More emphasis on English>German direction please :)

Hi Duo! Firstly, thanks heaps for giving me a great tool to build up my German. It's proving to be excellent at impressing my girlfriend's mother.

However, my understanding of German is increasing much faster than my ability to speak it. I've realised that this is natural with language-learning (aside from those damn native-speakers always mumbling their words and using fancy vocabulary), but also in a large part due to Duolingo quite strongly emphasising the German>English translation direction during the normal exercises. My German-sentence-formation-muscles are weak and flabby!

I had hoped that this was just one step on a scale - that when you first started a lesson it had this bias to go easy on you, but then as you did subsequent revision (regolding?) it dialled up the challenge a bit by getting you to construct more sentences in German. However, it doesn't seem to do this.

I really like the fact that sometimes 'new' vocabulary and sentences are introduced during 'revision', but this is still often with the DE>EN bias. On the rare occasions I am exposed to a new German sentence I think "Ooh! Cool!" when I get it right. As a beginner, learning the ways of Duolingo, this was frustrating, but at the higher levels I can appreciate what's going on and want MORE of it! So even an optional setting would be gladly received.

Hopefully this feedback finds its way to the right place. Overall I find the forum rather opaque, so fingers crossed!

Danke, Viel Glück und Viel Spaß,


January 13, 2016


With a 99-day streak, I'm surprised that you haven't seen this feature requested before.

It is requested frequently. Probably at least once a week.

But the feature is not arriving.

One anecdotal explanation that is occasionally given is that too much translation into the target language (more difficult, as you say) scares off the less "dedicated" learners, which is considered bad.

People like you and I are perhaps in the top 5% of learners: people who are "into" languages and learn them for fun. For every vocal person posting in the forum to "make things more difficult", there are perhaps 100 people who use the app, don't even know about forums or tips-and-notes, and are less motivated to "chug on" through harder tasks.

The usual advice given to people who request more translation into the target language is to do a reverse tree - so, tackle the "English from German" tree. Under the assumption that there, 80% of the translations will be "into your native language" (i.e. into German now!) there as well.

Good luck!

January 13, 2016

    Well that's kind of what I mean about the "opacity" of the forum. I vaguely remember someone else pointing it out at some point, but for the life of me I can't find where that was to give them an upvote - maybe it was on one comment thread in an obscure lesson somewhere, downvoted out of existence because it isn't constructive to the discussion of forming the Perfekt, or maybe it was in the open forum, where I rarely venture as its post-ordering method is voodoo to me and lacks clear visual symbolism (compare with this forum for example), and it just generally loads slowly. But anyway, I searched (in that oversimplified single search box) for it using what I thought were sensible keywords and found nothing quickly. Opaque.

    I'm cognisant of the deterrent to newbies, but this is able to be overcome by 'triggering' the bias to shift after a certain number of repetitions, or a certain percentage of correct answers. It could shift back when that percentage changes, or after a time of no revision (it could be linked to the 'progress bar' that gradually shrinks when lessons go stale - a feature that already exists). So it'd only kick in when a user has demonstrated themselves to be acting like someone who is enjoying themselves (I think this describes me accurately), and it'd back off automatically (and quickly) if that proves to be a false assumption.

    Basically it seems a real shame to limit the effectiveness of the whole purpose of Duolingo for handwavy reasons. It's not asking for the construction of a WYSIWYG editor or integration with a real-time-translation video chat service or anything "hard". There's evidently a percentage set somewhere that determines the bias of the translation direction, and I daresay the existing question database is more 'two-way' than the current bias is (i.e. the current bias is probably not a result of the database being lopsided), so why not at least introduce a switch for users to control that in some way - even just between two presents would be excellent.

    Otherwise... yeah, reverse tree. But this will realistically lead to my spoken skills sucking (relatively) for a long time, as I don't want to start that tree until finishing the current one. While this is a personal decision, I feel that if I started that tree now I'd be a bit of a nuisance in the comments, asking questions with 'half-baked' German. If everyone took that advice, I feel that would certainly be the outcome. Yes, you could manually ask questions in the forum for the reverse tree... but then we're back to the laggy opaque forum problem again.

    (And I'm looking forward to tomorrow's triple-digit streak too!)

    January 13, 2016

    Yes, starting the reverse tree before you're reasonably competent in the forward one is generally not a good idea. It does presume, after all, that you are completely fluent in German (or whatever the base language is) and have a wide vocabulary.

    January 13, 2016

    The problem with this is that the reverse tree wont necessarily cover things learners find hard. They aren't as helpful as trees built for your native language would be.

