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Health and Gems - Hear me out...

Be warned, the following post is obviously in the minority, but I wanted to provide a dissenting opinion:

I like Health and Gems.

I have been a regular user of duolingo for more than 3 years, with the iOS app being my primary way of using it. I ended up quitting for a long time a while ago because I got so frustrated with the original, "three strikes and you're out" heart system, so I understand where you guys are coming from, but I don't think this is like that.

The fact of the matter is, when you are learning a language, you need to review. A lot. Otherwise you won't be able to call upon a strong basis when you are asked to speak. I think that the heart system nails that, because, at least for me, all it has done is made me pay much closer attention.

Is it frustrating to get kicked out of a lesson because you made a few mistakes? Absolutely. But, for me at least (and again, I recognize that I am in the minority here), it inspires me to go back and review so that I can hit that lesson again with a stronger base.

I'm not saying it's the best thing to ever happen to duolingo, and there are some very obvious flaws. I'm not trying to tell you to love it either. I just wanted to put it out there that I like it and explain a little bit of why.

I'd be happy to leave it at that, or clarify any reasons of how come I love this monstrosity of an update ;P

Happy languaging!

June 4, 2017



"The fact of the matter is, when you are learning a language, you need to review."

You need to review but what you need to review is not random. Let's say I hit my 5th mistake while trying a lesson on the past tense:

  • if most of my mistakes were on incorrectly using that new (to me) feature of the language, then I need to review the tips to ensure I have understood how it works and practice THAT lesson and unit on the past tense more. This new "feature" doesn't let you do that. I didn't have an issue with the heart system because it let you do exactly that.

  • if most of my mistakes were inattention mistakes (silly things like translating a sentence instead of typing what I heard, translating to my native instead of to my L2 when learning a L3 through a L2, typos etc), then what I need to do is pay more attention redoing that lesson and/or going forward. It's not indicative of my grasp on the concept I am learning or previous ones so it's not indicative of a need to review.

  • if most of my mistakes were in a different language, either because I am learning several languages and the health system carries over or because I am learning a L3 through a L2 and mispelled a word in my L2, I should either review that language or not but again, it doesn't show a need to review anything in the language I am currently studying. When learning Esperanto, I've made mistakes like using "elderly" instead of "elder" or "elderly person" or "fishes" instead of "fish" when translating an Esperanto sentence. That doesn't show a need to review an Esperanto lesson or that I don't have a strong enough basis in Esperanto.

  • if most of my mistakes were on the accusative or the plurals or another feature on the language, then I need to review that specific unit. Duo lets you do this but will not give you your health back after you've properly reviewed it. You will only get your health back if you do a specific health review which might or might not have any link to your actual weak spots in the language.

  • or maybe I had a normal rate of mistakes given the period of time and content learned, considering all the factors above and the fact that a correct answer may not yet be accepted.

Tl;Dr: It's true that reviewing is important but this change is going the wrong way about addressing this need. Making a 5th mistake over a period of time isn't necessarily indicative that you don't have a strong enough basis to take on a specific lesson and a random review isn't going to address your specific weakpoints.

ETA: I am glad you like it and I am not trying to convince you to dislike it. Thanks for presenting your point with arguments and without assuming that those who disagree just want to "blast" through a tree mindlessly. Definitively worth upvoting.


One thing I've noticed in that a lot of languages, I'll often come to a lesson that just throws so much new material at you that you just can't get through it without making a ton of mistakes, and reviewing doesn't help at all, because, as I said, the material is NEW.


Gilding the tree is already there to encourage people to review. Plus, old material shows up in new lessons, so you’re reviewing and learning something new at the same time. From my experience, using the review to get health is useless to me. I’ll be about half way down a tree, struggling with some new grammar, and it’ll give me vocabulary from basics 1. Not helpful. To me health is just a hindrance and a nag; I know by my own progress what I need to review and when.

I disagree with the health system because of how it will restrict people on how they can study. Without the health system, you could still review the way you wanted, and pay closer attention if you felt you needed to. It’s great that the health system worked out for you, but it’s going to hinder other people when they’re forced to use it and it works against how they learn. I think everyone should be able to study how they choose to without such a restrictive feature holding them back, especially when there’s still errors in courses that will cause them to unfairly lose health.


Since you stated the following:

I ended up quitting for a long time a while ago because I got so frustrated with the original, "three strikes and you're out" heart system, so I understand where you guys are coming from, but I don't think this is like that.

I can't help but point out that in the context of a single lesson, the only difference (to the best of my understanding; I hadn't joined when hearts were still around) between the old hearts system and health is that instead of being a fixed three, it's five (or 4 or 3 or 2 or 1) strikes and you're out, and once every three weeks or so you can afford a health recharge when you strike out.

Needless to say, I find your positions on the two systems inconsistant.


The old system at least let you retry what you obviously needed to review the most: the lesson you just got kicked out of for making the mistakes!


