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Duolingo is a gamified language-learning platform created by a company of the same name. The application was first launched in beta as a website for a limited number of users on 30 November 2011 and was later fully launched on 19 June 2012. As of February 2022, it offers 104 different language courses across 42 languages, with 19 additional courses in development. The app is available on iOS, Android and Windows 8 and 10 platforms with over 120 million registered users across the world.

You learn by progressing through a language tree consisting of various short lessons that are unlocked as you proceed. Most exercises are written translation exercises, but there are also optional dictation and speaking exercises. Completing lessons gives you Experience Points and lingots - the Duolingo currency you can use to buy power-ups, tests and bonus skills.

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     Courses Offered by Duolingo 
  • For English speakers: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hawaiian, Hebrew, High Valyrian, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Klingon, Korean, Latin, Navajo, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welsh, Yiddish
  • For Spanish speakers: Catalan, English, Esperanto, French, German, Guarani, Italian, Portugese, Russian, Swedish
  • For Chinese speakers: English, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish
  • For French speakers: English, Esperanto, German, Italian, Portugese, Spanish
  • For Portugese speakers: English, Esperanto, French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • For Arabic speakers: English, French, German, Swedish
  • For Italian speakers: English, French, German, Spanish
  • For Japanese speakers: Chinese, English, French, Korean
  • For Russian speakers: English, French, German, Spanish
  • For Dutch speakers: English, French, German
  • For German speakers: English, French, Spanish
  • For Turkish speakers: English, German, Russian
  • For Hungarian speakers: English, German
  • For Vietnamese speakers: Chinese, English
  • For Czech, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Thai, or Ukrainian speakers: English


This gamified language learning platform provides examples of:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: The bear wears a blue scarf.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Duo is an owl that happens to be green.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Occasionally Duolingo teaches you how to describe what's going on if you encounter a normally-inanimate object doing something human:
    • The Norwegian course features "the apple speaks Norwegian".
    • From Danish: "The liver pate demands that the polar bear leaves the room".
    • The Dutch course teaches you to greet juice, to say you're a banana, and how to excuse yourself on the grounds that you're an apple.
    • In case you ever find yourself suspecting that you are in possession of an intelligent and moral vehicle, the Dutch course teaches "does my car have a conscience?".
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    • The Japanese course has "Excuse me, I am an apple."
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Several features are implemented into the game that allows an answer to be accepted even if it's not exactly what you were asked for. In other words, if an answer could be considered "close enough", it will usually count.
      • The game is fairly loose when it comes to grammar - as long as the sentence's intent isn't affected, slight variations are usually accepted. Typing "I am from Spain" when the game wanted you to type "I come from Spain" will be accepted as correct, since the overall meaning was still expressed. Also, sentences like "Do you sometimes drink coffee?" and "Do you drink coffee sometimes?" will usually both count as the correct answer, since both are grammatically correct.
      • If you're asked to identify a country which has more than one way to refer to it, the game will usually accept all of them. For instance, if you're asked to identify the country that British people are from, then you could type "England", "Britain", or "The UK", and all of them will be marked as the right answer.
      • Forgoing certain special letters and/or accent markers (such as e/é/è or n/ñ) is often allowed as long as it doesn't alter the meaning too much. You're only gently reminded which one you should have used with a typo correction on the bottom of the page, even though your answer still gets accepted as correct.
      • The game won't penalize you if your mistake is due to a reasonable typo, such as being only one letter off, unless that typo creates a different word that it recognizes.
      • In courses which have speaking exercises, if the speech recognition tool doesn't recognise one or two words that you say, it will still pass you as long as you got close.
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    • On browsers, after completing a skill for the first time, you can redo the lessons with slightly more difficulty. However, if you ace the first two lessons of the harder level with no mistakes, the game lets you skip straight to the next level of the skill, since you clearly know what you're doing.
