The disastrous Health feature!

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Let me give you (Luis/Duolingo) an example why the Health feature is so incredibly annoying and counter-productive to learning. In Portuguese, I was just required to translate: ❛Ele deverá estar na ambulância logo.❜ I entered: ❛He should soon be in the ambulance.❜ which is perfectly good English and a correct translation, but it was rejected and I was docked a 'life' / 'Health point'! The only accepted answer was: ❛He should be in the ambulance soon.

Mostly, I find the Health system just penalises learners for errors with the courses, or poor English or lack of imagination of the course creators. It is particularly annoying with Portuguese since they do not appear to have corrected any errors, even the most outrageously nonsensical and ungrammatical English, for over two years.

This is not the most egregious example by any means, but I think it does serve to illustrate the point that the Health feature is ill-conceived and damaging to the enjoyment of learning languages with Duolingo. I don't believe simply tinkering with it will help, it should be abandoned.

It is a little weird. Since I first started with Duolingo there had been steady improvements, firstly removing the 'Hearts', which Duolingo acknowledged hindered learning, but then they go and introduce the Health feature, which is far worse. The Bots are great and they recently introduced improvements making them even better, but sadly they are still not available for Italian and show little likelihood that they ever will be. I've not looked at the new story feature yet, but I hear that it is good.

Another sentence I had to translate today was: ❛Os insetos querem aprender português com Duolingo.❜, ❛The insects want to learn Portuguese with Duolingo.❜ A charmingly quirky Duolingo sentence. However, soon, they may be the only ones doing so. With the Health feature fewer humans will wish to. ;-)

June 27, 2017

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In Portuguese, I just had to translate: ’Eu dei um osso as meu cachorro.’ with the tiles.

Due to the Health feature, I went for the more literal translation of 'I gave a bone to my dog.' simply because I didn't want to risk losing a life by it not accepting 'I gave my dog a bone,'. I have found that when the tile questions include the extra words, more succinct correct answers are frequently rejected.

Yet another example of how the Health feature has spoilt Duolingo and damaged learning. Prior to its introduction, I would have risked trying alternative, possibly better/more natural, answers.

July 3, 2017
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Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea, I'll be clear; I used to be a huge fan of Duolingo. I admired the ethos of keeping learning free, and everything they did seemed to improve the app. It mostly seemed logical and well thought out. Especially once the Hearts were removed, which made a huge difference. The interview Luis gave to The Guardian (British newspaper) was impressive. He suggested that they might have to introduce adverts at some point, but was adamant they would be appropriate and unobtrusive. However, currently, the adverts being shown here (in the UK) fall far from these ideals. Most are the lowest-quality click-bait or spam/scams, but some are just highly inappropriate: I understand this particular example has now hopefully been removed by Duolingo, but it seems to have taken at least five days before being finally addressed. That is not really acceptible for an application that was once promoted to schools.

The creation of Bots was a brilliant idea. Although originally flawed, and impossible to achieve their claim of being AI-like, it was nevertheless still useful and mostly enjoyable to use. If one ignored the bizarre American-centric nature of Thanksgiving and Halloween for French. They have subsequently greatly improved it. It is a huge shame that it is limited to the 'core' (apparently Duolingo-created) languages. I have been really keen to see this available for Italian, but I fear this will never happen; that it is yet another innovation they have lost interest in, e.g. personalities.

Whilst Duolingo was totally free and non-commercial, one had to accept that it was a small team, it was wedded to the American dialect of Pittsburg and that there were minor irritations. However, the introduction of the Health 'punishment' has changed all this. Seriously, what were you thinking? Were you thinking? It defies logic on so many levels. The stated reason for its introduction in the first place (binging) seems entirely spurious.

Luis says ( that they are listening to the feedback, but it doesn't appear that way, since they think they simply need to tinker with the Health feature.

What were previously minor irritations are now major frustrations and very disruptive and counter-productive to learning languages. Certain courses, e.g. French, are heavily populated with American dialect colloquialisms, sometimes to the point of being incomprehensible to a native English speaker as to what answer is expected. In those cases it is now necessary to lose a life to figure out what is required. With French, with some lessons every other word seemed to require 'awesome!’ within the answer. Often that was an inappropriate translation. If a correct translation were entered, it was usually rejected. Not an issue before, but very bad, now, with Health!