    January 16, 2016

    You need to take a look at this discussion.

    It'll take awhile until you read the most important comments, but it's worth it. You'll see why they haven't changed it after 2 years...


    [...] 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!

    What Luis said.

    January 13, 2016

      I see no good reason in that thread that isn't already countered by my suggestions.

      On that point specifically, as someone said in that thread (and as I suggested): Make it optional. The response "but then where does it end???" given in that thread is not only fallacious, but countered by the present existence of other optional learning modes such as flashcards and timed revision.

      Nothing in that thread makes me think "Ah, yes, I can now say that if I were you I would also have done nothing about this".

      January 13, 2016

      I understand. We should not conform with that. Also he said that if you make that optional, Duolingo becomes more complex, but how about the formatting codes? Some are complex and their purpose is to make the discussion more fancy lol. Come on, we need better reasons to believe in him.

      January 13, 2016

        I don't mean that there should be an option on every question that says "nah, reverse this for me please". Both directions for translation already exist, and are currently presented randomly based on some algorithm that already exists. A modifier to that wouldn't even need to have a visible appearance on any page other than the one that has a switch to turn it on, like how you can currently turn off voice recognition questions if you want.

        January 13, 2016

        Yes, I thought it'd be like this, too. But Luis doesn't see like that :(

        Edit: I was just saying the same stuff he said, but I don't agree with that.

        January 13, 2016

        You obviously didn't see this thread and Luis's comment from five days ago:

        It seems promising. :)

        January 13, 2016

          Yeah, I'm not disagreeing with you - just continuing the discussion. Thanks for facilitating that :)

          January 13, 2016

          @amaslac I saw that thread before, but I didn't get excited. Actually I was going to tell az_p about it, but Liverpool x Arsenal didn't let me do that. I'm sorry :P

          Although I don't know if this is going to happen soon. I kinda don't trust them anymore about these things. But who knows? It'd be the best thing Duolingo ever made. I hope it works :)

          January 14, 2016


            @amaslac, Thanks for posting this link!

            Actually, I think maybe subconsciously seeing that at the time was what planted the seed in my mind... When I said I was trying to find a previous discussion again in the forum, that must have been what I was thinking of. So take this as an example of the forum's opacity, then :P

            Hooray for progress!

            January 13, 2016


            Recently started with Duolingo and German and already quite appreciating your comment :) I've tried to incorporate various "methods" to increase stickiness and efficiency, would appreciate any other ideas.

            Not looking at the text when German is pronounced; this completely transfers the focus to listening comprehension from being significantly supported by the text itself. Then, repeating out-loud, followed by English translation, then repeating the German sentence out-loud again, then looking at the German text. Once the session is over I would try and recall which English words were involved and their translation into German.

            BTW the grammar rules and notes - theoretically - seem to be really useful to know but I wrote theoretically as they are simply impossible for me to memorize...

            January 15, 2016


            I totally agree. This, and the lack of spoken German to written English translation is my biggest problem with duolingo.

            January 15, 2016


            I also please for an advanced option on this.

            I finished my English->German tree a long time ago, and then the reverse German->English tree as well. I have been at level 25 in German for months.

            Yet I still miss many of the English->German translation questions. I would love it if I saw nothing but English->German translation questions when I opened Duolingo. Instead, I spend a lot of time reviewing cat=Katze.

            From a programming point of view it would seem like such a simple thing to do, and we all know that there is a lot of programming genius behind Duolingo. Bitte! Bitte! Bitte!

            January 18, 2016


            This has basically already been said but a reverse tree is the best way to get EN>DE practice on Duolingo. I'm not sure what your German-speaking abilities are at but I started the reverse tree when I was about halfway through my German tree and I had no problem with it. When I reached a point on the reverse tree that was too difficult, I just stopped until I could "catch up" to that point on my regular tree, so to speak. For me, the reverse tree has helped reinforce basic skills more than any practice session on the regular tree. You can also completely forget the reverse tree and just jump into the EN>DE immersion section but I've found that extremely difficult. Whatever you decide, good luck!

            January 16, 2016


              Thanks for your comment, but I still don't think it's a satisfactory counter to my suggestion, for some reasons that I mentioned and others like the cumbersome process to switch back and forth between trees.

              Already for example the EN>DE tree has to deal with the challenge of non-native speakers of English trying to use it, and it often devolves into a discussion about the English rather than the German. If you already know English and just want to learn German efficiently this can be a hindrance. If the DE>EN tree was overwhelmed with people trying to learn German it would be a similar nuisance.

              January 16, 2016
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