    • When translating sentences, words and phrases that the game wants you to translate for the first time will be highlighted in orange, making you notice them easier and letting you mouse over the word to see what it is.
    • If you can't listen to audio lessons for whatever reason, you can just click "Can't Listen Now" and all audio lessons will be skipped for an hour. You won't be penalized in the amount of XP you earn if you do this, either. There's also a "Can't Speak Now" button for lessons in which you have to talk into a microphone to give the answer. You can also turn audio and speech lessons off completely in your options so that they never appear at all, and there is no penalty for doing so.
    • Starting in October 2021, getting halfway through a Legendary lesson still earns you twenty experience points, even if you fail the remainder of the lesson. Considering that you have to pay gems just to try a Legendary lesson (unless you have a paid subscription, which includes unlimited attempts), it's at least a small compensation if you get halfway through as opposed to All or Nothing.
  • April Fools' Day:
    • For 2014, Duolingo added the languages Lolcat, Zombie, and Pirate to the Incubator.
    • For 2015, Duolingo purportedly would release the application as a set of 28 floppy disks.
    • For 2016, Duolingo released Duolingo Pillow, a pillow that would let the user learn a language in their sleep.
    • For 2017, Duolingo released a course preview for Emoji as a language.
    • For 2018, Duolingo released a fake line of alcohol called "Brewolingo" designed to help you get fluent.
    • The 2019 prank involved the owl going to the player's house to remind them of their lessons, aka "real life push notifications".
    • There was no April Fools joke in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
    • For 2021, Duolingo released Duolingo Roll, toilet paper that teaches you phrases in other languages.
    • In 2022, the prank is Duolingo asking you not to retain the services of a criminal attorney who specializes in suing them when they kidnap your loved ones if you forget a lesson. And yes, the law office's phone number actually works.
  • Art Evolution: Duo started off in 2011 as a static bird with his name making up the eyes and beak, then he became more realistic before settling as a simplified, cartoony owl. An interview with the developers explains that the simpler design not only makes Duo and other characters easier to animate, but it also allows for more expressive emotions, making players more attached to Duo; they cite Mario always appearing in different positions and with different expressions as a particular source of inspiration. Considering the memes attached to Duo, it's safe to say they've succeeded.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The two-part stories do this across languages. The first part sets up something menacing or bad, only for the second to establish it was some sort of misunderstanding or not what it seems at first glance. One stock story includes a man writing to a woman telling her he loves her and can’t wait to see her in a few weeks. It ends with his wife entering the room and asking who he’s writing to. In the second part, you find out it’s their daughter who moved away to attend university, not his mistress. His wife cheers him up and says they’ll get to see her soon for parents’ weekend.
  • Big Eater: French: "I eat a lot."
  • Birds of a Feather: The story "A Date" in the Spanish course concerns a couple on a blind date who discover they have a lot in common — they're both vegetarian, both Cuban, and both have two dogs. Then they realize they're each on the date with the wrong person... but decide to stay together anyway.
  • Blatant Lies: Some of the sentences don't fit the characters who speak them. It's possible for instance to get a middle-aged man saying that he's your granddaughter. (Junior, a kid, is one of the worst for these—he'll often get sentences saying he has kids, or that he drives, owns a house or other adult behavior.)
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Granted, these are very rare thanks to the nature of the game, but not unheard of; they're also interesting in that they seem to affect the English sentences more than whatever language you're learning. For example, this forum thread has native English speakers scratching their heads over what the sentence "He would put us in front of our responsibilities." means.
  • Bookends: The Swedish course features the lines “Du gamla, du fria” (Thou ancient, thou free) and “Ja, jag vill leva jag vill dö i Norden.” (Yes, I want to live, I want to die in the North.) These two phrases are respectively the first and last lines of the Swedish national anthem.
  • Buffy Speak: There's a German skill named "Stuff". Upon completion, the game will greet you with the message that "You have learned Stuff". Even better, try strengthening it along with several others, and you'll get something like "You've strengthened Plurals, Comparison and Stuff".
