Thoughts

3 Ways Duolingo Keeps Me Coming Back

From gamified features to a robust online community, read about why Duolingo has us hooked.

by Susan Mees

For those of you who haven’t tested it out yet, Duolingo is a language-learning platform with a website and mobile application that has been used by 500 million people worldwide. It offers a free and paid version of the application, and 39 different language options for users. Personally, I’ve been using Duolingo for over 2 years now (in Portuguese and Spanish), and I’m a huge fan. The Duolingo brand is colorful, friendly, and motivating (which is perfectly on-brand for me). And the app itself has been built to make the most of gamified features and opportunities to increase your score, which really appeals to the achiever in me.

Here are three aspects of the app that make it especially hard to quit:

1. Everything is gamified

Duolingo has truly nailed the gamification side of things - giving users multiple ways to “achieve” when using the app. Each course has multiple lessons, so users can tackle them in bite-size chunks and complete lessons 10 or 20 minutes at a time, making language learning much more accessible. Users can also set a daily goal (based on how quickly you want to learn) and the app gives you credit for every day in a row that you return, making it difficult to take a day off. As someone who is motivated by both deadlines and manageable tasks, I believe this format really works.

2. Challenges on Challenges

In addition to the ever-present gamification, Duolingo has created multiple learning streams so that the user is always presented with multiple ways to learn and engage. With traditional language learning, you’re faced with an endless string of lessons and tests, but Duolingo has found ways to use stories, timed challenges, monthly challenges, and badges to add to the flexibility of language learning. These challenges increase the engagement of users, but they also offer different options for language learning and create a more well-rounded learning style. With story reviews, users have the opportunity to listen to actual speech and speech patterns, with timed challenges users improve their skills around quick speech as you would in a natural conversation, and with traditional lessons users build up vocabulary and knowledge base. Together, the challenges offer multiple ways into language acquisition.

3. Duolingo isn’t just an app - it’s a community!

Lastly, Duolingo has found a way to add community support and encouragement to language learning without forcing its users to join yet another social network. Users are encouraged to sync their contacts when joining and are offered friend suggestions as they progress - meaning you end up with a combination of your actual friends and others trying to learn the same language as you. The app notifies you when your friends have hit milestones, and you’re able to provide quick and easy encouragement by simply tapping a button - creating a feedback loop between you and your friends. I’m not using Duolingo to make connections, but it’s hard to dispute the warm fuzzies you get when others are supporting your goals.

Bonus: Year in Review

Because I’ve been using Duolingo for awhile now, I’ve seen their application change and grow, and it’s clear they’re focused on engagement and retention of users. I love seeing how they work to keep users excited about the language learning process when it can take years to complete a course.

At the end of 2020, they added a “Year in Review” for their users, which showed how your work throughout the year culminated in actual learning. It brought together their core components of gamification, challenges, and community beautifully and was something I was proud enough to share.

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