Can the helpful tips and notes be more 'helpful'?

I feel very comfortable with my knowledge of English Grammar. Never the less, it has been many years since I studied. Moreover, my study of grammar was not particularly deep. So now I find paragraphs like this very unhelpful.


In English, the only way a verb changes in the present tense is that you add -s for the 3rd person singular. In Russian, all 6 forms are different and fit two regular patterns.

<pre> This could be strengthened by moving the example, 'I EAT/ SHE EATS, to follow the paragraph rather than precede it. </pre>

However, eat «есть» and want «хоте́ть» are two of the four verbs that are irregular (that is, do not strictly follow any of the 2 patterns [I EAT/SHE EATS] ).

Note that the "present" tense is formed from one stem and the "past" and infinitive from the second one. [INSERT EXAMPLE HERE] In general, these two are slightly different. For now, don't worry about the infinitive stem.' [DON'T THINK OF ELEPHANTS].

November 30, 2015


Might I suggest an external source? I am making my way through "English Grammar for Students of Russian". It helps to establish a more precise relationship between English and Russian by comparing the two languages side by side. It is also a great refresher on English grammar. I haven't studied English so closely since grade school!

Each portion focuses on a new part of speech, tense, aspect, or other grammatical concept (first in English, then in Russian). While it is by no means comprehensive, I have found it to be a great supplementary material.

I find that seeing patterns is not enough for me to learn a language... I need to understand why the patterns exist. So... don't be afraid to go looking for external sources that suit your needs!

November 30, 2015

I guess, to sum it up, the supportive text is simultaneously overly academic and incomplete. This makes trying to figure it out a little frustrating for me and probably will be partially or completely unhelpful to the average 'conversational language' student.

November 30, 2015

COOL!!! An example... that I... totally didn't understand (to be spoken will trailing off rapidly at the end.

If there is nothing after a consonant, the soft sign Ь is used to show the softness. In consonant clusters palatalization is predictable from the softness of the last consonant. We aren't teaching it here. These days the trend is to only "soften" the last consonant in most clusters, while a hundred years ago some clusters were palatalized even without any obvious reason.

To show you how it works, here is an example:

же́нщина = [жэнʲщиᵉна] стена́ = [стʲиᵉна] or [сʲтʲиᵉна]

November 30, 2015

Another example:

The owner is in the Genitive case (more on that later) while X is formally the subject.

In the text that followed the above statement, there was no more on that (genitive case). So...

November 30, 2015

I believe you'll find they mean 'later in the course'.

November 30, 2015

Yes I realise that NOW however I re-read several times as in the context of the notes I would have expected the later to be later in these notes.

December 1, 2015

Could you be more specific? There are over 70 skills in the tree. I do not remember what exactly I wrote in each of their Tips. I try to make the tips as short as possible, so I do not provide any examples if there is little need for them (for example, if the whole skill is one huge example).

November 30, 2015

I think of the help as being like a tour bus. The guide points out a few things along the way but is really just telling you the lay of the land, but if you really want to get a good knowledge of the territory you're going to have to come back a few more times.

The stuff that I don't understand right off I'm just skipping for now, but I fully intend to return. I think that Help is just totally wonderful but it's not really designed to overcome a lifetime of forgetting in just a few paragraphs here and there. As I said above, I'm just forging ahead and not worrying about the stuff that I don't get right now.

November 30, 2015

One thing that would be really helpful to add to the tips and notes for "Genitive 1" is that for positive examples, like "у меня есть..." the subject is in genitive while the object is in nominative, BUT for negative examples, like "у меня нет..." the object is also in genitive. There are exercises like this in that skill but "у меня нет..." isn't in the notes.

November 30, 2015

Didn't you read the tips to Genitive-1?

November 30, 2015

Yes, several times, and I re-read it before I posted the above comment. The only time it mentions not having something with "у меня нет“ is at the very bottom when there's the example "У меня ничего нет. = I don't have anything." It never mentions that the object is in genitive when the statement is negative, you have to figure it out yourself through the exercises.

Thank you for all your work on the course, and for reading my comment so quickly; I just wanted to add that that specific addition to the notes would be very helpful.

November 30, 2015

So, you skipped the section detailing the major uses of Genitive?


  • "inexistence", absence: У меня есть яблоко → У меня нет яблока
  • "of"-possession: яблоко мамы = mom's apple
  • "of"-amount: чашка чая, много чая = a cup of tea, a lot of tea

A huge number of prepositions requires this case. Yes, «у меня есть», «У неё есть» only use «меня» and «неё» because «у» wants Genitive.

