Duolingo is getting more human
Language is often something that happens face to face. You order from a barista, tell a taxi driver where you’re heading, ask a stranger for directions, or talk to a friend about your day.
In each of these situations, there is context to the language you hear. “What are you looking at?” can be a very different sentence depending on whether it comes from a curious friend, or an upset stranger who thinks they caught you staring. In languages like Spanish and French, words can change depending on the gender of the person speaking them. And “What nice skin you have” is simply more humorous coming from a large, talking spider.
And so we are trying something new: characters in Duolingo. Starting today with iOS and our most popular languages (Android, Web, and other languages are on their way. I know, some of you hate me right now), there is a cast of over 100 characters who will speak Duolingo’s sentences. There are adults and children, boys and girls, people from different professions, from different parts of the world—there might even be a few animals, an astronaut, and a zombie thrown in for good measure.
These characters bring life and humor to the language you’re learning. They bring a mix of male and female speakers for variety in the voices you hear. They bring a human—and occasionally not-so-human—touch to each and every sentence.
Over time, we plan to bring more real-world context to the situations you come across in Duolingo. More waiters and chefs in the restaurant, more teachers and students in the school. Because language comes from the minds and mouths of unique people, in unique situations, and we want to prepare you for these situations.
This is a cool cosmetic change, but I wonder how it will impact the actual language learning?
I bet the images will have a good mnemonic effect. I saw on the iOS update log that the voices will change too. It'll be great to have exposure to different voices! Are they still TTS?
And last... which languages are "our most popular"? I assume English, Spanish, French, and German, based on the graphic, but which trees exactly are getting this feature?
They'll most likely test it, see that people learn better with it, and then force it on all users.
It's not so much that it makes it feel like a children's game for me as I feel like I'm actually in a weird way being exposed to people, and as strange as it is I was used to Duolingo being a solitary activity. I don't know how long it'll take me to adjust to this method.
Don't count on it. Duolingo does not like optional functionalities. There are more things I'd like to tweak about my user experience on Duolingo, but it's not there and likely never will be. The only thing I found was "Duolingo Tweaks", an add-in for Chrome that unfortunately doesn't work.
I think, from my experience as a Systems Analyst, and my experience only as a user on this environment, that there will be underlying reasons of complexity - and the cost versus potential implementation - versus reach-ability - versus complexity - etc, that have had bearing on all this issue.
This whole platform is a baby in the wild west of the internet. Even its culture is in a wild storm of flux. Sometimes cutting some slack - and talking to the best possible dream - not knocking what is - and bringing down what is provided - essentially inspiringly already available, with no comparison - for free - for the end learner - will help better dreams and better options to take flight. The depth and breadth of this community frequently takes me by surprise. The services for learning - provided for free. And the community it is developing into. And you are part of this. In the time I have been here - I have gained a trust of the movement behind the screen (the duolingo platform). And - yes - it has captured my hopes and dreams - for the future.
A potentially better future for humans and this precious and delicate planet that supports us being able to live.
Android is run on thousands of different devices, with hundreds of different screen sizes, performance characteristics, etc. It's not as easy to release an app on Android that will look good and run well for everybody. iOS has... 4 screen sizes to deal with. I think this may influence developers to go after iOS first. Though why not the web? That I'm not as sure about.
Never stress about the down votes - I have come to learn the hard way. Though I have been known to sometimes check in with another person to make sure I am not being "off color". (usually not on the discussion itself though). Usually they resurrect themselves after about a day. It is just that we are an open environment, and sometimes you get a bunch go through that think in different ways and have different motivations to what you an I might have. And I am sure even you and I differ ! But that is also why it is an interesting environment. It makes you think ;)
Back on topic - they will have had to have started somewhere, and it is great they are able to roll out something new. And by what has been said, it looks like they will be rolling it out for the other platforms as well, as soon as they can. I still continue to be amazed at all the facilities and motivators duolingo has incorporated, and I am thankful it is continuing to develop more. I would love a magic wand - but that only exists in my imaginary worlds. Here - I am glad I have reality - so that I can also have my imaginary worlds ... (ooooppps off topic again ... ;P )
Well I hope that they will depend on the picture soon, because as it is now, things are confusing. For example, yesterday I got a sentence spoken by a guy that said something like "I am happy", and both "je suis heureux" and "je suis heureuse" out of the 3 possibilities were considered correct, even though it makes a lot more sense for the first one only to be correct, because a guy is speaking. This is a lost opportunity to teach correct use of adjective declension and a cause of confusion for beginners in French, especially given that the Duolingo iOS app has no grammar explanations.
Making the answer dependent on the picture would add more depth and meaning to the learning experience but also more work for the teachers working in the incubators. I'd be in favor of adding the option, so if it is so desired in the incubator it would be possible to either have answer A or B marked as the right one depending on the picture. That way at least it's added functionality instead of simple cosmetics. If for some reason a user can't see the picture, they simply won't get that question or both answers are marked as the right one.
Yes, I know Duolingo doesn't like "optional functionality", I do. :-)
Adding code to add irrelevant pictures is easy, but rather useless. A waiter saying "I have a blue dress".
Adding code to add relevant pictures is more difficult and also adds work for the incubator. But only once for all languages.
Adding the option to have a different answer is little more added code and work but IS added functionality and an improved learning experience. However it needs to be checked for all languages.
