Running into problems for the first time
I have just finished the skill Verbs present 1. No, I can’t yet say that I mastered it because I didn’t. At least no yet.
Since last time I wrote I put more emphasis on my Anki flashcards. The reason is simple: The Duolingo course doesn’t tell me the stem versions of the words. Because of that I felt that I am not getting the rules for the different verb forms, at least not intuitively. Often I can not be sure what rules have to apply because I don’t know if the stem had two syllables or not. What I did was that after I import the new vocabulary into Anki I consult foclair and fill in three new fields when needed: Grammar (for example masc1, adj2), Stem and Mutation (is it eclipsed or leniated?). My cards show all fields in the answer and additionally the Mutation field in the question. Also, I am mildly synasthetic. I always associated numbers or abstract concepts with colours. So I decided to try to take advantage of that and programmed my cards to show nouns red if masculine and green if feminine. The gender is getting more important with every lessen so I try to remember it already.
Now, the reason why I write this now is the Verbs Present 1 skill. Until now everything was pretty easy. Not anymore. I get the feeling that a lot of really hard words accumulated in these lessons. Now, I always hate topic-centered lessons. They usually don’t have a good mix of vocables, they tend to be monotone.
Now this skill had a bad combination of different challenges. For one, it contained several words with closely related meanings. Like “go” and “walk”. This particular combination was especially bad for me since German does not differentiate them at all. But there are others, like “listen” and “hear”. I hoped that such closely related meanings would be at least ten skills apart!
Another problem is that a lot of irregular verbs have also been introduced. And that’s the problem of the Duolingo engine: I often don’t recognize it. I have to read the forum comments even more. And on a more personal level: In these particular lessons I found it harder than usual to find proper memory hooks. I don’t know why that is or if it is a general problem with irish verbs.
Right now I am unsure how to proceed. I wonder if I should stop taking further lessons until I have mastered the vocabulary fully or should I continue hoping that I will catch up with them later? Both approaches seem to have their up- and downsides. In the meantime I made some proper (physical) flashcards to get rid of those difficult verbs that clutter my Anki by now.
It's not that I am trying to fit Irish into a certain learning scheme. I have learned several languages with sometimes more and sometimes less success (unfortunately) and having many similar words in short succession always made it very hard for me to learn that particular chapters. (I still shiver when I remember the chapter in Latin that gave us all "ferre" variations or the Japanese chapter when I had to learn pretty much everything that is on an average restaurant menu)
The reason why I disliked that particular skill was not because there are one or two similar words or because it introduced several irregular verbs and so on. No, it was because it all came together. I'm not saying it is bad, just that I have to struggle with it for the first time in the course.
Now, the argument that similar (in meaning) words should be taught together to avoid confusion later on is a valid one. But personally I disagree. At least in Japanese it was enough for me to know that a word is used in a specific way and I was content to wait until I got the alternative later. And it's not like the Duolingo course makes it always easy to tell if a word has a double meaning. Like roimbh, I am still not sure if this "before" is only temporal.
It's like the irregular verbs thing. Yes, there are not many (thank God) and indeed I could and probably will just get them from Wikipedia and learn them altogether so that I know them when I see them. But on the other hand one main reason why I started the Irish Duolingo course as an evaluation of the learning technique that is presented here. I already know that it takes more to actually learn this language but I tried to keep my external resources to a minimum. Still, rather than fail I will of course consult the external sources even now, long before I get to the end of the skill tree.
Now, when it comes to the question which verb form is used, yes, I am aware that I can find out which one I have to deal with by looking at the ending. But I have to admit that just from doing the lessons I have not yet reached the point where I could intuitively tell the verb form from the word. The reason is that Duolingo doesn't exactly encourage this kind of active thinking. I wanted to see how this kind of teaching plays out. But I also have the feeling that I am going to need the stem for other, future grammar forms. That would mean learning the word again, for the stem. Sounds like additional work to me. Well, I will see. Again, I am not saying that all this is bad. Not at all! For one, up until this skill it worked quite well for me. But if I encounter problems I think about the possible reasons and because there is a forum here, well, I thought I would write about it.
Last point: In the flash card I ask for example "Suit (eclipsed)" for "gculaith". Two reasons for that: The export tool exports both the uneclipsed/unlenited form and the variations as different vocables. And while I recognise an eclipsed for when I see it, I am not yet totally sure how to make them every time. I thought it couldn't hurt to specifically ask for it.
I will use the Grammar Database in the future although I have not yet needed it since I always new the meaning of the word and could look it up using the english translation. I know that the stem is the imperative form and for the sake of learning, this is very unfortunate but can't be helped.
Thank you for your answers.
And it's not like the Duolingo course makes it always easy to tell if a word has a double meaning. Like roimh, I am still not sure if this "before" is only temporal.
In my view, demonstrating all of the meanings of a particular word is not one of the purposes of this course. An online dictionary is a better tool for finding answers to questions of this type.
