https://www.duolingo.com/JCMcGee

Advice: Let's get this off my chest!

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I try to ignore some of the comments on here, just smile and let them wash over me, but sometimes they just irritate me!

Here is some advice for duo-users:

  1. Stop Moaning. This site is amazing and free. There is no 100% correct way to use a language, so please stop moaning about the little mistakes you think duo is making...Report it if you must, but please stop clogging up the comments (which you probably haven't bothered to read!)

  2. Losing a heart =/= duo has insulted your mother. If you make a mistake, note it down and do a little research around the word or phrase, google is your friend.

  3. Speaking a foreign language =/= to just changing the words in your mother tongue into "foreign" words...you are actually speaking another language...it has different vocabulary, different syntax, different grammatical rules ...It's a different language.

  4. Use Other Sites: Duo is great, no, it's AMAZING for learning the words, grammar and syntax...but to learn the language well, you have to be able to talk and write your own thoughts....there are other great sites that help with this....go have a look at lang-8.com and obviously google-translate....Benny The Irish Polyglot is a hero of mine, his site is really great...and skype, I have only just touched on Skype, but we are going to become good friends.

  5. Books, movies and blogs....use them. Movies really help you with pronunciation and just letting your ears get used to the language...books about things you enjoy are a great way to learn new words and phrases that you are interested in.

  6. Reward Helpful People With Lingots: There are some users on here who really deserve BIG rewards for the time they spend helping us...reward them with a Lingot...I wish we could do more.

5 years ago

52 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Brunehilde

Good advice, I agree with everything here. I don't think 1 and 2 are disrespectful as they do not address any specific person/complaint style so no one is actually being called a moaner. (2 made me laugh as I do get frustrated whenever I lose a heart xD).

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Hohenems
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JCMcGee was kind enough to change the wording in 1 to "moaning".

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Brunehilde

Ahh I see what you mean now. Yeah, cursing doesn't belong on this kind of forum (except maybe when discussing the words objectively?). "Moaning" is a superior word anyway.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_pinkodoug_
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In fairness, the word he used, if I recall correctly, wasn't a curse word. It's a common expression for complaining throughout the US, and is more commonly used in some areas than others. While the word can be used as a vulgarity in other contexts, this is just a case of people being overly sensitive and not understanding the multiple meanings of a word.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
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I mostly agree with you, but again people this would be directed at wouldn't be reading the comments anyways.

Also, unpopular opinion: I really dislike Benny. Everyone in the language learning world seems to love him and I don't like how derogatorily he discusses academic language learning, and how he spins some of his discussions, such as his article about whether Chinese is difficult and he says it was harder then Spanish for him. He leaves out the fact in that article that Spanish was his first foreign language and he decided one day that for a whole month he wouldn't say anything unless he said it in Spanish. Of course doing it that way would be insanely difficult and Chinese would feel easier after having a few languages under your belt. And he has C2 mastery of Spanish and I can guarantee that's not true of his Chinese.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
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Funny you mention it, I'm not a huge fan on Benny either. I don't hate him, but I don't like the fact that he seems to think he has found the Best way to learn a language and that that allows him to despise other methods and learners who want to do it their own way.

I don't know the guy personally and I haven't heard him speak, but he seems to consider speaking badly (i.e. butchering the grammar) is not a problem as long as you are understood, and that everyone can travel the world to learn a language (and if you don't, then you're not motivated enough.)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ontalor
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It's also the way he says "If you're not one of those people who loves to memorize conjugation lists..." I'm sorry, but very few people would love that. Some of us are dedicated enough to get through it. I totally agree with every point you made. He also doesn't account for people who are shy or introverted, he just says to 'get over it', and I am somewhat introverted, so although I do 'get over it' for the sake of learning a language, it's emotionally exhausting. Learning a language takes so much more than just hanging out with native speakers, even if that was available to everyone. It requires a lot of personal time.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JCMcGee
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Butchering grammar isn't a problem....there's no way to learn language without going through huge periods of butchering grammar....anyone who is not going to talk to you when you try to talk their language and butcher the grammar probably isn't worth talking to in the 1st place (though, I doubt that such people actually exist?)

I think what really caught me about that Benny was that he was so like me, short, ugly and of Irish decent...really makes me think "If he can do it...so can I!"

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/.Eric.
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I agree with you on Benny. Despite what he thinks personally, it's impossible to deny that Duolingo, Pimsleur, Assimil, Michel Thomas, and even Rosetta Stone have helped many, many people. I also find it annoying that he doesn't seem to realize not everybody has a job flexible enough to just move to another country every month.

