The good and BAD of Crowns - hoping someone from Duolingo reads this


So I have now used this new crown system and my concerns are confirmed - as well as overcome in some ways

Firstly, there is SOME good in this new Crown system - but it does not seem to me that this is about us learning language, this is about Duolingo and their business model. This whole change was clearly designed, as stated by Karint in a previous post about Crowns "Students are doing more sessions, sticking around for longer, and doing harder types of exercises" - this was not about language - this is about keeping eyeballs in the system longer so more ads can be put in front of them - why else would practice sessions no longer build skills - practice restored health, and levelled up - now they want to take that incentive away, so you are more likely to watch an add to restore health - cha-ching Duolingo bank account!!! OK - fair enough, Duolingo needs a workable business model - none of us would have anything to learn, or complain about in this instance if they don't remain viable. But there is some disingenuous prattle about this being about the users, when it is more geared for Doulingo's benefit. Maybe they should try some transparency about the fact that Crowns is about them remaining viable, instead of trying to BS us that it is all for our benefit.

As I said there is no doubt some benefit for users with the Crown system - but there is clear motive in the design changes that prove that duolingo is now more like facebook, it has a sole purpose to monetise the user base it has.

Issues I see:

1) WHERE are the Bots?!?! Why did this feature have to go? One of the issues with Duolingo is that it is not spoken language skills - and that is NOT learning a language. The bots were at least an attempt to encourage you to use spoken language skills - and in a simulated "flowing discussion" that also encouraged you to use your knowledge as it developed to add additional words and phrases you may know - unlike the "speak these words" function in the lessons - which are "parrot" learning - just repeating what you have heard/read exactly - that isn't an owl (knowledge) that is quite literally a dumb parrot that has no knowledge of the language - just mimicking the sounds. The bots allowed you to apply knowledge beyond just repeating back sounds.

Call me a cynic - but based on recent behaviour - no doubt the bot feature will become a "paid" feature in the future - either through gems/lingots (meaning you need to watch ads galore to earn enough to use the feature - or buy the lingots/gems outright) or only on DuoLingo Pro subscription

2) The lack of decay function is against ALL principles of learning - especially language learning. It is well established that we need to continue use knowledge to retain and master it. Hell, Duolingo literally told us that when it would "decay" a skill and ask us to practice again - brains aren't perfect. I have just levelled up to a 5 crown in Basics 1 of Spanish - firstly it was not that more difficult - just so repetitive - AND it did not even insist on getting "accents" on letter correct, or even only letting you get the 5 crown level when you go 100% - with no errors in the first attempt of each question. That means I know I have not obtained anywhere NEAR mastery of even these basics, yet I now have NO opportunity to go back and practice. In fact there is one aspect I know I am struggling with and without the ability to go back to a specific lesson to practice - or see the words in advance, this is now useless.

3) You cannot go back to a specific lesson or see the words of the lesson in advance. This is a massive step backwards. Why is a more important question? In what way did the move to Crowns REQUIRE these changes? As I mentioned, the crown system itself is not an issue it is actually the implementation that Duolingo has made - which is why I feel this is more about money. You could have moved to a Crown system AND still let people see the relevant words before each lesson - Why do you need to remove them? You could also have the crown system AND allow people to go back to a specific lesson and practice - again all technically possible, yet removed - so you are more likely to run out of health and have to watch ads.

4) I spent gems/lingots on the "idioms" and "flirting" bonus skills - these are no missing from the app - WHY? Again, why the need to remove these features (like bots, ability to return to lessons, seeing the word list, the bonus skills), to do the Crown system?

I do not care that my tree is not gold - of course it was slightly demotivating at first, but I soon realised and became motivated by the fact that for every skill I have a "1" or more, then essentially that is the new "gold tree". It took me a few minutes to get over that, though a better explanation from Duolingo would have helped, and actually from a UX perspective, you could have saved 90% of the angst you generated by just having the skills that had at least one "crown" be gold!!!! That wouldn't have been that hard. That way you could have had an easier transition. You still have a "gold tree" for quick reference to progress through the skills AND the crown levels were about depth.

So all up - and I really hope SOMEONE from Duolingo reads this (@karint at least) - The issue is NOT Crowns per se - it is the way you have done them.