  • But Thou Must!: Several of the chatbots ask you questions like "do you want to do X?". If you say "no", they'll force you to do X anyway:
    • In "It's a Zoo!", Tina asks you if you want to help her with the animals. If you refuse, she'll call you out for "not being very nice" and ask again, but more politely. Refuse again, and she'll say she "knows you want to help [her]" and force you.
    • In "Pizza Time!", the chef will ask you if you want to cook with him. If you say "no", he'll ask again. If you refuse again, he'll insist that cooking will "take your mind off things" and proceed to start making a pizza.
    • In "To Catch a Thief", you can try to say "no" when the inspector asks if you should look for evidence. If you do, he'll reply "but it's our job!" and make you look for evidence.
    • In "Treasure Quest", the explorer forces you to enter the secret cave with her, even if you say you're afraid and don't want to.
    • In "Take a Trip", the bot asks if you want to go on vacation with her. If you refuse twice — even if you say you don't have time to travel — she'll say "don't be a grump" and force you.
    • In "Security", a security guard asks you if you want to help. Try to refuse, and he'll force you because "he's very busy" and "needs help". However, you can refuse to enter the metal detector when he tells you to, but then he'll send a guard at you, which ends the chat.
  • Cap: Level 25 for each language.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • The French course teaches you that the snake is an animal. Similarly, the German course teaches you to say that your horse is an animal, and the Hindi course teaches you that a cat is an animal.
    • The Swedish course teaches you to explain that a hospital is a building for sick people. It sounds even sillier in Swedish, where the word for "hospital" is a compound word meaning "building for sick people".
    • You're taught to say "a table has no gender" in German. Note that this is false if you're talking about grammatical gender.
    • Esperanto features "I am not you."
    • German teaches "Thursday is not a month" and "When I run, I am not standing".
    • The German course is very sure that the correct translation of "Neuschwanstein" is not "Neuschwanstein", but "Neuschwanstein Castle"...and so the perfectly reasonable sentence "Neuschwanstein ist ein Schloss" may not be translated as "Neuschwanstein is a castle", it must be translated as "Neuschwanstein Castle is a castle".
    • French has "England is not in Africa" and "Prisoners are in prison".
    • Hindi has “Cows are not cats.”.
    • Dutch: "One does not drink meat." Which would be an in-universe case of Aluminum Christmas Trees, as apparently liquid meat exists...
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: The Danish course has "A tiger is eating my husband", and Norwegian has "The wolf is eating me". As the sentences are read by a text-to-speech program, they sound disproportionately calm.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Possible case in German, which has "I am searching for the search engine". Good luck searching without a search engine to use...
  • Clothes-Eating Wager: The Indonesian course asks you to translate "Saya memakan topi saya." — "I eat my hat."
  • Complete Immortality: The Spanish course has you translate "I cannot die".
  • Conlang: Duolingo offers courses in Esperanto, High Valyrian, and Klingon, all of which are constructed languages.
  • Cosmetic Award: Earning enough XP from completing lessons allows you to be promoted into a higher "league". This gives no benefits.
  • Crazy Cat Lady:
    • German: "By now we own eighteen cats!"
    • Hindi: “Julia has eight cats.”
    • Spanish: "I have thirteen cats."
    • Indonesian starts with "You have twenty cats." ("Kucingmu dua puluh."), then moves on to "This house is full of cats" (Rumah ini penuh dengan kucing") and "Three billion cats eat in my house" ("Tiga miliar kucing makan di rumahku"). The course also has cat as one of the first words you learn, long before man and woman.
    • French: "Ma tante est célibataire et elle a huit chats." (My aunt is single and she has eight cats).
    • Yiddish: "Ya, ich hob tzvelef ketz. Ni in?" (Yes, I have twelve cats. So what?)
  • Cultural Cross-Reference:
    • Norwegian: "Why is there a Swedish telemarketer in my bed?"
