How does this little green bird, a showman, make 500 million people around the world tremble?

My electronic pet used to be QQ Penguin, and I played with it and fed it, but after it became ill, I was young and ignorant and couldn't afford resurrection pills, and our fate has long been buried with its body.

Now I have raised an electronic pet. It doesn't eat, drink or visit. It just wants me to make progress every day. Even Sun Quan can't compare with it in encouraging students to learn.

Unknowingly, the master-servant relationship between me and my electronic pets was reversed.

The little green bird that makes people love and hate, the team behind the scenes who are the most playful

This electronic pet is the green owl Duoer, whose English name is Duo, the mascot of the language learning app Duolingo.

If you put Duolingo's "widget" on the desktop of your mobile phone, your "bad relationship" with it will begin.

Duoer's requirement for you is to study at least 1 unit every day. This widget displays the number of consecutive days of check-in (also called "win streak"), as well as Duo'er's various mental states. Its mood changes with the time you study.

If you don't check in for a long time, in just one day, you can see it from this green owl, from kind words to persuasion, from face-to-face sarcasm to anger, and every expression is carefully created by the designer.

The closer it gets to 12 o'clock in the middle of the night, the more desperate Duoer becomes, as if he is ready to die together at any time.

A few mean-spirited humans like me deliberately check out the last 5 minutes just to see more and go crazy. After finishing, Duoer turned around faster than flipping through a book, feeling calm and relaxed.

Due to human nature, seeing the numbers getting bigger and bigger in a prominent position with our own eyes, we become more and more unbearable to return to zero with one click, as if we are being tortured by the "moral eye" on the screen all the time.

However, there may be another "not worth mentioning" reason for insisting on studying every day – collecting Duoer's complete set of emoticons. According to the official blog, 14 models were initially designed, and 25 more models were added during improvements.

The original intention of developing widgets is that Duolingo believes that learning needs to be reminded. It's proven to work, with 50% of users who have the widget installed having a winning streak of at least 6 months.

Duolingo's design ideas are endless, and in addition to widgets, it also gives out Easter eggs from time to time. It’s just that I haven’t studied for a while, and the app icons have melted into distorted faces of fear. Duo'er, I noticed you, can you return to normal?

Duolingo also has a text version of the ultimate persuasive move – "Notification", which also uses a prompting style, and is officially called "passive attack".

Duoer is good at banner messages, but someone else is responsible for text message bombing. At this time, we want to invite another heavyweight from Duolingo, Sister La, whose English name is Lily, a cold and world-weary purple-haired person.

Sister La is proficient in the "art of communication". She carries a gun with a stick and even speaks the truth. It's up to you to clock in or not. She has no interest in staring at you. She just fulfills her obligation to inform you.

If you don't go to Duolingo for several days, Lajie's attitude will become more and more negative, with "ultimatums" written between the lines, and users have to take time out of their busy schedules to deal with it. I can ignore you, but you can't make me unable to climb up.

In fact, when to send notifications and what to say in each notification are the most likely to make people come back to learn. Duolingo has good intentions and runs an AI system to grasp the psychological defense lines of users.

While being scolded, users "publicly executed" Duoer and Lajie on social media. At the same time, they maintained a winning streak, and memes related to Duolingo spread.

Duolingo co-founder and CEO Louis von Ahn’s favorite meme is that he forgot to learn a language today, and then the intruder alarm went off in the house, and there were signs of a break-in at the back door, which was probably a green owl.

The official ability to organize activities is not lagging behind netizens at all. Recently, Duolingo Japan launched a special event "KFD" imitating KFC in Shibuya, full name Krispy Fried Duo (Crispy Fried Duo), selling Christmas-style green fried chicken for a limited time.

Duo'er was deep-fried, and the great revenge of being urged to death day by day was avenged. However, this green color looks very aggressive, like a witch's secret potion, and there is a giant Douer watching calmly as he cooks.

Breaking the fourth wall between the actors and the audience is actually a routine used by Duolingo.

On April Fool's Day in 2022, they produced a "Personal Injury Legal Advertisement" asking you if you were injured by a crazy green owl. The professional "Zhang Wei" lawyer team will help you protect your rights.

When Duolingo advertises Duolingo, the basic "design" is the same, and it also understands "localization" and has opened separate social media accounts in the United States, Japan, India, Germany, Brazil and other countries.

European and American styles are more unrestrained. Duolingo once spoofed a love variety show with the streaming media Peacock on April Fool's Day, telling you that no matter how hot the body is, the language barrier is still a bit embarrassing.

