Duolingo has so many great features, but I think we can all agree that the Duolingo Shop isn’t one of them.
For all the gems (or lingots) we earn there is so very little to spend them on. For many, it’s like being a millionaire on a desert island — so much money, but so utterly pointless.
Of course, the Shop has very little bearing on the learning side of things. It’s just a little bit of a sideshow. But still, it’s a thing — and Duolingo can do better.
So in this article, we’ll take a look at the way things are, before proposing some much needed changes.
Let’s get into it!
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What is the Duolingo Shop?
The Duolingo Shop is one of the few places on Duolingo that you can spend your hard-earned gems.
You can access the Shop from the app by tapping the little shop icon in the bottom right corner, and from desktop by selecting the shop tab at the top of the screen.
Duolingo Shop items
Currently you can buy the following items at the Duolingo Shop:
- Streak Freeze
- Weekend Amulet
- Double or Nothing
- Health Refill
- Bonus Skills
A Streak Freeze allows you to have a day off from Duolingo without losing your streak. So if you have a 31-day streak but decide you need a day off, then you can buy a Streak Freeze to keep your streak intact.
Much like Streak Freeze, Weekend Amulet lets you take a break from Duolingo without losing your streak. However, as the name suggests, Weekend Amulet can only be used over the weekend. It’s also only available on Android and Desktop.
Double or Nothing
Double or Nothing gives you the opportunity to double a 50-gem wager by maintaining a 7-day streak. So if you manage to complete a 7-day streak, you will earn your 50-gem wager back, plus another 50 gems.
Heart Refill allows you to use your gems to refill your hearts, enabling you to jump back into your lesson tree if ever you run out.
The Gem store differs from the rest of the items in that you can actually buy gems with real money. In the UK, you can buy 1200 gems for £4.99, 3000 gems for £9.99 and 6500 gems for £19.99.
The outfits let you kit out the Duolingo Owl with some cool costumes. Currently, there are only three available: Formal Attire, Champagne Tracksuit and Super Duo.
Finally, the Bonus Skills are extra skills for you to work through in your lesson tree. You can do them very early on in your tree, covering Idioms and Proverbs and Flirting. They are only available in a few languages though, so if you can’t find them in your Shop then they won’t be available in your target language.
It’s worth noting that the above relates to what you can buy in the Shop. It’s not an exhaustive list of everything you can spend your gems on. For instance, you can use your gems to buy entries to the XP Ramp Up Challenge and to test out of skills early.
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Nothing to buy?
You might think from the above list that there’s a lot to choose from at the Duolingo Shop. But any long-time Duolingo user will tell you that this simply isn’t the case.
Once you’ve bought you bonus skills and all of the costumes for Duo, you’re only really left with the streak perks, the wager, and the heart refills. And there’s a lot wrong with this.
The streak perks might seem tempting — especially if you’re proud of your streak but you don’t fancy logging into Duolingo every day — but they completely defeat the point of having a streak in the first place. A streak is designed to be maintained by showing up and using your target language every day. If you miss a day, then, in reality, it’s no longer a streak.
Nor does the wager make a whole lot of sense, at least at the moment. What’s the point in doubling something you can’t really spend?
So as it is, once you’ve bought everything else, the only thing worth spending your gems on is the heart refill. This is pretty much essential for free members, but what if you’re a Plus member rocking unlimited hearts? Then there’s pretty much nothing left to spend your mountain of gems on.
How Duolingo can improve the Shop
It seems clear to me that the Shop needs a revamp. The idea behind it and the earning of gems isn’t a bad one, but the way it’s been executed up to now could definitely use some work.
So below, I’ve come up with some things I’d like Duolingo to consider adding to the Shop. You’ll notice I haven’t included anything related to language learning, as I think this should either remain free or be bundled in with the Plus membership. As far as I’m concerned, the Shop should remain a fun sideshow to the overall learning process.
For the most part, I’d like to see Duolingo take a leaf out of the books of some high profile video game franchises. Games like Fortnite, Warzone and Rocket League are all free to play, but come with some optional purchases. These are generally cosmetic in nature, thereby not giving players who spend more an unfair advantage. Things like weapon skins, character attire and profile customisation allow players to fully personalise their experiences and keep things interesting.