His travel posts (etiquette, how to save on plane tickets, etc), on the other hand, are quite good.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/anne_omoly

Hmm. I'd disagree with the "stop moaning". At least, don't stop altogether. Give feedback, positive and negative. This is a constantly evolving site, and a site that uses crowdsourcing. Without moaning and excitement, there's no way of knowing what works and what doesn't. (But be polite!)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Puddleglum
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EDIT: Thanks for changing it! :)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/yonoleo
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Podcasts are great too. I listen to them and repeat what people are saying to get used to the rhythm and pronunciation even if I am not understanding everything they say. It helps if the podcasts are about fields you are familiar in and interested on.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/porquepuedo
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Speaking a foreign language =/= to just changing the words in your mother tongue into "foreign" words...you are actually speaking another language...it has different vocabulary, different syntax, different grammatical rules ...It's a different language.

I know exactly what you mean, I think about this all the time. Thanks for adding this one

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
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Interestingly, it actually depend a lot on the language. Spanish was like a walk in the park for me, as I already speak French. Most of the words with double meanings can be used in the exact same situation in both languages, word order is the same, most of the time you can even translate expressions and proverbs.

German is a completely different story. I have to re-learn to think a new language, which I hadn't done in a long time. I recognize some roots from the English words, but words are not used the same way, and their meaning seems to depend a lot on the context in a much different way from the English one.

And the palm definitely goes to Polish. My boyfriend tries -more or less- to learn it, and every over minute I find myself trying to explain to him why you say it this way or that way. I have the worse trouble in the world explaining most of the stuff to him, this is a nightmare.

So, though #3 is true, I would add its degree of depth depends on whether the language you are learning is in the same group of languages or not.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/moodswinger
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I don't think any of the people who could stand to hear this are going to find this post or read it. You're basically preaching to the choir here -- as observed by the fact that no one has challenged you on anything other than your language.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JCMcGee
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That's what "get it off my chest" means...it's what we call "idiomatic language" ;-)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/clairejen1

Is reporting not a good idea? There are usually several possible translations, and if some have been missed in the database then recommending them for inclusion is surely a good thing and widens the knowledge base.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EdithOSB

I appreciate what you've written. I may have been a moaner once or twice, or at least was tempted.

We often forget that learning is hard, no matter the subject. We expect bumps and bruises when we learn a new sport, but somehow expect that a REALLY good teacher could make learning math, history or a language painless -- and that we would get it right on the first try.

I figure the glitches are worth mentioning in the comments (eg, a future-tense question in a present-tense segment) so they can be fixed. But no need to be bent out of shape about it.

Thanks for reminding me to adopt a learner's attitude here.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mennjai
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Well said, friend.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ManchesterRJ

Ditto! Boas palavras.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JessieKaye

Very well put, my feelings exactly :)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/skirkk
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Amen! Duolingo is by far the best language site I have tried out, and it's free- what could be better!

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chilvence
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Regarding #3, I am starting to come to the conclusion that what we see as 'language' is actually just a person trying to express themselves as quickly as possible in the words that come the fastest and are the most widely understood. Altering that process from the way that you have learned it from birth is a lot easier said than done - even if it can be done, with some effort and consideration. Some people have been challenged to do this in two languages all their lives, and we call them bilingual, and some people find it hard to find the right word in the right language quickly, and we call them mixed up.

So while yes it is true that speaking another language is not just translating your language to different words, I think this is just the strategy people have to default to when they run out of words that they know. It might not seem pretty, but I don't think it can be completely avoided... for people to be fluidly bilingual, they need to be given the benefit of a lot of exposure and practice in a language, and it doesn't make sense to apply the same standard to any complete beginner. It's like chastising a baby for not knowing history well. Give them a chance to find out, at least.... even the concept of a different syntax and different grammatical rules - or to shorten it, a different style of speaking - is a bit hard to swallow, you have to think outside of the box, which is no mean feat in itself.

Not that I don't agree with you mind, I just felt like adding some background to it. I hope I don't seem like I am contradicting you...

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Shady_arc
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I feel it's not that hard to learn language's structure "from scratch" but most don't consider it... which it quite logical, because of just how similar are the languages we tend to learn. It makes no sense to "forget" your mother tongue to learn the laguage where 30% words are similar and, like, 50-70% sentence structures are somewhat similar. Russian and English are much different (same language family, but branched in different directions long ago) yet, apart from tense system and a number of set expressions, I cannot say the English word order or structure is incomprehensible in Russian. It is just sometimes unnatural when translated to Russian word-for-word. It IS logical, though.

