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The "game" is a frustrating one

The points feel meaningless, and it is really tough to begin a language when you are repeatedly told you "fail" and have to retake the lesson.

Perhaps earn "hearts" instead, like in zelda, and instead of restarting each lesson, just continue and rephrase the question in a different way later on that someone is having issues with and focusing on that.

Or maybe go without the hearts and have a timer that gives you more points the quicker you answer a question.

As it is (or when I played it last) duolingo is frustrating and boring with a meaningless point system. Experiment with some different things to make it more fun to play.

January 27, 2013



re: "Or maybe go without the hearts and have a timer that gives you more points the quicker you answer a question."

you should try timed practice: http://duolingo.com/#/practice


It probable depends on your learning style. In my case if there was no objective quantifiable way to measure daily effort(points) I simply would not set daily goals and I would have probably have given up long ago. No question it sucks when you have a goal to get 100 points or so a day and you keep repeating failing one lesson over and over.


No one likes to fail, even if it's a game. If you could never get past the second level in the original mario game, you would quit. In more current games, game mechanics are there and it may not be easier to "succeed" but it is a lot harder to fail.

Maybe there could be five minute games where you compete against the clock to answer as many questions as you can and translate as many words and sentences in a "flash card" format. When I used to study for french class (or any other class with flash cards) I would go through them once, organizing them by "don't know", "kinda know", and "know solid". I worked with the "don't know" until they moved to the "kinda know" and the "kinda know" until they were with the "know solid" and when every card was in the last pile, I would go through them all again to make sure I was 100% sure I'd ace the quiz.

Now, to be sure, this was still studying and thus boring, but it was a lot easier (and more fun, if I guess you can call it that) than going through them all. And it would have been horrible if I had to restart every time I was wrong three times. Maybe you can apply this to your game.


The "game" IS a frustrating one. I do find I'm a bit of a sore loser and as my brain is wired like that, there's no way I will ever be able to take full advantage of what Duolingo has on offer. If I was a bit more easy-going about losses and failures and did not give a s*** every time I got "Oops, you're wrong!" message (and who can take heart in being wrong anyway? Impossible!), then maybe I'd be more successful.

So maybe the system is not for everybody and it may actually be detrimental to people with lower overall tolerance for failure (and please, lest anybody tell me that I supposedly need to "get over it", bear in mind that this is all easier said than done, you have to wrestle with years of psychological conditioning). I'm certainly thinking: why should I even bother learning a new language if all there is in store for me is frustration and failure.

I'm only glad to see I'm not the only one driven crazy by such problems. Maybe it would be better if there was a way to make language learning practice less about desperate attempts to retain your lives (or hearts in Duolingo's environment) and more about genuine learning. So if there was a way to be rewarded for getting something right as opposed to getting only punishment for mistakes, I'd gladly embrace it.

Meanwhile, I've got a French lesson to retake and boy I'd do anything to pass it this time around! And a pillow will be hit very hardly for about 100 times if I won't!


With all due respect, I think no method can be good for everybody. There are people who get bored with textbooks and prefer some fun. There are also those who don't see any sense in stars, hearts and skill points. Some people like to study with a fixed course unlocking levels on their way, others prefer to have access to all the content from the start. How can one system satisfy all of them? There is no way.

I can understand people who are frustrated and I respect them no less. However, I would not want Duolingo to become less challenging. I'm sure there are many people like me who are motivated by challenges and need this risk of failing to stay excited while going through the "game".

Another point: learning a language always has some hard and boring points, it can hardly do absolutely without them. I'm not sure that making the "game" easier will completely eliminate the frustration caused by the language itself.

Just an opinion from the "other side" to make some balance :-)


I'd like to make another comment, this time picking up the "100 points a day" comment and elaborating on that.

Well, I have reasoned that it would certainly be ideal if I was able to learn 10 lessons per day, because this would allow learning a skill (or two, if they consist of fewer lessons) per day. However, I just made a test to see how much I can learn per hour. Sadly, it appears that if you keep on stumbling and making mistakes, maybe it is possible to only complete five lessons. Which often means merely half a skill.

And then you also need to factor in the time you might want to take off from quizzing, if you really get extremely frustrated, even pissed off for failing every time. So there goes at least 10 minutes. Maybe if you're lucky you can learn the other 5 lessons in 50 minutes. If not, expect to be more pissed off and more cooling down.

And then you need at least half an hour to practice the existing skills so that nothing would weaken too much. Timed practice can help, for if you tried without timer, you'd surely sustain tons of failures and would not receive a single point!

