Is Duolingo encouraging the wrong mindset?
Hi, wie gehts?
I am from Argentina and I started learning German this year at the local Goethe Institute in Buenos Aires. Right now, as of yesterday, I finished my double extensive A2 course.
While doing the course, I found something extremely annoying: The fact, that distance between English and German was less than that of between German and Spanish, made me think first in Spanish, then English and then German.
Of course, the result was extremely funny. Akin to grabbing a sentence in google translator and "taking it out" through multiple languages, seeing at the last language what non-sense you ended up. And extremely annoying when trying to properly express myself. (Somehow, I got 24.5/25 in Sprechen A1, but 12/25 Schreiben A1)
However, something that I thought while doing the course, also happened to pop up here while doing the GER-ENG translations: Shouldn't we try to "move around" only in German, leaving aside specific vocabulary translations, rather than doing GER<->ENG translations? This is due, because, a non-native German speaker, will be encouraged to think first in his language, then "convert" it to German.
For starting Spanish speakers, it can become hell when it comes down to Direct Objects and Indirect objects (Some phrases with "Te/Le" in Spanish aren't "Dich/Sich". And some phrases with "Para ti/el" aren't "dir/ihm" in Deutsch)
The Goethe teachers encourage us strongly to think purely in German, going so far as to describe the idea that words convey, in German, rather than in Spanish.
Wouldn't it be better, if instead of having translation exercises, we had exercises which showed us 4 or 3 sentences, arranged in dfferent ways, but only 1 with mistakes, asking us to identify it, so as to encourage proper grammar and so as to showcase multiple ways one can express the same idea?
I am sure there may be many other different exercises to encourage this kind of method.
What do you say? nay or yay?
By the way, I got to thank the duolingo creators because this is an amazing tool to get jump started into a language. And if you already know the grammar, it's incredible how it can expand your vocabulary.
EDIT: hey, we could take some exercises from those done in English Cambridge Tests (I've got a lot of mock tests where we can draw ideas from, and tomorrow I'm sitting for the A2 Deutsch, so I could bring something from Schreiben and Lesen)
EDIT2: I sat for the A2 exam today, and somehow the Horen, Lesen and Schreiben were utterly einfach (Sorry, keine umlaut in meinem keyboard)
And the exercises we were given -that could be applied here-, were:
For Schreiben: -Read a list giving out info about someone and then fill in a formular requesting specific information.
For Lesen: -There is a list showing the location of stores inside a shopping, by floor, and then we are asked to find the floor when we need to "Cut our hair/Repair the TV/Change currency/etc". -We are shown a text describing a situation and then we must answer 8 questions, e/o with 3 possible answers. -A list of people wanting something specific and a list of newspapers advices. We must pair each other, but one won't have what is being looked for.
These are of course waaay more advanced than the exercises given out here.
But as people below have said. Duolingo could include it for advanced stages, or as a way to validate one's knowledge even better.
Most of the questions go from the language you are trying to learn to your native language. Because of this, many people, because of concerns like yours, choose to do a "reverse tree". That is, they sign up the learn their native language from the language they are trying to learn. In addition to other vocabulary, the majority of the questions will now require you to submit answers in the language you are trying to learn. Try signing up for the English for German speaker's course and see if you feel better about it. But you may have outgrown Duolingo, which is aimed towards beginners.
That is not what is meant, but a full immersion course with nothing but the language you are learning is a useful tool, only if you have enough visual aids to go with it and I still think it is helpful to have the explanations in a language that you understand at first. Intermediate level can do full immersion, I use dictionaries that explain in my target language as well as dictionaries that translate. It is great fun to get the Wikipedia for the language you are learning to look things up in the encyclopedia. My mind does group similar languages together. This wing is for Romance languages and that wing is for Germanic languages, and I am opening a new wing for Slavic languages, each language has its own room though and I like to learn each language from as many of the others as possible to further solidify them and differentiate any similarities. You are talking about an intermediary stage, because once you spend enough time on the language, you will be thinking in that language and switching to another rather than just translating. Visual dictionaries are extremely helpful when you can get a hold of them.
He also suggested a "select the INcorrect answer" type of question, which I think is a good idea. He could also try to learn Spanish for German or German from Spanish to avoid English.
Thing is I can't avoid English. It also happened to everyone in the course who already had a knowledge in English. Sometimes we used English words while speaking German without noticing it.
It's like, automatic.
EDIT: And, so as I can't avoid English in that sense, I just chose to go along with it (Plus, let's say, it's obvious for me that the ENG GER course will be more fully developed and with more contributions than the SPA GER course)
I think this is very common when learning a third language. The second language will bleed over - as you say, automatically.
Perhaps the brain divides into, for example, "thinking in your first language" and "not thinking in your first language" - so when you're learning multiple non-native languages, they sometimes blur together.
Absolutely, I do this with French in my German. The more I speak German, the more I am able to differentiate between German and French.
