[Last updated: February 21, 2022]
I’ll hold my hands up: right now, I’m definitely stuck in a Duolingo rut.
For one reason or another, I’ve lost sight of my language learning goals. I find myself doing the bare minimum on Duolingo and very little elsewhere. I’ve been learning French for most of 2021 but recently I can’t say I’ve made much progress.
We’ve all been there. It happens. Sometimes other things take priority (no matter how much the owl tries to be at the centre of our lives).
This isn’t the first time it’s happened either.
But guess what? That means I’ve always found a way out!
Any of this sound familiar? If so, then you’re right where you need to be!
Below we’ll go through the 6 telltale signs your Duolingo mojo is MIA — and the best way I know of getting it back.
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1. You’re skipping the speaking and listening exercises
This is so easily done. It takes *a lot* of discipline to not skip the skippables.
I’m doing it all the time at the moment, and I’m not even thinking about it. I’m just instinctively hitting ‘Skip’ every time the speaking and listening exercises pop up.
In fairness, sometimes you can’t avoid it. You probably don’t want to work on your French accent in the middle of a hospital waiting room. And if you don’t have headphones, it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to work on your listening comprehension either!
But if you’re all alone in your living room, then there’s really no excuse. If you’re anything like me then you’re just trying to finish the lessons quickly so you can keep your streak and get on with the rest of your day. And when this happens, you’re almost certainly in a rut.
2. You’re only doing one lesson a day
This is where I’m at right now. Just doing the bare minimum to hit my daily XP target.
Sure, one lesson a day is better than nothing at all. At least you’re engaging with your target language, even if it is just for a few minutes a day.
But if that’s all you’re doing with your target language then it probably isn’t enough, especially if you used to do a lot more.
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3. You’re only doing timed challenges
I’ve been doing this A LOT.
Timed challenges are quick and usually pretty easy. You can get them done in a couple of minutes and rack up a solid 40 XP if you’re doing the Lightning Round.
Recently I’ve just been doing one round of XP Ramp Up a day. I’ll bag myself a quick 40 XP and leave it at that. It’s great for keeping my streak alive and keeping me in my league, but, sadly, it also means I’m not making a whole lot of progress in my target language.
That said, if (unlike me) you’re doing several timed challenges a day then this isn’t so bad, so long as you’re working through your lesson tree as well.
But if (like me) you’re just doing the one and nothing else then it’s probably time to re-evaluate.
4. You’re prioritising your league
I actually think this is inevitable. We’re subtly conditioned to believe that there’s some sort of correlation between our league and our ability to learn a language.
But, of course, that’s a load of BS.
The most effective way of finishing top of the pile, getting promoted, and avoiding demotion is to rack up as much XP as possible in as little time as possible. And that means taking shortcuts.
This is all well and good for your league performance, but it comes at the cost of progress in your target language. Not good.
5. You’re only doing it for your streak
Let me be really clear on this one. Your streak matters. For me, it’s one of the best motivators on Duolingo. If learning a language requires daily exposure, then keeping a massive streak is often a sure-fire way of making it happen.
But it all depends on how you go about it and where your priorities lie.
If you’re doing several lessons a day and working on your target language away from Duolingo then your streak will represent progress. Your priority is learning a language. The streak is a means to an end.
But what happens when the streak becomes the end? When your streak gets to a certain point, the thought of losing it can be terrifying. I say this from experience. In my case, it’s actually become this weird facet of my identity that I can’t imagine losing.
So what happens is you show up every day and do the bare minimum, all to keep the flame from burning out. You don’t make much progress in your target language, but your streak keeps growing.
I’ve fallen into this trap so many times, and I’m definitely in it now.
6. You’re not doing anything away from Duolingo
Putting it like this suggests you’re in more of a language-learning rut than just a Duolingo one. But it’s still important.
If you’re only doing the bare minimum on Duolingo and nothing away from it, that suggests you’ve lost touch with your goals. For some reason, you’re not as motivated to learn the language anymore, so you hit your daily XP target on Duolingo and leave it at that.
This keeps your streak alive and may help you stay in your league. But you won’t be speaking fluent French any time soon.
It’s really important that you supplement what you’re doing on Duolingo with stuff away from Duolingo as well. You’ve got to put it into practice and see it in context. If you’re not immersing yourself in authentic content — like movies, TV shows, music, books etc — then the stuff you learn on Duolingo isn’t going to bed in.
For this I usually use NordVPN to access sites like TF1 so I can stream movies and TV shows in French. You get access to loads of authentic French content, but also some classic American stuff with French dubbing as well. You probably won’t understand what’s going on at first, but over time you start to see big progress. And the best part is — it’s fun!
But recently I can’t even bring myself to do that. And that’s a massive giveaway that I’m stuck in a rut.
RELATED: Duolingo + TV Shows = Fluency?
How to get out of your Duolingo rut!
In theory, it’s really easy to get out. But actually doing it can be tricky.
The solution is pretty obvious as well. You’ve probably figured it out already. It’s not rocket science.
To get out of a Duolingo rut, you need to rediscover your language-learning goals.
That’s what I’m doing at the moment. All it takes is a little introspection, with the help of some good quality questions.
So sit back, relax, and ask yourself questions like:
- Why did I start using Duolingo in the first place?
- Are my original goals still relevant?
- Are my original goals still compelling?
- Do I still want or need to learn my target language?
- Where would I like to be in my target language six months from now, and what will it take to get there?
You don’t even need to answer all of them. Often just one will do to get you back on track. You might find that your original reason for learning a language is no longer valid, or maybe you’re burnt out and you’d like to try something new.
You might even realise that you don’t need or want to learn a language at the moment, in which case, you might decide to put Duolingo on ice for a little while. And that’s totally fine. It might be hard to let go of your streak, but if it’s no longer serving you then it might be time to let it go.
However, if you decide you still want to learn a language, and you’re really clear on why you want to, all that remains is to set yourself a clear, achievable goal.
I like to use the CEFR levels for this. I’ll usually settle on something like “In six months I’d like to reach A2 in French” and then figure out how I’m going to get there (e.g. 20 minutes a day on Duolingo, 20 minutes a day on LingQ, 20 minutes a day of Benny Lewis’s Language Hacking books, one 30-minute TV show per day on TF1).
You don’t have to stick to it rigidly, but having a clear goal and a clear plan is pretty much essential.
And once you’ve done that, you’ll be pulling yourself out of your Duolingo rut in next to no time!