So at this stage, I think it is safe to say, that in order to complete the ideal of mastering a language on Duolingo in three months, you have to practice THREE whooping hours every single day! Not a single day off! Now how are you going to manage to make ANY real progress if you are super-busy at work and at home there's little else than more commitments to take care of! If you're lucky, you can barely manage an hour for yourself. And you sure ain't be relaxing if you are constantly mad at making mistakes. At this rate, how on earth is ANYBODY going to make any real progress with Duolingo when there's limited time and limited potential for skill acquisition? Bear in mind that I do have time, but what if I didn't? Then I'd sure learn very little if anything


Okay, I'll try to answer that :-)

You only take into account taking 10 lessons a day to get 100 points, but it is not the only possibility.

Here is one of possible study plans to get 100+ points a day:

  1. A session of untimed practice of all skills or some recent skill to "get into" the language without too much haste. 10-13 points if your recent studies were really good.

  2. A couple of timed practice sessions of your previous skills or lessons. 30-40 points.

  3. A new lesson. This is the hardest part because you can really fail it a couple of times because of new phrases and tricky sentences. 10-13 points.

  4. Repeat the new lesson to retain new vocabulary and phrases better. This is usually easier, however, you may still pick some new phrases and fail. 10-13 points.

  5. Another new lesson + its repetition. 20-26 points.

  6. An untimed practice session of the current skill. It will cover your newly learned lessons and a few previous ones. Check how good you are at this skill. 10-13 points.

  7. A timed practice of your current skill. 15-20 points.

The total is about 100 points or even slightly more. There may be more lessons and less practice if your current skills are simple. With topics like Adverbs 2 you may want to only take one new lesson a day, otherwise all these adverbs make a complete mess in your head.

A study plan for really busy days: 5-6 sessons of timed practice of any skills will only take about 15 minutes and give you 100+ points.

Another study plan for really busy days: Translate about 7-12 sentences and you'll get your 100 points.

Doing 10 new lessons a day is indeed very hard. The farther you go down the tree, the harder it is, and you need more and more practice. If you do all this practice, you will get 200-300 points a day instead of 100. Now this is what you really have to do if you want to finish the whole tree in 3 months. I can say that because I did finish my French tree in 3 months and indeed I studied for a few hours a day in total on Duolingo and other resources. (Learning from different resources sometimes made Duolingo lessons easier and I could do a lot of them in a row.) All my free time went to French because I really liked it.

To learn that fast is not at all necessary. Why not keep a steady pace of 100 points a day for 6-9 months? Take your time, give yourself all the practice you need and you won't be so frustrated. After all, at school or college you may learn the same program in a few years! How can it be other than frustrating if you push yourself to accomplish that in 3 months when you have to work and take care of your family?

I don't think it is possible to learn a language in 3 months studying for half an hour a day. Either you work hard and a lot or you study longer. I don't know any method that will give you steady knowledge faster. Well, there are Michel Thomas's audio courses which I like a lot. They are very effective, but rather expensive and they don't drill cases, articles, conjugations so that you would use them automatically. They rather give you the ideas to figure out your sentences slowly, therefore, even if you cover all the necessary grammar by listening to 24 hours of audio, you won't be fluent and you'll still need a lot of practice.

If Duolingo was easier, it would only mean one of two options: either it would be ineffective and you'll learn too little, or you would have to review and repeat lessons without being obliged to do it. Now the system decides for you: if you fail for the fourth time, you repeat the lesson. Otherwise, to learn effectively, you'll have to make such decisions yourself, and it is often much harder and much more boring.


I tried out your suggested routine. Well, I have no idea how long it will take me this way to learn the entire French Duolingo programme, but today it was certainly a bit easier on my nerves. :) I have no idea if "practice your current skill" is the same thing as "practice all skills", but that's what I've also been doing. Sometimes you manage to get more than 10 points, for an easier skill maybe near 20. But you can also get next to nothing if you're immediately bombarded with a bunch of complicated sentences! I guess this means I've got scores of words that need to be strengthened.


I'm glad if my suggestions helped :-)

"Practice your current skill" means going to the skill you are currently working on (like "Nature" or "Adjectives: 3") and clicking "Practice skill" button.

I've also noted that if a practice session starts with difficult sentences which I fail, it will be a complete fiasco. No big deal, though, as it does not take a long time to fail a timed practice :-)

I guess this means I've got scores of words that need to be strengthened.

Yes, you are right. Unfortunately, Duolingo can't ensure you practice enough, so you have to schedule some practice yourself. When I was about half way down my German tree, I found that I could not remember a lot of words and it was getting harder and harder to move on. At that point I returned right to the beginning of the course and decided to redo all the lessons where I had less than full hearts (there were still hearts instead of word strength bars at that time). I repeated every lesson until I got full hearts, and after completing all the lessons in a skill I did timed practice until I got full 20 points. The whole great review took about a month, but I felt much more confident after it. From then on, I advance more slowly and do much more practice. I don't care when I'll finish my German course, I only wish to get all skills strong and steady.

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