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https://www.duolingo.com/Mr.Quizzical

Duolingo Teaching Verb Conjugation

From all I've done, read and learned from Duolingo the one thing that I am disappointed with Duolingo about is its Verb Conjugation. The languages I have done lessons with don't teach you verb conjugation. The lessons just make you memorize the conjugation of verbs. So when you write the language you just remember that Ils sont means they are or Él es means he is. But although all the language courses teach you tons and tons of verbs, they don't teach you how to conjugate verbs. There are hundreds, if not thousands of verbs in every language so Duo cannot teach you all of them. But they can teach you how to conjugate them.

Verbs are one of the main blocks of any language. Duolingo could easily make learning games for how to conjugate verbs. Duolingo could make games for how to conjugate verbs and then either make skills for that or incorporate it in the current verb lessons.

Take the French language for example, for all regular 'ER' verbs, the endings when you take the ER off:

  • Je parle
  • Tu parles
  • Il parle
  • Nous parlons
  • Vous parlez
  • Ils parlent

And here is my template for how to teach verb conjugation to that verb:


Please give me feedback on this idea, critical or not. Anything will be appreciated. I am one-sided on this and think it is a great idea but there may be some down-sides of this that I do not notice.

2 years ago

53 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/rspreng

Duo is unabashedly inductive in its teaching style. It wants you to learn as a four-year-old, by trial and error. When I was four I did not memorize conjugation tables. Many learners, especially older ones like me, prefer a more instructional method, but Duo, from the beginning, has expressed a desire to "not be like school." The approach you describe, remember it after you use or misuse it, is exactly what Duo intended itself to be.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fay306893

Problem is that at least for English (those in the US anyway), it still takes years of studying grammar in school, and most of us still do not do that well. The four year old, learns to communicate, but certainly does not learn all the intricacies of grammar.
And then as you said, we all learn different. I find DUOLINGO is not enough. I have to use other sources for further explanation.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rspreng

I agree. Some folks seem to forget that many of us had spelling, grammar, and writing classes in grade school, high school, college, and graduate school. We learned in school and turned out okay, and we don't typically say things like "I seen you at the liquor store yesterday.".

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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From a linguistics standpoint, there is "Standard English", which is what people might call "proper English" (a phrase I despise), and it just happens to be the variety that is most socially acceptable. What we talk about, though, is that certain things are accepted in a specific variety. There are varieties of English where "I seen you at the store yesterday" is perfectly acceptable English, and Standard English is no inherently better than such a variety.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fay306893

A bad thing is that over the years I have forgotten a lot of the rules. I was a computer programmer until I retired and not in a position where I had to write proposals or many reports, so just tended to forget and get "sloppy".

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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I'm not sure that Duolingo is supposed to be 'enough' - it's a tool for learning a language. No single tool will get you to fluency all on its own.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fay306893

And it is a very useful tool and free. People have the opportunity to try out various languages to see if they really want to learn that language. It is good for practice. It is a great tool, but I think some people have the expectation, at least to start, that it will be enough. I really not sure there is any one tool that is enough.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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Oh, we are on the same page then - this is why I shouldn't be allowed on forums late at night. I agree entirely.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jfGor
jfGor
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Yes, we have adult brains. But the dream of Duolingo and its founders want us to learn without grammar lessons. For me, I need them. I want to know how and why. I am an older learner and like rspreng said he prefers a more instructional method, and so do I. Like you said, and for me too, Duolingo is not enough. Right now I am studying the four Subjunctive Mood tenses which are used in modern Spanish, and I have to use other resources.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fay306893

