Jul 1, 2021 - Economy

Duolingo's unabashed gamification

Duolingo Bird in nest with gold coins.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

While Robinhood pushes back against any suggestion that it is deliberately gamifying investing, another company about to go public — language-learning app Duolingo — is placing its gamification skills front and center.

Why it matters: According to Duolingo's prospectus, "the high engagement driven by gamification leads to consistent learning and demonstrable efficacy."

How it works: Duolingo has A/B tested its way to a highly addictive app, in a successful attempt to solve the biggest problem in language learning, which is that people aren't motivated to spend enough time doing it.

  • The catch: The way to get people to spend more time on the app might not be the best way to get them to learn a language. Burr Settles, Duolingo's director of research, told Natasha Mascarenhas of TechCrunch that users spend more time on the app whenever it gets easier.
  • "Ultimately, when the product team has to make a decision between engagement and learning efficacy, it typically must err toward entertainment over education," writes Mascarenhas.
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