Suggestion: An Accent/Dialect feature?
this is simply a suggestion, i don't expect anything to come from it, but i thought it would be neat if native speakers could pronounce the vocabulary and sentences in a respective dialect. Example: in the German section, maybe have a bavarian dialect area to hear how a Bavarian would pronounce it as such, or any vocabulary specific to Bavaria.
I think this is a brilliant idea. In the advanced section that Duolingo staff have mentioned that they are planning to add to current graduated courses, there could be options to add recognition of regional vocabulary, accents and culture. This will add a lot of great variety and educational value to the courses. It's also a great way to preserve languages, regional dialects and cultural history that seem to be disappearing at an increasing rate.
According to this graphic, http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Deutsche_Dialekte_-_Entwurf.PNG German has over 50 dialects. They often not only pronounce words differently, but use their own words, different grammar, often swallow endings and so on. It's surely intersting to listen to, but I bet you would not understand a thing a Bavarian says in deep Bavarian dialect, when even natives often can't.
It's true that there are some dialects but you can summarise all of them into a few with major differences. Bavarian, Austrian, Switzerdütsch, Standard German, East German. Maybe add the Ruhr dialects but they're very similar to Standard German.
Edit: And yeah, it's true, you're not gonna understand Bavarian. It's like listening to a 90 y/o hardcore Texan as German. But learning the dialects spoken in East Germany would most likely be very interesting for learners.
Uh, there are way more. Plattdütsch? Elsässisch? All the Low German dialects? And that's only the ones you will most likely NOT understand. Although I don't even understand some Swabians from the Schwarzwald valleys, and I grew up exposed to those dialects.
And then there is Sorbisch...
Most dialects are not distinct enough or practical enough to be worth adding, in my opinion. Swabian, yes. Plattdütsch, maybe. Franconian, maybe.
So we have Bavarian, Austrian, Switzerdütsch, Standard German, East German, Swabian, Plattdütsch, Franconian (although it's pretty similar to Bavarian).
Eight instead of fifty dialects. Even though the map shows many dialects, it's not accurate. I can tell you that in the North, everybody speaks Standard German, there are no dialects. (Except for Sylt and all that stuff, but that's not practical enough again.) You are from the south, aren't you?
MV does have a few different words, but it's not different enough to be considered a dialect. My father lives there, I kinda grew up there and still visit once in a while.
The dialect around Berlin (which I just called "East German") is very different though, accent, words, grammar. This is something I would definitely like to be added.
I'd be a cool feature in theory, but there's no way you'd be able to understand it. Most native speakers I know can't even figure out what someone's saying when they're speaking a different dialect. I can understand Dutch better than I can understand someone speaking Bayerisch; Bayerisch doesn't even sound remotely like Hochdeutsch.
It would be useful to have some variation in the speaker. As a chap, it is quite difficult to pitch your voice if you only hear words spoken by a woman.
Some other variations would be good too. (Young/Old different dialects as you say)