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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/albaduine

So long "Health"... I won't miss you.

I wrote this post as a follow-up to one I posted here about three weeks ago called "Health... Is it a Success?" I was hoping that Luis or someone from the Duolingo leadership team would see that post and respond to it. I'm happy that many people did respond and comment on that post, but I didn't hear from anyone on the leadership team. If you would like to read that post, you can find it here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/26605073

Many of you might not be familiar with Duolingo’s “Health” system which was introduced about ten months ago, along with a new system of currency, “Gems.”

In Duolingo’s own words….Health is a way of pacing Duolingo lessons to discourage binging behavior, which is shown to be ineffective for learning a new language. You lose Health by answering incorrectly too many times.

The way it works is like this… you start out with five units of Health. Every time you make a mistake in a lesson, you lose one unit of Health. When you lose all five Health units, you are no longer able to continue the lesson unless you purchase more Health with gems or cash. Gems are earned from completing units, or can be purchased with cash. You can also earn gems by watching videos. Supposedly you can refresh Health by waiting four hours or so. You can still review lessons you’ve already completed, but no new lessons once you’re out of Health.

Health is needed only if you are using an IOS device such as an iPad, iPhone or an iPod. I’ve seen reports that it was used on Android devices for awhile, but is no longer on those devices.

When Health was introduced there were hundreds of negative comments from people who hated using it, and I agreed with most of the comments. I decided to give it time, and give it a fair trial before I said anything.

The problem with Health is that you feel like you’re being punished or penalized for every mistake you make, many of which are just clumsy typos because it’s harder to type on a mobile device.

When you’re learning something new, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. You don’t punish someone every time they make a mistake. I’ve been a musician most of my life, so I know a lot about making mistakes. You don’t tell someone to go practice something else, or worse yet wait four hours after they make five mistakes. No… you slow it down and analyze what you did wrong, so you can correct it. Telling someone to go practice something else is self defeating. Telling them to wait four hours is absurd. The truth is, waiting doesn’t always actually refresh your Health units. I’ve come back many times 12 to 18 hours later to find it exactly as it was when I left it… no regained Health.

The interesting thing is that if you truly want to keep working on that lesson, and really learn what it has to offer, there is a way to do it. That’s where Gems come in. Even though Duolingo has designed this system as a way to stop you from “harmful” binging, there’s a way you can binge to your heart’s content. You can buy Health. You can use your gems. You can pay with cash. You can watch video ads. All of these can earn you Health units so you can keep binging.

Let’s talk a little bit about the videos. Every time you do a lesson with health you are offered a chance to earn more Gems by watching a video ad. I don't like to admit how many of those ads I've watched. Almost all of them were for products that I have absolutely no interest in, mostly video games of one sort or another. I lost interest in doing video games when I started with Duolingo four years ago. I realized I wanted to spend that time learning something useful in my life. I have never regretted that choice.

One ad came up a couple of times that had the word Assassin in the title. The point of the game was to shoot and kill innocent people on the street from some high place such as the top of a building. I couldn’t believe Duolingo was sponsoring ads like that since many children use Duo. It was totally inappropriate.

Almost all of the ads seemed like a waste of time to watch, yet I kept watching them. I know it helps Duolingo because every time someone watches a video, Duolingo gets paid…. and of course when I watch a video I earn more gems, though I have so many now I don’t know how I could ever spend them all.

And with that, I think it’s obvious what the real reason is that Health was introduced... a way to help pay for the operating costs of Duolingo. Certainly an important reason, no one would deny. But in my mind it has absolutely nothing to do with stopping binging behavior.

But why only IOS users? Why wasn’t Health introduced to the whole Duolingo community? That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. Somehow it just doesn’t seem fair that here is this new system that is hated by the majority of users, and only IOS users have to put up with it.

When Health was introduced it was said to be an experiment for IOS only and that Duolingo is continually testing, tweaking and listening to ensure that they provide a fun, effective and sustainable learning tool. It was also mentioned that our support and constructive feedback are heard and appreciated.

Fun, effective and sustainable.... let's talk about those.

Fun - I started using Duolingo four years ago because it was a fun way to learn, but for me using Health is not fun. I don’t want to be told I can’t finish the lesson I’m working on because I answered incorrectly or made a few typos, when the thing I want and need to practice is that very lesson. Of course I really can keep going if I want to. All I have to do is buy more Health. I have so many gems I could probably never spend them all. However, after being penalized for every little typo the last thing I want to do is cooperate with that absurd system.

