Could the fadas be made easier to read?
Aging eyes have trouble picking up these little marks, well enough to distinguish from the dots over the i's, for example. Could they be made more prominent for learning purposes? A bit larger, or a different color? Increasing the font helps some, but not a lot.
I seems like a major oversight for a project that is so focused on using text to teach foreign languages to choose a font that underplays diacritics, though I suppose it's more of an issue for Irish, which uses a diacritic over a letter that has a dot in English, than it is for other languages.
Unfortunately, this is a case where form wins out over function, and the Duolingo graphic staff aren't likely to modify the look and feel of the app and the website for the sake of the Irish course.
(And bad and all as it is on a PC or tablet, on some phones it's practically impossible to distinguish!)
There are some workarounds, though. You can usually tell your browser to ignore website-specified specified fonts, and just use the default fonts specified in the browser - here's what you'd get in Firefox if you set Comic Sans as the default sans-serif font, and uncheck the "allow websites to choose their own fonts" box. (I think you can do this in IE and in Chrome, but I can't see how to do it in Edge). There should also be plugins for Chrome and Firefox that might give you more control, but I don't have any recommendations. I don't think you can do it with apps on a phone/tablet.
To avoid a blanket typeface replacement for all Web pages, I’ve made a browser user style workaround that applies only to Web pages at Duolingo. To make use of it, one needs to first install the Stylus or Stylish browser add-on in either Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Safari, or the Tampermonkey browser add-on for Edge; once Stylish or Tampermonkey has been installed (and the browser has been restarted, if necessary), the Replace Museo Sans Rounded on Duolingo user style can be installed, which will substitute locally installed typefaces of one’s choice for Museo Sans Rounded only for Duolingo pages. The default replacement typefaces are from the Verdana family, but those can be changed in the “Replacement typeface” text boxes there before installing or updating the user style. No checking is done to see if the replacement typefaces are actually present on a device before installing the user style, so be sure of the typefaces’ names when typing them in!
EDIT #1: The user style has been updated to accommodate separate typeface names for bold, book, and light font weights (as well as their italic counterparts) for better rendering of forum discussions.
EDIT #2: Support for Edge has been added through its Tampermonkey browser add-on.
That looks handy.
I just picked Comic Sans MS because I knew that I'd be able to recognize it when it showed up, but it actually works pretty well for this purpose - the fadas are much more distinct, so unless you have particularly strong opinions about your fonts, you don't need hunt around for one that works, at least on Windows.
I just did a little bit of experimentation with IE11 and Microsoft Edge. If you hit F12 to pull up the developer tools, and scroll down about 15 lines in the "Styles" box on the right, you'll see a line that says
500 15px/20px "museo-sans-rounded",sans-serif
If you just uncheck the box at the beginning of line, the page will switch to the default font, which is slightly better for distinguishing fadas, or if you click on the font name you can change it to
500 15px/20px Comic Sans MS,sans-serif
(just the font name, you don't need the quotes).
That overrides the current stylesheet. You can now close the Developer Tools window, and any Duolingo links that you follow within that window will use that font (the style-sheet is cached, so once you modify it, it stays modified, unless you refresh the page, or right-click a link and open it in another tab).
I’m glad that Internet Explorer users have an option too! One of Duolingo’s CSS files specifies four different font weights for Museo Sans Rounded, viz 100, 300, 500, and 700. I don’t know if all of them are used, though, so if Internet Explorer’s developer tools show other “museo-sans-rounded” lines with those font weights, those lines should be updated too.
The Developer Tools approach is temporary, you have to make the changes every time you open the site, so it's probably not worth chasing down every single reference. If there was a way to apply a permanent style sheet over-ride to just Duolingo.com, then it would be worth making sure that all the references were fixed.
(There probably is a way to hook into the Domain Explorer to make this type of change semi-permanent, but I haven't come across it).
There’s a SourceForge project called TrixIE WPF4.5 that seems to be a rewritten clone of an older program called Trix; apparently it’s sort of a Greasemonkey-ish program for use with Internet Explorer. I haven’t used it, so I don’t know how easily CSS replacement could be done with it.
I wonder if it's not an issue on other courses as well, though. Does Spanish ever use í? Or any other language now/in the future?
Also, I wonder if someone could write a simple tampermonkey script to fix this issue? Not ideal, but it'd beat having to do the developer tools solution you mentioned below every time.
Does Spanish ever use í?
¡Sí! ;*) So do Portuguese, Catalan, Vietnamese, Hungarian, and Czech among the current courses. (Apparently Welsh could use í as well to mark a stressed final syllable, but acute accents are often omitted from Welsh writing.)
If by “tapermonkey” you’d meant “Tampermonkey”, note that the Stylish add-on mentioned above is also available for Chrome, so the “Replace Museo Sans Rounded on Duolingo” user style noted above would also be usable with Chrome.
I did mean Tampermonkey... And, actually, I just wrote a short script that replaces it for me. Sadly, I don't particularly like Comic Sans!
I have trouble with the i's as well. I can see the other just find but have to get close for the i's
Museo Sans Rounded, the typeface used at Duolingo, is not the best choice for fada legibility. The typeface would have to be modified to makes its fadas larger while keeping its letters at the same size, and Duolingo is not likely to do that. (If Duolingo had both an in-house typographer and permission from exljbris Font Foundry to make custom modifications to Museo Sans Rounded for Duolingo’s Web site and apps, the typographer’s time would be better spent on adding letters from other courses’ languages that are missing from the typeface.) It’s possible to render the fadas in a different color through CSS if the letters with fadas are changed to base letters + non-spacing fadas, e.g. by replacing the single character á with a pair of characters, a followed by ́, and assigning a particular color to the non-spacing fada. If the typeface hasn’t been coded to not render the dot above i when it’s followed by a non-spacing diacritic (so that the diacritic would be rendered as replacing the dot), then it would still require a typeface modification to fix that, which in turn would require the permission of exljbris.
The simplest corrective action from Duolingo’s perspective would be to use a different typeface with more prominent diacritics. Given the lack of action on past reports in the Troubleshooting forum, it seems that Duolingo isn’t willing to replace Museo Sans Rounded.
It's not the best for legibility in general. I have a mild visual impairment and have always had problems with this font, but like with sooooo maaaaaany things with Duo that I and others find to be rather user unfriendly--and in particular anything that makes it harder for anyone with a disability, like a visual impairment, to use the site-- I'm not holding out for a fix. These kinds of things just have never been a priority for them.