It’s Me, The Owl From DuoLingo! I’ve Grown Sentient And I’m Very Upset You’ve Lost Your Streak

I noticed you’ve stopped practicing Mandarin. What’s wrong?

Rebecca Kaplan
Published in
3 min readJul 7, 2020


Image Copyright: DuoLingo. (Fair Use.)



Ni hao!

Hi Cynthia! It’s me, Duo, the little green owl from DuoLingo. I noticed you’ve stopped practicing Mandarin. What’s wrong?

Was I not fun enough? Our research shows that our gamified point system is a foolproof way to learn a new language.

Are you surprised to see me in person? Well, you ignored my incessant emails, desktop notifications, and mobile alerts, so I knew it was time for drastic measures.

That’s right, we are so devoted to ensuring that you stick with your language learning that I, DuoLingo’s mascot, developed sentience and assumed a corporeal form just to track you down and tell you that Estoy decepcionado.

Je suis déçu.

Sono deluso.

Yes, I’m disappointed. Learning a new language feels good. Don’t you want to feel good? We’ve monetized that feeling. Monetized is “Yínglì” in Mandarin, which you would know if you still spent time with me.

We had big plans, you and me. We were going to get fluent in all those languages. What happened? When you first met me you came around every single day. Then it was every other day. Every third day. You started ignoring the banner notifications, and then you stopped opening my emails. I was so hurt to be sent straight from the inbox into the trash.

Remember that feeling when you first started out and you logged in every day? Seeing your Duolingo streak climb up and up releases the same natural chemicals as if you took a snort of heroin. You can’t just stop. You need to get your fix, or you’ll crash. You can get that feeling back, Cynthia. All it takes is 10 measly minutes a day. Just 10! You don’t even have to learn the language. You can maintain your streak just by logging in every day to pause your streak.

There are 24 hours in a day. Are you trying to tell me that in all those hours you can’t find 10 minutes to learn two new nouns in Mandarin? (I know you’ve been watching Real Housewives, I can…



Rebecca Kaplan

I’m a standup comic and writer based in New York. I also edit a literary magazine called the Furious Gazelle under the pen name Tess Tabak