Words Repeated Too Often
Duolingo has an obsession with some words that come up dozens of times even though I know them correctly every time. Meanwhile, other words only come up twice. It was particularly obvious to me in the Spanish lessons, where 1/3 of all sentences even at level 6 still involve apples, never mind that we have learned other foods that could easily take the place of the word "apple" in any of these sentences. It's not limited to apples or to Spanish though.
Supposedly the Duolingo algorithm chooses sentences in such a way that we practise the words we don't know well yet. However, I never got the word "apple" wrong, certainly not within the last 30 times it came up.
I wonder: does the system only contain full sentences? If I were to program this system, I'd probably to give it sentence patterns like
- [person] eats [fruit].
- I drink [fruit] juice.
or at least
- [The, A] [boy, girl, man, woman] eats [an apple, a fish, a cake].
- I drink [apple, orange, pineapple] juice.
This would allow the system to fill the blanks with the vocabulary that the learner most needs to review, while not allowing incorrect sentences to form.
Could it be that Duolingo's database contains only full sentences, so that the system has to give me several dozen "apple" sentences even though I already know the word and I haven't had much practise with some of the other words?
Either way it looks like the content creators should check how often they are using a word after they've introduced it.
I think it's okay that there's just apples and wine when they're focusing on verb conjugations, because they're safe, go-to male/female familiar words that can easily fill in the blanks so you can focus on figuring out whether él come or él coma. Other lessons though, do seem pretty heavily weighted towards one or two terms while the others are just brushed over. I like the idea someone else brought up, about prioritizing words you missed earlier in-lesson, but I think that's what 'practice weakest words' on your home page was made for.
But there is a problem with the 'practice weakest words', which is that if you learn a new word, get it right 3-4 times, it then becomes 'perfect'. But if you don't see that word again, will you remember it a week later? Perhaps. A month later? Not likely.
The level of knowledge of words should slowly 'degrade' in some way, or they should be cycled in for repeating; often if you know them a little, and less often if you know them well. This is called 'spaced repetition' by the way, and it is a well-known concept in language learning, which seems to be strangely absent from Duolingo.
Major issue... And how hard is that to fix? (honestly, I don't know) Sorry, I really like this program but these repeated words are driving me nuts and it's really missing out on a good opportunity to expand your vocabulary much faster. PLEASE DUOLINGO FIGURE IT OUT (as you can see I'm crazy).
The good news is, we know about these issues in the courses. The bad news is, it takes a good deal of time to fix them.
We have a team of language experts, a few in each language respectively, who go through the feedback you guys submit and fix hundreds of things a day. And as you can see from our recent blog post, we also have a team dedicated to improving how much you learn through the site. They identify, among other things, the best order to learn things in and fine tune the way we create lessons to avoid unnecessary repetition. These forces are constantly improving the courses, which I find exciting :)
Definitely. I've noticed that when I practice, the earlier lessons and vocabulary keep coming up much more often and things from the later lessons almost never come up. I think the ratio of easy to difficult skills and vocab could be adjusted, especially since the more complicated sentences still contain the simpler skills.
Repetition is the best way to learn a language in my experience (both as a student and as a teacher) so I welcome it. To make it even more effective I frequently go back and repeat lessons where my results weren't as high as I would have liked and revise using the weakest words section of the vocabulary because the more times a word is presented the more likely it is to stay in your memory.