There were a huge number of silly errors, particularly in the French course, often requiring un-grammatical English answers which looked as though they'd been parsed by Google Translate! Now with Health, it is necessary to answer these questions wrongly to avoid being penalised by losing a life! I now frequently have to spend a lot of time double-guessing what an American might have decided the answer should be rather than simply answering with what I believe is the correct answer in order to avoid losing a life.

The Italian course was generally very much better. Ironic since it seemed to be one of the volunteer created courses. It had few errors compared to the French course, and understood English, not just the American dialect.

As well as being counter-productive - read through this discussion and Luis' original discussion topic post and update, and you can see the many reasons why - it was poorly implemented. A newly discovered example; when starting a lesson, it appears to check the Health level before updating it. I have been asked if I wanted to watch an advert to restore one life (my answer is always no), before it updated the Health to full as it should have been in the first place.

It is particularly daft that Health applies universally across all languages being studied. One might there is a huge difference between refreshing a language you are already familiar with and studying one which you are entirely unfamiliar with, possible with a different alphabet or non Indo-european.

All the Health feature really does is highlight the limitations and failings of the courses. It is particularly discouraging to people new to Duolingo who don't have the benefit of having accumulated gems to bribe their way out of the loss of life caused by flaws in the courses.

Duolingo was a fantastic tool, but it only covers the basics. In order to progress with languages one needs to discover other resources after completing a tree. There are a lot of other resources and apps available. Previously, most were nowhere near as good as Duolingo, but that is no longer necessarily the case, especially for people new to Duolingo.

If it really was about detecting if people were overdoing things and making a mistake as a result. It should, at the verty least, restore Health when a subsequent lesson is completed without error. Since that should surely indicate that thecprevious error was an anomaly.

It is entirely up to you, Luis/Duolingo if you persist in keeping the Health feature. But it is entirely up to the users if they like it, or not, and choose to go elsewhere. This is such a great shame, since Duolingo on the iPad was once great.

I was keen to study Japanese on Duolingo, but after looking at the first lesson, it doesn't appear to be up to the normal Duolingo standard. With 'Health' I can forsee the course being very frustrating. Instead, I think I shall use a different app for studying Japanese.

July 2, 2017
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Yet another example of why the Health feature is not fit for purpose... In Portuguese, the only accepted translation for 'Há risco de temporal na terça-feira.’ was 'There is risk of thunderstorm on Tuesday.’!

This is not natural (nor correct) English. There are many possible ways of translating this correctly with natural English, but none are possible with the tiles.

I answered 'There is thunderstorm risk on Tuesday' which whilst not ideal, is better than the only accepted answer. Of course, better would have been 'There is a thunderstorm risk on Tuesday' but there was no 'a' tile available. More natural would have been 'There is a risk of a thunderstorm on Tuesday'. Alternatively, it should have been 'There is (a) risk of thunderstorms on Tuesday'. 'There are risks of thunderstorms on Tuesday’ would be another possibility.

Yet another example of a poorly constructed course question losing me another Health point/life. Very irritating!

July 3, 2017
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Another, at best, ambiguous example... If there were no picture, then they would be correct. However, as there is a picture representing a female, surely, only the feminine sentence is the correct choice?

July 25, 2017

Re: "Health" Feature - I used to do several lessons a day - Mostly learning trial and error. I know a lot of the language and am trying to improve my grammar. Now I am losing interest because I get cut off mid lesson and I have the same complaint about right answers being marked wrong in their Ukrainian course. The course says that "дуже приємно" means "very nice to meet you". "дуже приємно" means "very nice" and is used in many circumstances. I used "коричневий" for "Brown" which is correct and they marked it wrong; Health exhausted it kicked me out of my lesson. I went from an avid to an occasional user looking for another app to use. It seriously detracts from my learning experience.

July 23, 2018
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That is very similar to my experience. I also used to do several lessons a day, but now restrict myself to just the one. I find the 'Health' feature actively discourages me from doing more.

I also find that I get a less compreshensive understanding of a language I'm studying. Prior to the Health feature I would sometimes/often experiment with answers to try and gain a deeper understanding of a subject. That is no longer practical.

July 23, 2018

I had to find other ways to learn Ukrainian that respect me as an adult learner - this is not a hobby and I don't like being managed this way. I need to learn this language because I travel in an out of Ukraine. Being cut off mid-lesson because you made more than 8 mistakes doing two lessons (Most of them are keyboarding errors) is just too frustrating. It was great while it lasted.

