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Hearts and Gems and the Impact on Learning

My Duolingo mobile app recently got switched from lingots to gems and now uses the new hearts system. If you are not familiar with the hearts system, you have five hearts and every time you miss a question you lose a heart. Once you lose all of your hearts, you can either spend gems to get them back, pay for Duolingo plus, or wait for five hours to get your hearts restored.

I am very disappointed in this decision for many reasons. I believe first of all that it strongly discourages learning. I am in the process of learning German and Arabic, both languages (especially Arabic) very difficult to learn. I often mess up when doing lessons, but that is part my learning experience. I would even go so far as to say that the most important part of learning a language is messing up, accepting that messing up is part of the learning process, and learning from it.

Speaking from experience, I have used Duolingo for many other languages with much success. When I practice speaking these other languages with other learners or native speakers, I find that I make mistakes; however, I have accepted this as part of the learning process. Similarly, it is important that Duolingo allows users to make mistakes without consequences to allow users to constantly learn from them.

Perhaps the biggest reason why I am disappointed is because all this seems like a money grab to get more people to pay for Duolingo Plus. While I do not oppose Duolingo Plus, I feel as though it goes against Duolingo's motto of bringing "Free Language Education to the World."

The past 4 years (and counting), language learning has changed my life. The feeling of accomplishment of having a foreign language start to click is unlike any other. I have been able to make new friendships and serve others in my community because of this gift of free language learning. I just hope that the app that has changed my life for the better in so many ways does not change in a way that negatively impacts the learning process.

In the meantime, I will be using Duolingo only on my computer because I do not agree with the hearts and gems system. If the research suggests that learners prefer the hearts and gems system, could it be because everybody that was used to lingots stopped using the app already?

I really hope that Duolingo strongly considers the hearts and gems system getting switched back to the lingots for the reasons listed above. If the new system were adopted on the desktop version, I would very strongly consider giving up my streak and learning languages with a different app.

November 23, 2019



Duolingo is becoming a Freemium app. The following excerpt from Wikipedia on Freemium summarizes Duolingo's business model:

Give your service away for free, possibly ad supported but maybe not, acquire a lot of customers very efficiently through word of mouth, referral networks, organic search marketing, etc., then offer premium priced value added services or an enhanced version of your service to your customer base.

Bottom line, if you don't like hearts/health system, use the web based version. As far as I know, Duolingo has not said that hearts/health is coming to the web version. Anyone that says otherwise is just speculating.


You are far from the first person to bring this up. I'd say at least 80% of people agree with you, if not more. However, I don't think Duolingo really cares, they want you to buy Plus or watch ads.

Have a look at a similar post with staff response about halfway down. https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/35134008

It's about money.


Well, I mean realistically, they do need to make $$. Staff have to be paid, servers upgraded or leased and electric bills paid. That's not unreasonable. And by giving the option of hearts for practice, they are essentially offering the free users the option of sweat equity--give us some time to charge up your hearts. But I still do not like the punitive aspect--give a wrong answer get punished. I mean I find the purple levels the hardest because I'm getting exposed to entirely new vocabulary and at the lower levels new tenses as well. Expecting people to get that right out of the box is a little harsh unless one is supposed to supplement with a text.

I would say better would be a time aspect. You get 10 minutes with the app then you have to do some practice or watch an ad to get more time. That way it would decouple the getting things wrong from the well, we want you to contribute something aspect.


I'd say that nowhere near 80 percent of people agree. What I'd say is that there are a few very opinionated people on the forum, who talk about this issue often, and make it seem as though there's a larger number of people talking about it, when there's really only a tiny minority. This happens not just on Duo, but on any subject, on any forum - what tends to happen is the people who are happy with something are not on forums, because they are happy with them....there is a strong tendency, statistically, for the people who are happy with things, to not be on forums, etc., talking about it, because people don't tend to go to a forum when they're happy with a service; people do, however, have a strong tendency to go to a forum when they're unhappy with something - therefore, forums and such tend to have many people complaining about issues, which can make it appear that that those people are in the majority, which they never are. It's a bit like airplanes and cars - every airline crash makes the headlines, which can make it seem as though airplanes are very dangerous compared to cars, but, of course, they're actually much safer - it's just that airplane crashes, like people complaining, are out there on the forums/front pages. The term for this phenomenon is 'Availability Bias'.


