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I think Duolingo would be more productive if you translated from English to German.

As it stands (i.e, in most exercises, you translate from German to English), learning the conjugations of verbs in German is unnecessary. For example:

"Ich trinke Milch." translates to "I drink milk."

So you now know 'trinke' and its conjugations mean 'drink'. Using that, you can easily deduce:

"Du trinkst Milch." translates to "You drink milk."

The 'drink' in the second sentence comes from your knowledge of subject-verb agreement of English, not German.

On the other hand, if in the exercises, you have to translate from English to German, using the same logic:

"I drink milk." translates to "Ich trinke Milch." "You drink milk." translates to "Du trinke Milch." Which is wrong. Therefore, this method forces you to learn the forms of trinke to be correct.

Hence, I suggest reversing the translate exercises to English->German rather than the current German->English.

Edit: Same goes for 'Der/Die/Das' and 'eine/ein/einen'. You know they translate to 'the' and 'a/an' respectively but what do 'the' and 'a/an' translate to?

January 2, 2016



I agree. I write an awfully lot of English, sometimes it feels I'm practicing my English more than my German (not that it doesn't need practicing since it's not my native language either, but that's not what I'm here for). Understanding written German is the easy part for me, I want to practice how to write/express/compose it myself (and in the longer run speak it) but Duolingo doesn't give me enough of that practice. I will of course try out the reverse tree but I think it's very strange that it isn't implemented in the English - German course, it's such a big and important part of language learning!


If you want to have to translate more from your target language to English, you can try to start doing the reverse tree (in this case English from German) in parallel with the regular tree (German from English).


I find that the German -> English tree goes too much the opposite way. I actually feel like I spend more time translating into English than I should be anyway. That could be given the number of "Write this out into English" and "Fill in the blank" sentences, or there could be a distinct difference. It's hard to tell without studying it myself.

I agree in general with the OP's sentiment. My German reading ability is fantastic. I can read relatively complex books with some help from a dictionary. But my writing, listening and speaking are all atrocious in comparison.


I am Hungarian. From my original language, I can only learn English. No reverse course available yet. If I want to learn any other language, the only possibility for me to learn it from English, which is so tiring. I started to learn Italian from English 1 and a month ago, and I feel that there must be more translations from English to Italian. I thougt it will change when I learn more...


The reverse course in your case would be English from Italian, which will give you more translations from English to Italian as opposed to the Italian to English ones that you find in the Italian from English course.


I must correct myself: the Hungarian from Englih course is in Beta now...


Totally agree with that. I never fail to translate from German to English. And most of the time I find it boring to complete the test. It repeats itself several times and always is easy. That's why I find it boring. I was thinking maybe when I go deeper in skill tree, it would get more complex and fun. But reading your post and the comments here, I have less hope now.


Exactly my thoughts. The exercises get super boring sometimes and then comes an exercise where I'm supposed to translate to German and I never get the conjugations and whatnot right...


I need to make an update to what I wrote before. I had the microphone turned off when I wrote this comment. Because I didn't want to sound weird around people. Then I turned it on again to use that feature at home. Now that there are more speaking exercises, it repeats itself less often.


This is why I'm hesitant to recommend Duolingo to anyone. As for the translation problem, sadly I don't think this will be fixed no matter what we say, but it doesn't hurt to keep on saying it though.

For example, Luis said this two years ago:

The issue is that every time we try to give more recall exercises (where you translate from the language you know to the new language), people use the website less!


In essence, in my opinion, right now they're catering to the majority of people on here who use Duolingo as a fun game app and who quit at the first sign of difficulty, leaving the people who actually want to learn a language in the dark.

I don't think this attitude will change until the admins take a good hard look at themselves and decide if they want more and more users who do Duolingo just for fun, or if they want a smaller number of users who actually want to learn.

Edit: Put in an actual quote vs. what I recalled being said.


There's a possibly good solution to this: Have users be able to adjust how much of each translation direction they do (like Quizlet, but better!). Then we get to keep both the people who want it easy and the people who want it educational, and every mixture in between. We already get to control whether we have speaking / listening exercises, so I don't see any reason this wouldn't be OK and pretty easily implementable, though I'd be happy to hear people's thoughts and objections.