You could have got ALL the benefits you mention - more time in app, more sessions - more ad revenue for Duolingo - WITHOUT taking away useful features and value for users. This is what is clearly generating some of the most consistent and vehement HATE towards Duolingo I have ever seen. You have made this change for your benefit - OK - fair call, you provide a service to us, you deserve to make some coin for it, BUT you could have done that for you, without TAKING value away from your user base!!!!

Keep crowns - make us spend more time doing sessions for longer - for your benefit. but put back:

1) Decay

2) Bots

3) Ability to see the word lists for each lesson

4) Ability to go back to specific lessons

5) Bonus skills back in app (though they weren't that great - or worth the gems/lingots - so not a big issue)

You would eliminate 80% of the hate generated from this change overnight with addressing #1 and # 4. The people complaining about their "golden tree" are just not yet seeing the fact that a skill with a single crown is the same as a "gold" skill - whatever!!

Oh, and I noticed that @karint from Duolingo mentioned that they did testing with Global Ambassadors - maybe that was a biased sample??? By definition people that are your Ambassadors are likely to be 1) more accepting of ANYTHING you do, 2) even if they don't like it, less willing to give you the brutal honest feedback you need. I would suggest to Duolingo that you need to broaden your testing and feedback earlier - clearly the "great unwashed" of us in your user base do not feel like those you tested on - or you were feeding us BS about their wonderful/positive feed back too!!!

Finally, to let Duolingo know. My family, friends and colleagues at work would joke about how much of a PROMOTOR of Duolingo I have been. I would tell anyone about it, how good it was, and why they should join. I got my brother to get my 2 nieces and nephew to start learning 2nd languages using your service. I even started the team I manage at work on using the service as a team bonding exercise.

I have to say, based on the issues I raised above, I would NOT recommend Duolingo to anyone at all right now, even new language learners. It is clear you have lost sight of finding the right balance between your users needs and your needs to make money, and I would not want to lose my reputation recommending your service to someone, as you may destroy the service even more in your desperation to make money.

Again, I have no issue with you making money, just don't remove value from your system for your current users that have put you in a position to be able to make that money from advertisers.



April 8, 2018


well said my friend. I agree in every way! another thing I would like to see is a toggle between the two so that everyone could be happy.

April 9, 2018

I'm just going to point out that health is only a feature for some participants. (My understanding is that it is a A/B test on one specific platform.)

Those of using the website never see anything related to health and certainly never are asked to watch ads to regain it, but still have the new crowns set-up for lessons.

April 8, 2018

Thanks for that info - I was not aware of that. On the iOS app I have the health feature. I have the crowns on both app and web version - but I use the app most often, as I like to do my lessons on my lunch break

April 8, 2018

I do agree with some points that you are making and I hope for Duolingo to add lost functionality back in: such as visible lesson decay (with a positive twist on it) and testing out of individual lessons. That's why I've created this thread:

Suggestion: How everyone would love the Crowns :)

April 8, 2018

Yep - thanks - I have up voted your post as well

April 8, 2018

Thank you I have up voted yours too. I'll add a link to your thread to mine as well. :)

April 8, 2018


April 8, 2018

I agree especially on having vocab lists (#3), and more importantly being able to return to lesson for review and practice (#4). What are "bots"?

April 10, 2018

Yes. I feel like this changed pulled the rug out from under us, and like you I have gone from being a big promoter of the site to highly unlikely to ever mention it to anyone.

What I do see is that various people have different features they really liked, and almost universally they are gone. My top 5 might not be the same as your top 5, but at the very least could there be a survey/poll/vote/feedback of some kind from the user base at large to determine some kind of compromise.

I come back everyday and hope that something has changed, and am disappointed that it hasn't. I do my single token 'hold onto my streak' strengthening session for the day and leave. There are so many bugs in the new system, it's not helping people adapt. Perhaps a tactical retreat, regroup and relaunch is in order.

Hoping to be a fan again someday, Rowan

April 13, 2018

Removing decay is the one that amazes me. It's a fact of learning and really necessary to getting things into long term memory. Now I have to track and manage that myself.

April 22, 2018
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