Social integration between Spanish speakers learning English and English speakers learning Spanish
I don't know what that would actually look like but it seems like we have two large groups at hands, and they could be brought together to practice with each other. Some webcam/microphone feature maybe. Of course this also goes for the other languages.
I've been fiddling with the idea now for a day (well, almost) and I just can't get past this rational self-interested player. However you implement it, people will always want to practice more than speak their own language and it wouldn't be possible to force them. Is that the same problem you guys are running into?
I think Duolingo has created this unprecedented situation where you have these large groups of people who all want to learn each other's language. There has to be some way to exploit that.
Great work though. Quite extraordinary.
One feature of sites like livemocha is being able to correct people's attempts to write or speak in your language. What if people were given written or spoken sentences in their native language which they could correct for people learning that language? For that matter, maybe native speakers could help perfect learners' translations for a few points.
verbling.com does an excellent job with this. When you create your account you list your native language and what language(s) you are learning. Then when you click "get partner" they pair you with someone who is native in the language you are learning, and who wants to learn your native language. They put a timer on the screen under one language and you speak that language for five minutes, then they start a timer under the other language and you speak it for five minutes. You continue in five minute increments for as long as both parties want to continue. You can have voice chat only, or voice and camera. They also provide a texting area for sharing word spellings, URLs, and the like. Verbling does not do any language instruction, though. Verbling and Duolingo are quite complementary.
I also don't know what that would look like, but sounds nice. I would also add that you could include people fluent enough in English and Spanish to take the same roles. If such integration were to be implemented, I think you could sign up for any language, if you demonstrate to be fluent enough in it, through a test with a timer or something (the completion of the Duolingo branch tree would not be sufficient as it isn't demanding enough to attest fluency).
this would be a good feature, if your fluent in English or Spanish you could go to either a English speaker learning Spanish, or a Spanish learner learning English, you'd probably be able to help more people with the ability to go between them.
an addition to this idea, an instant message system like seen on livemocha.com, (good idea for communication, ❤❤❤❤❤❤ teaching of languages, duolingo > livemocha) where you can IM first, add voice or video based on if you have a web cam or if you don't want to use your webcam.
I really think a feature like this should look more like an online game. Say counterstrike for instance. At the beginning of each game it gives you the choice for which team you want to play and for each team you're being told how many people are already playing. Generally, people will split themselves half and half to have a good game. You could do this with an online speaking game. You pick whether you want to speak your own language or the one you're learning, then you're paired with someone who speaks the language you're trying to learn and picked the opposite option from yours (speak own language or practice). Then after 10 minutes or so, roles have to switched and everyone who's speaking their own language has to practice, and everyone practicing has to speak their own language. The only thing the system has to do is make sure for each game there's an equal amount of Spanish and English speakers (say 10/10 or 20/20, depending on how many active users the site averages).
Also: entrance to speaking games should be limited to people who have already achieved a certain level, to make sure that there is at least some degree of fluency, and a particular type of user that takes Duolingo seriously.
I think the key has to be simplicity, ease of use, and this way you only have to pick whether you want speak your own language or practice, and whichever one you'll choose, at the end of the round you'll have to do the opposite thing. This way you can easily practice speaking for half an hour and quit again.
I'm using the word "game" to describe something I'd imagine to be a room which contains 10 or 20 speakers on either side. Within this "game" a counter keeps track of time and after ten minutes the roles have to be reversed. I suppose within this system it's possible to have "games" in the normal sense of the word. Like, describing something without being able to use the actual word you're describing, guessing images. I really don't think any of that is really necessary though. People will always find something to talk about for 10 minutes. Especially if that person is from a completely different country.
Can some users gather to "play" online... very much as a role play (perhaps with less spells). I have to say this just crossed my mind but, if it is possible to gather certain amount of people under a chat room with a topic and certain assigned roles, there can be a lot of topics to be practised... it's an unpolished idea though
I have to agree that some way of using the fluency of a native speaker to help someone learn their language would be brilliant, intercambio like this is happening here in our tiny Spanish village with its ups and downs of course, a matching of abilities is always going to be difficult and it takes a tolerant person to try to converse with a complete beginner but surely there must be a way????