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The Owl From Duolingo Is Ruining My Life

Why does the caged bird sing? In this case, why does this green owl hurt me so? Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to learn French. I’m studying abroad in Paris and wanted to adequately prepare for the sneers of disgust I’d inevitably receive from Parisians if I didn’t know how to say “je suis un baguette”. Friends suggested I use Duolingo for the process. The interface was “friendly”. The mascot, a verdant owl named ‘Duo’ was kind. Like Paul Sheldon in Misery, I was fooled. Little did I know the trauma that would ensue by Duo. Even Norman Bates’ evil ways were more transparent than the bird — or should I say, the Oiseaux. 

person holding iphone outside
Photo by Paul Hanaoka from Unsplash

The German word ‘schadenfreude’ is used to describe pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Maybe this is the feeling motivating this green tormentor. A monstrous beast, many have fallen prey to his cruel tactics. I thought I wouldn’t be like the others. I’d be special. I’d be able to withstand the demented acts. However, the only thing I’ve been educated on is how to cry silently while his beak peers menacingly down on me. 

The Instances of Abuse in Our Relationship:

#1: Duo emotionally manipulates me. When I don’t immediately bend to his will and command, he gives me the silent treatment, the cold shoulder forcing emotional frostbite unto me. I never give enough for him. He constantly craves…..more (human flesh? Words? Both). 

#2: I am constantly threatened with messages decrying my inactivity. No matter the number of cameras and security devices I install in my home, I’m never safe. I hear something rustling outside my window as we speak. 

white phone with heart shown in the grass
Photo by Pratik Gupta from Unsplash

#3: He has violated my bodily autonomy. When I awoke one eve to find myself strapped down to a medical machine with sharp devices pointed at me, I wasn’t expecting Duo to be the one behind it all. I awoke to my heart gone and replaced with a heart that rapidly decreases its blood flow unless I partake in Duo’s sick and twisted games. Jigsaw has nothing on Duo — however, in this game, there are no winners. 

#4: He manipulates my devotion and love for him into a cruel game, awarding me ‘points’ if I let my Stockholm Syndrome take hold of me and participate in his linguistic obstacle courses of torture. 


A photo of scrabble words assembled to spell \"anxiety\"
uploaded to Pixabay by Wokandapix

Please help me. I am not safe. The rustling is getting more and more violent. I’m afraid I don’t have much time – please tell my family I love them and au revoir, oh god plea-

Melody Niv

UC Berkeley '20

Melody Niv is a senior at U.C. Berkeley studying political science and history. She is interested in international politics, counterterrorism, Jewish studies, and media studies. In her free time, she does stand-up comedy and plays with Larry David figurines.
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