In Japanese the sentences are not similar in any way, so you get it fast that you have to learn the language's basic structure and memorize patterns, typical sentences rather than translate them. I.e. you gradually fill your baggage with knowledge of how to express different ideas: How to say "I have XXX", "Anna's AAA is BBB'er than mine", "Good evening", "I did A, because I do B", "I must do A", "If A happens, B happens" and so on. Past a certain point you realise that you know enough of these patterns to stack them up on each other and produce something you want to say. Then you just fill in the blanks with the things you want to talk about :)

Surprisingly, that's how languages are built and that's how children actually seem learn them: memorize typical phrases and word formation patterns and then try connecting them. However, as an adult speaker you have a major advantage: you KNOW what types of ideas are usually there in laguages (well, for very different languages you can google it), so you can look it up "what's a typical way to express that". You can READ and you have much experience rephrasing your thoughts in your own language. Which comes in handy when you are starting learning some sentence type that expresses you idea not quite like the English language would (in Japanese "like, love" is a noun that you can use as an "adjective").

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JCMcGee
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Great point. But what annoyed me is people blaming the language for their mistakes...and then arguing the point when someone has been very helpful and tried to explain their error.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
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Indeed, #3 is a valid point, but you are right adding this comment. It's a long way to learn to "think" the language - it takes 10 to 15 years to a child and this is the ONLY language he uses - so let's give it some time to learners.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FJoyB

Great advice!

And, Benny is pretty fantastic. I actually found Duolingo through his site (guest post; would be interested to hear his opinion of it, but anyway...).

Anyway, thanks for the nice, upbeat post! :) I would give you a lingot for it, but I don't think I can yet. So, I'll look to see if I can give you one in a comment below...

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/856pm

Here's what Benny said about it:

"When I was testing [Duolingo], some of the example sentences/words in lessons were simply wrong, such as "Hint: It's the translation of the bookcase" (librería), when clearly referring to photos of a library (biblioteca), correct English syntax being refused, i.e. "is eaten" rather than "has been eaten" being the only acceptable answer, or a European Spanish word not being accepted.

Even though I'm at a mastery (C2) level in Spanish and have worked as a professional translator in the language, I lost all my hearts and couldn't pass the low level test because of so many mistakes like this that I know I was right for. I took the test very late into the beta testing stage, so I had hoped they would not have such simple problems by then. Hopefully they have taken user feedback seriously so that they will have improved for this public release.

If they have, then my criticism wouldn't apply any more. Let me know in the comments if the mistakes I mention here have been corrected!"

Hopefully this has been fixed in the Spanish course since Benny made that aside.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FJoyB

Cool. And, yes, I think these things have been fixed by now; I haven't had trouble with it.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ViArSkoldpaddor

While I agree with all your points, I have to put in a little correction.

The TL/DR-Version:

  • DO NOT rely on google translate for anything important. Unless you want to end up with stuff like "He kitchen a soup" in your documents in other languages. It might help you grasp the meaning, but not more.

  • If you do, give google translate as much context as you can, ie a whole sentence. Otherwise its translation will often have nothing to do with what you think you are translating.

  • While they keep improving it, its translations vary from "ok" to "hilariously absurd", especially if you translate between two languages that aren't english.

  • Translation from Non-English into Non-English is broken. Don't rely on it for anything except laughs.

If you want any more explanations for what is wrong with google translate, go on reading. Otherwise, have fun, and enjoy DuoLingo!

The long version:

The reason it is broken is because it uses English as intermediate language, and uses none of the information from the original to produce the final result. That is wrong on so many levels it isn't even funny.

For example it translates "kochen" ("to cook" in German) into "повар" ("a cook" in russian, which would be "Koch" in German). They can maybe be mistaken in english, yes, but they are not even close in form in other languages, don't behave the same, and can't be substituted for one another in a sentence.

To prevent "oh it is simply language ambiguity" comments: No, it is not. "kochen" can not be a noun in German ("a cook" would be "Koch", just as "повар" can not be a verb in russian ("to cook" would be "готовить", or "варить").

This is one very simple example, in which even a fourth-grade russian or german student would recognize that it is wrong. A lot of its problems are more subtle than that, and hard to recognize -- especially for non-native speakers.

English is a great language to communicate in because basic english has such a simple sentence structure. For the same reason it is a horrible, horrible language to use as an intermediate, either for translation or for learning other languages -- because the simple structure introduces a very large amount of ambiguity, and also because there are many homonyms that mean very different things in other languages ("cook" is harmless in comparison, except if you take it to mean an insane person).

