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Incubator volunteers, I've a question..

I've read the incubator requirements page and it mentioned dedication, I wanted to know what kind of commitment does it take? What's the process of building the course? what kind of linguistic knowledge should I have? Is it enough to be a native speaker? It would be great if the volunteers can share some insights about what they had to do to build the courses.

I really want to contribute to the Arabic courses but I'm not sure I've enough time or skills [I'm a native speaker but Arabic can be tricky even for native speakers]. The thing is I'm worried no one else would contribute to the Arabic courses and I would love to help if I can make my way through it.

To sum up: 1- What is Duolingo expecting from the incubator volunteers? 2- Any Arabs here willing to contribute to the Arabic courses?


January 2, 2014



I'm not an incubator contributor, but as far as I know, the volunteers are to translate the English course which consists of the same sentences for all the courses and the Duolingo interface. So, to do that, you have to understand all the English sentences perfectly (I don't think it is a problem for people who have enough command of English to participate in this discussion), and to be able to write a lot of different translations into your native language without mistakes. You should also be able to translate all the interface strings naturally and consistently.

After this is done and the course is released in beta, you'll have to look through all the reports sent by the users and add alternative translations.


What are interface strings?


Interface strings are all the text parts that are part of the website and not part of the lessons themselves. Like "Lesson practice", "Leaderboard", "Clothing", "Questions", "Find more friends on Facebook" etc.


Does that have anything to do with programming? Or is it just translating them to the target language? Thanks!


It would just be translating them to the target language. The way it works is like this: the software reads your account settings and determines your native or preferred language. Then it does something like "If English, use this set of sentences/labels; else if Spanish, use another set of sentences/labels; else if German...." That's not exactly the way it's done, but it's close enough for a high level explanation. So basically the program does just the one thing (paint the page), and it grabs the actual sentences, phrases, and labels to display from a file based on the user's preferences. So DuoLingo folks would take care of the programming, and the incubator folks would take care of the file that contains the translations. FYI, when a program does this, it's called "localization" because it's making the program "local" to the user's location. If the program changes, the programmers only have to change the one set of code and not multiple sets of code (one for every language supported). Everything stays nice and consistent that way. Pretty cool, huh?


Thank you very much! I'm a total noob, aren't I? :D


We've gotten too deeply nested for me to reply to your remark that you're a noob, S7D ;) but no, not at all. This stuff has nothing to do with learning languages, and everything to do with programming. I live in the programming world; most folks don't.


Thank you Olimo, sounds right.


I'm not in the know, but you're a native speaker and your English is perfect and I believe those were the only two requirements; if you think you would enjoy it you should apply right now. They reportedly received more than 20,000 applications for various languages, so the might have already made their mind up anyway, but they are rolling it out slowly and carefully.


The thing is I can't see Arabic anywhere in this page: http://incubator.duolingo.com/ I don't know if it means that they've it covered but not ready to start working on it yet, or if it simply means no volunteers were selected.


Duolingo actually has a lot of unlisted pages for future languages. Here's the Arabic one: http://incubator.duolingo.com/courses/en/ar/status You can access these pages by changing the two letter language code right after "en." For example, changing it to "hi" gives you English for Hindi speakers: http://incubator.duolingo.com/courses/en/hi/status

They're going slowly to test out the Incubator process and refine it. They're planning to add many more languages this year.


Wow, there's even one for Armenian (Hayeren), but it doesn't specify whether it's for Eastern Armenian (which is spoken in Armenia) or Western Armenian. http://incubator.duolingo.com/courses/en/hy/status Now, if my Mom had just taught me Western Armenian since she knew that before English or if I had actually learned Eastern Armenian when I was in Armenia, I'd be able to contribute to this! Maybe I'll let some English teachers in Armenia know about this.


Interesting, thanks for the link!


I doubt it's lack of interest as I've seen others asking about Arabic. There are many languages that are still not in the incubator, yet. Luis has said that they will be starting more and more languages. Please, submit an application for becoming a contributor to the incubator.


There are thousands of applications, so I think they haven't chosen the best contributors for every language yet, so it will be good if you submit.


I'm really looking forward to Arabic courses too, I'll certainly do them.


Really looking forward to doing Arabic courses! What's your dialect?


Egyptian :-)


Exactly the one I wish to learn! :)


Amgad, I think you could help and I bet many Arabs would be willing to contribute. It would be great to have an Arabic course on here.


Dedication means you should be able to work on the Incubator several hours a week. I can't honestly promise more than an hour or two a week, that's why I didn't apply for Czech -> English course yet.


Turkish moderator here.

