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  5. What I learned about the crow…


What I learned about the crown system from watching a language superstar.

I am reading a lot of criticism of the new crown system on this forum. Much of it seems to come from people who resent "having to start over". I'm not sure what that means because, it is clearly not true. You can work on any lesson that has an open circle. I've tried that, and it works.

So I suspect "having to start over" means that skills were previously completed (and perhaps golden) are colorful again (and perhaps at crown level 2). "Having to start over" therefore seems to be code for "I was done and now I'm not done." But here's the thing...

You weren't done.


You still won't be done when all your skills have five crowns.

How do I know this? I live with a language super-star. My wife speaks eight languages fluently and for six more languages speaks them somewhere between beginner and intermediate. I watch how she learns languages and I'm here to share the secrets.

First, a question: Why are you here at Duolingo? I'm here to learn other languages. Is that true for you? Duolingo makes language learning fun by giving us little rewards: points, lingots, gems, completed trees, golden trees, days in a streak, language circles after our names when we post on the forum ... and now crowns. Here's the secret:

They may be fun, but they don't matter in and of themselves. They only matter to the extent that they keep us practicing. They are NOT a measure of language ability.

Language proficiency takes constant practice. Completed trees and now crown level fives are misleading because they give the idea that you are done. I watch a language super-star and know that you are never done. Stop using a language - even for a day - and your skills begin to atrophy. My wife constantly works on her languages because she knows this.

It's not just my wife. My grandmother's parents emigrated to the USA from Germany. My grandmother was born here but spoke nothing but German for her first five years of life. She stopped speaking it when she went to the kindergarten and the other kids made fun of her for not knowing English. And guess what? She lost her mother tongue, the only language she had spoken for the first five years of her life. Language takes practice no matter how good you are at it.

So why are people complaining about having to practice more? Did you falsely believe that the number of points, lingots, days in your streak, and the number of languages you are studying, actually mean something about your language ability? I would suggest to you that you are confusing the incentives with the true rewards: being able to speak other languages.

I am extremely grateful to Duolingo. My wife's native tongue is Russian and mine is English. I can speak to my in-laws because of Duolingo. My soon-to-be-three-year-old son speaks Russian, English, and French and I can keep up with him thanks to Duolingo. It is not because I have a level 25 in Spanish or because my streak is more than 400 days long or because I had a golden tree (before crowns). It is because I work at my languages everyday and always will. Even if I lose my streak, which seems to be the horror of horrors for some but is something that I have done many times, I will keep moving forward as long as I keep practicing. The crowns give me another opportunity to keep doing that, so what is the big deal?

Thanks Duolingo.

April 8, 2018


[deactivated user]

    I completley agree with every word you have written. Speaking only for myself, I no longer know where I am or what to do next now that the spaced repetition is gone or diminishing gilding that everyone relied on as a pointer. I have voiced many times on here that “ you cant speak with numbers” and I have no interest in any of the little trinket rewards, its what they represent that matters, for example a golden owl at the end of a finished tree is a useless image, but it represents the fact that you have finally finished, and are now free to move around in the tree as you so wish, with a few suggested topics indicated by a change in colour. Now all gone. The overall structure has changed forcing users to be confused. For some a golden tree was the one and only motivation, some will have msintained golden trees for a very long time, maybe at the expense of something else in life, now its been a waste of time for them. I think most people are ranting because they are lost, feel cheated, and are overwhelmed by the recent changes. made worse by the inclusion of health, which is a blatant ploy to extract money, even if you have already paid for Plus. So yes you are right with your words, but it cuts much deeper.


    Spaced repetition is not really gone. If you use the Practice button on the right, the exercises will be focused on words that are due for repetition. As to features that are now missing, let's provide constructive feedback to DL. Applications are constantly changing in an attempt to improve them. Sometimes what's good for one, isn't for the other. Let's talk about it like adults instead of just ranting about it. Sometimes, you have to break something to make it better. This could be such an opportunity. :)


    Well said! My father spoke Hungarian in the first few years of his life and then spoke English upon going to kindergarten. Growing up, I didn't hear my father speaking much Hungarian except with the other older relatives. It wasn't until he had health issues in his 90s that he began speaking more Hungarian and how I wish that I had learned the language while growing up. Fortunately, with DL, I was able to speak a little Hungarian to my father a few weeks prior to his passing. After I spoke what little I could say, my father was in tears and peacefully passed away two weeks later. Like you have written, language learning is a constant journey. Thank you for sharing! :) Chris

    • 1112

    While I agree with most of the points you're making, I think you're misrepresenting those you say are complaining about having to start over.

    I can only speak about my personal case, having spent a lot of time to have the first version of the Dutch tree golden, to almost redo everything again when the new version of the tree was made available last December. So when I finally got my tree golden again mere days before the Crown Update I considered I was done with it.

    But not done learning Dutch, but rather done with learning Dutch on Duolingo. That means only spending time to keep my tree golden, and more time on more concrete things like reading Dutch books or websites, seeing Dutch movies, ...

    Now comes the Crown Update and my tree is converted to a state I think is not a fair representation of my knowledge of the language: some lvl 3 skills here and here, and lots of lvl 2. So I'm left with only two choices: I can either let my tree in its current state and continue to learn Dutch in more enjoyable ways (and I think it is important to keep language learning fun and enjoyable), or to go through the process of getting my tree golden again.

    For the moment, I'm trying to give a chance to this new update, but so far I've only experienced a lot of repetition and many of the sentences I'm seeing are the same I've seen before and had no trouble to answer previously. So while I now have more to practice, it feels pretty useless if most of it is well known vocabulary. It's also very inconsistent with the concept of space repetition, which should give me more frequently sentences I struggle with, and less sentences I can easily answer.


    So I'm left with only two choices: ...

    Why not focus on the areas of the tree where you still have trouble? At least for me, I haven't tended to find that merely keeping things gold required enough attention to actually resolve my isolated trouble spots in trees where I'm quite far along.

    • 1156

    Well said!! My thoughts exactly!!


    Fantastic post!


    Great post and highlights all of the important points about learning languages... I have been meaning to make a post about it myself, as I sometimes see people stress out about the streak, or about how many language courses they've "conquered" so to speak. But really... unless you have ever been good at a second, 3rd or 4th language, one can never truly appreciate the impact of practices (and the lack of them).

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