July 28, 2018

If you don't like the "Health" feature, then you can "vote with your feet"

Switch to Duolingo's web version ( on your iOS device, because it .......

  • does not have the "Health" system and "gems"

  • will work in the Chrome or Firefox browser on your phone or tablet, if you have rather good Wifi (or LTE/4G with an Internet bundle)

  • you can choose a good teaching method:
    mostly "typing each word" instead of mostly "clicking on predefined words (word banks)"

  • has access to the very useful sentence discussions

  • has grammar "Tips and notes" in lessons that introduce new grammar
    .. Click on the light bulb next to the "Start" button
    .. picture:

If Duolingo is redirecting you from to their iOS app, then you can avoid this by completely removing Duolingo's iOS app from your device.

July 28, 2018
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The problem is that in spite of the fact the website version has some advantages, it simply doesn't play at all well with iPads. Although, it has improved slightly since the last time I used it. The text is too small, and it makes no attempt to adjust its layout to screen size. So it requires constant zooming in-and-out to be able to read things. This is a particular problem with languages where accents play an important part, such as Russia and Greek, and even more of a problem with Asian languages such as Hindi, Chinese and Japanese where it is frequently very difficult (as a complete beginner) to distguish between characters/words. The design is a bit crazy since there is so much wasted screen-space.

July 28, 2018

For the best typing experience:

  • set the browser to mobile mode
  • use the device in portrait mode

Duolingo is designed for the Google Chrome browser. I prefer the Firefox browser.

July 28, 2018

why take away the nice little fanfare you used to get when you got to a new language and replace it with that so annoying popup that slows you working. Every good feature is slowly being taken away and replaced with the worst most horrible features to totally demotivate you. You don't think they have too many users to cope with and are trying to get rid of a few?

June 28, 2017
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OK, today's classic:

This was the first question of the lesson and I lost a life! There was no way for me to control where it positioned the tiles!

July 9, 2017

@wombatua It says rather explicitly on their profile that they are in the United Kingdom.

Even if theoretically they were in america, i have seen no evidence that it differs in adverb placement besides your personal opinion and 'language is a living thing' On the other hand i have sourced a credible website and could source many more that agree

June 28, 2017
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So far as I am able to tell, it only seems to be the online Cambridge dictionary that has a particular hangup about this! :-)

The print version of Cambridge University Press might be a different matter, but perhaps the online version has been outsourced to the States, using the name under a licence? A bit like Encylopædia Britannica - although I think they may actually be American owned.

June 28, 2017

I have always been taught that it is incorrect

June 28, 2017
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Well, that's fair enough. Are you from somewhere in New England, by any chance? Boston, perhaps?

I did wonder for a moment whether the dictionary was Cambridge Massachusetts, but it seems it is CUP. - at least in name.

You certainly got me thinking. That structure is (very) commonplace here, but it seems to lend itself most frequently to consoling people or expressing empathy. Something I'd not really noticed before, since, for me it is a universal turn of phrase that I grew up with. I guess that is why it seemed natural to put it that way given the sentence subject:

  • He'll soon mend.
  • She'll soon get over him.
  • We'll soon get you home.
  • We'll soon put this to rights.
  • We'll soon be home,
  • We'll soon sort this out.
  • He'll soon be riding high.
  • It'll soon (all) be over.
  • They will soon be here.

In a similar, vein:

  • I'd as soon as not.
  • I'd sooner not.
  • As soon as you can.
  • As soon as possible (ASAP).
  • I'll let you know as soon as I know.
  • I'd sooner cut off my own leg.
  • I'd sooner it were you.
  • I'd sooner you went first.
  • Sooner done, ...
  • I'll do it as soon as I've finished (this).
  • He'll soon be as tall as his dad.
  • The train will soon be coming.
  • Sooner you than me.
  • It's (a little) too soon to say.

Sometimes, 'soon' can be placed either end, but it sometimes subtly changes the emphasis or meaning.

You are most probably correct as regards other time adverbs, but in British-English at least we have a 'field day' with 'soon'.

June 28, 2017

i have never heard most of those in that order, mid position means before a verb so ill ignore the ones that dont fit into that category and as you pointed out they tend to be things said in a conversation as a phrase or saying. All the first ones are the same as the example given, pronoun - soon - action, which i have already covered, they are not considered grammatically correct because by every source i have seen and my own education say only certain adverbs can come in the mid position, time adverbs not being among them, so these are grammatically incorrect and i have never heard someone talk like that before. For example they will be here soon would be the grammatically correct sentence there.