This is extremely irritating at the moment. I have right now on my screen a guy with a beard saying "Ich bin Deutsche" and I have to translate that into French as "Je suis allemande". It's really annoying to see a character with very obvious gender cues saying something in the opposite gender, because you have to actively ignore the gender of the character.
I'm totally discontented with all these horrible characters. There should be a way for one to choose whether he/she wants them to appear or not. Duolingo's practice is extremely disrespectful to its users/clients. No ability to chose options is given. I'm very much annoyed by this practice!
I don't like the new character pictures. I am not a 10 year old kid and it makes the app seem really childlike. Given that the characters don't really change anything about how you answer the question - it just means most screen space wasted on something that's useless - plus stop using my bandwidth to download dumb pictures that don't help me. Please give us the option to turn off the characters and stay with a simpler interface.
I do like that they have both male/female voices; but get rid of the kiddy pics.
I don't think they're downloading pictures, they're vector drawings, which are extremely low bandwidth, especially compared to audio. And I think it's actually fairly useful. It helps provide context. Immersion is all about context and learning in the environment where you have visual and audio cues to add context. Learning in a vacuum is the least successful type of learning. This reduces the vacuum a little.
Plus, isn't learning supposed to be fun? What's wrong with having some fun while you learn? I think these are fun.
Give me an example of how they provide context? Someone on this thread from Duo said that you don't answer the question any differently based on the picture. If the picture shows a man, you don't have to use the masculine form of a noun for example.
Also - I use duo on my phone - I want to keep real estate for the keyboard and seeing the actual question and not have to scroll up and down. Maybe on the iPad version it might make more sense to use something this large.
Easy: as you know, in German, things like job titles can change depending on the gender of the person the title applies to, so Lehrer vs Lehrerin, etc. If you are hazy on those details but you see it's a male character speaking you can more easily infer that Lehrer is a male teacher vs a female teacher. Another case would be when you see two characters and it always uses wir when showing two characters then you infer it means we.
Edit - Really, I'm downvoted for giving two examples where having a character say the sentence helps understand the context? Oof, tough crowd. Anyone want to explain what you thought was so bad about my post that you downvoted me?
Every time I've seen a sentence with a character that has some kind of context, it's matched the character, and the voice matches the gender too. I'll pay more attention and see if I'm missing something.
The girl speaks about her father: a female character speaking about a male one:
A male character speaking about a female person (Elle):
Images provided by Transitioning (in a comment below)
Fair enough. I think in both these cases it's neutral because you don't have a female character saying a male sentence or vice versa, they're speaking about a third party, but I see what you mean. And in the other pictures you posted, the elles/ils examples are accompanied by a pic of two people. That's an example where what I mentioned is happening.
I think it is nice that the Duolingo team is looking to implement new, fun features. But I don't like that the new update featuring these characters takes up half of the screen.
The screen has too much going on, and all the language options have been pushed to the bottom of the screen.
I would really appreciate going forward an option to turn off the characters/faces. Thanks. :)
Would you rather have your lesson take longer to load between every question, just so you can get a "more realistic-looking" speaker!? That is a ridiculous idea, and the cartoon images are more than sufficient for language-learning, and quick association between the words and the speaker - exactly what you'd want from a language app.
For example, in the French tree you don't know if words should take masculine or feminine form because you have no context on who is speaking; this update may very well give that context.
When you can't know from the sentence itself, the course logically accept both masc. and feminine (if not, it has to be reported).
And the new drawing will not imply that only one between masc. and feminine is the correct one and the (only) accepted one. See the answer to jgstcd's comment.
I'm not suggesting that the correct answers have changed, just that the new update will give users some context to work with.
It's their own choice, though; one would have to decide, "Okay, I'm going to structure my sentence as if I am addressing the subject in this exercise", which would result in practicing both genders equally. In that way, this update is about as useful as you make it!
Would that require using the right form depending on the character speaking? For example, if an old man is speaking, would we be required to use polite forms (i.e. vous in French, Sie in German)? Or if a child is speaking then tu in French and du in German?
If so it will be brilliant :)
From what I know (I haven't tried it yet but I've heard things), the characters usually aren't talking about themselves. Instead, they are speaking of other people.
For example, in French, a zombie might say something like, "Elle est une femme, et il est un homme." The zombie isn't talking about him/herself. It's speaking in 3rd person.
I hate these icons. I'm not 5 years old. I want the option to turn them off! I am not interested in this at all! These are on my ipad and iphone and I'm really really unhappy about it! I'm an early adopter of Duolingo, almost from the beginning and I think these icons are for children. I'm an adult learner and not interested in this Disney-fied approach. In fact I find it DISTRACTING and a DISTRACTION.
While I appreciate the effort to add new voices, I find the flat, cartoon-like characters pointless and distracting. They add nothing to the learning process, and in fact detract attention from the substance. The new interface is also confusing. Please reconsider this direction and do some user testing.
Several people have commented that it would be good for the faces appropriately connected up with the context of the sentences. and the reason I have not written that under their comments - is that it has been said by a few people, so I am starting this here. As I feel several people will have some interesting input in this - and contrary points of views to mine.
In my experience and reading into how mnemonic devices are effective, yes - correctly associating it with the right context is useful. Though surprisingly - when it is connected with something that is out of context - and often bizarre - it often works even better - as (I theorize) - it engages an emotion - which leads to re-enforcing the recall of the correct response the next time around - however you need to know that the context is out of place.
