Testimony Against Duolingo

since early 2020 i started to learn french with duolingo because even back them i'm already planning to leave this nightmare of a country (yet i did not, in fact, learned enough to get a C1 certificate and went to france till this day; but that's another story). in early 2021 i finished the whole course, and the result was subpar at best: i could understand like 80~95% of a typical RFI le francais facile article, but when it comes to listening i'm just barely of any good at all. i bought textbooks focused on listening drills and that proved to be much more effective in a short time than whatever i was doing with the owl app. a few weeks passed, they updated their content, my progress was taken back about 1/3, and that's when i've decided that i'm never going to use it again.

to me, the fact that duolingo keeps updating their content and the users keep having to adapt and consume the new content pretty much indicates that Duolingo is indeed a game rather than a serious language learning app. things like this have never happened in a more traditional form of language course, language course takers twenty years ago don't go back to school just because the school updated their teaching materials, they are considered to be already done with the process; this also explains why duolingo is so keen on introducing mechanics that are more about the gamification and largely unrelated to the courses themselves while being lax on the overall quality of the teaching materials; one may even suspect that they adopt game mechanics and deliberately hinder their user's actual learning progress so that they can get them hooked for longer; i suspect this is why we now have new in-game currencies like "gems", new show-off materials like achievements and social game mechanics like the daily quests and the different tiers of leagues. duolingo is, thus, secretly a gaming company; it's just that they happened to be so serious about making language learning their whole thing (or pretend to make language learning their whole thing) that when they presented the duolingo english test it somehow got recognized by a certain number of colleges and universities.

i'm suspecting that everything has its own course of logic and, while it might work (or even desirable) if you try to fit the logic of one field into another, you cannot do the same with teaching; like for example, if the logic of cooking is to actually cook, then an app that only asks you to memorize the recipes isn't going to provide much help in improving your cooking skill; and if the logic of learning a language is to have huge-enough amount of input, then there simply isn't a quick and laborless way to do this no matter how you present the material, and the feeling of easy progress provided by duolingo with its courses that have been sliced into easy-to-digest pieces is nothing but a nice illusion.