Duolingo is the most popular way to learn languages in the world. Best of all, it's 100% free!

https://www.duolingo.com/nattic91

Please Duo, you need to become more difficult

nattic91
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Dear staff and members,

This is not meant to be a rant, but rather a few suggestions to improve upon your (yes I know, it's free) service. I remember starting off with Duolingo. My first language was French. Back then they had hearts and I had to translate from English to French and French to English at a regular basis. Losing the lesson on the last question due to confusion between masculine and feminine words was beyond frustration. Suddenly, Duolingo decided to remove the heart system and suddenly it was just about learning until you more or less get it. Brilliant!

However, slowly Duolingo has moved to appeal to the broader masses. I have today made about the same progress as with my French tree in Italian, but I feel like my knowledge of Italian is much more basic. The reason is, at the moment I am getting maybe 1 or 2 translations from English to Italian. I can easily see a sentence and translate it, but the other way around is close to impossible. I remember that for the French tree, I had to constantly translate from English to French, making it much harder, but at the same time I felt like it strengthened my learning substantially.

I know, Duolingo is a free service. We should be thankful! Trust me, I am very very grateful that I can learn a language for free. This doesn't mean that I do not want to see the service improved. So I ask of those who are reading this, please do not comment on my lack of gratitude, but instead focus on the suggestions and see it for what it is, a user who really cares about Duolingo.

Thanks

EDIT: After reading some comments I recognize that my second suggestion was perhaps not the best and not so suitable for Duolingo. As such I removed the text to focus on what I think is the most important.

2 years ago

51 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/chilvence
chilvence
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When I was first thrown into the deep end in Spanish, having never studied it before and being stranded in Ecuador (with plenty of food and a place to stay mind, just no way to get home), I had no idea where to start, really when I arrived I think I knew how to say hello, goodbye and thank you, and I didn't even realise Spanish grammar worked in such a way. I had done French in school, so I guess I had a vague frame of reference, but what was supposed to be a flying visit turned into a few months, so I had to try and pick it up.

But looking back, the materials I was using were completely useless because they were loaded the same way with the same obsessive fascination with conjugations of verbs. Just looking at a list of conjugations and memorising them doesn't teach you anything about using them, it just makes Spanish look like a diabolically difficult language when it really, really is not, it just happens to be slightly different.

Really, if you want people to absorb it, you give them a small piece at a time and let them build up gradually, but strongly. The basic concepts are very straightforward, and there are many recurring patterns that you can pick up on if you are given half a chance. Trying to force it all in at once though is about as sensible as trying to force a fried breakfast, chicken sandwiches, steak and chips with a side of cake in your mouth at 8:00 AM, so that you don't have to worry about eating for the rest of the day. You know the old saying "in one ear, out the other..." . Well...

That is why Duolingo is easy. It is easy so you come back every day, and if you come back everyday, even if the exercises don't seem hard, it is keeping you active, and it is pleasant enough that it doesn't turn into a bore. Patience is everything.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr_Eyl
Mr_Eyl
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While using Duo, try going elsewhere to learn more advanced aspects of a language. It's never a good idea to learn from a single source.

Duo does what it does very well. There are other sites which do what you require just as well.

Also, many lessons for many languages on Duo do provide quite detailed grammar notes on their front page.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nattic91
nattic91
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Thank you for your reply Mr_Eyl!

I agree - But let me give you another way to view your argument. What if Duolingo did not have immersion. Imagine someone suggesting that we should add articles that people can translate and someone came and gave your reply "well, you can just go to other sources". Same goes with flashcards, there are plenty of other sites using flashcards, so why did Duolingo add it? The answer is simple, because it helps with learning.

In other words, why should Duolingo limit itself to one way of learning? We shouldn't brush of suggestions to improve the service just because Duolingo is already great. On the contrary, I believe that Luis and the rest of the staff are happy that we care and provide feedback on how Duolingo can become even greater.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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Relatively few of the languages taught actually have immersion or flashcards, JSYK, and immersion in particular doesn't look like it's going to be expanded to new languages any time soon.

