Anxiety of a semi-finished Duolingo course


I heard the announcement whistle and instinctively aimed at the phone. I was met by a bright screen and an ominous message.

“Hey Jamal, we have missed you!”

Instead of coming from a friend or a worried neighbor, the message came from the language learning app Duolingo. Once again, I had abandoned the Spanish course, and Duo Owl had appeared in the notices to remind me of how often I failed to complete the course in the app. It became a kind of routine: leave the course half-finished and then watch the anxiety build up with each announcement.

I was intrigued by Duolingo as a way to improve my Spanish, which had never been clicked during college. The warp speed of college life left me with little or no hand, and languages ​​were never my strengths. In my course, I was forced to adjust to the semester’s schedules, and even though I completed up to a couple, it felt like it was more about grades than actual knowledge. Duolingo looked like a great way to break free from that trap and adapt to the language itself.

Part of my anxiety comes from the vulnerability I feel when testing a new language. There’s always something confusing when I start something new, but usually I can fake my way through it, pretending I have long enough skills to pick them up. Language is not like that. You cannot falsify a transitive verb. When you don’t know something – when I I don’t know anything – a mistake is inevitable. My friends were often willing to help me, but the threat of embarrassment made me too eager to take them in. When I was studying alone, I spent hours improving one word or syllable and imaginary conversations that never witnessed because of my intimidation. The fear of failure prevented me from trying in the first place.

I didn’t realize it, I had turned Duolingo’s hobby into a place of hyperevaluation. If it took me more than a week to adapt to a grammar or vocabulary lesson, I began to see it as impossible. I had incorporated confidence that learning was meant to come naturally. If I didn’t choose Spanish right away, I thought my brain was simply not built to learn it.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one falling into this trap. Duolingo does not publish completion rates for its courses, however report last year According to American users, 68th place in the number of lessons completed from all countries. Separate informal study the overall research rate in Spanish was less than 0.01 percent. There are a lot more people stuck in the middle than the lessons are over – so maybe my unfinished lessons weren’t quite as embarrassing as I thought.

Naturally, Duolingo thinks a lot about retaining users. I spoke with Cindy Blanco, a senior linguist at Duolingo, and she stressed that the courses are not meant for everyone. People come to Duolingo with different goals, and they may end up digging the track when they have reached the level they want.

“If you think, ‘Well, I want to go to Portugal and feel comfortable ordering at a restaurant,’ how much of a course do I have to work on to feel good about this experience?” he told me. “For other people, it’s,” Well, I really love K-pop and want to understand the culture or read more about the bands in their own language. “”

This difference concerns Duo Owl, who had bullied me in my unfinished Spanish lessons. Blanco told me that the owl is designed to send different messages depending on the culture and geography. In this sense, the app focuses on providing a unique sensory user experience, even if it tries to get a dormant user back.

From my conversation with Cindy, I have begun to delve into my Spanish lessons. But I’ve also started to think about my unfinished courses differently. Learning is not always linear. It may take some time before I am happy with Spain. In fact, it may never happen at all. Once I had let go of the requirement for perfection, I began to feel much better by immersing myself in a casual Spanish lesson – and much less upset when I saw an unexpected announcement from a cartoon owl.

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