https://www.duolingo.com/Junesun

Words Repeated Too Often

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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

  1. [person] eats [fruit].
  2. I drink [fruit] juice.

or at least

  1. [The, A] [boy, girl, man, woman] eats [an apple, a fish, a cake].
  2. 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.

February 2, 2013

36 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/pickup

I fully agree, furthemore the algorytm should insert words which were made wrong during the previous tests.

February 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Gnorian

That would be excellent.

July 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/jlnelson19

Agreed. I'm sick of translating sentences about apples and wine. Mix it up a little.

February 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/NessaNessaJoy

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.

February 6, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/jeffers86

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.

March 20, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/kurdemol94

I totally agree with you. What is more, I tend to get the same sentences a few times in a row, sometimes even the same kind of task with the same sentence twice in a row. This should be fixed in my opinion.

February 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/BrainyPirate
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I just got the same word 10 sentences in a row. I repeated the lesson immediately, and the same thing happened.

November 26, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Mowgli-Malone

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).

February 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/tylrmurphy
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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 :)

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/agriffina
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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.

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Xiuhtecuhtli
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Yep - I've learned about lawyers and strawberries, but every third question is still "the man eats an apple" when it could be at least "the lawyer eats strawberries".

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/TheFork101

I've certainly noticed. I keep getting the words for onion and horse mixed up. Why doesn't Duolingo nail that down? I don't know.

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/mechabear

Not sure why you're being downvoted. I have the same problem

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/1425364758697079
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she's not. this isn't reddit, the default is 0

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/mechabear

She was -3 when I posted.

February 5, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/ZacZackk

"Would you like some more Wine to accompany your Bread and Apples?"... I agree with you there, I'm failing with the conjunctions more than the nouns and it doesn't have much of a strong repetition part on words that are used to tie the sentence together -.-"

February 2, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/rspreng

Yep. I wish they'd deal with basic things like this, rather than adding more bells and whistles, or more languages. Their computer programming often seems to lack a "human, common sense, teacher's touch."

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/mechabear

I have this problem as well, getting slight variations of "los gatos beben leche" every sentence. But If one goes into vocabulary and click on "gato" for instance, you can choose to not practice it anymore. It forces variety as far as I can tell

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/agriffina
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I love that feature but can't find it anymore. Wonder where the "I know this word perfectly" button went.

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/hlnmecca

I agree that many words are used too often. Apple is a good example. More nouns and verbs need to be used. The verbs drink and eat are used too often as the levels progress.

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Sebastianx

I agree too, the French course seems obsessed with "child" and (black-) "apple". On the upside I find the lessons quite good to understand, being a non-English native speaker myself.

February 5, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/helenvee
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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.

February 6, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/josh2021

I like the repetition it helps to learn the grammar

February 6, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/jj212
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No, no. You guys are missing the point. Duolingo is set up so that you only have to translate one part of the sentence, be it the verb, adjective, noun, etc. The part you are whining about is near the beginning, where Duolingo is teaching you about verb conjugations (that means the different endings of the verbs and how they hook up with different nouns). This is a very important concept in spanish, and also one that many people struggle with. For this reason, Duolingo makes the rest of the sentence very easy for you. This includes the noun: manzana, vino, pan. When you get to the higher levels, Duolingo introduces you to a wide variety of nouns. It is also worth noting that in the noun trio above (wine, apple, bread), Duolingo introduces the everything-has-a-gender concept to you: manzana is female, vino is male, and bread looks like it is neither, but it is male. All three of these you will find down the road.

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Junesun
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No, this is beyond the beginning, even beyond the first keyhole you still see a very few nouns very often. AND: Duolingo already introduced more nouns which could fill the blank, but they're not being used. In Portuguese I just saw the same thing: every other sentence contains "apple", but the Food lesson also introduced the word "pineapple". "apple" comes up all the time, but I forgot "pineapple" because the first time it comes up again is 6 lessons after it was introduced. Same for "butter", "bottle", "bitter" and other words that are introduced in the Food lesson and never come up again, while a few words come up all the time.

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/jj212
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I don't think so... I'm past the first keyhole and it seems to have died out long ago.

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/1425364758697079
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I just passed V. Gerund (long after the third keyhole) and I still see this. There are probably less than 20 or so nouns usually used.

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/spiceyokooko
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I agree with everything jj212 said, particularly with regards to Spanish.

In the early stages, whilst you're struggling to get to grips with the verb endings and noun genders (the part that I personally struggled the most with) the familiarity with already learnt easy nouns such as apple, bread, wine etc were a godsend. It was hard enough trying to figure out the verb endings without having a host of new words to deal with.

Wait till you progress down the stages and you'll soon find out that things get progressively more difficult as duolingo fires ever more new words at you.

Progress at the early levels is fairly quick – it slows quite dramatically the more you progress and starts to include all the words you've learnt. I've just done the first 3 lessons of Spanish Adverbs and I've already got about 24 new words to learn and not a manzana, vin or pan in sight. There are a total of 12 lessons in Adverbs before the learnt symbol - that's a heck of a lot of new words.

Don't be so quick to criticise the repetition of familar nouns whilst you learn the early stages because believe me, there's plenty of new words to learn the further you progress.

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Junesun
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This is not only about the apple / bread / wine / whatever! Duolingo introduces a lot of words in some units, but then it doesn't review them beyond that unit. Let's see how many adverbs you remember without ever getting the chance to review. On the other hand, there is a very limited set of vocabulary (most notoriously the words "apple", "eats", "drinks" etc. but also others) which come up a lot, even in the lesson on Gerunds. What I would like to see is more review of those words that never come up again (like adverbs) and less review of the words that are over-used.

I'm level 10 in French and level 9 in Italian, I've definitely seen the lessons where they overwhelm you with new vocabulary (also the first verb lesson in Portuguese btw), but I've also seen that they allow that new knowledge to get lost again by essentially behaving as if the lesson had never been studied.

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/jeffers86

There seem to be two problems here: 1. Duolingo rehashes the same vocab again and again, and 2. Duolingo assumes that if you get a word to "perfect" (by getting it correct a few times), you know it forever.

March 20, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/hlnmecca

jj212 Thanks for clarifying. Good points given about overuse of vocabulary.

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Fafo01

Good ideas? What about :eats:is eating, learns:is learning,drinks:is drinking!

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/1425364758697079
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I always assumed that it already did this, that was why I got things like "I increase the food". Do you mean to tell me some idiot actually decided that was a good sentence? haha

February 4, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/MagnusChan

couldnt agree more

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/hugindoe

I agree. For instance I keep getting the words for 'yes' & goodnight', even though I learnt them right at the start & have never made a mistake with them. It's incredibly boriing & unproductive. Also many of the phrases are useless, eg 'the snake eats the spider', 'the cook cooks the snake'. By the way, does anyone on staff ever read these comments? I don't think they ever read the feedback, as I've never had a reply from them. I would really like to know: 1. what the course is aiming to do at each level; 2.what you need to do to be allowed to move on to some more interesting topic, eg food; 3. & where it's aiming in the long run. What I would like is enough fluency to be able to travel in Italy. I'm not getting this from the course. What I mainly get is typing practice. I've repeatedly asked for an overview of the course but have had had no reply. Also what on earth do the mysterious 'hearts' mean?

February 3, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/JBrokaw

The hearts are how many answers you can get wrong, and still pass the lesson. If you get 1 answer wrong during the entire lesson, you will have 2 hearts left. When you answer a question wrong and you have no hearts left, you get a crying owl, who says, "You have no hearts left" and you fail the lesson. I know this from personal experience.The hearts also give you extra coins at the end :)

February 4, 2013
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