I'd love to see new ways of learning on Duolingo, but only if they can be implemented well, especially considering Duolingo is a relatively small company which doesn't have unlimited staff and resources for expansion. Better to be good at a narrow but effective range (on Duolingo, that would be teaching core vocab and grammar in a user friendly way) than doing a lot of things moderately well, especially when a lot of those things are being done elsewhere and done well.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Susanna35
Susanna35
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I have never used the immersion. I have looked at it, and don't feel it's of that much value. And, for all that, it is still translating from the target language, which is a big part of the complaint. As to the question - why should Duolingo limit itself to one way of learning? One very good answer is RESOURCES. It already provides a lot - for free!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
scilling
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All Duolingo courses that have come from the incubator don’t have Immersion, so it’s not a hypothetical for a majority of the courses. (Duolingo won’t ever be adding an Immersion facility to those courses.)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nattic91
nattic91
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I do think my argument still stands - if it improves learning, why not?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr_Eyl
Mr_Eyl
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Duo has a mission to teach in a particular way, and to be good at it.

This discussion feels a little like going to a site for teaching basic math and asking why they don't have calculus yet.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nattic91
nattic91
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Let's agree to disagree. For instance, the grammar part was added later on after many users requested it. Again, people could have said "there are other sources", and there are, but I think it was a welcomed addition, in conjunction with the other tools available.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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^ this.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
scilling
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Duolingo won’t do everything theoretically possible to improve learning; they have a limited number of employees, so they have to prioritize the tasks of those employees. The task of increasing the difficulty of courses won’t be as attractive to potential learners as other tasks would be, e.g. introducing behind-the-scenes infrastructure features where necessary to support new courses.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr_Eyl
Mr_Eyl
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You say limited- I say focused.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Arnauti
Arnauti
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I really, really wish Duo would let us customize the rate of translation into the target language, and preferably also the strictness of the spellchecker (this would be very helpful to really teach me all those French accents, for instance). The default settings could be as they are now, so that one could only customize it to make it harder.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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I have no idea if it's doable, but I would love that.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/L.prJT
L.prJT
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That does indeed sound like a dream

3 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aBenChase

What about adding an option for reversing the flashcards? So users can choose either A -> B or B -> A studying?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo
mizinamo
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I'm not sure how useful it is to be able to rattle off "hablo hablas habla hablamos hablais hablan" or "aus bei mit nach seit von zu gegenüber" (prepositions that take the dative).

The goal in speaking is not to recite trivia but to form meaningful sentences - so ideally, Duo will produce sentences containing "I speak" and "we speak" and you will automatically put in the right form - without needing to go "hablo hablas habla...".

For example, many Germans learning English might be able to say "go, went, gone" as they learn English irregular verbs that way. But can English speakers do so? No, and they don't need to. They just use "go" and "went" and "gone" automatically as appropriate.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nattic91
nattic91
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Point taken! In a way I agree, having returned from Germany, I didn't really care about conjugating the verbs, and people still understood me and corrected me. Nevertheless, for me it was useful to recite them in order to make sure that I understood everything. I guess again, this returns to my point that if we get to translate more to the target language, conjugating verbs will become second-nature.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Delta1212
Delta1212
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I forgot all about the list of dative prepositions. I used to be able to rattle them off, and once you listed them I even recalled the rhythm and whatnot, but these days I mostly just know when I hit a dative preposition to use the dative without really being able to list them all if I think about it.

Although now that you've said this, I'm going to have "aus bei mit nach seit von zu" running through my head all day (I always dropped gegenüber as it really throws off the beat of the recitation).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
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I agree. I can recite the rules for Spanish verb conjugation, but I don't come out with the correct form when speaking any more often than I do with Dutch, which I never sat down and wrote rules out for. Memorizing lists of conjugations or verbs or prepositions is OK if you are writing and have tons of time to correct yourself, but when speaking you need to come out with it more quickly - and I think Duo is a great way to do just that.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/centime
centime
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"Losing the lesson on the last question due to..."

Those were painful learning experiences. I am glad that era is over. Now, the lessons are structured so that you will get through the lesson, it might just take a few more sentences to pass, but you will succeed. This is a much more pleasant and constructive learning experience. Perhaps you would be more pleased if Duolingo escalated the lesson to match the student's fluency, so advanced students would be properly challenged.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/varigby
varigby
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I agree with you. A "pleasant and constructive learning experience" might almost be a slogan for Duolingo! Keep it simple I say, so more people use Duolingo. If you increase the difficulty too much many will just give up.