You should write out a well thought out and detailed application. It can include (1) Why you care (2) How good you are at either of the languages (include any recognized scores, or abroad experience, going to school in a different language, or any spouses/relatives who enabled you to use a language extensively). (3) How much time you can devote

Among other things. You don't need to organize people in advance. There are lots of applications and you'll be one of the many who want to work on Arabic. They'll compare you to the other applications, looking into both ability and available time, and can award you with a moderatorship, OR the moderators may later on invite you as a contributor. Mods are the bosses who are ultimately the people responsible for the whole thing, and it's their job to train the contributors and check on their work. Mods shud be around every day for AT LEAST an hour or two, while the contributors are expected a bit less, like, several hours several days a week.

It's mostly short and simple enough sentences. However that doesn't mean it doesn't require a deep understanding of either language. Sometimes you end up having to think really hard about what's correct and what's not, which is made easier by being part of a team. No matter how well your language abilities may be, you end up having to figure out other things you didn't know existed. It is a unique duty and requires you to think, routinely do research and look things up, and be consistent.

Do NOT make any spelling mistakes on your application. Also don't forget that there are several ways to help: being a mod, contributor, beta-tester, discussion-forum monster, word-spreader. All will help. Good luck!


Thanks, that helped a lot!


I was wondering the same thing.


I think I can't add any important info to what has been said above .. but what I saw from the lately released courses is that there is no strict obligation and time limits .. the course may be finished in a month or two , or it may take six or more ..

anyway , I'm an Arabic native too and have sent the contribution request a while ago . I believe the English -- Arabic course will be published sooner or later .. hope it be during the next few months . and posts is the discussion forum tell that there is a good number of participants .. although the English -- Turkish course was made by only 4 members and in about 60 days only :D

now, the problem we will face is not the experience in Arabic .. we have dozens of resources for precise sentences .. but it will be the unification of the varieties between different arabic styles and tongues , for example :

the letter "ي" in the end of the word you in Egypt usually write it "ى" .. and so on . so we may have some arguments before building the course *_^


This is a rather interesting challenge, and whoever is selected for the course will have a lot on their hands. Personally, I believe that they first need to select a leader among the moderators, and decide on some rules and ways to handle disputes on translations, and also which version of Arabic they intend to follow.

I actually think that is the first step before they do anything at all, and also indicate to the Duolingo team which Arabic they are using, because when the bug reports start coming in, it will be one heck of a problem to judge what should or should not be included in the course.

Anyway, I'm sure the team is well aware of these challenges, and is either coming up with ways to tackle it, or consulting knowledgeable scholars to decide on the best course to take.


Yes, Arabic will be hard to tackle and it sure is going to have a big share of mistakes in the beta release. But if we managed to do it, it's going to be a first I think. I don't remember seeing something like that anywhere else.

Regarding the "ى" and the "ي" I heard an argument that there's no such thing as an Arabic word ending with "ي". You can check old scripts like Quran for example and you'll never find a word ending with the letter "ي". Didn't check though :-) Others say it's chosen based on pronunciation but I don't seem to find a reliable source that states that. But I think the volunteers should initially ignore these little details as they will complicate a language that's already complicated. They can accept answers that uses any of the letters since even Arabic speakers mix them all the times and they don't change the meaning of anything.

Maybe Duolingo will introduce advanced levels for hard courses and move that level of details to these courses.

Baby steps I guess :-)


I wonder how that would work, in terms of typing in the letters? In German I have buttons for umlauts so I don't need German keyboard input installed. For Arabic (or any non-European language) we would need to install the language and figure out the keyboard, or use a virtual keyboard or something...


If you're talking mobile you'll just go to your keyboard settings and download the Arabic language (usually supported). Also most keyboards support a simple switching mechanism between languages, usually you just long press a button and pick the language you want. The bad news though is that very few keyboards have that prediction or auto-correct option for Arabic, so you have to actually type/swipe the whole word correctly :-)

If you're talking PC/laptop, that would be tricky. You'll have to download Arabic keyboard for your machine but you'll also have to buy Arabic letters stickers to place on top of your keyboard. Maybe order it online? Don't know what people usually do about that.

I think the Arabic course will probably have an additional set of exercises, like a level 0 or something. To teach you the shapes of letters and getting used to writing from right to left, stuff like that.


hmmm , that's true what you said .. the course can have multiple options for each sentence or some rules can be clarified in the beginning of the course (like the usage of vocalization marks and so) . and for the course to be precise, we can depend on the publication of the Arabic Academy of Language (Cairo) or the different reliable lexicons (Mukhtar Al-Sahhah , Lisan Al-Arab ..etc) :-)


I'm really looking forward to an Arabic course, and if I were already bilingual I would contribute. Would the course be based on Modern Standard Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, or something else?

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