I’ve finally made it. It’s only taken me 2053 continuous days of practice but I have finally made it to the top of the leaderboard in Duolingo, the online language app. So that’s practicing languages every day for over five and a half years, Christmas day, New Year’s day, every day. I’ve studied Dutch, Spanish, French, Welsh, Portuguese, Swedish, German, Esperanto and even a little Klingon! I guess it’s the ultimate accolade for those on Duolingo. In the words of Jimmy Cagney, ‘I’m top of the world Ma!’
The funny thing is that I never intended to top out. I have tried to avoid the game playing aspects of the app. Everyday it bombards you with messages, asking you to do more, comparing yourself with your colleagues and making you worry about your position on the league table. I only wanted to learn the languages and preferred to go at my own pace rather than letting the inanimate app dictate my life.
So what happened then?
I noticed a new feature. Perhaps it had been there all along. A new level 6 had appeared, referred to as Legendary and I thought I would start my Dutch again at this level. Of course the early lessons were easy enough and each time I completed one I got 40 points rather than my usual 10-15. Everything on Duolingo is driven by points.
By the end of that day I found myself at the top of the leaderboard and by the second day I had pulled further ahead. It occurred to me if I could keep on in that vein until the end of the week, I would have achieved the prize and completed all of the 11 achievement badges there are in the app. Points make badges.
I then decided to go for it, completing enough lessons in one day to be a thousand points ahead of my nearest rival, if that is the right word. By then, as long as I maintained a decent margin it would be difficult, if not demoralising to try and give up. My tactics ensured my handsome lead was maintained throughout the week. By Sunday night I had amassed 3585 points, way ahead of Tom in second on 1574 points and Terence in third on 1541 points. They seemed to have been having their own competition and had scores that in many weeks would have won.
While I’’d fallen for their game, hook line and sinker, the trick it seems with Duolingo is to get way ahead early, settle back and match your competition.
What next then? In the end the Tortoise won and now I can go back to my old ways, with just a few lessons each day.