The hardcore learners perhaps forget that 95% (at least) of Duolingo users never post on the forums at all. So, when people complain that Duo is too easy for them, they have to remember what a small minority they are, as part of the total number of users.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Susanna35
Susanna35
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That sounds sensible, but on the development side, I don't know how feasible it is. I realize that many people (I'm not singling anyone out, because I don't know who you are) have no idea what development of most computer procedures are. I'm not up-to-date on current computers, but I was a programmer for 25 years, and I know that many things that may appear quite simple to the user (I guess we're supposed to call them "clients" now, but I think in the case of Duo, "user" fits better) can require some rather complex programming.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Quattrostelle

Other users have suggested a "hard mode". I think this is the right way to go. As Luis has mentioned before, cluttering the website with many options is undesirable. But a simple switch that collects a variety of different (and more difficult) testing approaches (esp. translation) could be elegant and meet the demand.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aliceisfunny

It would be cool to be able to buy "increase difficulty" with lingots. This would mean more translations into the language that one is trying to learn, and maybe there could be a few difficulty levels. Lingots are pretty much useless after a while on the website, so it would feel good to have a new way to use them.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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The flashcard option to learn conjugation seems like something you can do quite easily on your own; finding conjugation charts online and learning them by heart is something you can do to supplement the way you learn on Duolingo.

I think it's also important to be aware that what works for one person may not work for the next - only a few days ago, I saw someone commenting that the course they had started was too hard, and it was basically because of the way Duolingo teaches, using full sentences etc.

It's good that Luis says they're developing stuff for these issues, but at the same time, Duolingo is just a tool, it isn't a complete learning solution. Some of the issues reported as 'problems' on Duolingo can be readily solved by a little independent learning.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nattic91
nattic91
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I edited that part out. After reading a lot of the comments, I agree. There are more important things to focus on. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
Dessamator
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Difficulty is relative.

I suspect a considerable number of users drop Duolingo after 3 or 4 skills. They may do this because it may be hard or they simply don't have sufficient interest in it. Personally, I think after an arbitrary point they should simply drop all translation based exercises, and focus on L2<->L2 practice drills. It would reduce the amount of work volunteers contributors need to do, and would be a far better test of proficiency.

The notion of translation in every single skill from start to end has always been something I found counter-intuitive.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
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I've had feedback from some of my adult ESL beginning students that the first levels of the Spanish course are too easy, and they're dropping the program because of that - and these are people who consider themselves beginners. Others find them fine. HOWEVER - lots of my beginners aren't really beginners, they just lack confidence in their skills. . I've started telling those who think it's too easy to try to test out at the last checkpoint, then study the skills that don't get gold. Not sure how you do L2 to L2 with this format - fill in the blank and listening exercises? Fill in the blank is a pretty low level exercise, and can actually be done without even understanding the meaning of a sentence if the desired verb is provided, as most fib exercises do.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
Dessamator
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Something like the Duolingo test center may work. They can use that format or something more like comprehension based exercises. One possibility is the use of their new "characters" to portray some meaning. For example, a 2 or 3 sentence paragraph describing two characters, an exercise in which you listen to a speaker asking for something (e.g. directions) and provide them the answer, or ordering food in a restaurant. In addition, answering something related to a passage you've just read. Writing whole paragraphs with the words provided and describing something being shown, or simply a seemingly abandoned conversations idea (https://www.duolingo.com/comment/1284363 ). The possibilities are endless.

Currently, it is possible to finish a whole Duolingo course and not know what you know. While someone who has been presented with 20 or more short stories or scenarios can clearly say, well, "While, I finished a duolingo tree and may not be fluent at least I can read and understand Aladdin, the three chinese brothers, ali baba, and also have a short conversations".

Duolingo A/B tests everything so I'm sure they can find the right exercises to make this work.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Quattrostelle

What do you mean "L2<->L2"?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MultiLinguAlex
MultiLinguAlex
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L2 is a linguistic term. L1 is your mother tongue, L2 your first foreign language, L3 your second foreign language a.s.o. I'm not sure what he exactly means with L2<->L2 in the context of Duolingo's exercises, though.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/bluhbla
bluhbla
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That's probably speaking in the language you're learning with someone who speaks that language

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nopitynope.

