the most powerful technique for learning anything and that is to break down the project into smaller and easy to achieve tasks. I am reminded of the old adage that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Add to that the extra motivation factors that you mention and you have a great plan.


Thanks! About breaking projects into smaller parts: I couldn't agree more, it is essential. In fact, everything that I have achieved in life happened when I broke my projects in smaller parts. If I don't do that it's impossible for me to motivate myself, and if I do, it's much easier.


This is a wonderful idea! I especially like the reward angle.


I'm looking forward to your report next week!

I also have a Learn French! book that I'm willing to read/study after I have a stable level in Spanish, so I want to know if books do a better job in teaching a language than Duolingo.

(I will make my own lingot store on another A4, where I can spend my points on rewards. Spanish magazines, music, books, et cetera; I LOVE this idea!)


Thanks, I will report back to you! ;)

Great that you like the ideas. Let me know if you have nice ideas for rewards!


If you're looking to gamify your self studying, check out habitica.com. It's really great for incentivizing new habits.


I have used habitica for a while, it was nice, but their gamification element and style didn't really click for me. I may return there later, but for this experiment I try to do it on paper to see how that works for me, and with Duolingo, which has proven itself as an effective motivator.


Have fun!

> levels

Set up an arbitrary number of levels, say 25, and decide how many XPs will be needed to traverse each level, increasing these numbers as the levels increase, until at the top of the scale many thousands of XPs are required for level.


Thanks! I decided to give myself 1 xp per minute that I spend studying (first this book, then others) and I use the same levels as on Duolingo (described here).

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