That though is also why it is good to have things like zombies and spiders. And also why mixing things up is a good idea - as different things are perceived a bit out there - by different people.
Although the opposite argument is also present - that if it is the same 'face' each time - it helps the recall - as you associate the 'face' with the sentence, and that in itself - greatly assists recall - as you are associating a different processing part of your brain (the one that recognizes pictures and faces), with the language part of your brain concerning that sentence. So to have a constant/static image that is always related to a specific sentence - is also quite beneficial.
I will be interested to see how they match it up - variable or constant, or some formula in between - depending on how many times you have been exposed to that sentence, perhaps ;)
I love this! I also like that I can think about what the person is saying, before I click on "Translate what he/she said" and then the word blocks show up. I usually have to cover those word blocks so I can translate in my head/out loud, before I click any blocks! This update is adorable and pure genius! Many thanks!
It's not though. I mean, Android got Report a Problem, Continue, and Grammar Notes before iOS (even if the grammar notes were taken away) again. And some of the apps don't even have Swedish yet, which has been out FOREVER. It's clear that they have different teams working on the different apps and those different teams have different priorities. I'm typically a web user, so I don't have a lot of skin in what the apps do, but I honestly feel like they should spend more time unifying the app across the different platforms before rolling out new features.
Great, now all that's missing is giving these characters some names :
- Pierre (French)
- Buck Rogers (Astronaut)
- Alfred (Butler)
- Pirate ( Blackbeard )
- Zombie - Frankenstein
Maybe even mixing it up, and using some of the staff's names. Should be interesting.
100 lingots to the first person who gets screenshots of ALL characters!!!
I've never been in the incubator but I believe most phrases are used throughout all languages. In the incubator you simply type all translations, which is of course still difficult enough given all nuances, language differences and so on. So Duolingo can select a single picture for the "mother phrase". Likely not automatic but still only a single process for all languages.
I think it would be nice if the things the character said added up to some kind of coherent conversation or story. I like that Duolingo uses humorous sentences (Your bear drinks beer. The rabbit is bad.) But imagine if they added up to stories? The reason I mention this is because, though I know it wouldn't be perfectly easy to implement, knowledge is generally only retained when it's useful.
And yes, I'm aware that you could find another site to read stories on, but not with the vocabulary you've learned from Duolingo.
And before anyone gets offended, it's just an idea! ^_^
I totally agree. I think stories and conversations would be a fantastic addition to the app. That would also help build context. I think it'd be neat to have progressive texts as well, where you start out with your current language, and only a handful of words are in the target language. You read chapter one and it asks you what those words mean, and you answer the quiz. If you pass, you move on to chapter two, and now a few more words are in the target language. As you progress, eventually the whole text is in the target language.
It'd be kind of like immersion and translation, but from a different angle.
I don't like this feature. The pictures make it too easy to know the context. I want to look at the words and figure out what they mean based on my own knowledge of the language, not pictures. -- the pictures are cheats.
Plus, the screenshots that I've seen look really childish. They make the course look like it's geared towards children.
I hope someone writes a script to block it. I don't use Userscripts but if a script were written to block this feature it would motivate me to learn how to use them.
I was put off the idea of userscripts, but then I found out that there was one that made it easier to type in accented characters and made the effort to install it, and a few others that looked useful. I found them so useful that I've installed them on the several computers I use for Duo; well worth the 10-15 minutes time investment to work it out intially, in my opinion.
Thank you for your post, Elorac72. What has prevented me from implementing userscripts isn't taking the time to figure out how to do it but concerns over whether or not it might cause technical problems/difficulty down the road. It would be really nice if we had a site or a forum listing all the userscripts that duolingo doesn't approve, with some sort of reporting or rating system. If I could see that
___ # of users with
___ operating system implemented
without any subsequent technical difficulty, I might be more inclined to experiment. Without knowing that, I opt for safety.
I don't know of anywhere that rates userscripts, but there is a list of unofficial userscripts here:
Many of them have links to the posts on this forum in which the userscript was announced, so it's possible to have a look at the comments, see if there have been any problems and even ask for feedback on experience with your OS.
For the most part, the userscripts seem to show or hide information that is otherwise buried in the page script, and even if they cause technical difficulty it's easy enough to switch them off.
For the record, I run them using firefox on a Vista machine and chrome and Firefox on I think Windows 7, and am not aware of any problems. I use:
Duolingo Script Bundle
Language Course Switcher
XP Progress Bar
Duolingo Skill Strength
Hmm looks like couple last updates are made for children because of Duolingo for schools. Don't get me wrong i like this update and i am glad that something is happening BUT app needs discussions and grammar explanation! and not this graphic update in my opinion. There are also more important stuff to work on right?
I think the tricky thing here is that the vast majority of people who use Duolingo don't get very far with it: intimidated by the difficulty, or lacking discipline/interest, they try a course and then quit after a few lessons. (I've seen some numbers thrown around on forum discussions suggesting that exceptionally few people finish one tree.) Things like characters may not appeal to hardcore "power" users, who would rather discussions and grammar explanations, but might make a big difference (here quantified by the number of users positively impacted) at the lowest levels. You have to decide whether to reward those who advance the farthest by letting them go farther, or to help those who barely get under way at all.
This is, incidentally, the story in MOOCs and brick-and-mortar American universities too: they're largely concerned with student retention, not student achievement (at least, achievement past a very basic level).