You forgot to mention you can do practice sessions to earn hearts back.

Takes 5 mins, earns some XP, helps review older content or update cracked gold skills

Then you are back in business with 5 hearts.

I am unsure if people are unaware of this option or purposefully leave it out because it doesn’t fit the money grabbing narrative they are pushing?


Does the app (any of them) actually point out to users that they can do practice sessions to earn hearts back?


Not all apps (on mobile at any rate) have the 'practise' option in order to restore health. So far I'm aware of 4 apps currently in use.
That's why people find it hard to understand when others mention "this" or "that" about the app. They are no doubt seeing a different one.


I totally agree! I've seen several people leave out that option when speaking about this. And as for people pushing the money-grabbing narrative, my thought on that is, okay, you guys, Duo does have to make money you know! I don't see why people complain about that; it's just a reality that Duo does need to make money. They've given people an easy, quick way to get hearts back - like you said, a practice session takes just a few minutes - and people are still complaining. To me that seems....lazy. If you can't be bothered to take 5 minutes out of your day to get your hearts back, then I don't think you're very dedicated to learning, because it's just five tiny minutes. I don't mean to be rude in saying that, I'm just voicing my views. It honestly strikes me as strange that people who are purportedly so interested in learning have a problem with the heart system, and with taking 5 minutes out of their day to get their hearts back. First of all, if you're losing all your hearts so frequently that it's causing you frustration, then that means you need to slow down and study more, so that you're not constantly loosing them. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's true. Slow down, put in more effort, study more, and you won't lose all your hearts all the time. Second, if you do still lose your hearts, just do a practice session. It takes 5 minutes or less! I honestly don't mean to be rude, but it strikes me as ridiculous that there are so, so very often people on the forums, complaining that the heart system is hurting their learning or something, and what I think is that if they were actually as serious about their learning as they're acting like, then they would simply take a couple minutes out of their day to do a practice session.


Good point. Of course, by offering unlimited hearts for paying customers means they are taking something of value from us non-payers—thus the "money-grabbing." At the end of every lesson, I pay for it by clicking through an ad page.

Interestingly, another way offered to me to regain hearts is to watch ads. Again, this indicates a double standard (or "money grabbing"), but I actually don't mind it: it's an opportunity to leave the room, stretch, take a break, etc. and leave my iPad blathering to itself! (If you try this, be sure to clear your cache or take other evasive action, etc. regularly or all manner of people will be pitching you to buy stuff.)


I think what you are saying is great. I have not experienced the hearts system as I use a computer. I have seen complaints about it and feel like it does sound like it goes against the motto and discourages learning.


Another bright idea to lose bunch of users, my wife and daughter included.. They just removed this app from their mobiles. Good job greedy devs. Same goes for conversion rate. 1:1 WHAT???? I kept gathering lingots for almost year, I payed 20 lingots for weekend amulet, just in case. But now i have to pay 400 ❤❤❤❤❤❤ gems for the same thing. Perhaps, you greedy cheaters could at least multiply lingots few times to save your faces. I can watch same boring advertisement, day by day, really, there is no new content there since I started but if you think that you will get even one cent from me, you are wrong. Im using this app so I'll give you a tip for free. Read the forum, revert bad changes. Remove premium, plus whatever you call it. Get more userbase, I dont mean those dead accounts. And make advertising more interesting for companies. Howgh



Quote: But now i have to pay 400 ❤❤❤❤❤❤ gems for the same thing

This is on IOS, right?

Have you tried Android?

They haved rolled out beta testing of health there too for new user accounts: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/31849174/April-2019-Updates

But you or your family could be in different testing groups.

For what did you have to pay 400 GEMS?

  • Skill test-out?
  • Health / hearts refill?


the exchange rate for me was more like 7:1.

7 gems for 1 lingot


I really understand where you are coming from (most of us here agree with you), but this subject has been talked about so much in the past week. I don't think there is any plan to change, as the website is loyal to the algorithm vs. democratic vote.

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