I Think It’s Time to Give Up My Duolingo Streak
I have a confession: I’ve been half-assing for a while now.
Back in 2019, I wrote a piece for the New York Times in which I discussed how apps like Duolingo can help, and how they can’t. My credentials to make such an authoritative claim? I had a Duolingo streak of over 500 days.
Well, now I’m nearly at 1,500. And I have to confess, I don’t think I’ve learned anything in the time since. But it’s not the app’s fault.
Not entirely, anyway. Some of it is Duolingo’s fault. For example, I would’ve lost my streak a long time ago if not for the Streak Freeze feature. This probably well-intentioned feature lets you keep your streak even if you miss a day, so long as you bought the item ahead of time with the in-app currency that you earn by completing lessons.
I ended up with an absurd amount of this currency, and I’m not entirely sure how. At first I was paying for Duolingo Plus, back when I cared, and maybe they gave out extras then. Or maybe I’d accumulated a lot of one currency that got converted into a different currency at some point in the past that I can’t recall. Duolingo has changed so much I can’t keep track. All I do know is that now I have 46,279 “gems” and a streak freeze costs like…200. I could stop doing lessons entirely and four more MCU movies would come out before I lost my streak.
But if I’m honest with myself, that’s an excuse. Sure, I would feel more pressure to keep my streak alive if Duolingo didn’t give freezes away like they’re candy, but I already have a way to beat the system without them.
Alright. Here it comes. My secret shame.
Most days, all I do in Duolingo is repeat one of the earlier lessons. I’ve been doing Japanese, and the first four lesson trees are just learning basic Hiragana symbols. It took effort when I first started to learn these, but at this point they’re basically alphabet flash cards. If someone asked you to pick what sound an A makes and occasionally pair it with a word like “apple,” you get how basic these are.
I didn’t mean to slip into this habit. It started when I went through a particularly busy phase–I’ve had so many since then I can’t even recall…