(For what it's worth, if given a choice, I'd personally prefer grammar explanations etc.)
There was a huge duolingo thread on reddit a couple of weeks ago and loads of people said they liked it at first, but they had to quit because there were no grammar explanations so none of the sentence structures made sense. Most of them didn't even know there was a website.
Agree. Duolingo is doing the right thing in targeting the broadest demographic and rigorously (through extensive data mining and AB experimentation) trying to increase student retention. The more motivated student who wants to find advanced material and grammatical explanations will be able to find it, either outside duolingo or by engaging in free form discussion here (e.g. the discussions attached to each sentence in the language tree).
I actually really like the dynamic that duolingo is working with here, as it is a big contrast to conventional education. In conventional education, the teacher is the authority, there is usually some level of compunction to attend classes and unappealing instruction and material is often ‘forced’ on the students. Duolingo—operating in an environment where enrolment is completely voluntary and where they have no authoritarian role—must strive to make their course as appealing and enjoyable as possible, to keep students engaged. I think (and hope) this will increasingly be the model for education in the future : where before you mostly had to take what you could get, no matter if parts of it were mediocre or too doctrinal, today we have much more choice in where we get our learning and we can be much more selective about the method and manner of instruction.
Yes, I agree with all this. Some thirty years ago I was forced to learn French in a large class listening to fuzzy tapes that I could not decipher, and reading verb lists and other grammar explanations from an uninspiring book. It also did not help that the classroom always smelled of sweaty bodies! After three years of this I dropped the subject, and retained only a handful of words and no knowledge of the grammar whatsoever. I really was hopelessly bad at French. Three weeks ago I went to France and was frustrated by my inability to communicate, nor understand any menu option beyond "Poisson", so I started Duolingo.
Now it would be an understatement to say that I have learned more in 22 days than in 3 years of schooling. Indeed I learned more in perhaps my first day with Duolingo than I ever learned in school, and I have completed my tree in 20 days (still working on the gilding of it). There are huge gaps in my grammar, and I am dealing with these by also listening to learning tapes, although the grammar notes I found on Duolingo are very helpful too. Nevertheless despite this, I have already found that I can read French texts with the help of a dictionary reasonably well. Yesterday I followed a simple conversation in French with no dictionary, and I am one third of the way into Le Petit Prince.
Key to this was a lot of time spent with Duolingo. For people like me who really did not get on well with traditional classroom teaching, I think Duolingo is an amazing concept. It makes the dull repetitive work of learning vocabulary and practicing structure into something that is enjoyable and goal based (which appeals to me and many others, as shown by the popularity of platform video games). It has the right mix of easy entry and available explanation when needed, and I am rather excited by the idea that I may soon be reading French novels with very little effort, at which point I will be seeking out French speakers to work on my conversation!
oskalingo, you say that Duolingo uses intensive data-mining and A/B experimentation to increase student retention, but I wonder how effective that can be when it does not have any information at all about its students.
Duolingo has been absolutely fantastic for me - but only one of the many people I have recommended it to has continued with it for more than a few days. These were all intelligent and well motivated people, but they found Duo to be confusing and unhelpful. They are in good company; I read that Bill Gates wanted to learn a language, tried Duolingo, but quickly gave up.
I suspect that if Duo asked all new students to complete a short questionnaire which asked about previous study, particularly in languages, they would find that most of the people who stick with Duo for the long term have had quite a bit of previous language learning, and so understand how a language works, and know how to find good sources for explanations of the rules as they meet them. I expect that on the other hand Duo would find that almost all the new students who had not studied languages much before, drop out very quickly. An A/B test does not find this out.
I saw an serious criticism of Duo on a language learning website, which pointed out that if lots of people are starting to learn a language with Duo only to find that it is not for them, this is a very bad thing. Those people were all enthusiastic enough to try Duo, but will have been put off learning a language, and many might never try it again. OK there is a minority like me for whom Duo has been a wonderful success, but it would be a shame if that is at the expense of lots of others who, after failing with Duolingo, never try again.
I never had any experience learning another language other than school. If you are determined to learn, you will.
99% of people I have introduced to Duo have quit. It's not because they didn't like the site, but because they said it takes too much time, or it is too hard, or they just wanted to try it. Mostly because learning a language is hard and takes time and dedication.
If you have someone doing it with you, it's a lot easier. When I got demotivated, my wife helped me back up, and visa versa.
I think Duo is awesome, but people expect it to be a complete package, which its not. You cant only be on here and expect to be fluent
Hi Xuton-lon thanks for your reply. My guess is that to to succeed in Duo you need at least one of the following attributes: quite a lot of previous language learning; a high natural aptitude for languages; a great deal of determination and self-discipline.
I suspect that most people are not like that, and are therefore unlikely to find Duo much use. While Duo has been great for me, because I had studied languages off and on for years, I think that it could be made much more helpful for beginners if it arranged its material in a logical way, with simple explanation of the patterns in the language, and lots of practice at applying those patterns. When people understand what is happening they are much more likely to remember it. Duo's method of trial and error using what seems to be random sentences is extremely frustrating and off-putting. When I have spoken to those who have given up I have found that they hated the way that new vocabulary was not introduced before it appeared in questions, and that they kept finding that they were getting questions wrong, without any understanding of why.
I think that it would be relatively easy for the Duo courses to be re-written. The new vocab should be presented in flashcards before we see it in questions, and we should be given an explanation of the new pattern with model sentences followed then by questions practising with the new vocab and the new pattern.