    • Swedish: "Why is there a Norwegian architect lying in my bed?"
  • Designated Driver: Portuguese: "If I drink take me home."
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • On mobile, if you're using the Gboard keyboard and have added additional foreign keyboard options to it in its settings, Duolingo automatically equips the matching keyboard for each course if available, giving (easier) access to certain letters/accented letters.note 
    • Languages that have context-sensitive and "obvious" possessive rules sometimes allow translating "The" as "My", "Yours" etc. without much issue - for example, the Italian sentence "Ho preso il portafoglio" can mean both the literal "I lost the wallet" and the implied "I lost my wallet"note . That said, sometimes the game won't budge and demands one over the other, so it can still be a guessing game at times especially if the context is lacking.
  • Dirty Cop: Portuguese: "The men offered money to the police officer."
  • Distinction Without a Difference: Pops up occasionally — while usually you have a good amount of wiggle room, the game likes to alternate between demanding and not demanding literal translations. For example, the Italian course's "Ognuno dei fratelli ha un'automobile" only accepts "Each of the brothers has an automobile" instead of the more natural "Each brother has a car".
  • Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Project: The "Leaky Pipes" story has Pamela and Jose reminiscing about how they met when Pamela attempted to fix some leaky pipes on her own before a big date, only to have to call Jose in because she managed to make things worse.
  • Dragon Ancestry: Implied in the Welsh language course. One of the first sentences taught in the first level is Draig dw i, which literally translates as "I am a dragon."
  • Drinking on Duty: Hebrew: "The judge gets drunk before he goes to work."
  • Easter Egg: On the mobile apps, tapping on Duo ten times on certain screens will cause him to be replaced with a literal Easter egg.
  • Eating Pet Food: The Swedish and Norwegian courses feature both "You're drinking my cat's milk" and "You're eating my dog's food". Inverted with the Hebrew phrase "The dove likes wine", though it doesn't say if the dove is a pet.
  • Elvis Lives: Finnish: "Is Elvis a lynx?" Also counts as a pun since, when translated, the sentence becomes "Onko Elvis ilves?"
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: The aforementioned Duolingo Pillow claims the French pillow gives upgraded flirting abilities.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: Referenced in the Italian course, which teaches "Are we men or lawyers?".
  • Evil Overlooker: In a Halloween promo for 2019, a sinister-looking Duo is at the top of the poster, looking down at the viewer.
  • Experience Points: Your progress is measured in experience points (XP). You get ten XP for each course you complete or practice, and get bonus XP for completing a course with minimal mistakes.
  • Extreme Omnivore: "The cook cooks a snake" is bad enough, but there's also "Luis eats spiders" and "A bed is food."
  • Fake Difficulty:
    • Sometimes the game will reject perfectly acceptable translations because the devs made a mistake or simply didn't think of adding them. However, you get a chance to defy this trope by reporting the question and hope the devs incorporate it.
    • While very rare, the game doesn't mind throwing an idiom at you without any context. For example, the Italian course's "Medical" sectionnote  has been called out multiple times for including the phrase "In bocca al lupo", which literally means (and thus is often translated as) "In the wolf's mouth". The correct answer? "Break a leg!", because they are both phrases used by actors to wish each other luck. There's absolutely no indication that the game wants an answer that uses none of the words from the Italian text, and to even know the phrase's intended meaning you'd have to have learned it from somewhere else — not to mention that even in context, it's still out of place due to not being a medical term.
    • While the game is quite flexible about typos in general, sometimes you'll be marked as incorrect for the sake of a single mistyped letter.
    • Some questions are simply way too vague to be answered correctly without knowing the context, especially if the objects' location/gender is not mentioned in any way in the English version - For example, this forum discussion about a question on the Italian course lists several grammatically correct alternate answers to a question which leaves both the item's gender and location vague, with some acknowledging that even the English sentence seems a bit awkwardly put together.