As soon as does seem to be a valid exception but thats only because of the 'as' which would change the position since you cant have at the end or beginning of a sentence so its 'overriding' the correct adverb placement in these examples

Sooner is the comparitve form of soon so also wouldn't follow the same rules

That being said i live in a place where formal speech is common, in certain places of England the grammar is far less formal and the speech often doesn't follow many of the rules, perhaps you have heard these phrases used more because you live in one of these places however i have no way of knowing that and would be talking about standard or formal English grammar since it would be impossible for me to include every dialect and its variance from standard english

June 28, 2017
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What do you mean by 'standard English'?

All my examples are, so far as I am aware, standard English across the UK (and much of the Commonwealth) and in common parlance across all social classes. They are not dialectical nor colloquial. They feature in TV dramas and literature. It's not as though I was quoting Geordie, Mackem, Scouse, Cockney, Brummie, Glaswegian, Estuary English, Bristonian, Manc or any of the many other accents or dialects of these islands.

I am increasingly curious as to your other sources that state those grammar rules.

I admit I didn't really look at your link closely. I just took your word for it. What it says is, ❛They usually go in end position. They sometimes go in front position especially if we want to emphasise the adverb.❜. All that really says is it's a case of style and preference. It only says usually. That is not a prohibition, nor even a rule. Also it says they sometimes go in the front position. It doesn't explicitly say that 'soon' can't appear mid-position.

In addition, 'soon’ is not an absolute point in time, such as today, tomorrow, next fortnight, it is relative; expressing a sense of nearer to now than much later. So does it even fall into the 'time' category?

So I would argue that a style guide is not a judge of correct usage of grammar and should not be used to decide the correctness of an answer on Duolingo.

obviously they cannot accept grammatically incorrect answers in any course❜. Sadly, I've had cause to report very many grammatic errors with several courses, some of which were, as I said previously, entirely nonsensical.

❛It is very common that people who have english as a native language...❜ It is certainly true that we can sometimes be put to shame by the knowledge of English grammar by those whose first language is not English.

My basic point was, before the Health feature, this was not an issue. It wasn't this case here, but now I find I am forced to answer some questions using very bad English so as not to lose a life, These have often been reported and highlighted in discussions more than two years ago, but still the errors have not been corrected.

Perhaps more obvious recent example might have been: ❛Quem está pagando a pesquisa?❜ which required the answer: ❛Who is paying the research?❜. If a 'for' was added, it was marked as incorrect. In which dialect of English would that be correct?

June 28, 2017
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  • Sooner the devil you know.

Although perhaps more often:

  • Better the devil you know.
June 28, 2017

If you do not like the health feature, stop using your phone? I use this program on a home pc and seem to be spared a lot of the issues many of you are experiencing.( I personally usually suffer from "improvements" to software. ;-) )

June 30, 2017

the problem is that the desktop version has a whole heap of different "features" that I don't like either (e.g. the desktop vastly increases the number of items in an exercise if you get some wrong whereas the phone stays at a reasonable number allowing you to continue rather than have to crash the exercise because it has got to 70 odd items and you want to go to bed) so I prefer the phone. the solution would be for health to be a user choice. Its downright nasty introducing a feature that users hate in order to demotivate them from using their phones and the software altogether

June 30, 2017
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Yet another example. Re-doing Verbs: Gerund in French, just for fun on my iPad; I encountered a listening exercise which had no audio! I remember this same issue a couple of years ago, just before I completed the French tree. I reported it at that time. It is ridiculous this is still an issue!

How on Earth is one supposed to get this right?

The odds against guessing this correctly must be several orders of magnitude above winning the EuroMillions Lottery (1 in 139,838,160), especially for learners attempting this exercise for the first time!

Fortunately, the almost universally despised Health feature is not currently implemented when re-doing exercises within a previously completed tree - so it is still fun to revise the Conjugation exercises, which I like to do periodically.

You really missed a trick there Luis, in your concerted endeavours to destroy all the good things about Duolingo and drive learners away! Duolingo still seems wedded to the Health feature, merely tinkering with it slightly to mitigate a few of the most outrageously injust aspects.

Come on Duolingo, the time for implementing meaningful, working, error reporting functionality from within the iPad app is long overdue.

July 19, 2017
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