For kid that just don't want to learn language you can put live candy to app and he still refuse it anyway
And as astoundingchair write above you there are tons of people that don't even know about this site. So when they are learning with app they will quit because stuff doesn't make sense without grammar explanation. The pretty pictures of stuff and people in app is useless if you don't understand how language works right?
I can't speak for other courses but it is my experience that there is a great deal of grammar explication in the sentence discussions attached to the French course, both by people explaining things in their own words and by linking to authoritative references. This is when I think the normal learner appreciates grammar—when it is introduced to explain how something works that they have just encountered and are puzzled by.
There is a very small percentage of language learners who love grammar in and of itself. Indeed, these types often learn languages simply to experience a different grammatical system. That's fine and these types of people are very valuable for the work they do in investigating and formalising the descriptions of the grammars of the many languages in the world. But I think they (and perhaps this includes you?) often make the mistake that formal and comprehensive instruction in grammar is essential to language learning when it really is not. Grammatical explanation is available in the duolingo discussion forums (both sentence linked and general) if you need it, but it is not pushed upon you before you feel the need for its clarifying power.
Edit: On rereading your comment I see that you are calling for sentence discussions to be added to the iphone app. I wasn't aware that it still didn't have them and so yes, I agree that they needed to be added so that people can access the grammar discussions that they contain. But I think that duolingo works on things in parallel and it just so happens that they were able to complete this feature before completing the sentence discussions feature in the iphone app. The android app already has sentence discussions, and they work well :)
Edit 2: And now I see your reply to me. We are in agreement—the iphone app certainly needs the sentence discussions added. But I would be pretty sure that duolingo is in agreement with this too and are working on it already.
Edit 3: Sarah has had sentence discussions removed from her android app while I can still see them using the same release. Might be an A/B test.
Actually the app had "Tips and Notes" and sentence discussions several months before, but then one day they were completely gone after an update, which did make me love the app less. I want the discussions back, too.
Edit: I use the Android app, and I just realized that actually many other Android users still have the sentence discussion feature on their device, though I don't quite understand why mine was removed months ago, so I couldn't say that it was gone. It's not totally gone. Good to know.
YES and NO :) First of all in iOS app there is no discussion and yes you are right there are lot of comments explaining why is this like that. So this would be helpful for mobile users too! Second i don't know French but since it is on top of the easiest languages in world maybe you don't need grammar but try German, Russian, Japanese or my original language Slovak - without grammar you are doomed - seriously (especially Slovak :D)
You don't need to love grammar to need it but if it is there that little tiny text you can read it and it can save you lot of confusion. For example take english - the difference between "a" and "an" is explained with two sentences and i don't know how you learn that by yourself - you will just guess the whole tree OR maybe you will see why is it that by yourself but that is huge OR :)
Or try to explain to German person why du, ihr, sie, ... is all in english "you" :D
Well it was on Android but never for iOS and looks like they take those features out. Now i am confused - looks like duolingo will be only for kids soon (you can't have kids + discussions obviously so lets cut that feature)
I don't even know now what is duolingos path to teaching language to other people than kids :(
Well i can't imagine that this update could have some big impact on adult people. For kids maybe yes and that is what i am saying. Anyway how hard is to implement that grammar text to app? It is ridiculously easy just to put some text there. There is no intelligent reason that they still didn't implement this and android users already have this. Not to mention that this is most important part of teaching language. My mind is stopping on this Duolingo update priorities.
BTW grammar explanation is not for "hardcore power users" but for everyone since day one of learning language .)
Grammar notes are, in my personal opinion, pretty basic, though I can imagine people initially using Duo more like a phrasebook. (And perhaps being lured into sticking around by inviting cartoon characters.) Plus, the importance of explicit grammar instruction is still an open question, pedagogically -- see for instance http://ltr.sagepub.com/content/10/3/297.abstract.
More broadly, I suppose my remarks are motivated less by your actual point about grammar notes specifically and more by the fact that there are other obvious needs that have not (yet) been addressed. The immersion system seems, at least to an outsider, to be in disarray: it has an uncertain place, at best, in Duo's declared business model, and hasn't been implemented for many of the more recent language courses. (And, from what I gather, its legality in the EU is at best dubious.) Meanwhile, there remains little opportunity for productive practice on Duo -- translations into the target language have become increasingly rare in exercises, and there is no mechanism for writing longer pieces. Conversational practice -- a crucial element of language learning -- is also, thus far, missing (and while the cartoon characters may help mnemonically, I wouldn't say the user is having a "conversation" with them).
Bottom-line, I think Duo is great, and completely understand why it's focusing its efforts on broadening its appeal. In a perfect world, I wish it would do a bit more for hardcore users. (Grammar explanations not necessarily falling into this category.) But perhaps it won't be a one-stop shop -- perhaps it'll simply serve as a great starting point for online language learning, with people "graduating" to services like lingua.ly (with which I have a few quibbles) and lang-8.
there are other obvious needs that have not (yet) been addressed
Precisely my point. And it's an extremely conspicuous absence.
Since it has been abandoned, it'll never be "addressed" since this feature is now out of scope of Duo staff.
