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An open letter to Luis von Ahn (CEO from Duolingo)

The self-imposed goal of Duolingo

I think it's great that a team is getting together to enable everyone in the world to learn languages for free. And there are a lot of positive characteristics in Duolingo and through the small step there is the possibility to learn a language for those who had difficulties with it before.

Today more than ever, we need to be able to talk to each other. If we can communicate, it may be possible to dispel many prejudices and misunderstandings. So it is quite peacemaking if a platform is developed to enable everyone to learn a language and this free of charge.

Your goal is also to make it possible for everyone to have a personal learning experience. I'm thinking of positive learning experiences and you write yourself that everyone there has their own learning experience.

To enable education for everyone is therefore a very honourable goal.

But is it really possible to map all types of learners and personal learning strategies with one platform? Is it really possible to combine the learning requirements for children and adults in one learning tool?

I myself don't really know, it's just a question I ask myself, which has also arisen from the many questions and comments read in the forum.

The changes and the reactions to them

Of course, it is always good to try to improve a product. How can you achieve your self-imposed goal even better? How can functions be further developed? How can the learning of a language be carried out even more effectively?

These are all legitimate questions, and of course the technology is evolving so that adjustments are necessary.

But as a learner who uses Duolingo at some point in time, he quickly gets used to the circumstances that exist at that point in time, he knows nothing else. Either he is satisfied with it and uses it or he cannot do anything with it from the beginning and leaves Duolingo again.

If you concentrate on language learning, you may not see the change announcements in the main forum and then be irritated and perhaps even annoyed when the next day a completely different behavior of the platform suddenly becomes visible, or the appearance has completely changed.

This disappoints many users and they post it in the forum. Many users have been there for several years and have gone through several changes and there have been ups and downs in the reactions. Some are tired of the many changes.

It may also be disappointing for the developers who had something good in mind, but are now reading a lot of comments (if they are reading it) that let their anger and disappointment run wild.

My impression is also that it is still far too intransparent why changes are taking place. Many don't feel taken along in this process.

  • How did the Duolingo team come up with a new feature?

  • What causes features to be changed, for example, instead of showing the number of exercises, some of them are now shown in percentages?

  • Do they consult all this among themselves?

  • Are they questioning the users?

  • And if so, where can we see the results?

  • Or were they even user requests directly?

Instead of new functions, many would prefer to see Duolingo's core task of improving the content of language lessons developed further. More Tips and Notes. More support for the people who are responsible for the content, and also for the moderators who accompany a language course.

It would therefore be desirable to make more contact with users in order to give them the feeling that they will not be forgotten in this process.

How many products have already developed for the better because both the users themselves and those who are in direct contact with the users were surveyed (like the course coordinators and moderators here).

I thank you for your attention and hope that this letter is perhaps a possibility to reconsider some things and to come even closer to the goal you have set yourself.

Many greetings Devinja

May 3, 2019



I’ve often wondered whether Duo makers look at customer reviews and feedback. From what’s going on it doesn’t look like it.


They do not, most certainly. Only moderators read the forums..(as was told by a moderator) ..so all this rhetoric goes nowhere..


The research of Dr. Hoax McDoctorson clearly shows you have a more effective learning experience now.

Why are you so obstinate disagreeing? Please, align your perception to our scientific data.


Wissenschaftliche Studien haben gezeigt, dass 89% aller Artikel, die mit "Wissenschaftliche Studien haben gezeigt" anfangen, nicht auf wissenschaftlichen Ergebnissen beruhen. ;-)


Der war gut, danke ;-)


If you want to know something, ask an experienced and not an expert (Far Eastern wisdom)


Most of your questions are answered in this article: https://making.duolingo.com/crown-levels-a-royal-redesign

Instead of new functions, many would prefer to see Duolingo's core task of improving the content of language lessons developed further

You cannot know that only by looking forum posts.

I tell you what all of us want: effective language learning delivered freely to all . We cannot know if improving course content makes learning more effective. That's why we have learning science which address all the relevant questions. People are working at Duolingo to implement results that are scientifically produced. Duolingo uses A/B tests and Learning Quiz to see how well they have implemented something.


Thank you for your opinion and for the hint.

What I'm noticing is that the information seems to be very scattered. On the one hand in the Help Center, then in Sticky Postings, then again on completely new pages.

I don't quite understand this information sharing. I also understand a little about webdesing and there is rather the guideline that information is held together and is easy for users to find and manage.


And, to throw my two cents in here-- yes, I agree, the information is scattered: and what point is the forum if not to easily convey information that is elsewhere? What point is the INTERNET, really?


I love the format, do not care for the encouragements but like the goals and the new competitions. I would like to have more complete tips, perhaps in an in-depth icon that those who want can click on. I find it aggravating to have to go through posts to find my answers. Usually posts are mostly irrelevant. And I am never sure if I am getting a correct answer.
It also would be advantageous to be able to hide the words and hear only, but click a show button for the print out. I know this is a huge ask. I do try hiding the words and repeating the spoken statements and it helps some of the time Love the app



Quote: It also would be advantageous to be able to hide the words and hear only, but click a show button for the print out.
I do try hiding the words and repeating the spoken statements and it helps

It works on the web:


In the past weeks I saw another two threads about a (dedicated) hide/show text stylesheet where you could initially hide the text and show it later by hovering over it OR the 2nd userscript where you have to exactly write down first what you listened to:




I agree 100% with Paige739067! I don't care about the encouragement. I would also appreciate expansion in the tips area. I also will try not to read the words, I try to type just from hearing. I noticed a dramatic improvement in my "hearing" skills after I began this method. I absolutely love the app as well. My 13 year old and I try to complete 15 minutes every day. Please note, we are sad if we break a streak but intelligent enough to know that missing a day, breaking a streak, is not the end of the world. Duolingo is a tool, as is a hammer. We don't allow hammers to make us sad or depressed, nor does losing a streak in Duolingo lol.


Thanks for the hint.


I actually think that having seen some comments about mental health, Duolingo is actually doing harm by causing a lost streak after two days. If someone has persevered and achieved higher streaks they should get rewarded not penalized for life getting in the way. Perhaps an extra day for every additional 50 days with a maximum of five days. We need encouragement not disillusionment. Is there anyone out there who agrees?


If somebody's mental health is damaged because they lost a streak on Duolingo, then they've got other serious problems in life. Duolingo streaks should be the least of their concerns. Maybe experiencing a lost streak in food and electricity would help them to better appreciate things and realize that losing a Duolingo streak is a first world problem. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm guilty of having my own first world problems. But I don't think expecting the whole world to change to cater to me would actually help the problem. It would only worsen it. If Duolingo changes their platform because some people go into meltdown mode over losing a streak, it would be pretty sad. In fact, I think Duolingo shouldn't even offer the ability to purchase streak protection with Lingots.


"If somebody's mental health is damaged because they lost a streak on Duolingo, then they've got other serious problems in life." Like actually having a mental disorder? Yeah, of course, they would have other serious problems-- but hobbies generally do help (I mean help, not cure) mental illnesses, and a hobby is made unhelpful when it's hard to keep up with and punishes you for not keeping up with it.

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