I am an older learner, retiree. I use FLUENCIA and some other web sites. At some point I need to spend more time on VERBS, using information from other sites. DUOLING is great for practice.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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what 4 mood tenses? Are you counting imperatives as mood? I mean, it's technically true, but when I think of Spanish "subjunctive" I think of "past" and "present". There is a future subjunctive, but it certainly isn't used in modern Spanish beyond set phrases.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jfGor
jfGor
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I am referring to the four tenses of the Subjunctive mood, present, imperfect, present perfect and past perfect. Future and Future perfect subjunctives tenses are not used in modern Spanish. Duo only only covers present and imperfect tenses of the Subjunctive mood.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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In the strictest sense, present perfect and past perfect aren't tenses, they are aspects. Anyway, though, there's a good chance they don't teach the perfect aspects of subjunctive because all you need to know is "hay(a|as|amos|áis|an)" for present perfect subjunctive and "hubier(a|as|amos|ais|an)" for past perfect subjunctive. The rest is simply the same participle of a verb that you would use in the perfect ice aspects that aren't subjunctive.

i.e. "Hayas comido" or "hubiera cantado"

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jfGor
jfGor
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Frankenstein724, In the strictest sense, I call present perfect and pass perfect tenses in both the Indicative and the Subjunctive moods. BTW, I already know how to conjugate. Remember I was the one who said that I was studying them. Conjugating is a piece of cake; it is the use that is important to me. I am not a linguist, nor do I want to be. I study Spanish and how to speak it. If you want to call a tense an aspect, go right ahead. People on Duo are trying to learn languages, not jargon from 'linguistics'.

Also if you want to use sub-standard English and say I seen you instead of I saw you, go right ahead. That's your business. My parents corrected me, and I corrected my children. But it is NOT my business to correct adults except when they ask for help.

I appreciate it when someone helps me with my Spanish. I try to give back when I can to others.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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"Mood" is also very much linguistic jargon. If you use That term it is silly to then claim that you don't care what "aspect" is because you're simply learning a language. Heck, "tense" is linguistic jargon. A good deal of the lesson titles that are more grammatical than sheer vocabulary building also come from linguistic jargon. I don't care that you don't want to be a linguist, but your reasoning for not wanting to call something by its name just isn't very good.

Oh, another point that we will never agree on, but I'm going to say it again, more plainly, just to watch people get mad at me. Ahem, here goes:

there's no such thing as sub-standard English

There are merely different dialects of it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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The 4 year old learns the intricacies of grammar better than most adults. Yes, the 4 year old makes mistakes that adults don't make, but the mistakes they make show that they grasp the concepts and happen to not know an exception. When a child says, for example, "I eated the cookie", that's genius, because it shows they understand that /-ed/ is the common past tense marker.

Then there's plurals. One of the most common language acquisition experiments is the "wug" test. Plurals in English, by and large, manifest themselves as [z], [iz], or [s], and which one it is is determined by the sound before it, whether it is voiced or unvoiced. Thus it is [cats] but [dogz]. So they made up this word "wug", a word that did not exist, there was no way these kids could have heard this word before in any systematic way. They were prompted with a thing that was more or less "This is a wug, now there are two of them, there are two ....?" and the kids pretty uniformly would respond [wugz] (as opposed to [wugs]).

It does not take a native English speaker years of studying grammar in school to be able to speak English, it merely takes a native English speaker years of studying grammar in school to be able to have meta-conversations about their language, to talk about the mechanics of their language, not to use it. Sure, people make mistakes, but making mistakes, even what people might consider a lot of mistakes, does not mean they can't speak the language or need to study more.

This is not just a fact of English. This is how language works. But what you are doing is also a common phenomenon. People always seem to self-report that they "don't speak [language] well, and need to study more". No. Nope. No one speaks "perfect English" in the sense that language pedants would think, because language is what people do, language is how people use it, language is not what a subset of scholars decide it -should- be.

I apologize that I am kind of attacking more than what you actually said but, as you might guess, this is a topic I am passionate about.

