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Crowns - My Thoughtful Feedback + Bug Report

So, just like everyone else, I feel like weighing in on the new Crowns system. However, I really wanted to give it a few days before writing about it so that I really get a feel for the system and can actually talk about it's pros and cons. Disclaimer, I'm currently learning French, and just that basically. As far as I can tell, I do NOT have the new French tree.

First, my Duolingo system. What I used to do was this. I would learn one new lesson everyday. Once done with that, I would repeat the lesson I did yesterday, and then perform either a random practice (more often), allowing the algorithm to let me know what I needed working on, or I would do a Duolingo story (far less often).

With the new system of Crowns, even if I try and type the correct hyperlink, I can never repeat yesterdays lesson - it automatically forces me to learn the next lesson. This really doesn't help my brain as I am slow at learning vocabulary and grammar and need repetition and have found that my frequency was both sustainable (for me), AND was actually leading to progress in my knowledge. I didn't enjoy doing too many random practices because I found that Duo kept trying to test me on grammar and vocab I hadn't actually learned yet (consider this a bug report also), which still continues post-update.

To clarify, I think the crowns SYSTEM is a great idea, albeit one that is SEVERELY lacking in new content to back it up. I found that the update put me at level 2 for Basics 1, so I gleefully went back to the beginning to learn all the new nuances and details about the basics that I might have missed out on when learning them for the 1st and 2nd times. (I've restarted learning French twice now). However, I found I was getting the same sentences and far from my knowledge growing, I was just finding it tedious and frankly, discouraging. Gamification wasn't enhancing my knowledge, it was just wasting my time. I no longer have any interest in hitting level 5 with my skills, ever. Not unless a serious content overhaul is part of the new French tree - but of course the issue is bigger than that, since you can't expect every language course to just expand their tree in the hope that the course will just adapt to the new system.

In short. New system is great, but only if the content is adapted to work for that system. Basics 1 level 5 should be a challenge - I should be forced to think about those words differently. And it isn't limited to just the basics. Every level up should be making me think more about the grammar and helping me to really learn my target language to a higher degree of proficiency.

Also, the crown count is interesting, but meaningless. I knew what 65% fluency felt like. I don't know what 112 crowns means. It's just a number. It can go up, yes, but I don't know what anything means anymore. Please don't release updates like this without community consultation - it feels like something a really, really big company that doesn't actually care about it's end users would do - and that's not how I think of Duo. Don't prove me wrong. Please.

P.S - Also, fix these forums so we can actually talk to mods and duo team members more meaningfully. This format is fine for grammar discussion, but not for more meaty discussions like new content and the like.

April 16, 2018



Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. :)


You're very welcome! I try not to just be negative about feedback like others are, but at the same time, I know how difficult it can be to put your thoughts to paper(screen). Glad to have echoed some of the sentiments you have felt!


"However, I found I was getting the same sentences and far from my knowledge growing, I was just finding it tedious and frankly, discouraging".

That's the same issue I am thinking. They forced us to get back to basics (even if we already master that subject). I understand they were not certain to put anybody on level 5 of the crowns, but, come on, in my case, for instance, I'm already at level 25 in English learning. This means that sentences like "she is a girl", "he is a boy", "no, no, no" etc isn't going to help me learn anything new. What in the Earth could I miss at Basic 1, Basic 2, Greetings etc that I haven't learned yet?


They don't force you do anything; just because the section has '2' rather than '5' by it doesn't mean you have to review it. For languages that I have only been doing for a few months going from '2' to '3' in basics etc feels worthwhile; for ones I have been doing for more than a year, it doesn't. I think it would be better if they gave more guidance on what you ought to do next, but the earlier 'decay' system does not seem to me to have worked very well, so we may well be better off without it.


Perhaps I could have had expressed myself a little bit better. What I meant by "forcing" is that the lessons that are not golden have a psychological effect that "there are things to do here", "your task is incomplete", "you are not mastering this yet". I know the crowns do not represent your real fluency level and dominance of that particular subject, but, I don't know, maybe it's a kind of OCD. I just can't stay "in peace" while the lessons are not completed, so I "need" to make the tree all golden once again. Because of that, I find really frustrating repeating the same basic sentences exhaustively.


It is surprising to me that they didn't just include a little icon on the tree to point to which skill (or a handful) would be next up for review under the SRS system, i.e. what you would get if just hit the "practice" button, but presented in a way that would also work through the crown levels.

That said, for those starting a tree with the crown system, I sort of understand why one wouldn't do this. The practice button will refresh what's already been covered, and perhaps only at that point would one want to press on with greater difficulty.

It wouldn't surprise me if not having figured out how to balance these competing incentives is part of why some of the features one might have expected were missing upon introduction.


I mean they do force you to move forward with your lessons and they do take away the ability for you to control which lesson you specifically want to learn. So, they very much do. I really hate not being able to go back to a specific lesson and review it.


If you've been learning a language for a while, I think it unreasonable to expect to be challenged by any possible permutation of Basics 1.


That may be entirely fair. In that case, why in God's name am I not at level 5 of that skill? Either I have more to gain from it, or I don't. There's no middle ground. I'm also not expecting to be challenged by Basics 1. I have tried some of the second set of skills and have found no challenge in any of those either. What I mean is that this new rollout feels lazy and hasn't really been effective at determining what level people are at!


I agree with Lrtward on these issues:

(Duolingo) trust(s) their data and metrics far more than they trust a few people in a web forum. Web users are by far the minority of their users, and we frequently say we do or don't want something and then we turn out to be wrong about what we thought we'd like. Data is more reliable.


(because despite what many folks think, moderators don't have special access to staff and we don't know their secret squirrel shenanigans.