This would be ideal, but sadly Luis has said this:

We try to stay away from having such options. Almost every feature we test is liked by some people and not by others, and almost always we get asked "why don't you make it optional?" If we did this, there would be a menu with hundreds of options to chose from, making Duolingo quite confusing, and also very complex to maintain from an engineering point of view.


Also, I found the exact wording by him on why there's not many recall exercises. (Same thread. Edited my original post to include it because a quote is a lot better than what I recalled as the reason.)

This is not the issue. The issue is that every time we try to give more recall exercises (where you translate from the language you know to the new language), people use the website less!

Another reason why they seem to be hesitant on adding such options is probably because it might make their A/B tests more unreliable, and testing may be something they want to market more on the future (now that they're moving away from Immersion).

olimo suggested on that thread that maybe there could be more recall exercises given as you progress and Luis said "I agree with this, and it's something we have in our list of things we want to try.".

But that thread was made two years ago, so I don't know how things stand today. I still think that asking for more recall exercises as you progress is our best bet for having it happen though.


Well, having so few English to German translation tasks probably does make me use the site more, but only because I don't retain words as well if I only have to translate them into English, so then I practice more to make up for it. I would love it if Duo gave me more sentences to translate to German. But hey, it's free, I'll take what I can get.


This has been the single most frustrating thing for me about Duolingo. The potential of learning with this technology is incredible, and it's incomprehensible to me that they would reduce that potential for the sake of those who give up at the first sign of difficulty. Anyone who "uses the website less" because they have a hard time is not cut out for language learning, and will likely abandon it in time anyway. Meanwhile serious learners get an inferior product! What are they even trying to do by creating this website, then??


I've had a different experience. I have been using Duolingo since the summer of 2012, for four languages, so I am clearly not one of the people who give up at the first sign of difficulty. I am now returning back to the German tree, where new lessons were added, and reviewing as I go along. The German lessons have become easier for precisely the reason people on this thread are unhappy, that there is less translation from English into German. But I find I am more fluid this way, and look forward to when I feel comfortable enough to do a reverse German tree. I have been trying to learn languages since middle school, do not feel I have a lot of native ability, and I use Duolingo because of the easygoing way it helps me sit with a language. It is not a fun game for me. The closest thing I have found to Duolingo is having a private lesson conducted entirely in another language.


>>In essence, right now they're catering to the majority of people on here who use Duolingo as a fun game app and who quit at the first sign of difficulty, leaving the people who actually want to learn a language in the dark.

Isn't this self-destructive though? Duolingo doesn't have ads, it earns money by users translating news articles. If users don't complete a course, there will be nobody to translate.


It actually probably doesn't earn that much money from translating (which is why they're considering getting rid of immersion completely and they haven't been offering it to new courses for a while). What it does earn is mostly through funding I think:



This is exactly what I wanted to post. For me (and I think for the most people) it is more difficult to translate from mine primary language to the language I am learning.

As of now (when I am around the second checkpoint) I feel that I need to practice English to German translations much more then the duolingo offers.


They do ask in the other direction too. German -> English is more useful for learning how to read, where there isn't usually useful meaning in the various forms a word can take. And the sie ___en vs sie ___t does get caught in German -> English.


Learning a language may be based on totally different concepts. But one thing is common to all methods: in the end, your passive knowledge must be at least 5 times higher than your active knowledge. To speak fluently you have to form easy sentences. This will help to think in the foreign language. Very basic sentences need to have a basic linkage in your brain. It does not matter whether learning the grammatical structure first, or, learning the sentence completely as a piece of vocabulary first, and the grammar later. In the end it should result in embedding this sentence is so deeply in your brain, that you read this sentence and the picture comes into your mind without translating it.

So your understanding of the foreign language is always ahead of active usage. I think in this case Duolingo is not wrong with passive language training. Even if you think it has no effect at all, because its too easy, the effect can be enormous. For a solid linkage in the brain, repetition is important.

One other aspect is even more important. The left and the right side of the brain learn different. The left side is the one which asks for Grammar, structure and logic. The right side is non-verbal and works with feelings, emotions, context, pictures instead of words.