More of the same
And here’s the thing: Duolingo already do this, just on a significantly smaller scale.
For instance, we can customise our in-lesson owl with three different outfits (or four if you count his default look). OK, it doesn’t add much to the quality of our learning experience, but it makes it a lot more personal. I for one appreciate being able to stick him in a superhero costume. It just… mixes things up a bit.
This is something Duolingo need to double down on. They’ve got a quality team of illustrators. We see this all the time across their social media platforms, and laced through the different sections of the app.
So give Duo some more outfits: Casual Duo, Military Duo, Firefighter Duo, Professor Duo, Doctor Duo, Window-cleaner Duo. It doesn’t have to be serious or make any sense. Just give us some variety!
And why stop there? This kind of customisation can be extended out across the Duolingo experience.
Give us a greater choice of themes. At the moment there’s only two and it’s purely for practical reasons: light and dark. Duolingo can do better than that. It’s like back in the day when you couldn’t change your iPhone background. You just had to make do with plain, uninspiring darkness.
Let’s have some bespoke backgrounds for our Duolingo tree, featuring custom skill icons.
For French learners, a Parisien skyline featuring famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. The People skill could have a chap wearing a berret and the Food skill could feature a baguette.
For Italian learners, the Colosseum featuring Duo whizzing around on a Vespa.
Learning Japanese? How about Mount Fuji and Duo eating a bowl of sushi.
It doesn’t even need to relate to the language you’re learning. The Olympics are (hopefully) just around the corner. Why not create a celebratory Olympic theme featuring the 5 rings and a swathe of flags?
It’s all about personalising the experinece. And there’s ample opportunity to do just by changing the way the app looks.
This could also extend to our public profiles. At the moment they’re all pretty much the same. The only differences being the profile pictures and the flags beneath the usernames.
Let’s be honest: this is a missed opportunity. Duolingo is setup as a social experience but the social side of things is really tame.
Profile customisation would go a long way to fixing this. Let us customise them in the same way that we could customise our trees, with fancy backgrounds and unique illustrations. Better still, let us customise our profile pictures with swanky borders. This is something they’re already doing on the desktop version for Plus members and moderators. Extend this out to the app and give us a greater selection.
What about nicknames as well? Streak Freak, XP Hunter, Language Lover, Achievement Addict, Mandarin Master. These could feature underneath our usernames on our profile pages and in the weekly leaderboards.
And while we’re at it, how about some more leaderboard statuses? Currently there are only 12. Surely we can do better than that?
Again: none of this does anything for the learning side of things, but collectively it adds a much-needed spark to the overall experience.
How about making some changes to the characters?
I know they’re not to everyone’s liking — in some cases, they actually slow down devices — which is why they represent the perfect customisation opportunity.
I propose some themed character packs that tweak what the characters are wearing, just like Duo’s outfits. You could have a summer pack that puts them all in beachwear, a Christmas pack that kits them out in festive attire, an Olympic pack that gets them into some fetching sporting gear. The options are endless.
And who knows — maybe one Duolingo could team up with a cartoon like The Simpsons or a film studio like Marvel. French lessons with Homer Simpson, Russian with Captain America. Random, I know. But why not?
Make the gems mean something
The whole point is to keep things interesting and engaging.
Again, I don’t want Duolingo to start putting fundamental learning features behind a gem wall.
The Shop needs to be fun and quirky. The gems need to mean something; they need to take on a whole new value.
The cosmetic suggestions above won’t upset the learning experience but they will add something to the overall experience. Suddenly that chest of gems will matter, and the gem mountains that pile up in many an account will be a thing of the past.
Have your say!
Anyway, that’s what I’d like to see Duolingo do with the Shop.
But what changes would you like to see brought to the Shop?
Do you agree with my suggestions? Would you like to see Duolingo take a different approach? Or perhaps you’re just not that bothered?
As always, be sure to share your suggestions and opinions in the comments!