Fluency != Crowns. Don't spend time and energy trying to figure out the conversion. Basically a fully golden tree would put you at Crown level 2 or 3 in all skill sets, because the old tree didn't contain exercises as complex as the new system. This is explained in the FAQ.

You can go back to earlier skill sets but not earlier levels. If you take a year or two off and pretty much forget everything you knew, just reset your tree and start over. Same as before Crowns.

"Practice" is based on spaced repetition. Duolingo tracks the words you haven't seen in a long time, or the words you've had difficulty with, and it presents them to you here. This, too, is explained in the FAQ.

Many people, myself included, were very frustrated with Crowns at first. Change is hard. Give the Crowns a chance - like a good couple of weeks of consistent effort. I think once the new / unfamiliar / confusion wears off it will seem better. Personally, I love the new system now and would never never never want to go back to the old way.

Perhaps try Facebook for Duolingo


These are interesting thoughts, but other than removing Immersion (which I still disagree with), this is the ONLY change Duo has made that I have really, really disliked. I agree that Metrics are more important than individual reports, but when a site/app abandons it's power users, that really irks me.

I'm also not trying to equate crown counts to fluency in any way, it's just that visually, I've gained a crown count that means nothing to me right now. I'm aware Practice is based on spaced repetition, but I'm being given things in Practice that I've never learned. That's my issue with just doing repetition in practice.

I'm not sure how Duolingo's FB page helps me.... Really.


I couldn't agree more and I used to learn exactly like that. Complete one lesson, then repeat it and a few others, as well as do many practices before moving on. I recognize that I'm not doing practices anymore because there's no "payoff", even though I know practice is of value.

I would also like Duo to know that while their algorithms might make it look like I'm using Duo more .. it's only because I'm repeating the basics over and over wanting to clear those lessons. They're easier to get through and therefore I can do much more in a day but it's a false reading for Duo.

When I actually get to the lessons that are new to me, it's taking anywhere from one to three hours to slog through ONE lesson because I don't know any of the words and I'm having to look them all up. The only other way to get through the lesson is to purposely enter anything at all, getting it wrong just so I can see the answer in order to get it right in the future. This isn't really learning, it's memorizing answers. It leaves a student with a false sense of understanding.


Are you using the Drop - down hints at least to find the words so you don't need to use a dictionary?


I would also suggest that you not try to get the 5 crowns for the early skills before going on. Try doing some of the more advanced skills to avoid the monotony you can always go back to the earlier skills for review and it's also a good idea to let ideas sink in rather than rush them in all together.


If you don't know the words, why don't you use the flashcards: https://tinycards.duolingo.com/ to learn them first?


If you want to talk to me or another Mod, just do it anywhere!

I wish you had the new Tree that we developed independently, because at least you would have new words and fresh sentences!


Well, it's not that easy - it's not like I can yell SITESURF and you appear. There needs to be a section (like in most forums) where you can ask questions pertinent to either bug mods or language mods and we can get straightforward answers.

I also wish I had the new tree. I'm hearing many good things about this. However, my complaint stands. If you need new content for the new system to work well, then the rollout isn't (in my view), succesful!

Also, further bug report. Didn't get a single email from Duo saying that I had responses to my thread, and yes, I am "following" the discussion. I had to come here and check it out to know anyone had responded (although, the uptick in my lingots should've given it away).


Portugal is a small country in Europe or Portugal is a small country of Europe for « la Portugal est un petit pays d’Europe ». Tell me I’m wrong if I use “of” instead of “in” but for pity sake don’t take health! I’m right anyway! And sending a message every time that my asnwer is right when these stuff ups are happening all the time just doesn’t cut it.


My perception is that crowns are good for the later material in various trees I've been doing for 6m to a about 1.3 year, because it reveals that I am much worse at this material than I thought I was. But for earlier material in these languages, going for more of them seems like a waste of time.

I think the system should be extended with: 1) a list of the last 5 lessons you did, so that you can repeat them if you think your performance was really terrible (easy) 2) a 'recommended review' list of topics you should go for more crowns in, based on a) how well you did them last time (a function of speed and accuracy) b) how long it has been (hard)


I also still have the French 2.0 tree, I'm hoping the 3.0 tree has more content that gets harder at higher crown levels.

I actually finished my tree about a year ago, but I was stuck in the middle trying to gild it. Now I'm working through the tree from start to finish trying to get everything up to 3 crowns. Then I'll go back and do level 4. (I took basics 1 to 5 crowns, BORING!)

I see both positives and negatives in the Crown system, I'm hoping the French 3.0 tree fixes some of the negatives without breaking too many of the positives.

Although it'll be a year, likely a lot longer than that, before I have to worry about it, I wonder what's left to do when you get an entire tree up to 5 crowns.


I was part of the test group for the Crown system and did as you did. I chose one skill ("Feelings" interesting with medium hard grammar) in the French tree where I was at level 23 and worked straight through to the fifth crown.

I found it tedious though rewarding in that, in the end, I really knew the material without the need to search my brain for genders, conjugations etc. However, I won't do that again, now I use a more balanced approach depending on how alert I am, sometimes doing a really simple Skill and sometimes starting at the bottom of the tree with a challenging Skill.

I'm convinced my retention level has reached a degree I would never have had with the old system... or with any other language courses I've ever taken even with the hours of study I put into them. So, I'm now a fan of Crowns.


My sentiments as well. Have a lingot please.


This is an interesting point, and now that I've given crowns a bit more time, I can see how this might be the case. I just wish it wasn't the same exact sentence in level 3 and level 2 for some of the exercises though. That's a very boring hump to get over.

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