So better to ask, suggest and show to Duo our interest in other improvements about which they didn't declare that they'll not do them, IMO. ;)
:D what an another twist! SO this means since Duo deleted discussions from android app they just abandon this? Flashcards are abandoned too? Other stuff that is "broken" and people crying about it for long time is abandoned too? Also where are these " they didn't declare that they'll not do them" posts? I feel like little stupid kid now. You see my streak and i pretty often search discussions to find some post from Duo about some progress but there are almost none!
So all this means that Duo is going to be only for kids in future since advanced features are slowly going away?
Well, what I really want is more opportunity for productive practice, whether it's through something akin to the extant Immersion system or through something novel. And if indeed Immersion in its current incarnation is dead-dead rather than semi-dead (and it sounds from what you've posted that it is dead-dead), I really want to see something new: something that will advance my German (to take my most Duo-advanced language as an example) forward, something that will raise that (problematic) number on my fluency badge past 50ish percent. Whether that's tree extensions, or a Duo take on what Lingua.ly or Lang-8 offer (i.e. a vocabulary accumulator framework or a peer-to-peer composition checker), or something entirely new (e.g. Skype-like language partnerships with some kind of safeguard against creepiness), I want to see something that will let me make progress beyond the existing trees. (And in fact, if Duo wants me to link my Duo profile to my LinkedIn one, this is non-negotiable -- I'm not going to go around bragging about being 50% fluent in anything.)
To put it in terms of engagement (that wild and wooly byword of present-day pedagogy, so beloved of school admins and educational consultants), the only way that I can see my Duo engagement level staying the same or increasing from where it is now is if they offer more services for their (relatively) advanced users. I plan on continuing to practice here, and might do a couple of new languages: Russian and Vietnamese are appealing among the alphas, though I might mainly use textbooks and language partners for those, and maybe I'll take a crack at Danish. Still, other services will be getting the bulk of my future German, French, Spanish, and Swedish engagement. If Duo finds it more advantageous to get the engagement of five beginners than to keep mine, I understand. But selfishly, I agree - we should ask, suggest, and show what we'd like to see. So let's lobby away. ;)
Actually the Immersion stuff was put on hold because the EU made a ruling stating that companies like Duolingo can't earn money off the Immersion feature without paying the people doing the actual translation. It's a blow to their business model, which is why they've changed course a little bit. There's more details here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/5001967
But selfishly, I agree - we should ask, suggest, and show what we'd like to see. So let's lobby away. ;)
One good way could be to create a new discussion (I'll call it later "Main disussion") for each. Then each time someone see a new discussion created about the same "request", ask the user who posted it (and anyone who posted an answer) to go to the corresponding "Main discussion" and upvote it (and, if the user want but not necessary, to add a comment there).
Like that it'd be easy to see (through upvotes) what are the most wanted features among the users (that access the forums).
this means since Duo deleted discussions from android app they just abandon this?
Did they made an announcement that they were putting down the development of it? I never saw such statement, so as far as I know the answer is "no".
Flashcards are abandoned too?
Same answer with the additional facts of this official announcement.
Other stuff that is "broken" and people crying about it for long time is abandoned too?
Also where are these " they didn't declare that they'll not do them" posts?
There is none, I'm referring exactly to all the features (existing or asked for) for which you have no official statement saying they decided against its development.
So great that there are almost none: a lot of potential improvements they didn't discard. :)
So all this means that Duo is going to be only for kids in future since advanced features are slowly going away?
I don't think it'll be only for kids. But there has been a big push on the schools.duolingo.com part these last months.
Will the big push continue next months or do they did it up to now to be ready for this class-new-year? Again, I don't know.
Thanks for answers jrikhal i appreciate you take time to answer me.
About those flashcards - i read that thread and post comments but as i read it again (at least 3x) i don't understand it - i think they say that they scrap some new version they tried with A/B and it is back to old flashcards.
About those announcements - Duolingo didn't post anything about immersion either so no news could mean also they are abandoning other things since only news past year was for children (and new languages)
If they made one post every month saying "we are working on meeting the president this month" or "we are cleaning our office after huge party this month" or "we were working on flashcards this month" i and i think a LOT more people would be happy and calm. Because they can 1. take feedback from users (if they care) 2. inform people about the path they are taking with duolingo (kids vs everyone).
And i didn't think about that school is starting now so thats why they push this update for children. That makes sense. I just want to know what are they doing overall - if this site have future for me or i just show it to my kinds (when i have some :) and move somewhere else more serious.
EDIT1: oh i see now where are all the Duolingo posts. I found Educators forum. Well...
EDIT2: @lindakanga sorry i can't answer on your comment for some reason. I meant future not feature. Duolingo is well ok now but if this is the path they are heading it could change to be more suitable for kids. Which is not great for everyone else. For example discussions + kids? Maybe we loose that because kids have problem with this and looks like this is the reason why this feature is not in iOS
i think they say that they scrap some new version they tried with A/B and it is back to old flashcards.
That's how I get it too. They had the "Words tab" original version (well in fact the second one. ;)) then tried different other formats/designs/mechanisms through A/B testing. Statistical results (based on their metrics) being better for the "original" one, they kept it as the current (and only) version for everyone.
Duolingo didn't post anything about immersion
Staff members stated about it in some comments (cf. links).
If they made one post every month [...]