We all speak English just fine, and 4 year olds -do- learn the intricacies of grammar. I promise.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Tattamin
Tattamin
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Hear, hear!
I am wondering whether there might a correlation between people looking for other sources of material because they feel they need more than duolingo offers and the fact that more and more people complain about the amount of practice needed to keep their tree golden.
Maybe all that practising wouldn't seem so dire if it were the only way to acquire skills in the new language?
It's just a thought I have, I cannot prove it or even be sure, seeing how French (my main language of study here) is not a new language for me and I'm mostly refreshing things I learned 30+ years ago. While I do use another website for additional flashcard training, I have so far avoided looking at tables or even memorizing them.
I have reached the point in my Norwegian studies, however, where I am tempted to look up extra material. For the time being, I tell myself not to do it and instead trust duo to teach me what I need to know. I am eager to discover where that will take me.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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Er, I believe whole heartedly that one can not become fluent with duolingo alone, I just also believe that people don't understand the whole picture when they claim that children still aren't good at language.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Tattamin
Tattamin
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I hope I did not imply that dulingo can make anyone fluent. If I did, I am sorry.
What I meant was that it might be a good idea to stick to duolingo alone for the (basic) part that it teaches. At least that is what I am going to try with Norwegian.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JeffA2
JeffA2
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I totally sympathize with your instinct to avoid looking at grammar tables.

I came to Duolingo with a fair bit of prior study in German, and have found the Duolingo approach very useful for internalizing a lot of the little details, like adjective endings, that used to feel overwhelming. I find that now I am almost afraid to look at a grammar table or delve too deeply into a grammatical explanation. I worry that it will interfere with my instincts, which are now pretty good, and leave me overthinking things, and unable to produce German spontaneously.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vytah
vytah
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Notice that a four-year-old has been totally immersed for years and still has problems. I think that if you could use Duolingo for years most of your waking time, then you'd learn conjugation without explicit instructions, but sometimes you need to take a shortcut if you can.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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the problems that a four year old has are negligible.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vytah
vytah
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I know a four-year old native Polish speaker who still doesn't know that verbs conjugate by gender in all persons.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ryanford06
ryanford06
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The point is that you automatically assimilate the grammar over time and start to conjugate without thinking about it, which I found works if you use the website enough and use other sources outside of it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Balaur
Balaur
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The problem with this is that in some languages (German comes to mind, but Spanish and Romanian also exhibit this phenomenon), the verb stem does not remain consistent among all persons (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and numbers (sg. and pl.). For example, the verb 'treffen' in German is conjugated as: ich treffe, du triffst, er/sie/es trifft, wir treffen, ihr trefft, sie/Sie treffen. Also, most languages on here have irregular forms of the verb 'to be'. Your approach could be used to teach verb conjugations in which the verb stem remains the same, or for languages where there are no stem changes, but in any case, as someone else mentioned earlier, this really isn't much different from the way it's done now, where they give you the various verb forms as a whole, and you have to pick the correct form. The same would apply to teaching something like plural forms of nouns, where the stem might change in some languages, so it's better to present the different forms in their entirety, and have the learner choose the correct form.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Tattamin
Tattamin
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Well put - have a lingot. ;)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr.Quizzical

I have been thinking of posting my topic for the past couple months. I was also thinking of instances in other languages. Instead of having just one drop down menu, have multiple.

The first drop down could have:

  • ich

  • du

  • er

  • wir

  • ihr

The second drop down could have:

  • treffe

  • triffst

  • trifft

  • treffen

  • trefft

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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*Most languages -in general- have irregular forms of the verb 'to be'. It tends to be one of the weirdest verbs in most languages.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ictram
Ictram
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It would be a pretty good idea I think, it'd allow more practice on that particular subject. Don't the notes below a lesson also provide information about the subject though?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr.Quizzical

For a lot of people just reading the notes won't make you learn it. You need to practice it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ictram
Ictram
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True. So yes your idea would nicely complement the notes in that regard. I hope the course contributors will read this and add it!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lelieblad

I'm so confused... doesn't Duolingo already do this? In exactly the way you're suggesting too. Actually, I got really annoyed by it for a while because I knew how to conjugate present tense verbs already and I didn't need to be reminded of how 100+ times.