Effective - How effective is a learning tool that kills your motivation by punishing you and which in no way stops the so-called harmful binging. Nor does Duolingo want it to. Otherwise why would they offer you a way to pay to continue such a harmful practice.

Sustainable - I can’t answer for anyone else… but I’m fed up with this so-called Health. I don’t think it’s healthy or sustainable at all, and absolutely disastrous combined with the new Crown system where everyone has had to go back to brand new units, meaning almost every lesson will require using Health, if you're on IOS.

Why not just use my computer if I don’t like Health? That's what I plan to do. There are many times when it is inconvenient or impossible to be at my computer desk, but very convenient to use my tablet. When I have moments like these, I’ll review completed lessons or use some of the other great resources for learning that are out there, such as oneworlditaliano.com, onlineitalianclub.com, or learngaelic.net, to mention a few.

But I am done with Health. I can’t tell you how liberated I feel having made that decision.

I’m not planning to stop using Duolingo. I’m just not going to use Health anymore… and no more watching videos of products I'm not interested in just to earn Gems. I wish there was a way to give my Gems away, because they are useless to me.

For the last four years Duolingo has been my learning tool of choice, my favorite way to learn languages, and I hope to stick around a long time. Like many I’m not thrilled with the new Crowns system, but I’m willing to give it a fair trial, just as I did with Health.

For those of you who have made it this far in this long tirade, thanks for listening. If you have an opinion about how user friendly Health is, please leave a comment, whether you agree with me or not. In one of the early posts about Health ten months ago, Luis said that our constructive feedback is heard and appreciated.

Best wishes to you all.

April 10, 2018

17 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/daffodil2015

I'm fully in agreement with you - have tested Health two days ago, after the compulsory Crown debacle, and it's absolutely horrendous. I made mistakes on purpose (spelling mistakes in English, not my target language, mind you), and I hit Health bottom Not to mention that there are sentences in the Spanish tree where even correct answers are marked as wrong. I got two of those, too. It didn't give me the option to watch videos, just to pay with gems or cash. I said no way and turned back to the website.

I used to get the treasure chests with gems and I admit I would choose to "watch" an ad, so as to get more gems - but I had the sound on mute and would just leave the phone on the side while I was doing something else.

The Health system is completely stupid and actually discourages people, but right now I lost all hope with Duo getting back to what it used to be - a great website and a great app to learn new languages.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/albaduine

Yes, I agree, Daffodil. It's very discouraging, especially when you know your answer is correct. It's a system that punishes and penalizes, which can kill your motivation, and what we need is a system that lets you make a lot of mistakes quickly and get them out of your system, because that's how you learn. We all made tons of mistakes learning our native language, but nobody cared. We kept speaking inspite of the mistakes and soon enough we became excellent at our own language.

I know what you mean about the ads. I've also clicked on quite a few of them and put it on mute just to get the gems. My new intention is to skip the ads altogether, though it might not be easy, since we are bombarded with them.

Your XP level in Spanish is amazing. Congrats on that as well as your long streak. Eres muy dedicado. Felicitationes!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Karl137123

Agreed - it’s obvious that Health was introduced in order to generate more ad revenue. Not as a way help pay for "skyrocketing costs", its just that Duolingo is in the business of selling ads (like Facebook) and gems.

Like any business, Duolingo needs to maximize the return on invesed capital. As of March, there is $133 million of private equity invested in Duolingo (source: Wikipedia). The people running Duolingo need to show investors that they can generate ever more and more revenue.

Why only iOS users? 80% of the web traffic generated by Duolingo is from mobile devices (source: Wikipedia). I'll guess that there are more iOS devices using Duolingo than Android devices, so iOS is the version that generates the most revenue. Or, iOS may be easier to set up in-app payment to buy the gems needed to restore Health.

I'll guess that Health will appear on the Android version soon. Maybe they'll leave the web (or computer) version alone - fewer people use it, payment for gems is more complicated and ad-blocking software is widely employed. Or - the web version may just go away.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/albaduine

Thanks for your comment, Karl. It seems like Duolingo lost sight of what is truly important with Health, making a profit over a user friendly interface for its users.