If you learn the foreign language with complete context think in pictures. Imagine how you drink the milk. You will learn the foreign language much faster.


That is a very valid point. However, I think that the website is very heavily weighted toward the passive learning experience. Many times I will only have a couple questions tagged on at the end in which I need to translate from English to German (which are basically repeats of sentences I had just seen), and sometimes there are no English to German sentences at all. If the potential is there to have both ways of learning, why not have the best of both worlds?


This has been my experience. Back when there was more English to German translation, it took me forever to complete a lesson because my endings of adjectives were wrong, my word order was wrong, etc. I know I must eventually not only get all that stuff right, but must also have it be second-nature. At this point, though, I WASN'T thinking in German and I was constantly referring to charts.

Now I am so happy that Duo uses one adjective case repeatedly until I do it without thinking, and I'm still thinking in German!


You have a great command of the English language, Hugo. I was most impressed by your post, and I share what you impart. Being left-handed, I suppose my right hemisphere is dominant. I do find that I learn German by listening, reading, and writing. Above all, listening. At times I find myself thinking in German, not deep thoughts but little things. More than anything, corrections from native speakers stay with me and I welcome them, for I do not dwell on the intricacies of grammar. But once a mistake is pointed out, I am not likely to repeat it. I'll end this by congratulating you on the eve of your 600 day streak!


Many, many thanks. I am not really sure about my English. I simply use it as my mother tongue when learning a further language the first time. Now I am doing parallel trees using Spanish as mother tongue for learning Italian and French. I am convinced, that language learning should use all senses. The 600 days streak is a heavy weight. Why don´t they allow me to buy 2 weeks vacation for 3000 lingots? I was forced to do my lessons even when travelling Japan.


isn't the lack of English to German translation the reason why people to the reverse tree? Those who want the extra challenge (or who fee ready for it) can just do the reverse tree.


Forcing users to find a workaround, such as using the site in a way that was designed for a completely different kind of user, is inefficient and should be unnecessary. While it may be a temporary solution now, having a website that works for the users in the most ideal way possible should very much be the goal.


fair enough. it would make sense to me that the mix of German to English and English to German should gradually become more balanced the further you get through the tree. Or, the initial completion of a skill could be more heavy on German to English and the re-gilding could be more 50-50.


If the subtlety of this approach could be incorporated, I might find it useful. But since any grammatical mistake in Duolingo makes the answer incorrect, it still does not approximate conversation. When I have spoken in another language, I've made grammatical mistakes all over the place, and people have managed to understand me.


You make an excellent point. Since Duo evidently rates one's fluency according to grammatical prowess, the FL is not only flawed, but misleading. I define fluency as the ability to make one's self understood in a language. If Duolingo standards were applied to many of my fellow native English speakers, they would fail miserably.


true, grammatical mistakes don't really hurt you much when speaking. Spelling mistakes don't count at all when speaking. However, both of these will result in Duolingo marking your answer as wrong because Duo is also working on getting your reading and writing skills stronger.


yes that makes sense to me SusM2. I am not a programmer or a developer but my guess is that this English <-> German Duo course is designed for people learning English for the first time as well as people learning German. Bi-directional if you will. While preparing to speak, I think of what i want to say in my mother-tongue (English) and then translate that to German. Your English -> German proposal would be beneficial. While reading German on the other hand, I need to be familiar with what the German words look like. Then may I translate the words to English. So a little German -> English wouldn't hurt.


This particular course is designed for English speakers learning German, it doesn't go both ways. However, there is an English for German course if that is what you are talking about.


This is a good point for sure. I sometime feel that I can parrot specific phrases, but am nervous about truly conversing.

A site that I have found, also free, that seems helpful is conjugemos.com (I went to https://conjuguemos.com/list.php?type=verbs=verbs=german). It should help with the issue of conjugation, even though the interface is not as fun as Duolingo.


Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Just tell yourself "I know more German than someone who never studied the language. Why should I be nervous?" I welcome having my mistakes corrected. I find that a correction makes enough of an imprint that I am not likely to forget it.

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