I wasn't here when it was different but I agree. I'm learning German and there are like a million different words for the and eat (plus different variations) and that's probably because it's masculine and feminine. A better learning system would be very nice. I agree with the different variations and teaching that a little more. Also, if you have the timed practice they have hearts there.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/akka13722

The words for 'the' (die, der, das, den, dem, des) as you said are to do with gender (and case but you may not be up to that yet looking at your level). For different words for eat do you mean esse, isst, essen, esst etc. or essen versus frissen? I also agree that when the contributors get around to it, it would be nice to have trees extended for languages. An idea that I just had right now but understandably may be hard to do, would be to have more grammar exercises but that would probably just be a side thing, and not everyone would use it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luis
LuisPlus
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We're working exactly on this!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Hohenems
Hohenems
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This is the first time I have seen staff respond to something in a long time (maybe I've just been missing it).

Thanks for speaking up Luis.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MultiLinguAlex
MultiLinguAlex
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They do respond relatively regularly, but in certain forums and it depends where they currently put their focus on. There are regular posts or answers in the education forum for example. But you are right, the amount of their responses in the general English forum seem to have been decreased. It's great that he answered here, though =)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IamBrazilian
IamBrazilian
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We should take a look at this discussion. It's important to understand why they haven't solved this little problem. Luis answered some questions.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nattic91
nattic91
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Hi Luis,

Thanks for your reply! That is amazing news! I am honored by the time you take to reply to the community. Could I ask, what is it exactly you are referring to in my post? Will you allow users to choose difficulty? Will it change over time? Will it be harder once the tree is completed? Also, is there a time frame for this and will it be communicated to the rest of the users? Like Mavry wrote above, it has been mentioned a while ago that this is in the works, but when can it be expected?

Yours sincerely,

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/oskalingo
oskalingo
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I've been here quite a while and when I started it was too difficult to advance past the middle of the tree. There were people who were fluent in French who struggled to complete the tree because of the heart system and because for more complex sentences duolingo was still quite limited in which answers it accepted. Some of the sentences were also weird or just incorrect. As a complete beginner in a language, while you may have made some progress through the first few skills and into the middle of the tree it was very unlikely you would finish it.

Duolingo obviously realised that very few people were completing trees and worked to fix that. They removed the heart system. They added people to language teams to help add more answers and correct errors. They introduced the tree revision system so the overall tree could be improved. And they reduced the number of questions that ask you to translate into the target language. As a result I think they are now seeing a significantly increased percentage of people completing their trees, including people who had no exposure to the language before. I have certainly noticed a lot more “I've finished my French tree!” posts in the French forum over the past year.

So people are now finishing their trees but also wanting to stick around on duolingo to improve in their chosen language further. And particularly improve their ability to produce the target language. Duolingo realises this and, as per Luis' answer, are now working on making this possible. But I would guess at the same time they are focusing on not making the course too hard again and thus losing new users. It will be interesting to see how they accomplish this.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
Klgregonis
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Thanks Luis. Love this site, and recommend it to my ESL students. I'd love to see the difficulty level, even on the more basic lessons, increase as I either get farther down the tree, or finish it. Even just more translation to target would be nice, since that's what most of us struggle with. But I've gotten the grammar for the languages I'm working on down better with this system than any other I've tried, And my students who actually use it progress much faster than those who don't.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BonBonChat
BonBonChat
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maybe add more fun material to stick ? :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Susanna35
Susanna35
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I've found that if you refresh a lesson, and get most of it right, if you refresh it again, you will get new questions, and I think more difficult - until, I suppose, you run out of all the questions available for that skill. You might find that worth a try.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duolinguit1

I think that Duolingo should have us do more speaking, and less typing.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Susanna35
Susanna35
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Not practical for everyone. I don't have the capability of speaking, and I don't trust an electronic "judge" - especially having heard some of the comments about it. I don't even use the audio any more, because too often I couldn't understand the sounds. Sometimes I would type something (even knowing pretty much how to pronounce the words), and it would be wrong, but the "correct" answer would be a total surprise. Other times, I would just give up and skip, after listening many times, even in "turtle" mode.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MultiLinguAlex
MultiLinguAlex
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A new conversation feature is being developed and will be launched in 2016.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/abbylewiss

agreeeeeeeed girl

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duolinguit1

Totally!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RaulCamposN

Eu também já terminei a árvore (não nesta conta) e ficaria muito feliz se fosse criado um novo módulo levemente mais avançado com palavras novas.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EYF2003
EYF2003
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i remember the heart system!

2 years ago