Yes, communication is not Duo's best skill. ;)
" if this site have feature for me or i just show it to my kids (when i have some :) and move somewhere else more serious. "
Dear t0panka, I have been on this site for some time now, and I find it a very large and open community, Here I find some wonderfully serious and well informed people, who when I find an issue that I can't make sense of, I am able, sometimes quickly and easily, and sometimes with a bit of searching, and asking the right questions, that there will be someone who will be able to answer my question. I find it a serious site in that matter. In the discussion boards I find a treasure trove of fascinating questions and answers, that I wish I had more time to delve through. Yet it is also light and humorous at times, which I also find engaging and enriching. For me I find the site is appropriate for any age group. Though it may not be the right for a specific learner at a certain point in their language studies, and what sort of learning style you might enjoy more.
Another style of site you might like to check out is http://www.memrise.com/home/ . It all depends where you are on your learning journey, and what you find is right for you.
What you're saying is true and important. However, I think Duo is treating us as "children" in another way: We are barely allowed to make decisions about how the course we are taking is presented to us. I mean, it makes sense that they do A/B tests and stuff and then introduce some new features or remove others. But if features have already been programmed, why not give people an option to use (or deliberately not use) a feature? Some means of configuration ... for example people should be able to
- rearrange (and delete) stuff from the right column. Maybe some people are huge fans of the fluency badge? Others might be most motivated by seeing that their friend just overtook them in the ranking over night. And some might just terribly miss the progress bar showing how far they are away from the next level. Rearranging and deleting things might improve learning.
- opt out these characters.
- choose different voices, if available
- set a custom goal for the coach - 50 XP really isn't that much if you're learning several languages.
- adjust the probability of e.g. FR-EN vs. EN-FR sentences in some reasonable range. You shouldn't be forced to do the reverse tree if you want to practice translations into the language you are learning. Translating from the language that you are learning needs mostly passive vocabulary so it's good if you want to give people the feeling that they're making progress and keep them here on duolingo.com - but there are many people who advance in the tree and come to the conclusion that this is actually a disadvantage.
And so on. Give people a choice! Especially if most of the code has already been written (for example the progress bar has already been implemented and used) ... I'm not saying that it wouldn't require some effort but it would definitely improve learning. Also, you don't have to give all these options to someone on level 1. You can unlock them if someone has reached level 8 in any language before, if you think that'll help. Or let them spend some of their precious lingots. Doesn't matter as long as we have a choice.
After all, people are different. And computer programs also give us the ability to take this into account. At least to a certain degree. And that is where there is definitely room for improvement.
I actually agree with you on a lot of these features. As a long-time user, I'd love most of these. The only issue is that it would fragment the user groups into even smaller groups which would probably skew their A/B testing, and Duo seems particularly attached to their A/B testing. I imagine that's a big piece of why they don't allow for this kind of end-user customization. I'm not saying that I agree with how attached they are to their testing, just that I'm willing to bet that that's a big piece of their hesitation to let us monkey with the controls. Of course, that leads to people building and using GreaseMonkey scripts to achieve what they want, which skews the testing anyway, and Duo doesn't even know, so...yeah...
Honestly, if Duo wanted to make it an XP-based feature, that'd be awesome. Or even if they wanted me to pay a few dollars for those features I happily would. Then they can even open up the features to paid users and we could test them, since someone who pays is generally more motivated and committed than someone who's just using the free version.
All of that aside, Duo is free, and I recognize that, and I'm grateful that the site exists. If they want to change up their look and feel, but keep the core functionality the same, and I can still learn, then I'm happy. I've been through a ton of changes on the site already: tree changes (three times now?), hearts to strength bar, the death of immersion, the birth of the incubator, speaking lessons in most languages, the lingots for streak being taken away, the French tree expansion (can we get one for German now? I'd love see some stuff on weak vs strong verbs and separable verbs please), etc etc. In all that time, the core of the system is the same, and I'm able to put in time and gain some fluency in a language I didn't know before. If they want to have a blank screen, or a zombie on the screen, whatever, I'm just happy it's here. I'm grateful to the company. Instead of wasting my time online, I'm able to do something to improve myself, for free.
Just my two-cents on the issue.
Have a great day.
Thank you for your thoughts. You are right, A/B testing could be a major reason why they refrain from offering such features. I didn't think of that. However, if it was an XP-based feauture, it wouldn't necessarily screw up Duo's testing if the idea behind theses tests is to lower the number of people getting bored/loosing motivation and leaving this site. In that case, you only would have to restrict the test to the group of users for that the test actually is: Beginners, not long-term users who have completed several trees and are still here to learn (, the former by far outweighing the latter). And sadly, not all of these things can be done with GreaseMonkey scripts although several of the said features could be implemented using it.
This is just a general problem I have with the way Duo deals with users because I just can't understand it. Nevertheless, I also very much appreciate this site and am very grateful. Anxiously awaiting Russian at the moment.
Problems with the latest updates. When I type an answer, the box comes up and covers my typed answer. I can see the correction but not what I typed. Make the correction box transparent so I can see what I typed behind it. Similarly, the text boxes cover up what I type. Also, some of the boxes asking to repeat the Spanish sentence don't allow me to repeat the sentence, so I can hear it again.
Excellent point. I do like the characters but feel the grammar sections available on the website should be added to the apps. I have iOS i am not sure about android. Either way love whats here already. I have a feeling the grammar being added is inevitable in time. we'll be here to see it I would put money on it.
But isn't content like the (missing) grammar explanations in the hands of the volunteers who contribute to courses? The new character feature, on the other hand, is something that adds to the functionality of the site/apps as a whole. So we have 2 different construction zones here. :)
For the grammar, I'd try to contact the course contributors, not the people who work on general features...