    • Sometimes words/sentence structure that was acceptable/required in an earlier question is marked as incorrect with no explanation given to why said word/structure is not acceptable anymore.
  • Feather Fingers: Duo is able to use his feathers to give a V-sign in some old promotional art, although he is never shown using it for more dexterous purposes.
  • Five-Token Band: Some of the language courses have an animated character to pronounce the sentence, and react positively or negatively depending if you get it right. Those characters include Lily (white goth girl), Zari (veiled Muslim girl), Lucy (fat middle-aged Asian lady), Eddy and Junior (blond sporty white man and his equally white son), Bea (black girl with dreadlocks), Oscar (an Ambiguously Brown short, chubby, moustached man), Lin (light-skinned girl with a half-shaved head), Vikram (Sikh man)... and a bear.
  • Floating Limbs: The characters shown in some end screens and speaking exercises have no ankles. Same with Duo in the loading screen of him walking. Their feet are a pair of ovals or thick lines. As shown with Eddy (the guy in the red tracksuit), the characters do have legs.
  • Fly in the Soup: The Italian course teaches you how to say there's a mouse in your soup. It also features other results of sketchy hygiene standards, such as "your insects are on my plate", insects in the sugar and an ant dying in the sugar.
  • Freemium Timer: If you don't have a premium subscription, the app gives you five lives. If you answer incorrectly, you lose a life. If you lose all your lives, among other options, you can wait 1 hour for them to replenish. Alternatively, if you complete a lesson without making any mistakes or practice a lesson, you can get a life back.
  • Funny Animal: Animals doing human stuff is a common theme.
    • Certain courses in the app have characters who speak the sentences. Some of them are animals, so you may encounter a German-speaking dolphin who says he knows English or a self-conscious bear asking how much he weighs.
    • Apparently Danish bears "eat rice with knife and fork" and can "take the man's wheels and run". Dutch and Spanish bears prefer to drink beer, while Danish bears hand their beer to a cat. Danish birds also drink beer.
    • Danish ducks say (quack?) "good morning". Spanish ducks not only speak their own language, but know English as well.
    • "The cat reads a book". According to the Danish course, chickens also read a book. And in Italian, the monkey reads a book.
    • Irish ducks and Dutch birds apparently read the newspaper.
    • Dutch dogs can ride a bike.
    • Dutch teaches "the dog wears a coat" and "the bear feels insulted because he didn't get an invitation".
    • German teaches "The bear drinks beer," although the sentence has the practical benefit of showing differences in phonemes.
    • German also teaches "Why does the bear conduct the orchestra?"
    • Italian teaches "I am an insect".
    • Norwegian has some people hearing what a crab is singing. Norwegian bears also ride bikes.
    • From Russian: "My horse is not an artist, but an architect."
    • From the Welsh course: "Hi, I'm a dragon".
    • From the Spanish course: "The snakes have a hockey team!"
    • Drunken parrots are a bit of a Running Gag in Latin.
  • Furry Confusion: Duolingo is a cartoony owl, but he celebrates Thanksgiving and has dressed up as a turkey for the occasion.
  • Gender-Blender Name: The Welsh course sentences often include a person named Morgan. Some sentences indicate that Morgan is female, but others use masculine pronouns for them.
  • A Gift for Themselves: In a story, "I Say Thank You", Sari gives Lilli a shirt that Sari loves but Lilli is unimpressed by. It's Sari's birthday, and Lilli, who forgets her friend's birthday every year, is meant to hand the gift back to her.
  • Gold Digger: The Italian course has "She loves him for his wealth".
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Danish has ninjas that work at night and play with children.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some courses are good at showing you words and phrases and telling you what they mean, but not so good at explaining them. For example:
    • The Indonesian course tells you that aku and saya mean I, and kamu and anda mean you, but does not say which ones are formal or informal, and where one should use which.