So what happens is, google translate first loses meaning translating something into english, and THEN it loses some more meaning translating it into the target language. So consuming its results is somewhat like eating rabbit poo on the second go round (after the rabbit has already eaten it once, that is).

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/porquepuedo
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Google Translate for the lose!

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Shady_arc
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Wow. That thought, actually, flashed through my mind while I was wondering — just how is it possible that traslation from Polish into Russian was almost incomprehensible while Polish-to-English was pretty clear.

Yeah, machines aren't going to use English well for translations in near future. 'Cause the easiest way to get rid of ambiguity is to understand the meaning of the text — a hard task for a computer :)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LimitlessT

I've said this before, but received a black-lash.

People comment with outrage as if they're paying Rosetta Stone prices, and disguise this with "feedback" or "constructive criticism".

Which is basically bull.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
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I agree. Amazing course, amazing discussions, when they don't hare off into pedantic pontificating is about what someone thinks English grammar should be.. (Non-native English speakers, please note, this is not directed at you.) This is an AMAZING way to learn grammar and colloquial usages. I supplement with reading, videos from yabla.com, and lang-8. I'm also doing Fluencia.com for Spanish, but it isn't nearly as good, and I'll probably not renew my membership there.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JoyceMann
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Excellent suggestions, JCMcGee. No site is perfect. At times I have to roll my eyes when duo tells me something is wrong in a translation that I know darn well is correct. But you know what? I don't let it bother me and so I just go with the flow. If I lose a heart, so what. I go on. This site is FREE and I'm just happy to have access to something I believe to be 98% perfect. thank you for listening. joyce

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kimojima
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5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CharliePoole

2.1: We all have a certain number of errors we need to make before reaching perfection, possibly on the order of 10K or 100K. Be glad each time you get one out of the way. :-)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/frenchbreadrules

Give that man a lingot!

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/bakhtiyar

I agree except for Benny. Don't get wrong he is good but he sets completely unreacheable goals and preaches that it's possible to get fluent in 3 or less months(unless the language you learn is very similar to yours), people who then realize that it's impossible to get fluent in such short period would probably get super discouraged. On the other hand Alexander Arguelles, Luca Lampariello or Richard Simcott have a lot more realistic approach.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/javax
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I agree with the comments here of "reword and be more respectful", because is a little bit direct and we are all here a community. But, apart from that. I totally get what you're saying! Some users are just so out of place! And the 3. is just so right!

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Grumpycat1
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yes, yes and one more time....yes! people are just ungrateful....this site has it all: great authors, enthusiastic staff and a fun-loaded system full of free language! and it is both private and group studying at once. attending this site alone can spare at least 1000 Euros. what more do you want? (written by somebody raised in a free education country)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
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THANK YOU for #1.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/arekolek
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Piece of advice here: if you are making up rules that no one really has to obey then instead of just giving orders, try to give good reasons why it would be better if they did. It might actually make them follow that advice.

I find this post kind of ironic. I mean isn't it moaning when you say "Stop Moaning."?

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/porquepuedo
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He's not moaning, he's suggesting something.

I mean, please. Wouldn't it be so much better if everyone followed these?

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JCMcGee
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No...it's what we call "letting off steam" or "getting it off my chest"

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/arekolek
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So is this a good place for exposing your personal frustrations? I thought you were trying to dissuade people from doing that.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CapK9
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In fact, he IS putting some good reasons here. For exemple, when he says #3, it is just a fact and people just don't get it. The whole article spares a deeper explanation, all we need is to think, use logic.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/erudis
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Thanks man, you took the words right out of my mouth. Especially regarding commenting, sometimes it gets tiresome seeing people clogging up the comments with questions that have already been answered just two posts above. Or those that comment every time they lose a heart (Duolingo should have a diary for them).

I know this comment system has its flaws, but there are millions learning and reading the questions every day, so if we can try to keep it organized, for the sake of the other learners here, I'm sure that would benefit everyone.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/porquepuedo
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And in the beginning comments, where half of them are 'yes' 'no' 'i don't like apples' or 'zdhkbklarf'.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/profelevi
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7) Go abroad. You will never become fluent by only studying a language online.

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Deinanthe
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If only I could! That would be wonderful! But since the only way I can currently experience other languages and cultures is online, it'll have to do. :)

5 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/profelevi
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Sure you can! Make it happen!! :-p

5 years ago
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