I'm out of here
It's been a while. The main reason I haven't made a lot of updates so far was that there weren't really much to talk about. But let's break it down a bit. Duolingo can operate on two very different modes:
1. Based on the skill strength (with signal strength icons)
2. Based on the skill level (with crowns with level numbers 1-5)
From what I have seen, even the same language can have both modes, as for Swedish, the web version is skill strength, the app version is the skill level. While it seems that the web is mostly skill strength and the app is mostly skill level, I noticed that Mandarin on the app version was skill strength.
Completing a skill for the first time on the web only gives Level 1 on the app version, and completing Level 1 on the app gives the full strength signal. This might be a common knowledge for the long-time users, but I just want to make sure we're on the same page.
The problem I see is:
For the skill strength ones, it's easy to make the mistake of going too fast too quickly. Testing with Mandarin, I was able to finish 1/4 of the whole tree in one sitting and there was no check. I felt like I was able to grasp the grammar well enough to give a near-automatic response by the time I reached Level 4 on most nodes, which equates to some 25-40 exercise reps. And this was Swedish; for the languages that are widely different, this may take more. I actually finished "Basics I" on Irish just to test; I believe it took 35? exercises to finish that one node to Level 5, but I still wasn't completely sure if I understood everything correctly.
The skill level based ones, while they are brutally repetitious, it gets the job done. And as a low-maintenance way of acquiring some A2 competence at the end, and if you don't mind spending 10 minutes per day for the next two years, this might be your thing. This is not a sarcasm; this might really be your thing. And as you finish one node at a time, which can require up to 60 exercises per node (the highest I've seen), that really gets ingrained to your cerebrum. This is not a bad method.
The problem comes when you try to move a little faster with the skill-based ones. I'm on the phone. This is equivalent of texting how many freaking messages per day? Only doing 5 exercises can easily equal to 50-80 messages that you have to text, and if you want to try to pace up, you just need to text more.This creates an ergonomic problem.
I don't know about you, maybe for some, texting on the smartphone is the primary method of communicating with people. But for me, this hurts. Physically. I have been feeling increasingly sore on my hands, especially the joint around my two thumbs.
The goddamn app needs to hit a right balance. The web version has little check to protect yourself from ... well, yourself, if you move too fast. The app version moves too slow and this can hurt you, physically. And the biggest problem I see is the separation of the two modes, the progresses made on one side don't really get reflected on the other side. Let me ask a perfectly legitimate question:What the fuck were you thinking?
If you're going with the whole idea of gamification, you need to consider the gamer mind first. When I see nodes with incomplete levels, I want to fill it up, to go for completion; that's just what the gamers do. I don't want to complain too much about weird sentences, though there are; typing "it is its dishes" in English doesn't sound like I'm tying good English, but still, I can accept a degree of translationese especially for the low levels. That's not the problem; if this is meant to be a gamification of learning languages, Duolingo needs to learn to manipulate the gamer mind a little better. If I know doing anything on the web is not going to give me higher level crowns on the app, am I even going to bother? Is there an option to show me the crowns instead of signal strengths on the web version?
All in all, this experiment is over. I don't think I'm going to delete the app just yet, and I might continue on with Swedish, as this does one thing exceptionally well: Doing just a few lessons every day, however slow, is a very low-maintenance way of slowly building the basics of a language. But not for a while. I'm physically feeling pain now. I think I gave it an honest try it deserves at least.