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The heart system punishes people with dyslexia

Both my wife and my father in law have dyslexia. All three of us use Duolingo. My wife and I are learning German, and my father in law is learning French.

I am the only one who managed to somehow get the lingot system instead of the heart system. I didn't realise what they were talking about when they would get so frustrated over losing hearts every day, and I had no idea they had to do punishing practice lessons for spelling over and over and over again. My father in law used to live in France and wanted to get his French back up to his old levels, but even though he uses the app more than I do, he was somehow always behind me in gold lessons.

It wasn't until I was watching over my wife's shoulder one day that I realised what was happening. She would consistently know what she needed to type, but kept getting it wrong until she ran out of hearts, where she would --again -- spell everything wrong multiple times until the app deigned to let her return to lessons.

I was furious, and immediately tried to find a way to fix it. The only thing to be done was either a) only have her use Duo on the computer, or b) purchase unlimited hearts through Duo Plus. Since I didn't want either of them to be discouraged, I bought her and my father in law Duo Plus so they wouldn't need to go through this again. However, I'm still very angry that this system, which seems designed to "encourage" micro transactions, is actually just punishing people with a disability that they can't get around. They already have to struggle through learning a foreign language when they have difficulty with their own language's spelling, and on top of that they are forced to rote memorise spelling just to be able to get back to learning what they actually came here for.

I don't know if this has been brought to anyone's attention, but it should be. You should at least be able to opt out of the heart system, and switch to lingots. The developers need to think about the fact that this system is a real problem for people with dyslexia, and it should be addressed.

January 6, 2020



Much as I can sympathize, don't expect any action from Duolingo. I have raised various defect reports over the years about general accessibility issues with the website on behalf of others. Even today, after nearly 8 years of development, Duo have yet to implement WCAG 2.1 standards to the minimum required AA level.

The Duolingo blue and the gray text they insist on using simply have insufficient contrast for someone with a visual impairment. Even many normally-sighted people have probably never noticed the ridiculous floating menu at the bottom of the page:

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In your family's situation, I would reconsider whether Duolingo is the best learning medium. In the "good old days", language learning involved reading a book, listening to audio recordings and completing exercises verbally or with paper and pencil. Maybe you and your wife could learn German together and your father-in-law through a suitable class?


My wife and I have gone to classes together in town once a week in the past. However, we are very busy (full time work + lots of travel for work) so it makes a lot of coursework difficult, since we often miss whole weeks. The great thing about an app is that it allows us to learn on the go.

I am sympathetic towards those with visibility impairments. A number of my close friends are on the spectrum, and have difficulty with certain contrasts/colour matchups as well, and I know they struggle with many web design formats due to this.

The font used by Duolingo might also be an issue for my dyslexic family members. At one point, there were three multiple choice answers on screen, where the only difference between two of the answers was two letters switched around. My wife literally could not tell which was which because of her disability, and it just came down to her tapping one of the answers at random until she got it right.

It is frustrating to watch her flounder when I know she is incredibly smart and motivated. We often joke about the fact that in the acknowledgement section of her doctoral thesis, she gave a shout-out to Microsoft spelling for making her PhD possible. But in all seriousness, dyslexia does impair her everyday life, and her use of this app in particular.


here's what you can do as well:

1) download an older version (before 04/2019) from here which doesn't have health yet

OR - -

2) download a cracked duolingo plus app from here and activate the health shield


Why not download the web version, which for me has no hearts and works well on ipad and computer.


I did consider this, yes. They primarily use the app on their phones. I do not know if the web version works as well on a smaller screen (though it might!) Even so, this would really only be a work around for my wife, who is a bit more tech savvy. My father in law is not, and would struggle to readjust after having already gotten used to the app.


Doesn't run well on my phone (iPhone 7 regardless of the browser, tried 4 different browsers). The lessons load for ages even with perfect connection and sometimes it jams completely - but the heart system is a no-go for me. Smaller words aren't ideal but still fine. Never going to return to the app and if it spreads to the web version, I doubt I'll keep using Duolingo altogether - would be a pity but I won't force myself to a subscription based on a lie (that the change was made to improve learning). Make some new premium features like lesson customisation and I'm in immediately.


I second this: Use your phone's web browser, and go to www.duolingo.com, and log in. Your problem will be solved!!


I usually use the web version on my Mac laptop, and it never has had hearts. My Android phone had hearts in the app. My iPhone app, which I downloaded a couple days ago, does not have hearts. It looks the same as the web version.


I suffer from the same problem however I used the iPhone Spanish (for you German or French ) keyboard and then used the dictator function to help, it will write the word you are saying out loud but some times if you don't pronounce it correctly will write a totally different word however it did help me and if you give it a go I hope it helps them also. (if you hold down the dictator button just move up to Spanish keyboard to dictate in the language of your choice


I had not thought of a voice dictator. I will ask my wife to give it a try and see if that helps!


Yes it's awful and puts people with dylexia and other learning difficulties at even more of a disadvantage.

On the other hand, it gets more people to buy plus, which exactly what duolingo wants...


I like learning by doing and that involves making mistakes. Thanks to the idiotic heart system I can’t do that on the app anymore, I have to use the web version. That it also hurts people who have dyslexia makes it an even stupider thing than I previously understood.


I don't use the iPhone version but I thought the point was that you only get penalised for doing too much new material instead of revision of existing material which doesn't penalise you?


I don't have dyslexia but I do have problems proof reading on screen and I can understand this as frustration because there are times I put in a sentence but don't notice I missed a word or got the name wrong (Morgan and Megan in Welsh happens a lot for me). And the app doesn't give any leeway for a wrong person's name even if the rest of the sentence is right, so it's frustrating.

I have been using the website since I learned that the hearts don't exist there (yet), prior to that I had ONLY used the heart system on the ipad and yeah, it's so demoralising when it's an honest typo error and not an actual mistake.

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