    • In Welsh, you learn that both bwyta and fwyta mean eat, but it's never explained which one is used in which context, and the course will ding you for using the wrong one.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: If you're about to forget your daily practice and have notifications turned on, the game will remind you that "learning a language requires practice every day". If you end up neglecting your daily practice, you may get e-mails telling you that you have to make the owl happy by doing the exercises. Previous versions even showed you a crying owl when you failed to meet your goal. This is subverted after several weeks, where the owl just doesn't bother with sending you notifications anymore.
  • Harder Than Hard: Legendary difficulty, which is only accessible for a lesson after completing a lesson up to Level 5. The lessons no longer translate anything or provide any hints, and you have a total of three "lives" to use, meaning you can make no more than two mistakes throughout the entire lesson. In addition, you have to pay gems just to access this difficulty, and you don't get the gems back if you fail. As compensation, Legendary lessons are worth a lot more XP than usual; whereas a normal lesson would give you ten XP for the day, a Legendary lesson will give you forty XP on completion. Finally, lessons won't "break" from not practicing them after you've obtained the lesson's Legendary crown, since you've clearly proven that you know what you're doing.
  • Has Two Mommies:
    • Esperanto includes phrases like "he has no father, but two mothers" and "my brother is visiting us with his husband and children".
    • Japanese has "When is Mrs. Honda's wife coming over?"
  • He Knows Too Much: Implied in the Italian course, which features the ominous "He had known too much."
  • History Repeats: "The Flat Tire" has Vikram and Priti accidentally recreating the night of their honeymoon together. Both times, while they were coming home from a date, their car broke down for whatever reason (at present it was because of a flat tire), and so they had to walk back. Vikram alone forgot his keys, so he had to use the window to get back inside the house. This time, both of them are locked out of the house.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The 2018 April Fools' Day joke is a product page for "Brewolingo", craft beer made from Owlcohol and Owlgorithms. The beers available include Spring Season-owl, India Pale Owl, and Mad Amber Owl.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One of the Stories has Eddy get vocally annoyed with Junior's loud drum practice, telling him at every opportunity to stop (for good reason the first two times, since Eddy was trying to sleep). When Junior knocks his drum performance out of the park at a concert and another spectator praises the boy's drumming skills, Eddy's all too happy to say that he was always allowing Junior to practice.
  • Implausible Deniability: The Spirituality skill from Danish teaches you how to say "It's not my fault the alien steals my homework every day."
  • Inspirational Insult: Duolingo will happily throw sentences like "You are useless" (French) and "You learn nothing" (German) as part of its course content.
  • Interface Spoiler: One common exercise is to be given a sentence in your native language, and a selection of words in the language you're learning that have to be re-arranged correctly into the native-language sentence. The selection often includes more words than you need, and usually has at least one that is similar to one of the ones you need.
    • Not sure which word in the word bank starts the sentence? It's the one with a capital letter.
    • Typically there are four words left over when the game wants you to translate a sentence. So if you have more than that, you missed something.
    • Often, the same leftover words are used through an entire lesson, although typically each is used in at least one answer.
  • Level Grinding: Earning XP allows you to be promoted to a higher league. You're unlikely to be promoted very far if you just do half an hour a day, so, if you care about that sort of thing, you'll have to do a lot of lessons.
  • Literal-Minded: From the German course: "Are two half-brothers one brother?"
  • Loophole Abuse: One Duolingo Story recounts Lily despising the idea of wearing a pink dress for her aunt's wedding. She eventually gets out of it by pointing out that the dress code does say that they could only wear pink dresses or black suits, but didn't say those options were gender restricted. She then picks out a nice black suit and her mother relents.
  • Lost in Translation: Hebrew: “Every day fifty accidents are caused by cats.” However, in Israel the word תאונה which the program uses for "accident" is generally reserved for traffic crashes.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings:
    • Italian features "We have eighty grandchildren".
    • Dutch gives you "They have 29 children".