Ah, I was not aware there was a difference between website and apps... I haven't done the earlier lessons in the app and the later ones don't have easily accessible grammar explanations in the website either - so I assumed it was merely a content issue.
I'm in favor of getting more grammar explanations in general, of course in both the website and the apps. :) (so it seems like a job for both developers and course contributors)
Aw, Steve and Terri Irwin....
But, yeah. I personally love spiders and snakes and other creepies, but I know as a culture we've kind of ingrained a phobia into a lot of people when it comes to those animals, and I'd hate for someone to get turned off of Duo because a picture of a tarantula kept turning up.
True, but it might be a good way to get desensitized to such creatures. Probably not a goal for most who log on to duolingo, though.
Regardless, I have read that images that evoke strong emotion are far more easily remembered. Even so, I don't know how much of a strong emotion a cartoon spider evokes. The sight of a cartoon spider has never "freaked me out" even as a child and I cannot remember a time in my life when a child other than myself was similarly affected.
Though it is a nice endeavor to try to protect children from images that might frighten them, sometimes a little exposure is a good thing, and I think duolingo is treading on some pretty safe ground with a cartoon image of a spider.
Oh, the pain of having an Android! :'(
Some of the sentences might need to be revised, since I can see some very hilarious (or awkward) moments with these characters. Generally, any sentences dealing with death, plus some other gems like "La serveuse est entierement nue," plus some others I can't think of right now. OTOH, it's the wacky, off-the-wall sentences that people remember, so it might be better to keep them.
Hi jrikhal! Thank you for the information and the link. I use an HTC Android phone, but I don't have access to the sentence discussion which is listed in that table. (I've lost the access for a long time, since March I think, I don't remember when exactly.) I thought that feature was removed. I only realized one hour before that other Android users still have access to it. So I tried several lessons to see if I have missed it out, but it turned out that I haven't and the feature is definitely gone, at least for me... Do you know what's wrong with it by any chance? Or could I do something about that? Thank you very much! I could get by without discussions, but I would like to have them as others do...
I have the new ios version. So far I like it. I also have been able to report errors in the answers; this is something, so it might be part of an A/B test. I miss the question discussion on the web version, so I usually use the web version when I am learning new material and use the app for practice. One possible solution for an app based language forum/discussion would be to have Duo come up with a separate app. It could be set up like Facebook groups, with a group dedicated for each language that would allow/encourage discussions about grammar, sentence structure, language concepts. Some of the languages have groups on Facebook that are amazing (fun and educational), in particular the Dutch group.
I would really like there to be distinction in regional dialects. I am doing the Spanish course as well as the Portuguese. I would probably rate myself intermediate to lower advanced (B1-B2 for those of us who were ESL teachers) in Spanish and at the same token I know enough about Portuguese from some of the similarities where I'm not necessarily a beginner there too. That said, there are many different dialects with both of these languages and vast differences, particularly Latin American vs European so it would be great if we could specify which dialect/accent we would like to study. Also, I really do not like how a lot of this seems to be focused on memorizing vocabulary. For the higher levels, it would be great if we could get more emphasis on the listening and "translating" exercises and the speaking exercises. In the far future, it would be awesome if we could do simulated conversations such as picking a topic and being able to listen and speak to a few phrases to ensure we're not only memorizing by comprehending. I'd like to get as close to 'Immersion' as possible.
I'd also really love it if Duolingo could offer a complete language learning experience unfortunately it's far from that, it's a nice (and free!) tool for what it does but the moment you want specifics like listening and speaking skills, or details about grammar or training on a specific subject, you're often better of at some other website. The duolingo wiki [language] (e.g. google for duolingo wiki spanish) has some really good information about other sources to visit though and the discussions also sometimes have great suggestions.
I saw the new people yesterday. I found one combination confusing (I don't remember why, but the image seemed to contradict with the sentence), and I had a spider talking to me. I did NOT like the spider. Please stick to people. (I prefer the photographs on the website)
This is so sweet! I loved it when the male voice was put in the French lessons so I can recognize the different accents spoken in France. And now there will be many more? Woohoo! I'm eyeing that astronaut by the way, LOL.
Anywho, I'm not mad that it's not on Android yet. I'll just find a friend with an iPhone I can stea... er... borrow it in the mean time. :-)
I love these graphics, and I sought out this discussion purely to say so. I really enjoyed the graphics in Spanish and have since returned to Italian to finish my tree... but I truly miss the graphics! Please develop them for Italian and other languages too!!! For discussions and grammatical explanations I have my language teacher (yes, in the flesh) but Duolingo is perfect for connecting the dots and often for creating those dots. Love the app, love that it's free, love the graphics (particularly the Lumberjacks and bears and humans from all walks of life talking to me in their native tongue, even if that is a Spanish speaking spider) - keep up the great work. PS. I also love this font.
Stereotypical comic characters in the French course are not only annoying but also distracting and, honestly, quite offensive. I don't want to have a caricature of an older man to give me the "hint" that "vieux" is part of the correct answer. Italian course does not have and is much better for the lack of these awful additions.
(Sorry for of topic comment, but this is important, but I can't get Duolingo's attention on these for months now)
This is official post https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/10727793 to get votes for English for Georgian speakers course.
700+ votes from that post are gone, https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/25398737 and Doulingo hasn't fixed this.