Abundance of French to English exercises.
I think there are far too many exercises that focus on translating from French to English. It's much harder to translate the other way around, especially when you care about correct spelling. This makes Duolingo a lot less useful than it could be, at least in my opinion.
Yep, many people would agree with you (including myself) I believe they increased the ratio of french-english exercises to make it easier (but worse for learning) and hence increase the user base by not discouraging younger users early on.
One thing you can try is the reverse tree(english for french people) and disable audio. That adds a bunch more challenge, and more translation from english to french, but on the downside you'll have to do multiple choice english questions and it won't be narrated in french.
The reverse tree would indeed give you more French writing training but all the other exercises would lose a lot of their value (multiple choice, write what you hear). Combine that with losing the French narration and I don't think the reverse tree would be worth it.
If they really did change the ratio to make the exercises easier and to get a higher user retention then that is a very sad choice that detracts a lot of user value from the platform in favor of investor value. An understandable choice from a business perspective, but sad none the less.
I hope they make the difficulty configurable because in my opinion Duolingo isn't good enough to learn to speak another language in its current incarnation.
I agree with you, it frustrated me too, the practice it's simply not enough, you should be asked to write a lot more stuff, and the error assistance should be much nicer than "err... wrong! everything you wrote is wrong, you forgot one character". I would suggest you use Duolingo to discover the main features of French and supplement your learning with other sites like Memrise
To be quite honest, translation/interpretation into any language but one's mother tongue is extremely problematic. That is why many professional organizations will not hire anyone to translate/interpret except into their native tongue. Believe me, I took a university level translation course one time working on this (English/French) and it was absolutely an eye-opener for me. I had planned to become an interpreter/translator and that course changed my mind (the course, plus the research into how much education is involved in order to be a competent translator/interpreter and the fact that I would very likely not be hired except to translate/interpret into my native tongue.)
but i feel like the job description of a professional translator shouldn't determine the course of language learning. it's true that a native english speaker won't get hired to translate into french, but that doesn't mean that translating into french is not a more efficacious means to become fluent in that language.
What I'm saying is that I think it would be fairly difficult to encourage people as much in their pursuit to learn the language if more of the course involved translation from English to French, because being wrong a lot of the time tends to discourage people greatly. Perhaps it would be something they could try at an advanced level.
oh. i guess that makes some sense. personally though, if getting wrong answers is going to discourage somebody from pursuing french, then i think there's a pretty good chance they're going to give up eventually anyway. i would think the best attitude would be to keep getting them wrong until you get them right. and getting them wrong should help to drill them into your head.
this is pretty intuitive, and i'm not going to pretend that i have any empirical evidence to back up my claim, but to me, it seems like the best part of translating into french, is that it forces you to start thinking in french. when you translate into english, then you are mediating your understanding of the sentence with the english translation and end the exercise thinking in english. when you translate it into french, instead you end the exercise thinking about the french sentence, and train your brain to start thinking in that way. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ if that makes sense
I wonder if doing the reverse course (the one for native francophones to learn English) would give you the exercises you're looking for?