Improving learning of Gender & Case
After a 35+ year break from high school German, I am moving through the German tree quite well but am challenged (as are many native English speaking learners of German) by noun "gender" and the four cases, especially when it comes to prepositions.
I've noticed that the Duolingo German tree does not strongly stress the gender of nouns when first introduced as much as other online courses (in particular Memrise, but there are others) and this becomes a growing challenge as the more complex and subtle rules of grammar come into play later on. To someone like me who was born hearing only "A, An, The" for articles, drilling the gender of the noun is equally important as the meaning of the noun - and I'd argue MORE important as you get into the the four German cases and how noun gender affects definite articles, indefinite articles and prepositions. Grammar rules surrounding dative case and so on are something you can work out from sentence structure and generalized rules around subject and object, but noun gender just needs to be memorized, plain and simple.
Here is a suggestion that is only practical with online learning tools, not printed materials.
Offer a color code mode for gendered nouns.
For example, red for masculine, green for feminine and blue for neuter. We can leave plural as black. Thus, every time I see "Apfel" it will be in (or highlighted) red, and I'll know that it is a masculine noun, and when I'm trying to get the case rules for definite articles such as Der, Dem, Den, Des worked out, at least I'll have the signal that I should be thinking about if the special rules that a male gendered noun apply. This could be a setting that you can turn on or off as you get stronger on word gender.
I believe that this same underlying need exists in other languages with noun genders. I am well aware that this is a major undertaking in terms of underlying software architecture, however, it also would represent a strong marketplace differentiation and an important improvement to the learning experience.
Yes, this would indeed be very, very VERY helpful when picking up new vocabulary. At least languages like French and Spanish have some patterns that work for the most part. German is at least a little harder.
The one big problem is that people with synesthesia will not enjoy this (I'm one of them). Many of us will see a colour when we hear or see a word, so putting colours on the words would be very stressful, and stop us from learning vocabulary quickly. As well as that, you shouldn't use a crutch while learning a language because it won't be there when you actually need it (speaking), and when you use genders incorrectly, people try to speak English to you. There are some rules for gender though, which you can find by looking them up.
It's proposed as an option - and can be turned off. As far as "using a crutch" - I'm 50 years old and I'll use whatever it takes to make this work :)
I can speak enough German to get through a short trip, but I want to get back to at least where I was at the end of High School.
There are no "universal" rules for gender. I looked it up. There are general guidelines, but there's no real reason Die Lampe and Das Glas are feminine and neuter, and every guide is full of exceptions, special cases and so on.
Until I firmly pair the gender and the noun, I need reminders. Eventually, I'll know that "Das Leute" is wrong - because it won't sound right. But right now, it's as valid as any other article, and so I am struggling to get the lessons of when to use different articles in different cases because all the nouns have not yet "locked" into their correct gender. Repetition helps, but concurrent reinforcement is, at least for me, needed.
Das Leute is actually wrong for a whole different reason: it has only the plural form; "die" here doesn't mark it as feminine, but rather as plural. I hope that helps.