For он, она and оно Genitive doubles as a non-changing possessive "his", "her", "their": его, её, их.

  • initial «н» is used for him/her/them with the majority of prepositions (doesn't affect possessives)

That's the reason I am skeptical about including "even more useful info". The tips are rather short, and yet it is impossible for a newbie to remember and comprehend all the information they have there—this only comes after you dived right into it, and then came back with more question that want answers.

November 30, 2015

Please understand that even while I am tired and start lecturing people about the importance of paying attention, I do good work still:). Does the section about Genitive of Negation stand out beter now (OK, I am cheating here, but only a bit),

I was just commenting on how adding more stuff sometimes makes Tips crowded. Everything in the supporting tips for the skill is immensely useful to understand the use of Genitive in Russian—but it may and does overshadow some material of immediate value for some learners.

Statistics would be helpful, though. Too few users state outright that they did not understand something, so I actually encourage you to keep doing so. Sorry if something I wrote here or in some other post got out too harsh..

November 30, 2015

The fact that I read the tips & notes pages more than once and missed the single bullet with "inexistence" suggests to me that it could be highlighted more, though of course keeping the tips short is a reason not to. I did read this section. I both read it before and after doing the skill. I don't think it's a bad thing that people might come back to the notes with questions after doing the skill; as you say, it's difficult to remember everything the first time.

My comment was made with good intentions; I made a specific request like you asked for above. I found this thread by searching the Russian discussion section for "genitive" to see if there was a thread that discussed the construction already, before making my suggestion, to reduce clutter. I was just trying to be helpful. The way you've responded makes me less likely to ask questions or make suggestions in the future.

November 30, 2015

Yes, that looks great! Thank you for taking the time to look at this; I know there's a lot that comes across your plate.

December 1, 2015

I don't think I have found this yet. Where in the Russian course is it?

December 1, 2015

@esalesky @Shady_arc

I have to give Shady_arc some credit here. From what I've seen thus far in Shady_arc's posts, he has been nothing but respectful. Trust me, compared to some moderators of some other languages (and I won't mention names), Shady_arc is a Prince of Courtesy. Truth be told, he and I had somewhat of a testy exchange even before the beta version was released, but he's proven to be a very worthy moderator and much more respectful than I had been anticipating.

I know that esalesky wrote:

The way you've responded makes me less likely to ask questions or make suggestions in the future.

and sometimes that is how we all feel when our statements or suggestions are not validated, but I am hoping you'll look back on this later and realize that Shady_arc's honest response actually had a positive impact on you in some way. In the meantime, I imagine your interest in learning Russian is genuine and that no matter how harsh someone's response may be, it never kills your curiosity or interest in learning foreign languages.

I often like to end my posts with a good Russian saying/proverb appropriate to the occasion. For this, I think this one fits:

Брань на во́роте не ви́снет.

January 24, 2016

Where can I find these tips?

December 1, 2015

Just found them :) I haven't reached that section, yet.

December 1, 2015

Thanks, Shady_arc. I will look for additional examples however my thoughts are encapsulated with the overly academic comment.

Who is the typically Duolingo user? A college/university learner who is competent with grammatical structure and terminology or a person who wants to learn an additional language for friendship, tourism, dating?

If it is the former then the current format is probably ok, If the latter, terms like genitive, nominative, prepositions, palatalized, etc, may be lost in distant memories of grammar lesson or perhaps not learned at all.

I did notice and agree with one of your later comments that too many tips can also be bad. In my case, because of the way the information is presented on my screen, I didn't notice that there were tips until several lessons in. Perhaps hyperlinking to earlier notes can help eg. for a review of hard and soft consonants and voicing please see notes at

Also it would be great, for example with plural, to have a wider range of nouns to pluralise. I have reviewed the lesson twice and don't feel I fully 'get it' and more variety might help.

Finally, I would like to add, that you and all the others are doing an amazing job. I have benefitted tremendously and feel I've learned a great deal. I have no idea how Duolingo rewards contributors. Especially if it is voluntary then you should be praised. It really is very impressive.

December 1, 2015

Just a short notice concerning grammar stuff. Differents grammatical terms are not colledge level material. They are elementary-school material and are taught to 9-year-olds (were taught in grade 1 when I was a kid but, apparently, isn't anymore).

