If I may, I think you should be a little more patient and think that it's a free resource, and a good one, and that over time it will improve. As ZalaProko says, it's still in beta, and I suppose that our contribution as users, with opinions instead of critics, will help improve it. I'm learning russian from zero and can't complain, as now I know how to say and write a few extremely simple things! I'm learning for curiosity though, not because I need to, so perhaps your needs are different? Cheers!
I completely agree with arraco. I also think that maybe the critics are usefull to those constructing the course, because they will give them hints of where we stuck most, and maybe give some rules at the begining of a lesson. I am also learning for pleasure, maybe this is by I´m so happy with this course. :) Smile!! ^_^
Starting from the first question, asking someone to translate a sentence (any words really, but a full sentence certainly) without showing them what any of the words mean first is not helpful. Things should be at least introduced before you assume people will have any capacity to answer questions related to them.
That's why you give it a try and if you're wrong, you'll know the next time. Language is more than just a set of rules. It's sometimes more helpful to learn phrases and sentences than to memorize grammar. That way you can get AWAY from the temptation to apply your own language's patterns to another language that does not function that way. And it's exactly this step AWAY from pure grammar that has made DuoLingo so popular.
You still have to learn the missing pieces of grammar to realize that, but by using something that is not that easily discernible makes it harder to learn the right way to understand a phrase. I'm not advocating for pure grammar as you've stated, but rather a reasonable scaffolding of knowledge.
I believe adding a Russian keyboard at this level would be crucial. I have typed what I have heard, in English letter, as "Tom, Tim Tam" and would've loved to try guessing how to write them (and other basic words/sentences) in Cyrillic script. I think that way one would get familiarized faster and better to the alphabet.
Other than that, I am intrigued by the sentence structure. I think it would be better for me to compare it to Arabic where one can similarly say, if translated literally, "Tim Doctor" and "Tim there?" without having a specific word for "To be".
In Russian, the verb "to be" is ommited when the sentence is in the present. As there were no other verbs to be found, it can be deduced that the verb of this sentence is the verb to be. So... "Tom, Tim there?" becomes "Tom, IS Tim there?", as this is the only place to fit the verb.
This information is in the "Tips & Notes" section (I do not remember for which lesson). It is vital to read them to learn a language that works different (and Russian is a very good example!). It is a shame that the "Tips & Notes" are still unavailable for the mobile version, though.
Anyway, no one is supposed to get it right at first, and you should not feel frustrated because of this alien sentence coming too soon with no warning. Yeah, you got it wrong at first, but now you talked about it and learned how it works. The whole point is that Duolingo is not a test -- it is a course. Mistakes play a really important role here. My experience is that the things I remember the most are the ones that took me more time to get right.
Funny, when one uses just "there" it gives "Another solution" with "over there". So I used it here and it's wrong...
On Mac you go into systems and add cyrillic (phonetic Russian is the best because the keys are positioned in a similar way to what we are used to). Then you can also select "virtual keyboard" and a little box shows which letter is which key, so you can type without looking at your fingers.
Yeah I was seriously confused as well. Just heard that Russian was added to duolingo, so I signed up. This is a pretty discouraging place to land at. "Here are three words that look and sound the same, now what do they mean?" I typed the words as they showed in the tooltips, but that was apparently incorrect. I didn't have any idea that they were asking me to create a grammatically correct sentence in English using three words in Russian that I don't know, as well as zero previous knowledge of Russian grammar.
Very poor explanations, because we need a kind of introduction to explain some kind of things like how to use the sentence and why. This exercises are just the literal translation, not very helpful to truly beginnings, because the structure of the Russian language is different and not follow the same logic of english language