https://www.duolingo.com/brionbee

Massive learning curve for Hebrew Beta?

1)Recommend an in screen hebrew keyboard. At least. Otherwise I have to first take a no look hebrew typing course just to know what hebrew letter on my english keyboard I am typing where?

2)Assumption that hebrew letters are something someone already knows is presumptuous. If this is a first time language teaching program, then teach the letters of the aleph bet first. Or at least recommend some other apps that do.

3) Although purists will say that learning hebrew outside of the hebrew alefbet isn't conducive to learning long term hebrew reading/comprehension, it sure doesn't hurt in the very beginning stages when hebrew is still very foreign. Please use english spelling of hebrew in an introductory level (before level one) also woven in with an aleph bet immersion game/tutorial.

4) Hand this english to hebrew program to someone who has never heard or read hebrew even for a second. Their feedback will be invaluable. Quickly you will realize that they will have zero idea how to navigate the learning process as this now stands. (Level 1 for absolute beginners asking someone without any hebrew experience to translate, via typing in hebrew, a sentence from english to hebrew is light years beyond an unrealistic expectation! Someone at this stage doesn't even know what hebrew letters correspond with what sounds yet, much less know any full words in hebrew.)

5) Provide some readily accessible feedback/ideas button so you can dip into a wider ideas pool for a better end user experience.

August 4, 2016

23 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/PeelOfShame

A couple of comments... (I'm not one of the course creators, by the by, just a course user.)

1) I don't think having an in-app keyboard's a bad idea - certainly, other courses have some of the unique letters for their character sets listed. I've found that I do one of two things when I'm learning a new keyboard (for the languages where I've decided to do more than just figure out how to get the special characters on my English one) - I've popped my in-OS virtual keyboard onto the screen so I can see the layout and watch the keypresses when they happen, till my fingers learn it.

Though I'll happily admit that I'm also using a "Hebrew QWERTY" keyboard for the Hebrew course. I gave up for the moment on learning the 'real' Hebrew keyboard layout on my Mac.

2) There are plenty of resources online to learn the alefbet. I do wonder what the other courses with a different character-set (Russian, Greek, et al) are doing to teach their character sets, and would think more that Duolingo should establish a set of standards in this regard, which Hebrew should then follow. (I'm a software engineer during the day - I live based on standards. ;) )

3) No. This is a crutch and a bad idea. I don't think you'll find 'romanized' Hebrew anywhere in the real world - it's not like Japanese where 'romanji' is an accepted format.

4) I believe that they actually did run an alpha test with someone in exactly that situation, and incorporated the feedback.

5) Not quite sure myself what this means, so I can't really comment. What are you thinking of, with regards to what they'd show when you click a 'feedback/ideas button'? (Bear in mind that any button addition would have to be something that'd be exposed site-wide, so... adding a button is asking for a lot of work on both the part of the creators of the course and the Duolingo staff).

August 4, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut

2 - the Russian and Ukrainian teams did something very much like the Hebrew team, a skill or skills designed to teach the alphabet by using simple words and particularly nouns that sound more or less the same in each language. I don't know, but I strongly expect the Greek and Hindi teams will attempt something similar.

The basic issue is that Duolingo was not built to teach alphabets, and the course creators are presently confined to working with what Duolingo has given them to work with. At the moment, giving short, simple sentences concentrated around simple words and building the letters up slowly is the best they've got. Hopefully Duolingo will some day come up with something better, but so far their only response afaik has been the rather lacklustre transliteration in the Russian and Ukrainian courses :-/

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/amaratea

What I think is that alphabet skills should really use short and simple words. What personally turned me off is that the course introduced long and complex sentences from the very start. Plus there is no slow button because it's a live recording, plus there is no transcriprion. So I wasn't able to simply follow the sentence, let alone figure out the alphabet. At the same time, I am pretty sure, there are at least some short and simple 1-2-3 syllable words in Hebrew :)

Of course, I could learn alphabet somewhere else (and I did). But I could learn the entire language somewhere else as well. When I see a course for absolute beginners, I don't expect it to require a pre-course elsewhere.

The start of the Hebrew course is way too steep, and I am saying this as someone with a few non-European languages under my belt, so I am not intimidated by different writing systems or really different grammar patterns.