Most of these are the reality of the Russsian language; you will have to know these concepts even if you do not know their names (which would just make it hard to refer to them in text). At least, Russian elementary schoolers do know them. The Nominative case of a noun does not stop being a thing no matter how you call it: the case of the canonical subject, the dictionary form or the "easy" case.

December 1, 2015

Hey Shady,

Thanks. I may have misunderstood and I am glad for your clarification. Never the less I would like you to know that in English, the tone of your last comments cause me to raise my brow a little.

It's difficult not think that you are being condescending and insulting when you refer to this knowledge as something a 9-year-old would know.

In your own words "Most of these are the reality of the Russsian(sic) language..." and "Verbal aspect is what matters in Russian much more than in English..." and " At least, Russian elementary schoolers do know them"

I consider myself well educated in English and I speak other languages, at least conversationally. I feel knowledgeable about English Grammar.

Let's be VERY clear, the term ‘Nominative case’ is NOT something typically taught to native speakers as part of early English Grammar education, at least not at the schools I attended in America. I suspect the term is not widely used in grammar lessons for any native English speakers. I further guess that some of these terms are likely only encountered in academic circles OR when necessarily part of learning some non-English languages. We do use ‘personal pronouns’ and in the case of Genitive, the ‘possessive’.

In my opinion, from a purely pedagogical point, to use a term in education, not clearly define it, and assume everyone knows or should know it is just a form of bad teaching or of arrogance, whether intentionally or unintentionally. If I am incorrect I am open to learning.

In either case, I don't want you to debase your good work by insulting people, even accidently.

In response to my earlier question, you responded, “Could you be more specific? There are over 70 skills in the tree. I do not remember what exactly I wrote in each of their Tips.”

I am asking you, teacher to teacher, to have the same level or concern for your students as you would for yourself. This IS confusing. I didn’t write out of ignorance but rather from frustration. This is a VERY good course, and it can be improved by recognising a paraphrased axiom 'Common knowledge, isn't"

December 1, 2015

These terms are not used in teaching English. Do you mean that we need an explanation of what a case is?

December 1, 2015

Strange, I thought I had answered. If I understand your question correctly, "should terms be defined and explained" yes.

If it is common across all/most languages (noun, verb, plural) then perhaps. If it likely to be unique to a particularly language, definitely.

December 2, 2015

OK, I think it works then.

December 2, 2015

Hey Shady, are you suggesting that everyone should know this?

December 1, 2015

Yes, pretty much. You can come up with your own names but there is little chance to somehow go around it. The only alternative way I see is to have a native speaker at your side and spend several years talking to each other, the native patiently correcting every mistake you make until your speech becomes less of a pain to listen to. Oh, and you'd better only use sentences 2-3 words long for the first 6 months (this stage is fairly long for little kids).

The only help I can provide is to make a post that covers the most basic terms (sort of, what 99% native speakers know, most of it by the age of 10).

December 1, 2015

For non-Russian speakers. Verbal aspect is what matters in Russian much more than in English, however, grammatical cases and traditional names for parts of speech will co,me in handy in many languages. So I do not feel any need to restrict my post to Russian.

December 1, 2015

I see. Are you preparing your notes for Russia speakers or non-Russian speakers?

December 1, 2015

I also want to refine my question. Are you suggesting that everyone should know this to learn Russian or are you suggesting that everyone should ALREADY know this?

December 1, 2015

I think one of the most important takeaways from this discussion is that it is really good to get used to the fact that few resources exist that are going to be the be all end all of your education.

Duolingo is one of many tools that you can use to advance your foreign language learning, but it is good, at any age or level of learning, to begin seeking out resources on your own as needed.

I'm not saying that duolingo is perfect or that users shouldn't continue to make suggestions, but we rarely use just one single source for our information. We use various dictionaries, encyclopedias, newspapers, and magazines. We don't ever expect any single one to be our sole source of information.

In the same way, I think it is somewhat unrealistic to expect duolingo to be all things to all people, especially when it is a free service! Trust me, I've made some suggestions in other duolingo languages that got shut down. I wasn't happy about it, but that's life. I may have grumbled about it to myself for a moment, but sooner rather than later, I decided to move on and not get wrapped around the axle about those aspects that would make the program better for me but are missing.

Though I applaud those who, with their suggestions, are trying to make duolingo even better than it is, it never hurts to learn to make the most of something as it currently exists and control what you can control. If you have a suggestion and it is later implemented, I guess that is what you would call gravy. In the meantime, the Russian duolingo course has a lot of пюре to chew on.

January 24, 2016
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