It wasn't clear on first reading your initial post that you were critiquing a particular lesson on the course, and having re-read it, with that in mind, I still find it difficult to agree with you - the Verbs 1 skill is going to introduce a lot of verbs, and a number of them are going to be irregular, because they happen to be some of the most commonly used verbs - where else should they be introduced?
I also think that you're being unfair in claiming that the difficulties that you are having with a 3rd party flash card utility are a Duolingo problem - if Anki can't tell that gculaith is a form of culaith, that's an Anki problem, not a Duolingo problem, and the correct response is to delete the gculaith flash card. Learning that gculaith is the eclipsed form of culaith is a waste of time - you need to learn that gc is the eclipsed form of c, which is trivial, and applies to every single noun that starts with the letter c, and save your brainpower for learning the situations that trigger eclipsis occurs. Unless the flash card includes the thing that causes eclipsis (the full phrase ar an gculaith, for example), then you shouldn't have a card that includes the "word" gculaith, because, on it's own, gculaith isn't a word - the eclipse doesn't "belong" to the noun, it really belongs to whatever comes before the noun that triggers eclipsis. (Note that "flash cards" aren't something that was part of the educational system when I was growing up so I've never used them - they seem to just be a poor mans version of the timed repetition that is the basis of the Duolingo technique).
I'm also a bit confused about your reluctance to use other resources (because you want to test Duolingo's approach to teaching the language), compared to your insistence on using 3rd party flash cards. But if you are trying to get the most out of Duolingo, you should probably slow down and re-do this difficult skill until you are more comfortable with it, rather than ploughing ahead - you can still do one or two new exercises a day, but repeat the one's that you've had problems with too, at least for a while.
the Verbs 1 skill is going to introduce a lot of verbs, and a number of them are going to be irregular, because they happen to be some of the most commonly used verbs - where else should they be introduced?
I dislike lessons with specific themes in general. Now, from what I have seen so far my feeling is that up to 3 lessons per themed skill is fine, longer ones tend to become annoying and more difficult. Better split the lessons in a skill, teach one half now, the second one some time later.
if Anki can't tell that gculaith is a form of culaith, that's an Anki problem, not a Duolingo problem, and the correct response is to delete the gculaith flash card.
I am aware of that it is an Anki problem. I was putting no blame on Duolingo. Deleting the note is not an option since the next import will reintroduce it. I decided to make use of that additional notes by marking their mutation so that I could still get something useful out of them.
(Note that "flash cards" aren't something that was part of the educational system when I was growing up so I've never used them - they seem to just be a poor mans version of the timed repetition that is the basis of the Duolingo technique).
Anki uses timed repetition, just like Duolingo does, it just does it in a more transparent way. Now, I really want to make it clear that I am just using Anki as a supplement since it helps me get around some problems I have faced with Duolingo. Really, from what I have seen Duolingo is a fine way to start learning a language. The fact that I am still doing is proof enough. I have three irish learning books and never even considered using them. But it also has its problems, some of them specific to me of course. I just want to use the best tools I am given and I am happy that there is an easy way to export the vocabulary to Anki. BTW, I did not grow up using flash cards in school. We learned lists of words. Probably the worst way to do it, at least when only doing that way. But I have since learned that there are circumstances when lists are actually quite good. The same goes for flash cards. This irish course is the first one where I take the sentence-based approach.
I'm also a bit confused about your reluctance to use other resources (because you want to test Duolingo's approach to teaching the language), compared to your insistence on using 3rd party flash cards.
I am not using 3d party flash cards, I use Duolingo's, just in another program. I have to admit that yes, it is a bit of a contradiction. The reason is that I am afraid that I get burned out of learning Irish by limiting myself too much. I have used Anki for a long time so I am very familiar with it. So it is kind of a comfort zone.
I had exactly the same problem with that lesson, it's just a massive 'info-dump' of very similar things. I think the trick is not to panic, and just keep on going! It does sink in and all start to make sense eventually. I also just made myself long lists of all those words on sheets of paper - word on one side of the page, and definition on the other - and left those lists lying around where I would see them every day. Then I would cover up the definitions and test myself on them! I pretty much have them all sorted out now, apart from perhaps tagaim/tógaim/tugaim, which are just impossible!
The stem version of Irish verbs is the form used in the imperative, but the Imperative skill isn’t offered in the course here until after the last checkpoint. You can check the Grammar Database at teanglann.ie to find out all of the conjugations of a verb, all of the declensions of a noun, etc. For example, putting codlaím in the search box there will bring up a link for codail in the Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla ; from the FGB page, the Grammar link will bring up the past tense/indicative mood conjugations for codail, and a dropdown menu on that page will let you choose from the other tenses/moods.
Regarding your question about how to proceed, are you more comfortable with mastering a skill before starting a new skill? If so, then repeat the Verbs: Present 1 skill until you feel that you’ve mastered it.