  • Metal Detector Checkpoint: "Security" has you checking people who triggered the metal detector at an airport.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: In the story "You Are Not Mary," Eddy's girlfriend Penélope hears from Eddy's son about a girl Eddy loves named "Mary" (name changes depending on language of the story), who hangs around the house every day to talk with Eddy. As Penélope storms off, Eddy clarifies that Mary is the family's parrot.
  • Mood Dissonance: For some languages, the app features characters who speak the sentences you're supposed to translate. Their mood doesn't always fit the sentence, so you'll occasionally bump into stuff like happy ladies who excitedly ask if you've come to kill them, or a smiling lumberjack who gives the thumbs up while informing you that he's lost his wife and has yet to recover his son.
  • Mood Whiplash: The sentences range from mundane to hilarious or depressing. Getting them in certain orders will cause odd mood swings in the lesson. Some concrete examples:
    • The Spirituality skill from Danish. One lesson is all about zombies, aliens, and vampires, with such delightful sentences such as "It’s not my fault the alien steals my homework every day", and the next lesson can hit you right after with "I bought a nice tombstone for my son’s grave".
    • The Date and Time skill from Italian. It's full of mundane stuff like "Today is Monday", and then it suddenly throws "He dies in December" at you.
  • Mystery Fiction: The "To Catch a Thief" chat has you helping an inspector figure out who stole stuff from a museum.
  • Nerds Speak Klingon: Presumably the reason that Klingon has been added to the offerings.
  • Noodle Implements: The Swedish course contains the sentence, "The fairy tale is about two hedgehogs and a bar of soap."
  • No-Damage Run: You get a lingot bonus for testing out of a skill with all hearts intact. You also get bonus XP for completing a course, up to five extra for completing it with no mistakes.
  • Nonconformist Dyed Hair: One of the animated characters is Lily, a Caucasian goth girl with purple hair.
  • One Steve Limit: Darn close - the Welsh course has sentences focused on people named Megan and Morgan, two names which it's very easy to accidentally mix up when picking from the available word bank.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Duolingo's mascot is an owl, chosen for its association for being wise.
  • Perpetual Beta: The Italian course has this reputation; it was one of the earliest courses available, but is very short (especially compared to its more popular siblings Spanish and French), has received very few updates, errors remain unaddressed for years (admittedly, this is a common issue with every language that Duo teaches), doesn't always explain things well especially further down the tree, and lacked both Duolingo stories and the human characters until 2020. That said, it is still considered to be good enough to introduce beginners to the language, even if advanced grammar requires sources outside of Duolingo.
  • Plane Awful Flight: The French course asks you to translate "J'espère que le pilote ne dormira pas pendant le vol." — "I hope that the pilot won't sleep during the flight."
  • Play Every Day: The game emphasizes the importance of practising every day and encourages it by keeping track of your "streak" — the number of consecutive days you reach your XP goal. Although you get 1 lingot for the 10th day in the streak, 2 for the 20th, etc., the main appeal of maintaining a streak seems to be bragging rights.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In the story "You Are Not Mary", if Junior had simply told his father's date that Mary was the pet parrot when he was talking about her, she wouldn't have fed up and left after assuming Eddy was being dishonest with her.
  • Quivering Eyes: Duo has tearful puppy-dog eyes when you lose all your hearts.
  • A Rare Sentence: Arguably one of the selling points is seeing what weird sentences you can find. A dedicated subreddit, /r/ShitDuolingoSays, exists purely to catalogue these sentences.
  • Rule of Three: The Legendary Crown lessons on the mobile app give you exactly three chances per lesson. Lose and you have to spend 100 gems to try the lesson again.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story:
    • The Duolingo Story "Where's My Jacket?" involves Oscar looking for his blue jacket and having to go through all his neighbors and a donation center to find it. The reason he was looking for it? He had left 500 dollars in a secret compartment — which the donation center found, and put it into their funds. At this point Oscar gives up and lets the center have his jacket.