Down-to-earth East Asia focuses on studying hard and making progress every day. Duolingo uses rolling paper to remind you that you can also use the fragmented time in the toilet. Studies have found that people spend an average of 14 minutes on the toilet every day. In order to make these rolls shine, Duolingo partnered with WeWork and put them in 18 toilets in Chinese offices.

This year, Duolingo has another highlight moment that must be mentioned. Duolingo was mentioned in the Warner Bros. phenomenon "Barbie," which put Dollo on the red carpet and Duolingo even created a 30-second spot that was played during the screening in theaters.

A language learning app has actually turned itself into the social currency of the Internet. TikTok has more than 8 million fans. As a result, more and more netizens have fallen into the abyss of Duolingo and are lying flat at the bottom.

Duolingo product manager Cem Kansu is proud of this:

Thoughtful insanity is exactly what we're after!

Make learning a game, like making broccoli taste like dessert

Duolingo is similar to Mickey Mouse and Disney. It is a rising star in the future. Other dolls are used to warm the bed, and most are used to keep the house in check and threaten the owner who doesn't check in.

After Duolingo tricks people into it, you will find that although Duolingo's UI looks like a children's puzzle software, under the harmless appearance, there are addictive routines similar to social media and mobile games hidden.

If you don't study, Duo'er will push you. If you finally learn a little bit, even if you only answer 5 questions correctly, Duo'er and other characters will praise you with all their strength, with tinkling sound effects and "hot Thai pants" praises, constantly giving you You get chicken blood.

After learning a unit in a few minutes, it feels like you have passed a level in the game. The tasks ahead have not yet been revealed. Please continue to fight monsters and upgrade. Gradually unlock "achievements", "monthly challenges" and "daily special tasks", and open treasure boxes to obtain them. "Gem" reward.

But it is not always easy and happy. The "blood recovery mechanism" is a double seal. There are 5 red hearts every day. If you answer a question incorrectly, 1 will be deducted. If all are deducted, this unit will not be passed, and you will not be able to clock in. You can only use Buy "gems", exchange them for "practice", sign up as a member, or slowly wait for blood to return.

If you want to get more experience, in addition to learning a few more units every day, you can also participate in the limited-time "Flash Challenge".

What to do with all this experience? Duolingo's leaderboards have different levels from bronze to diamond. Each week, based on experience points, you can jump, slide, or stay the same, driving you to climb the ladder of progress.

Once you start rolling, you can't lie down. Duo'er will remind you from time to time that you will be surpassed by others. The higher the level, the more hidden your opponents will be. There is no concept of sitting back and relaxing.

Rather than saying that Duolingo is like a game, it is a game.

Duolingo co-founder and CEO Louis von Ahn mentioned in a TED speech that if you want people to learn on their mobile phones, they must learn the tricks of social media and mobile games in order to compete with them.

Providing education through smartphones is like expecting people to eat broccoli, but next to the broccoli you put the most delicious desserts, TikTok, Instagram, games… To make people want to learn, Duolingo makes broccoli taste Like dessert.

In fact, educational apps can never be more fun than Douyin and games. At the same time, they also have their own buffs to make up for the lack of playability: they seem to teach you something.

After all, people are creatures in need of meaning. Two hours of browsing Douyin may feel like a complete waste of time. However, after studying for 5 minutes on Duolingo, it seems that I have regained a sense of control over my life, so Duolingo also has " It is known as "the placebo for question writers".

However, as an educational app, there are bound to be contradictions and trade-offs between learning efficiency and gamification mechanisms. The "dessert-flavored" "broccoli" also reduces the nutritional value of "broccoli".

Judging from experience, it is more useful to use Duolingo to learn a language from scratch, rather than learning its English after CET-4 or CET-6 in college.

For example, I studied Japanese in Duolingo for a month. I studied one or two units of Buddhism every day. I didn’t understand the grammar at all. I mainly learned 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, hello, like, goodbye, comics, sushi, etc. Practical vocabulary such as teriyaki, tempura, natto, vegetables, fruits, tea, wine, dogs, cats, birds, etc.

The learning process is completely painless, and knowledge flows smoothly from the mind, leaving slight traces. When people ask me what the use of Duolingo is, I might say, you can write this on your resume: Master a little Japanese.

To put it bluntly, how to learn a language mainly depends on each person’s learning purpose.

