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Atlantic article on Duolingo

This article is well worth reading:


It touches on some interesting issues (e.g. effectiveness vs. user retention), and also points out that, no, Duo alone can't teach you all you need to know.

And here is Luis von Ahn throwing some shade: "In the U.S., about half of our users aren’t even really motivated to learn a language; they just want to pass the time on something besides Candy Crush."


November 18, 2018



Thank you, it was really interesting! And even if people are here just to pass time.. Well, that's probably a better way to spend it than playing Candy Crush!


Well, that's probably a better way to spend it than playing Candy Crush!

Duolingo and Candy Crush actually have many things in common, such as lingots/gold bars and skills/levels. I can't describe the other similarities very well, but Duolingo feels to me like Candy Crush but replacing the match-3 levels with translation between languages. Does anyone else agree?


I saw this posted in another forum. There I suggested that it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools. The article's central complaint strikes me as nothing more than an anecdote about someone who didn't spend enough time and energy preparing for a trip abroad.

Both Duo's uses and its limitations seem to be common knowledge here; there's no shocking revelation to be had by anyone who is paying attention. Dedicated users come here, learn the basics, and move on to other resources when they're ready to take their knowledge to the next level.


Von Ahn's comment really makes sense. But I fear that when the Duolingo staff says that they don't want to make Duolingo harder because fewer people will use Duolingo then, these time wasters are the reason.


I wonder if they ever consider to make a more "high level" continuation people would pay for. It would be interesting to try the duolingo system for something other then a little memory refreshener.


I am guessing people would be a lot more critical of content once they pay for it (or at least I would be), so I am not sure that good paid-for higher-level content is achievable with a volunteer staff.


Well, it seems like quite a few people do, in fact, pay for Duolingo (cf. Plus) even though they don't even have to to use the system.


True, I guess. (Though, speaking strictly for myself, if I had to spend money on Japanese, I would pay for Lingodeer and / or Wanikani, instead of the current Duo Japanese tree.)


The review is about the app, which itself is really not more than a silly game. The only function I see to it is not to lose streak in an emergency.

The web, on the other hand, demands us to write, to think about it. It's not just passive learning. After only two months (of more than 15 minutes) I was able to resolve most of my needs in my trip to Rome.


Agreed- the web version is better for content but sometimes the app is all that's available (the mobile web version is slower and doesn't format well on my phone). I'd much rather the app allowed you to turn off the word bank. I get round it by covering it with my hand and speaking the sentence out loud, picturing the spelling in my mind.


I don't see why 'passing the time' e.g. on a train or something shouldn't be productive. Personally, I use Duo primarily to learn and it's not the only resource I use. However, sometimes I use it for 'passing time' as well. Why not do something more productive than moving sweets around a screen with a stubby forefinger when your train's stuck behind a stopping service and there's the wrong kind of leaves on the line*?

I only heard of Duolingo back in January, a few days in. I made it a belated New Year's resolution, and it's the first one I've ever actually kept (and enjoyed!). I don't have any other games on my phone now.

Plus, the new iOS 'screen time' feature lists it as 'education', which makes me feel less guilty about the time I've spent device-staring...


(* = British cultural reference.)


To me, one of the most interesting things about the article is the emphasis on getting people to continue to engage, even at the expense of more challenging content.

This is certainly true in my case: I am somewhat invested in my streak, so I spend a little time on Duolingo every day. I don't spend time on LingoDeer every day, even though that's really the better course. (But with updates etc., they messed up my streak two or three times and so - I wasn't that invested anymore. Of course, this may all change when / if LingoDeer comes through with the expansion they have promised.)

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