I agree review is good. I did German without review at all just plowed through the next lesson to finish the tree. I'm doing Spanish by making everything gold first then if time allows moving on and I like it better BUT and it's a big but why not limit the number of new lessos a day by simple count not mistakes. New vocabulary is introduced in lessons and no peek is allowed. How is it reasonable to expect people to not make mistakes. Five mistakes can mean I'm a lousy thumb typist not that I don't know the answers. The reason has nothing to do with improving your learning and everything to do with monetizing duo. If they will admit that I'll stop objecting. Superlearners and lingot inflation my derierre


Yes, but why place an arbitrary limit at all?


You know the reason. It's a way to collect revenue while still claiming Duo is free. It has nothing to do with binging if it did the limit would be lessons learned not mistakes made.


Of course I know the reason. Maybe my question was just as rhetoric as yours (after BUT) :-)


My good news is I have no desire to be a polyglot. I did German because I was applying for a job with a German company and I'm just about done with Spanish for workers where I did get a job so I won't be doing any new material


Sorry, but I don't comprehend:

why not limit the number of new lessos a day by simple count not mistakes

And I'm not sure what this is related to:

New vocabulary is introduced in lessons and no peek is allowed.

Is this the current state of how things work on iOS? or does this relate to the suggestion I didn't comprehend?


The health system they are trying on iOS counts your mistakes when you make five mistakes it shuts down. You can then either review old material, wait for five hours, or pay to reset. Duo says it is because people spend to much time on new material and not enough on review. Do you know what peek is?


Is it really true that you can't peek in new lessons on the app? Because you definitely can in the website, I do it all the time. Surely that's how you learn a new word? Or are you literally supposed to guess the meaning of something you've never seen before? I find that hard to believe, but if it's true then that's horrendous.


Many words on the Android app don't allow peek. I am guessing iOS is the same


Thank you for this, it clarified everything for me.


German without reviewing, that must have been "fun" to completely re-learn afterwards xD.


Could have been worse but it does make me laugh when people complain about having ten skills to strengthen once.


It's good to set out your point of view! I don't care for the idea of limiting due to mistakes, but we ought to stand up for learning in general and make our opinions known. The ultimate goal ought to be language learning and what works for everyone. (The main language information is my main focus, all this "health" "gems" "lingots" "levels" and everything else just adds value to Duolingo, lets it stand out among other language learning sites. If they decide for forgo their advantage that's up to them. But I'll stick around for the basic content!! :)


I'm pretty neutral about it. I think it depends on how new you are to Duolingo. I've been around a while, rarely make mistakes. It's all review for me. But if I was new the gem life thing would be annoying. I'll still stick around, but would prefer the old system.


Spanish is easy, of course you rarely make mistakes lol. Try doing the same with a non-Romance language and see how far you get.


Fine, buy why do you want Duolingo to tell you how to study? When to practice? You admitted it was frustrating . Is that good for learning?


So basically people need to be controlled, otherwise we just do what we want and run amuck?

Having 3 strikes your out, but you can get right back up immediately and try again frustrated you to the point of quitting, But 5 strikes your out and you cant come back for a day is a great thing?

I think duo is the best game in town, so they can afford to strip the best parts of the site... Immersion, which really let you delve into the language, as well as establish friendships with others working on translation with you. Activity log that let you praise your friends for their accomplishments which would inspire them to work harder, and finally having a profile that anyone could write a message to me.

Community is huge, immersion was really just an amazing tool. I am going to have to get an kindle paperwhite setup so I can somewhat reproduce what immersion provided.

I finally joined some clubs, because I thought that would be a sense of community and allow you to interact with people... mmmm not so much. You can basically give someone variations of a thumbs up in different languages.

I appreciate you trying to be a dissenting view, or put rose colored glasses on an update. I think the majority of people dislike the inconvenience and do not see it as progress.

What will be most interesting to me is to see if I get down voted for not liking what the majority seems not to like while you are up voted for praising it.


why would your comment get downvoted?


It's easy for me to upvote you since you decently explain your position. I agree that a health system can be a good thing. I haven't yet taken a full stance on Duolingo's version of the system since I haven't been exposed to it yet.


A health system maybe. This one, in its present form, is a hindrance to learning.
I have been exposed to it: after five mistakes in a new lesson half way through my Japanese reverse tree (with loads of new kanji which weren't in the EN-JA tree), I got kicked out. At the time, my previous skills were still golden, and in any case, no amount of reviewing them would have strengthened the new material I hadn't yet had the chance to learn. The old hearts system at least let you reattempt the new lesson.

My solution: ditch it for Android or an older iOS without health capability... And make sure I "binge" through any new courses while they're still in beta so I can review them at my own pace later.


I use Duolingo in conjunction with TinyCards and I personally don't hate the new update. It makes me double check that I didn't fumble while typing and double-check my answers. It would, however, be frustrating to be learning the words first time in the lesson itself. On top of everything, the algorithm has changed and everything refuses to stay golden. Having full lives encourages me to push on regardless of the ridiculous state of my tree. (Yes, I know that's probably the opposite of what the developers were shooting for.)

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