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Duolingo, like a pro.

what the hell is Duolingo doing? 😳🤦

Published 16 days ago • 4 min read

ciao 👋

last week I said I was gonna write about another cool feature Duolingo has been working on

but I'm gonna have to delay that unfortunately…

because over the last week, Duolingo has made a quiet but significant change to its premium subscription plans

and it's causing one hell of an uproar...

what's going on? 🤔

it's all to do with one of Duolingo's most controversial features: the heart system.

most users will know what I'm talking about, but I'm aware there are some that have never come across it before

so in case you're one of them, i'll give you a quick rundown:

a heart is basically a life.

you can have a maximum of 5 at a time

if you get a question wrong, you lose one

if you lose all 5, then you get booted out of your lesson

you can then either buy more hearts with gems, complete a practice session, or wait for your hearts to refill

some users don't mind it

but most do

...and I'm one of them.

i've made no secret of that over the years

I absolutely cannot stand anything that punishes making mistakes -- especially when it comes to learning a language.

making mistakes is essential.

it's the only way you can truly learn

the heart system gets in the way of that. It puts users in fear of getting things wrong, which leads to them just playing it safe and never really making the progress they're capable of

paying sets you free... 🤨

the heart system is the main reason I switched from a free to a paid subscription a few years ago

back then, there was only one paid plan -- it was called Duolingo Plus

then, it had a bit of a rebrand and became Super Duolingo

it came with a bunch of extra features-- the main one ((for most users)) being Unlimited Hearts

Unlimited Hearts allows you to make as many mistakes as you want in your lessons

it means you can actually learn

then, a year ago, Duolingo launched a new subscription called Duolingo Max

this one sat above Super Duolingo -- it had all the same perks, plus a couple of experimental AI features -- and cost considerably more per month

((currently in the UK, Super Duolingo is £12.49 p/m, while Duolingo Max is £19.99 p/m))

it was only available to a very select group of users -- you had to be learning Spanish or French, living in a certain part of the world, and using an iOS device

So for most users, Max was inaccessible

and for those who could get it, it just wasn't worth it

the AI features were ok, but didn't really change the game

it just wasn't worth the extra expense over Super.

heartbreak 💔

a year has passed since Duolingo launched Max, and it hasn't changed much

they've polished the AI features a bit, but they haven't added anything particularly new

it's still only available on the Spanish and French courses as well, and I can't see that it's even come to Android devices yet.

it's still very much an experimental subscription tier with no real sense of identity…

so what has Duolingo decided to do?…

they've decided to move the most popular feature from Super Duolingo over to Duolingo Max… 😳

that's right,

if you want unlimited hearts from here on out, you will have to subscribe to Duolingo Max

...even if your course doesn’t have the extra benefits that come with it.

so if you're learning German ((which doesn't currently get Max's AI features)) and you still want unlimited hearts, then you're gonna have to start paying more to have what you’ve already got

it’s absolutely mind-boggling.

and, unfortunately, it gets worse... 🫣

Duolingo has given no indication of when the Max AI features are going to come to other courses… yet still promotes the upgrade as though they're currently available 😳

the image below is straight from the Polish course, which is one of Duolingo's most under-supported courses...

I can tell you right now -- the Polish course does not come with Explain My Answer or Roleplay

it's completely misleading.

reactions 😬

as you might expect, this has caused one almighty stir in the Duolingo community

the subreddit has been kicking off...

and to add insult to injury, the pricing for both subscriptions remains EXACTLY THE SAME

as far as I'm concerned, Super Duolingo needs MORE to justify its current price... not less! 🤦

so yeah, I have absolutely no idea what Duolingo's game plan is with this

if they turn around and announce that AI features are coming to ALL courses, then that would definitely soften the blow

…but that still doesn't justify making Super Duolingo worse to make Max seem better.

It feels as though Duolingo is taking its users for granted

And I fear that, for many of them, this change might be the final straw…

anyway, rant over

I hope Duolingo is just doing some of its usual A/B testing

and that the growing backlash will cause them to think twice before a wider rollout

that being said, there was a MASSIVE backlash when Duolingo rolled out the new learning path in 2022… and they didn't back down

so we'll have to wait and see what happens with this one

((It’s also worth noting that Max is still only available on iOS devices so Android and Desktop users should be unaffected for the time being))

are you a Super Duolingo member? Will this make you want to upgrade to Duolingo Max... or will you just cancel your subscription altogether?

come let me know over on X

Ciao for now,

-Matt

eat 🍽️ sleep 😴 streak 🔥 repeat 🔁

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