    • "The Security Question" involves Vikram and Priti rushing to see a play on two preordered tickets. They forget the physical copies at home, but Vikram quickly remembers that he has the tickets online, but he doesn't remember the security question that activates his account. After swallowing his pride and calling his brother for the answer, he finally gets the tickets...for yesterday's showing of the play.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    • The Esperanto course teaches "a good person is a person who is good".
    • In German, "Ein Einhorn hat ein Horn." "Unicorn" translates literally to "one-horn", the sentence becomes "a one-horn has one horn".
    • Irish: "The darkness is dark".
    • Romanian : “A glass of glass”. Although it does use two synonyms for glass in the original language.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skills, Scores, and Perks: When learning, each language has a "tree". It used to look like an actual skill tree in the past, but is now just a bunch of rows, each featuring from one to three skills, all of which must be completed before proceeding to the next row. Each skill typically contains from one to ten lessons, which give the user sentences with new words in them. After the tree is completed, one is given a "Golden Owl" marking that they have completed the course.
  • The Sociopath: In case you encounter one of them, the Spanish course includes the sentence "He does not have a conscience."
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Duolingo has different names in certain language courses. For instance, in the Welsh course it's called "Dewi Lingo." Some of the sentences make it hard to tell if the name refers to the company or to the owl himself.
  • Talking Animal:
    • Spanish has "¡Mi gato habla inglés!", which translates to "My cat speaks English!"
    • The Welsh course has you asking "How are you, dragon?", and even claiming you ARE a dragon.
    • And of course, Duo himself.
  • Temporary Online Content: The Christmas bonus skill was available for purchase from December 23 - 26 every year before 2016. The skill was disabled due to site performance issues, so if a user didn't pick it up in earlier years, the skill was lost forever.
  • Textbook Humor: There are many odd sentences for you to translate. Ever wanted to ask a Norwegian why there's a Swedish telemarketer in your bed? Duolingo will teach you how!
  • Timed Mission: Practicing a completed skill gives you this option. Each correctly answered question adds a few seconds to the clock.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: Owen in the Welsh course really likes parsnips.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible:invoked
    • In the story "That is Art" in the Spanish course or "The Work of Art" in the German course, Oscar (an art teacher) puts down a picture of dogs as being too "boring" to be art, and points to a sandwich on a chair as being true art, which Eddy doesn't understand. Then a museum attendant comes around and eats the sandwich, as it wasn't on display — it was just his lunch.
    • In the French course "The Art Homework", Lily doesn't want to show Oscar her art homework, because she says it's bad. When Oscar takes a look, he declares it to be masterful and that Lily did an excellent job. But when Zari looks at it, Lily's homework is just a blank white canvas. Turns out Lily had forgotten to do her homework, but Oscar is such an art snob that he still thought it was genius.
  • Tutorial Failure: When it comes to smaller courses that lack Tips, a commonly-cited problem is that, while the course does try to explain some things, it often relies on explaining the "how", but rarely the "why" of translations — in other words, it tries to make you learn the grammar of your new language through brute force repetition until you get it. At worst, it may demand one sentence structure in one question before demanding another structure in the next, all without giving any indication it needs to change or why the previous one is now unacceptable. Certain courses are so notorious that users have seen the need to write multi-part guides into the forum because Duo just is that vague about why you got it wrong.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Sometimes, the game asks you to write/translate a word it hasn't taught you yet. Usually, the game gives you a translation when you tap/hold the mouse over the word to help you out, but this feature is not always available. It's particularly noticeable during the "listen-and-write" levels, since figuring out how some words are spelled isn't always obvious. It's also a feature of the browser version-only quizzes, in which you are mostly tested on things you have not learned. Presumably, the game is testing how well you're able to work out the answer based on what you already know.
  • Word-Salad Humor:
    • "The bear gave birth to a duck" from the Danish course.
    • "The green bears are invisible" from the German course.

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