Viele Grüße!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/daffodil2015

I already have ads on my web version - I just choose not to click on any of them, after the crowns.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DragonPolyglot

Health is not actually a new feature, it's been re-introduced as more of a learning block than its original form of a penalty strike-out. (originally you had 3 health at the start of every lesson and if you got 3 answers wrong, you would have to redo the whole lesson). To be honest I didn't mind health when everything was on the strengthening system since we can practice to get more health, but now that we have crowns, health is pretty pointless.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/albaduine

Thanks for your comment, DragonPolyglot. I remember those days when I first started on Duo, and you had to start over if you answered three incorrectly. I never minded that, because it just meant you had to do the lesson over. No waiting to refresh your hearts, and no constantly being asked to watch video ads. Until a major update to one of my courses came a couple of months ago, I hadn't used Health for several months. It took me a few weeks to get through all the new lessons, but that was enough to remind me how demotivating using the Health system is for me. And like you say... with the Crown system, using Health is pointless.

I'm amazed at all your languages. Wishing you the best. Buona fortuna!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jeltje986388

I have only used duolingo for 23 days, I paid them in the hope no health was needed, but it is still there, no advertisements what's great. I now just finish the health, than continue on the website page on the ipad for as long as I like. As you say most mistakes are typos, even obvious mistakes are wrong like missing the space bar and getting jesuis. Im my opinion the health system is very unhealthy, when you learn it's good to make. mistakes as you learn from those. Just to repeat the question at the end as done on the website page is fine. More is not needed as there is plenty of opportunity to repeat lessons in order to get that golden tree. Why are people calling it a tree? It does not even look like one?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/albaduine

Bonjour Jeltje... thank you for your comment. I agree with you. It's discouraging and not user friendly to get penalized and lose Health over simple typing mistakes. I feel a lot more peace of mind since I decided to just say no to Health. And what's more healthy than that.

I'm not sure why it's called a tree. If anyone that sees this knows the answer, please leave a comment.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NancyMihalich

I love Duolingo, too! I use my laptop so I don't use the "health" system. I'm having so much fun with this new "Crown" system. I'm starting all over in French and Italian re-gilding my trees! I noticed you're a day behind me! Best wishes to you, too!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/albaduine

So wonderful to hear from you Nancy... I remember when the streak hall of fame was still going, you and I would sometimes be listed on the same day, even though you're a day ahead of me... I guess based on when we practiced that day.

I've had some fun with the new Crown system as well... a lot of repetition in the beginning lessons, but you sure can rack up some XP quickly. I'm withholding my judgment, knowing there are probably a lot of bugs to be worked out. I was pretty upset at first because the combination of Health and Crowns seems like a disaster to me, but now that I've worked out how I'm going to deal with that, I'm feeling pretty happy about it all.

Molte grazie e migliori auguri!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pentaan

So long "Health"... I won't miss you.

Workaround:

Switch to Duolingo's web version on your phone/tablet (www.duolingo.com), because it .......

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

  • will work in the newest version of 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"

  • it has grammar "Tips and notes" in many of the lessons that introdruce new grammar:
    .. Click on the light bulb next to the "Start" button
    .. picture: https://i.imgur.com/wWY1Fpf.png


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/albaduine

Thanks for your suggestion, Pentaan. I've tried out the web version on my tablet many times, both on Chrome and on Safari. While it does work, it's not ideal because on the typing exercises, the keyboard takes up half the screen and pushes the question up out of view, so you're always having to scroll down. I do use the web version for reading the Tips and Notes, and for reading posts on the forum.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pentaan

I don't have that problem, because I use the portrait mode on my phone and tablet (both Android) in the mobile mode of the Firefox browser.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/albaduine

I just tried that and it works great. Such a simple solution... Thanks!


[deactivated user]

    You are right on. As to this comment of yours: "You can still review lessons you’ve already completed, but no new lessons once you’re out of Health." I wasn't even aware of this, as I saw no information telling me so. When I lose my Health, I quit. Discouraging.

    I recognized immediately that Duolingo was using the Health thing to earn money; it's what many games do to make money. I have deleted all of those games that time me out; I'll likely delete Duolingo from my iPhone for the same reason. I KEEP the games that have ads in between each completed game, because I realize I'm getting to play for free and the game-makers have to make money some way. So I would not be opposed to Duolingo having ads in-between lessons. It's a good way to rest my eyes, anyway. ;-)


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/John884703

    I agree with everything you say. I use many different resources to learn German and one habit I have is doing DL over breakfast. I used to squeeze in 2 lessons. Now, with losing health occasionally through errors, typos and DL refusing to accept translations of phrases that are clearly equivalent, I don't start the second lesson if I don't have enough health to be confident of getting through. It has reduced my language learning. I use IOS over breakfast because it's quick and convenient.

    Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.