Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
And thanks to my Duolingo addiction, I’m currently sporting 791 of them. (Robert Baratheon, eat your heart out).
But what exactly are they? What do they represent? How do we acquire them? And, most importantly, why do they matter?
Loyal subjects, let us investigate.
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What are Duolingo Crowns?
In the true spirit of royalty, I’ll leave it to someone else to do the hard work.
Here’s what the guys at Duolingo have to say about the Crown feature:
Crowns are a feature that we believe lets us teach better. Each skill you do has a ‘Crown Level’ associated with it. When you level up a skill, you earn a Crown, and the types of exercises you see will get harder.Duolingo
Crowns, then, represent all the levels you’ve completed in a course. If you’ve unlocked 140 crowns in the French course then that means you’ve completed 140 levels. So, in theory, the more levels you complete, the more advanced you will be in your target language.
As you progress through a skill, the difficulty will increase; unlocking the final crown will be significantly harder than the first.
In general, a skill has five levels, but sometimes it can have just the one. It just depends on the skill and the course.
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The best way to acquire Duolingo Crowns…
…isn’t to sharpen your blade and wage bloody war with every next kingdom on the horizon.
In Duolingo, we acquire crowns in a much less barbaric fashion. As detailed above, to boost our crown totals, we need to complete levels.
Once you complete a level, you have a choice:
You can choose to go deeper into skills and level them up or continue on to new skills to learn new content.Duolingo
This alludes to one of the biggest sources of confusion that I’ve experienced on Duolingo. Once we’ve completed a level, do we press on with the current skill and acquire every crown at once, or do we move on to another skill and come back to it later?
In my experience, there’s no right or wrong way about this. It all comes down to personal preference. If you want to nail down your eating-out vocabulary, for instance, then, by all means, stick with the Restaurant skill for as long as you desire.
In my case, once I unlock the first crown in a skill, I tend to move on to the next one, as I enjoy the sense of progress. However, from time to time I’ll jump back into some of the earlier skills to keep them fresh. In so doing I’ll usually unlock the next available crown.
This approach is pretty much what the guys at Duolingo refer to as the ‘Hover’ technique. In their words:
“Hover” around several skills – spreading your time across a handful of nearby skills – and alternate between gaining crowns and doing new lessons. Hovering across multiple skills helps you maximize learning by practicing what you’ve already studied while continuing to learn new material.Duolingo
We could just as easily view this as taking two steps forward and one step back: advancing through the course while simultaneously topping up the skills we’ve previously worked on.
In my case, the result is that I soon end up with more crowns than a royal knees-up. It’s a healthy approach and ensures you’re progressing through your language at a sensible pace.
Why Crowns matter
Sadly, these crowns aren’t as valuable as the sort you might find lying around Buckingham Palace.
But that’s not to say they’re worthless.
Crowns are perhaps the single best barometer on Duolingo of where you’re at in your target language.
XP (and Leagues) as a measure of progress
Traditionally we’d probably look to how much XP we’ve acquired. After all, since the introduction of the League system, we are more incentivised than ever to amass as much XP as possible.
Surely there must be a correlation between XP and ability?
Well, maybe. After all, amassing hundreds of thousands of XP requires a lot of time — an essential ingredient in acquiring a language, I’m sure we can all agree.
Where this collapses, however, is in the ‘how’.
That’s because we can easily acquire XP by coasting along in the easy skills, racking up the same amount (if not more) as the harder ones, but in much less time. This might be advantageous as far as our league positions are concerned, but it doesn’t do much for our language learning prospects.
Streaks as a measure of progress
We can say much the same of the streak counter.
If you’re a regular reader then this might come as a surprise, as you’ll know that I’m actually a big fan of maintaining a mega streak. (Mine currently stands at a flex-worthy 1,722 days).
After a certain point, they begin to take on a life of their own. Keeping them alive becomes motivation in and of itself. The longer it plods on, the less you want to lose it.
So long as you keep it clean (no Streak Freezes!) it has the positive effect of keeping you coming back to Duolingo. Anyone who subscribes to Luca Lampariello’s ‘Bucket Effect’ idea will know this is great news for your chances of learning your target language.
Even so, it isn’t always the best measure of ability. We can quite easily set our daily targets to a lowly 10 XP and, as with the previous point, coast along in the beginner skills just to keep the streak alive. With no input elsewhere, our ability would barely improve.
Anyone with a burgeoning crown collection will almost certainly have advanced deep into their levels and courses.
When it comes to collecting crowns, you have to keep pushing. If crowns are your goal, then progression becomes essential. You can’t afford to bumble around in the early skills. You have to press on, expanding your comfort zone at every opportunity.
For some this might be daunting. Collecting crowns isn’t as rewarding as XP (crowns do nothing for your league position) or as ego-boosting as maintaining a gargantuan streak. And, in the name of progress, you’ll get a lot more questions wrong–far from ideal if you’re a non-Plus member and have to contend with the heart system.
But if you want to improve in your target language, then taking crowns as your goal is the best course of action. Your league position might not improve, but your ability to use your target language certainly will.
So, how heavy is your head?