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Exclusive

8 Changes Duolingo Is Making for Easier Language Learning

Exclusive: Our favorite language app is rolling out a revamped version to iOS users this month.

Duolingo logo on a phone against a lime green background.
Duolingo is rolling out a new look soon.
Shelby Brown/CNET

Duolingo, a 2021 CNET Editors' Choice award winner, has already made learning a new language fun and relatively stress free. In the coming months, Duolingo will debut a fresh redesign that aims to make language acquisition even easier. I took the app's new look for a spin ahead of launch. 

And don't worry, Duo the owl is still there. He is always there. 

Duolingo's redesigned home screen is a winding path instead of a rigid skill tree. 

Duolingo

The first thing you'll notice in the redesign is a new home screen, which replaces Duolingo's classic skill tree with a map. When I tried the refreshed layout, I was able to easily pick up where I left off in the travel unit. The app's new features enhance its gamification, lessening the pressure to complete units.

The map's winding path design also adds a confidence boost when you scroll back up through completed lessons. Instead of the skill tree's rigidity, the path-like style makes completing lessons in Duolingo feel more like a journey. As you progress through units, you'll see classic Duolingo characters with new animations that highlight their individual personalities: You'll spot Lily giving you a sarcastic side-eye or Oscar meticulously pruning a plant.

Each circle on the path represents a lesson in the unit. Completing all the quizzes in a lesson closes the progress bar and unlocks the next lesson. The redesign also replaces the crown levels with one continuous progress ring, which declutters the app. 

After you complete all the unit lessons, you have the option to try for legendary status with eight additional, more challenging lessons. If you achieve legendary status, it applies to the entire unit instead of just that one lesson.

The lesson content is the same, but it has been resequenced for optimal learning. In addition, supplementary material that you otherwise had to search for in the app is now built into your language learning path. 

My favorite change in the redesign? No more "cracked" skills. Previously, if you went too long without practicing a previously mastered lesson, a crack would appear in your mastery until you practiced the lesson again. This was visual encouragement to brush up on old skills, but my inner completionist struggled to progress to newer units because I would get distracted mending old lesson stats. 

The new Duolingo also better incorporates Stories, one of my favorite tools in the app. Stories help with comprehension by having you follow context clues by listening to how a chosen language sounds in real conversations. The revamped learning path incorporates this feature better so you don't have to open a different part of the app to use the tool.

Duolingo has a new and improved guidebook to give you a better idea of what to expect in lessons. 

Duolingo

It's also easier to access lesson tips. In the redesign, you'll find a guidebook at the start of each unit that gives a bite-size effective overview of what you'll learn. Even if you've completed a unit, you can go back and view the guidebook for a refresh. The app still has the option to tap words to see translations if you need them, too.

The app's makeover also makes your language Goals more visible with a trophy icon at the bottom of the menu. As you complete units and lessons, Duolingo shows your progress toward daily goals and challenges, which feels like an extra confidence boost. If you're subscribed to Plus, you can access a Practice Hub -- the barbell icon in the bottom menu -- that features weekly practice recommendations based on how you're doing in lessons. Here you can review mistakes, as well as retry pronunciation and listening exercises.

Overall, the changes feel like they'll make learning a language even easier and more accessible. Duolingo told me that's by design. Anton Yu, Duolingo's product manager, said the app's redesign was shaped by feedback: Users wanted more guidance and content with less complexity. All new features except the Practice Hub will be available to both free users and Plus subscribers. 

Duolingo is slowly beginning to roll out the redesign to iOS users and plans to increase the rollout by the end of the month. Android users will start seeing the app changes in the coming months. 

Here's a closer look at some of the changes: