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  5. Hebrew tree finished עץ העבר…


Hebrew tree finished עץ העברית גמור The impression of a Hebrew speaker

Finally I got the time to finish the entire tree. The impression was mostly positive. Considering the course is in Beta - you cannot really complain about missing translations, just report (and I did a lot! :)) Obviously, the team has done a tremendous job. I choose to stress that fact, given Hebrew is the most unique language ever introduced into Duolingo.

Nevertheless, there was one thing that really bothered me: the level of English translations. They were too often too literal. It clearly indicates the one who made them was not bilingual. And don't get me wrong, I am not a native English speaker either, but even for my non-savvy eye the level of English was too low. I find it hard to believe there aren't any real heb-eng bilinguals in this community.

So, once again, thanks to the team for the hard work, and please please please - find some English natives to revise your translations.

June 29, 2016



For what it's worth, although we're all bilingual, two of us are native Israeli and two of us native English....so, heh, you're wrong :P Translation is a tricky business and we don't always get it right going from one side to the other...there's a line to be drawn between accurate and literal and as you said yourself, it's still in beta so we haven't always got it on the line. Keep reporting!


The thing is that there are some telltale signs of non-native English speakers in a goodly chunk of the translations. Most particularly:

  • There's a tendency to forget the most common English possessive construction (X's Y) in favour of the often awkward "the Y of (the) X"
  • A similar issue exists with the double-object construction: "Subject gives Someone Something" is the most usual form in English, but "Subject gives Something to Someone" seems to be favoured in parts of the course.
  • There are many cases where the indefinite article is either inappropriately omitted or oversupplied
  • Common English expressions are sometimes substituted for literal, word-for-word translations from Hebrew. And sometimes they're oddly augmented, as if someone plucked a definition out of a dictionary instead of consulting a native speaker (this is especially rife in the "Festivals" and "Sports" sections. Just as an example, 'To light the candles of the Hanukkah Menorah' may be super unambiguous, but 'to light the Menorah' is what people would actually say, or indeed think of during a timed challenge)
  • Prepositions, the bane of every linguaphile.

In some cases, we're talking about correct but awkward translations, in other cases correct but with missing alternatives, and in yet others wrong translations flat out. Just to be clear: these are not complaints. Just observations to hopefully help you hone in on some specific recurring problems in the course.


I have not gotten very far yet on the tree but just wanted to comment on your first point. I think maybe the point of saying "the Y of the X" is to teach us a way to think of how to say it in Hebrew...name the object first, then the ש for "of/belonging to" hooked onto the name or pronoun of the owner. Since it is a "Hebrew for English speakers" course, we probably all know that we say "X's Y" in English...it is Hebrew we are trying to learn. However, it might be confusing to anyone trying to learn English from Hebrew.


"Bilingual" is a somewhat subjective term. Is everyone on the team native/completely fluent in both languages? (I now realize that "fluent" can be subjective too. What I mean is something along the lines of 'Would everyone on the team appear to be a native speaker of both languages to other native speakers of those languages?')

There are definitely translations into English in the course that are just wrong, and many which are translated word-for-word in an extremely awkward way, and of course lots of possible/alternative translations are missing.

It's an excellent beta course, but as you and other have pointed out, it's going to need more work. Maybe it's time for another team member or two?


I'm a native level speaker who passed out of most of the levels at once because I wanted to be able to leaf through the lessons and read the notes. I finished the course in about two sittings--less than two days. I've been waiting for the Hebrew course to come out and I'm very excited that it's here, but I was a lot more bothered by the level of the Hebrew than the English.

I felt that throughout there were a lot of instances of the copula being used excessively in present tense, ex:

אמיר הוא המורה שלי Amir he (is) my teacher

Instead of...

המורה שלי אמיר My teacher (is ) Amir

Every single equivalency in the sentence does not need it's own copula, ex:

המסעדה הזאת היא במרכז עיר שהיא בדיוק באמצע האיזור This restaurant she (is) in the center of a city which she (is) right in the middle of the region

Instead of...

מסעדה זו במרכז עיר הממוקמת בדיוק באמצע האיזור This restaurant (is) in the center of a city located in the middle of the region

Overall, I found that in using של, וה'' הידיעה, the answers were often excessive.

Also, there were a lot of missed opportunities to use סמיכות, and take advantage of some of the more interesting features of Hebrew grammar, such as the use of present tense verbs as nouns, ex:

הסועד סרב לתת למלצרו טיפ כי לא התמצא בנוהג הזה, והתרשם על פי יחסו שאולי זה פשוט מין הונאה.
The diner (the same as "he dines" in present tense) refused to give his waiter a tip because he was not familiar with the practice, and got the impression from his demeanor that it was likely just a type of fraud.

Another example of this overlooked linguistic complexity and diversity is Hebrew's flexible word order, and the varieties of meanings that this word order often helps shape. It was so frustrating at times that the answers were sensitive to tiny points of nikkud which can hardly be typed anyway, but seemed to be totally blind to the many valid and legitimate varieties of word ordering and inflection, simply because they did not translate in as parallel a fashion, ex:

זהו התפוח של הילד This is (contracted) the child's apple

is less correct than...

זה הוא התפוח של הילד This is (two words) the child's apple


הרופאה דיברה בקיצור על השפעת התזונה בכל הנוגע לבריאות The female doctor spoke in brief about the influence of nutrition in all that relates to health

is more/less correct than...

הרופאה בקיצור דיברה על השפעת התזונה בכל הנוגע לבריאות The female doctor briefly spoke about the influence of nutrition in all that relates to health

Often these differences were either unacknowledged, or arbitrarily selected between.

This is of course not to mention some of the truly creepy sentences, which despite being a duolingo-wide problem (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbmXSR_QiP8), nonetheless seemed oddly suggestive of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

לא פחד, אלא שינאה אני אשבור אותו הגבר שנכנס למעלית הוא סוכן ישראלי הוא מעלה וירוס לרשת בית החולים

(unlike most other examples I didn't compose these, I replicated them more or less as they are in the lessons)

The multiple choice drove me nuts, because it seemed like they were automatically formulated to present you with two entirely equivalent answers (just with a different gender subject), and a third answer that was so grammatically and semantically wrong that you could just spot it by the junk vocabulary, ex:

Select the correct translation(s) for: "they feared the house-pet"

  1. הם פחדו מחיית המחמד They (masculine) feared the house-pet

  2. הן פחדו מחיית המחמד They (feminine) feared the house-pet

  3. הם פחדו במטבח המחמד They feared in the kitchen of charm (house-pet in Hebrew is "animal of charm")

Once, in a reversal of this misfortune, I was even told I had to intuit the gender of the subject of an ENGLISH sentence, ex:

Translate: "The champion won the annual soccer competition"

In response to this question, I was supposed to intuit that the "champion," was feminine, with no prior knowledge of the sentence or context to tell me so. It turns out that the correct translation was:

"האלופה ניצחה בתחרות הכדורגל השנתי"

and NOT

"האלוף ניצח בתחרות הכדורגל השנתי"

Disclaimer: I don't remember the exact sentence, I know "אלוף" was the problematic word, and the sentences regarded winning a competition.

I also occasionally found that the creators of the course and I disagreed on which חלופות of the Hebrew Academy to use and not use. Sometimes they favored English when I knew there was another option, sometimes they used Hebrew words in contexts that surprised me. That's to be expected. The only serious omission that I noticed was in the lesson titled "demonstratives" (I think). The lesson notes say that Hebrew has NO distant demonstrative. this is simply NOT TRUE. To refer to entities that are distant, one simply says:

ההוא for m.s. entities

ההיא for f.s. entities

ההם for m.pl. entities

and ההן for f.pl. entities

Unlike with the demonstratives for proximal entities, these demonstratives cannot be indefinite, and must follow what they describe--otherwise they simply become pronouns in weird places.