It would be great if Duolingo continued teaching beyond a beginner level, but I think their focus is on beginners.
Oh that's a nice idea actually, going from German to English. I didn't think about it. Guess I'll have to try it out!!
Good luck! I'm in a Goethe A2 class now as well, after completing the Duolingo tree, and am glad that I am learning from both. I think it's tough to design an immersive course programmatically for a platform like Duolingo-- its format is better suited for developing muscle memory. To that end, I agree with other users that there are some things they could do to improve on that approach-- for example, having vocabulary drills that test purely whether you know the correct gender of a given noun, by associating it with the correct in/definite article. Duolingo has these exercises, but it'd be nice to have a way to run them for all nouns in the database, with the ability to contribute new ones.
You raise an important point. Many experts suggest that "translating in your head" slows one's progress. And of course, when each of us learned our native languages, we didn't translate from some other language. Rosetta stone uses this approach where there is only pictures and the language being learned. This makes the course larger because sometimes many pictures are required to get a certain point across. I have Rosetta stone for learning Russian, and I found that the meaning of certain concepts escaped me until I did them in Duolingo. These days I use both.
There is also research to suggest translating helps foreign language learning. This is an article that argues for bilingualism rather than monolingo immersion: http://www.fremdsprachendidaktik.rwth-aachen.de/Ww/programmatisches/pachl.html
Thanks for that interesting link. Empirically, we see a rapid fall off in language learning ability after about age 7. Chomsky has postulated a "language acquisition device" by which we learn our first language. One speculation might be that languages learned later in life are learned in a fundamentally different way than the first and might support an approach as this link discusses.
I'm glad you found the link interesting.
As far as I can tell learning a first language must be different from learning a second as a baby must learn the concepts associated with words are e.g. what 'car' is and how it differs from 'duck' whereas a second language learner knows what a car is and just needs the label in the new language. There are some cases of untranslatable words but they (at least between European languages) are rare.
Here is a paper that looks a how babies distinguish objects and its relavence to language learning (sorry its a bit heavy): https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t=web=j=http://babylab.berkeley.edu/Xu(1999).pdf=0ahUKEwiA7a_ZvMjJAhUIpnIKHcrHDmwQFggxMAg=AFQjCNEpXnZZHpiyKIsrlMw8VzVNVpbR5g=x4iEYxRmoSSO9PaP27f8lg
We used to play Tabu in French, as our teacher wanted us to describe somethein asap without thinking too much and avoiding the translation trap. We had a lot of fun and it worked though :'D Going to France with just 6 months of class in advance, we were able to pick up super much along the way, my guest mother would ask something and then we just repeated it. Or you're seeing something and can repeat it afterwards.
But in general I don't think that children are just learning with pictures, they'er mostly just copying, even though not translating directly. They're also definitely needing steady grammar correction when they start speaking too. Children are pretty clever and usually get when one person always says "enjoy your meal" and another other person always "smacznego" when they're getting their meal. They're, like we were in France, all the time surrounded by a language and pick it up on the way.
I think it might be a good idea, when the time comes for Duolingo to add an intermediate tree to its languages, that such a tree include instruction entirely in the target language, as you've suggested. The exercises could then be structured not around translation but comprehension (read a text, answer questions), grammar/syntax (the exercise you suggested) and vocab (fill in the missing word). Sort of like DL's certificate tests.
If your problem is the strange mix you get from the three languages, why not do the direct course rather than the from English course? I am an English speaker but found the German from Spanish course very good at letting me move straight between the two, gaining understanding rather than having to translate to English first. And I learned things about the grammer of both languages by doing this. Why choose the English course? The courses that do not involve English are not second class!
You seem to want duolingo to be something completely different form what it is, when what it is is extremely good already. I love that it is text based. The only image I need is the word, without seeing the word I can't remember the sound. A picture wouldn't work for me. There are other resources for people who want images. Or paragraphs etc.
Yes I believe you're right - Duolingo is definitely not the only way or the best way to learn a language - but it is a good way for beginners to get started!
This is why I think it's a great idea to use flashcards with your target language and use an image only (no English!). Switch the language option in Google Images to German (to get more German oriented images) and search for something that resonates with you. I use Anki for my flashcards, but Memrise is good as well. But of course, some learners learn differently. Another idea is to use a monolingual dictionary (but it's slow at first!).
As I understand it, Duolingo's original goal was to translate the internet - not to make you a fluent speaker. I'm not sure how that's changed with time.
BTW, those ideas are from Gabriel Wyner author of "Fluent Forever".
I remember trying to avoid incorrect answers as a teacher. There was something about a student seeing an incorrect answer in print that made him or her think it right.
Memrise has a problem that it really only works in one direction, as it you get an english word, then translate it to german, and then write it down. Due to this I can quickly recall the german word when I think in english, BUT when I hear or see that same word in German I can't think of the english word.