It seems to have stopped though. Maybe because I'm near the end of the tree now, or maybe it was an A/B test and they decided against the feature.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lelieblad

It looks like they show up when practicing the skills in the beginning and middle of the tree but not near the end. I just practiced some middle-tree skills and they showed up.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Tattamin
Tattamin
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I think it is okay to introduce conjugation by examples, but I think there comes a point where a list or table is needed. I thought this would be dealt with in the annotations for the verb skills as they come up.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frankenstein724
frankenstein724
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one could always make their own tables as they go along.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EoghanBostock

I agree. However I've never needed to learn verb conjugations because I've had prior language experience. (except for Russian)

I see, though, that you've a French "template" (couldn't think of a better word). It would also have to go into differentiating between er, re, and ir verbs.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr.Quizzical

Yes, there would be er, re and ir verbs to differentiate with. (did I use that word correctly? :D)

But it would also go with irregular verbs too.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EoghanBostock

Yeah irregular verbs should be dealt with very early on because people may try to make sense of them, and fail, of course. (And yeah you used the word correctly!)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
Ontalor
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Um, they actually do have those exact same drills, but instead of the endings it gives you the whole verbs to choose between. Have you not seen those?

And most courses specify in the skill notes how to conjugate things, so it's kinda just up to you to memorize the chart if you want to do that. It doesn't work as well for everyone though. I like seeing the chart in the beginning, but then just getting a feel for it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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That's not a bad idea, I can see it being useful. Not so much for verbs, but if they had it for Russian nouns.

IMO, the best thing about Duolingo isn't really the language course itself. The Duolingo course is a useful supplement, but there are better courses out there. The best thing is having a lot of native speakers who are eager to be helpful and will answer your questions better than any language course could.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr.Quizzical

My dream would be that it could be used for verbs nouns adjectives, etc.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jfGor
jfGor
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Thank goodness for those native speakers as well as the advanced learners who participate in the discussions and help out. There apparently are lots of people who never even read the skill discussions.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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One thing I found helpful with declension was literally memorising declension tables - I know it's kind of boring and obviously there are exceptions to rules, etc, and also you don't want to be running through a table mid sentence, but it's nice to have it to fall back on and also having those patterns in your head in several forms (as a table, in a sentence, etc) can really help with recollection and just these things becoming automatic.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Theron126
Theron126
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What I did is read a lot of noun declensions, obviously I don't remember them all but after a while you start to figure out what ending to expect.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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It's one of those things, I think attacking it from all possible angles is the best!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tommg
tommg
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I made this tool some time ago to address this issue: http://www.listeningpractice.org/conjugator.php

I'm not really working on the site anymore, but if you have some ideas to improve it, I might be able to add it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr.Quizzical

I have never seen that website. That looks like a great resource. But I meant that it would be in Duolingo, not an additional website.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jfGor
jfGor
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Thanks tommg. I like the site. Looks like you put some work into it. I am going to try it out. Yeah, duo is incomplete in a few other areas as well.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kolede
kolede
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This is a really good idea, and in my opinion could be extended past verbs alone and be used when teaching when to use certain words. (I.e in Spanish when to use Estar vs. ser or por vs. para)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/proinsias123

Irish teaches verb conjugation.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ellary7
Ellary7
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I have been using Duolingo to learn Spanish for 10 months now and have a similar issue about verb conjugation. I may have another solution. I use the phone app most of the time. The app uses two ways of teaching vocabulary specifically: 1) a word in English is presented on a page with 3 choices. For example, it may show the English word "eat" with one of the choices being a single conjugation of the Spanish word, say "comes". I think it would be better to show in English "you eat" with "comes" as a choice.

2) words are displayed like building blocks with the English and Spanish words to be paired. If the English word included the pronoun like in 1) it would help in learning the conjugation.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ISpeakAlien
ISpeakAlien
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Great idea! Duolingo should also add Tips & Notes to the app.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RGsb0RSD

great idea

9 months ago