See: https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9B%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%99_%D7%A8%D7%9E%D7%96

Putting aside the fact that Duolingo courses don't tend to contain the most elegant language, I found the majority of the content to be well-composed. From my perspective, I would rather have foreign language content be as true to its natural form as possible, even at the cost of somewhat going over my head, than do something unnatural in order to play nice with my possibly incomplete understanding of its workings. In my opinion, Duolingo sometimes errs towards the latter, but it is definitely the best of its medium, and this course I think is one of the best put together courses of all of them, and it's still in Beta!


Congratulations And remember that since Hebrew is still in Beta, it has quite a few knots and kinks to work out. That's the whole idea of Beta testing.


It looks like you didn't bother to read what I wrote starting from the third sentence, else why would you repeat my words? But thanks for the congrats :)


Whoops. That was the one sentence I missed =) I read the rest, though!


"תמשיך עם העבודה הטובה!"


המשך עם העבודה הטובה, to be precise


The literal translation doesn't really work in Hebrew. I think I'd have went with:

"המשך כך!"


Thanks for the feedback. I concur in regards to the literal translation. The problem is trying to balance the original meaning of the Hebrew sentence and the way it will be composed in English. I agree, there are some things that were not done correctly. Having said that, the team has corrected over 1000 sentences in under a week, so these errors are not likely to reappear.

Thanks for completing the course!



wow pretty cool you guys have corrected so many sentences.


This was 5 days ago, now it's about 2500.


Another little thing that bothers us about the Eng/Heb translations: If one is asked to translate from Eng to Heb and the system only accepts a certain gender for verbs and pronouns if SHOULD be stated in the English sentence. 'cause if it isn't it becomes one hell of a gamble. 'Hmm female or male?'. My friend who is fluent failed the placement test because of this, because naturally he did everything in male :P Just a tought about what could be done better in transition from beta to final form. :)


It should eventually accept all possibilities. That's what beta is for ;-)


I guess this claim could be seen as "not all possible translations have been added", which makes perfect sense, as we're talking about beta stage. I failed the placement test as well (passed only 63 first subjects), but that's ok for beta.


I just finished the tree tonight after months of poring over each lesson numerous times. Here's my two cents:

1) Nothing revealed my upbringing quite like realizing I had learned Hebrew in the imperative and active voice, but never passive voice. Why? Because my parents used imperative language instead of collegiate or formal language.

2) The answers were often awkward because of the tendency towards literal translations, except, of course, when word order was rigid and allowed only one answer. Very frustrating.

3) The explanations for each lesson petered out as I got further down the tree. This was disappointing because I saw almost no context by the time I got to subjects that really needed it. After seven months, I have to wonder why no one wrote anything for the later lessons.

4) The absence of word matching exercises is keenly missed.

5) The speed of the speakers was more frustrating than anything else in the lessons. Holy cow, I know Hebrew speakers go quickly, but I had to ask, "Really?"

6) Switching between British and American English needs some kind of toggle. I know British English, but not everyone does. This gave the lessons a schizoid feel.

7) There is poor consistency in translating some Hebrew words into transliteration, like "shul", "Moshiach", "Rosh Ha'shana" and so on. Some folks don't know these idiomatic transliterations.

8) The response from the Duolingo staff has been nonexistent for the last three months to corrections.

So that's my feedback. What are your thoughts?



Congrats but how do you learn so much language?


I didn't really learn all of them. Well, I mean, I learned some of their trees, that doesn't mean I can say I know these languages.


But to make a tree ,means that you have a considerable knowledge on the given language, I dont mean that you're now fluent, but you surely wouldn't get lost in the given country.


If you're talking about trees which I have finished, then probably yes, I won't get lost in that country. But in general, it is more than just finishing a tree, it requires constant maintenance, which of course would be very time consuming for all languages at once. Therefore I have my "main languages" which I try to learn on a regular basis, and the rest is just out of curiosity.


Couldn't agree with you more, leonig01

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