If you are studying for exams or care about efficiency, Duolingo is not suitable. Its form is like a game, which mainly arouses people's interest. It also tends to teach colloquial content and allows you to remember and understand the meaning through repetition. It is mainly used for entry-level and Daily communication.

Duolingo's example sentences are also very unique, and they strive to integrate the learning content into the culture of the corresponding language. However, the normal ones are very normal, and the abnormal ones feel that they will not be used in a lifetime, and even make people doubt the mental state of this app.

When you were learning Cantonese, Duolingo always asked you to eat "shrimp dumplings" and "spicy ribs with black bean sauce", asked you whether to drink "chrysanthemum tea" or "Tieguanyin", and lamented that "a cage of thirty mosquitoes is so expensive." It seemed like you were soaked in In the teahouse. Japanese has a lot of underworld sentences, jumping repeatedly between "I love working" and "I'm sorry to be born as a human being."

If you want to ask how much Duolingo can make people improve, my answer is mainly about a feeling of persistence. The speed of learning is relatively slow. As long as you develop a habit, you will feel uncomfortable if you don't study for a day. Over time, you can always remember a lot of knowledge. But after a long time, you may fall into the situation of dealing with too many children, clocking in just for the sake of clocking in.

A founder who doesn’t follow common sense and a business model of “robbing the rich and giving to the poor”

The story of Duolingo co-founder and CEO Louis von Ahn is as interesting as the Duolingo app itself.

Luis mentioned in his TED talk that he is from Guatemala, a small country in Central America, bordering Mexico to the north.

In order to let the North American audience present understand this country, he called it "Mexico's Mexico" – the United States does not welcome illegal immigrants from Mexico, and Mexico does not welcome illegal immigrants from Guatemala.

His small and poor hometown had a great influence on Louis' decision to start Duolingo.

Before Duolingo, Louis co-developed CAPTCHA, a verification code system that distinguishes humans and robots, and then developed reCAPTCHA on this basis. After selling the company to Google, Louis has achieved financial freedom.

But Louis still had a career he wanted to start. In his view, education cannot bring equality, but may increase inequality. Rich people can get a good education and make more money, but many poor people can only barely learn to read and write, and will never Unable to change one's situation.

Launching educational apps is a way Lewis believes can achieve educational equity. I chose to start with language because learning another foreign language can often directly increase your income. Facts have proven that many people are using Duolingo to learn English, and English is a necessary "passport" in many countries.

Duolingo's starting point is great, but the development process is somewhat "random".

How big is the market demand? They didn't do much research at all. Where do the employees come from? After Lewis completed his Ph.D. in computer science at Carnegie Mellon and became a professor, he singled out his best students. Where does the money come from? At that time, Duolingo wasn't even sure how to make money, but Louis told the venture capital that he had sold the company to Google before and that he could trust his ability.

Now Duolingo can really make money, and its revenue mainly comes from paid subscriptions, advertising, and English tests. Everyone can learn a language for free, but they have to endure ten seconds of advertising at the end of each unit. If you want to avoid advertising, you have to pay to become a member.

Interestingly, only 7 to 8% of monthly active users are paid members, but this part of the revenue accounts for 80%. It can be said that the vast majority of revenue comes from a small number of paying users.

Lewis found that those who are willing to pay for subscriptions are usually wealthy people from developed countries such as the United States and Canada. Users who tolerate advertisements without paying for subscriptions often come from countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, and Guatemala. He thinks this model of "robbing the rich and giving to the poor" is very interesting. It is equivalent to the rich paying for everyone's education.

Currently, Duolingo is the most downloaded free language learning app in the world, with more than 500 million users. However, the "education equality" in Louis' heart may have a long way to go. After all, the current form of Duolingo is not enough to support more in-depth knowledge, Richer subjects cannot defeat the elite education that only belongs to a few people.

However, Duolingo is still a breath of fresh air among educational apps. It is not the bombardment marketing of elevators and subways, or the advertisements of real elites in suits. It does not talk about losing at the starting line, and it does not threaten your competitors. You still work hard.

At the same time, Duolingo has catered to the needs of netizens who love to go crazy with emoticons and has contributed a large amount of valuable materials. Duolingo and Yanjie are both spiritual assets for young people surfing 5G.

Duolingo doesn't look down on you, it looks down on everyone here. Others care about whether you fly high, but Duolingo cares about whether you checked in or not.

So today, were you "hunted" by Duo'er?

It is as sharp as autumn frost and can ward off evil disasters. Work email: [email protected]

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