It would be awesome if there was a memrise course that would teach german from german eg:
"Dieses Essen ist suß, braun und lecker" translates to "die Schokolade". Maybe this has already been done. If so, please provide a link!
I agree with you generally on Memrise, in that it helps you recall the German word when seeing the English far more easily than the reverse.
However, I have noticed that doing the Memrise courses has made it possible for me to pick out and understand the Memrise vocabulary when I'm reading a book or news article in German as there are generally context clues to help jog my memory, and then reading the words in German without the English prompt helps cement my understanding.
So I see Memrise less as a tool for learning directly and more as a strong learning aid to help support reading in German.
Even in English, I've never really liked drilling vocabulary lists. You need to see a word in context a couple of times to really get a feel for how it is used, because otherwise you tend fall prey to 'thesaurus speech' where you know the definition or approximate synonyms of a word and try to use it in place of said synonyms even though it doesn't really fit there.
I always prefer to see words used in context when I'm learning them, which is actually one of the big things I do really like about Duolingo.
I would think that doing things like increasing the amount of German you read, watched, and listened to would really help here.
Curously.... I found many shortcuts between Portuguese and German that don't come anywhere near English, especially regarding grammar rules. (I bet Spanish has those too)
About thinking in German. Yes, that's absolutely right. Not only German, but any language. You must stop thinking in whatever language you used to learn it, even your mother language.
But you won't be able to do that unless you start immersing yourself.
About the proposed exercises.... I'm not sure they are good for starting. One must be really used to language and very strong in grammar to identify mistakes in a different language. And those kind of exercises would sound to me really really boring.
Perhaps in a second stage, these might be interesting, but for learning, it sounds too heavy.
You're spot on with what you are saying. Constantly converting from one language to another doesn't work very well in the real world.
I found that I couldn't start to have proper conversations in german until I had the "light bulb moment" that I just have to forget about english and just think things through in german. From that point onwards I improved my speaking skills out of sight.
And yes language courses are excellent when they are purely taught in the target language. One of my teachers can't even speak english. I think such a course online would be difficult to create but I believe it would be much more effective if it can be done.
I'm thinking it's a little too much to ask for a free course. Besides, I think most people need to learn to translate before they learn to think in the target language. And to truly immerse yourself in the language, I think you need have people around you who know the language and speak it well - not just an internet interaction.
Translating does help us to understand the other language, and, eventually, if you keep at it and are serious, you will eventually find yourself thinking in the other language. But I would suggest for an intemediate course, translating short paragraphs or even very short stories (links are often given here to children's stories, and I think they are excellent resources) helps you get into context, impossible with individual sentences. I realize the confusion between languages can be a nuisance, especially if you switch back and forth. When I've been doing German for a while, and switch back to Italian, I usually have to think for a while before I can remember the Italian words, and vice versa. Although I am less likely to have the problems with the German because I studied it rather intensely many years ago.
Immersion is definitely where you want to get in the end, but I think it is important to get a feel for the language in the beginning. Duo is intended for beginners and is more comfortable with the translation. Then you can move on to Memrise and live immersion courses. I find immersion to be uncomfortable for a complete beginner with a lot of time being wasted trying to figure out the translation in your mind. I've had many people tell me they don't like learning from an English teacher who can't speak their own language and have heard that full immersion actually slows your progress in the beginning. For example, there is an English school in Vancouver, Canada and it also has a sister school in Guadalajara, Mexico. The students in Mexico progress faster in English than the students in Vancouver because the teachers in Mexico are bilingual in Spanish and English (these teachers would be translating for their students). The teachers in Vancouver have to teach only in English because their students come from many different countries.
I think it is a good idea to try material with only German text and sound!
In French I tried full immersion for a month (staying with a French family and going to summer school) when I had only beginner's level, so it is possible to study only in the target language from the start. We got a French grammar book aimed at pupils aged 7 to 10 and it was difficult enough for an adult foreign student!
I think you have some good ideas. But do they fit the Duolingo format? Try supplementing with material from the Deutsche Welle website if you want more course material in German, I tried a little of it (B1 level mostly) and it is useful.
it would be good to have exercises that are based on finding mistakes, then write out the correct way in the target language. I think that would be best to focus on later in the tree or even a separate more advanced tree where hovering over to see translations would show a picture instead or you would have to pay a lingot to see the english word.
eh, once, only once I got D in german test....when we got ,,find the mistake" test.........and one semester we had english right before german in our timetable.....very few mistakes were made (i count in my advanced english+begginer german class group).......so, you cannot effectively switch between languages, I cannot find mistake and learn grammar that way.....and neither of this is Duo´s fault.....
You were learning at the same time English.....the case which I speak about, is when you already know very well English.
You must remember, Spanish comes from Latin, English come from Latin AND German, making it intermediate to both languages. So it is natural that you find English "a go between" until you know enough to start to think in German.