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut

I think it's a basic problem with teaching a language with a totally different alphabet that doesn't fit neatly into Duolingo's system PLUS having relatively few words that have cognates in English that are also easy to spell and can be combined into sentences PLUS trying to teach the letters systematically can lead to some pretty weird vocab choices. (One of the very early words on the Russian tree is sushi. Not exactly survival vocab, but it sounds the same so it's good for alphabet practice.)

And yes, it's made more difficult by the live recording - swings and roundabouts on that one. The voices are so good, for me the balance comes out in favour of real people for this course.

I'm not sure I agree about long and complicated sentences in the initial skills. They seem to be quite similar in length and complexity to the sentences at this stage in other courses. It didn't seem any different to me, and I just did a strengthen of all three alphabet skills (so close to 60 sentences) and the majority of the sentences were either "someone does something (to something)" or "someone is something", with a large sprinkling of one word or one word plus article sentences ("yes" "a girl" "the milk"), and a very occasional adjective or adverb (mostly good, well, beautiful, I think I also got hot a couple of times). I'm not sure I got any words above three syllables, most I'd say were two.

I got maybe half a dozen sentences that didn't fit within those parameters, and most of those it was just "and something" - for example, she likes bread and milk (I don't remember if I got that exact sentence, but that kind of a sentence. Of all of them, there were a couple I thought were quite tough, but they were the minority... I'm talking two out of 60.

Granted, I am sure there are more than 60 sentences available for those skills, but it's not a bad sample.

I've found several of the skills a little further down really hard, and I think some of the course goes faster than is ideal (at least for me), and some of the choices of vocab to teach seem a bit odd to me, but long or complicated sentences in the alphabet skills is at odds with my experience. Maybe I got lucky, or maybe you got unlucky, or maybe it was a bug (I remember they had a couple of sentences appearing in the wrong skills early on), but I can only go from my experience.

And I agree that one "shouldn't" have to supplement a course from elsewhere, but I also think this is largely a fault of the system and I know it's not a complaint unique to the Hebrew course. (The courses that use Cyrillic have a transliteration, but frankly I think it's pretty bad.) I also know that in both the Russian and Ukrainian forums I've seen complaints that the alphabet section is too short and too long, too hard and too easy. What seems impossible to one person might be just right for the next.

More pertinently, Duolingo just hasn't provided the developers with appropriate tools, and it shows. They've done the best with what they have to work with. (They also took the time to make complementary courses on Memrise to fill in some of the deficiencies in Duolingo's format.)

It's not perfect, but I think they've done pretty well within the constraints of the system.

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/amaratea

Well, I am not blaming the developers :P I know that here all "non-standard" languages have to fit the system tailored for entirely different needs. I do think that we may have a different understanding of what a complicated sentence is, though, for beginners that is. I practiced alphabet for a couple of weeks before the course was launched, but it was still hard for me to pick up words - the audio is fast, the pronunciation is unfamiliar and I am not confident enough with the alphabet to follow it with the speed of the audio. Sentences like "Dad comes" or "I want a cake" are ok, but the longer they are, the harder it becomes to simply grasp it. Just because there is no break between the words and it all comes in one floow that sweeps you away. I ended up making an excel spreadsheet with all sentences and their translations and had to practice and memorize them before I could go on with lessons. I don't think I was a victim to massive leakage from other skills, I think that the start is too steep. Just remember when you just started learning Russian - if there were no transcription, no turtle button and sentences of 5-8 words (even if it's something as easy as "She likes warm bread and milk") and it was supposed to teach you alphabet, would you not think it's steep?

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut

Actually, when I started learning Russian, which was not on Duolingo, we were pretty much expected to plunge in and get our own heads around the alphabet. There was no transliteration at all, and there most certainly was no snail button 8-o that would've been nice.

Trust me, I would've been all over Duolingo, and I wish wholeheartedly such a thing had been around when I started Russian. (Most of my Russian learning didn't even involve a computer - I learned to hand write Cyrillic long before I ever typed in it. feels ancient)

The first dialogue I remember (with no transliteration and a short vocabulary list after) was about someone arriving in Russia and trying to get through passport control. So yeah, maybe we do have different a understanding of what constitutes a complicated sentence... 8-o LOL ;)

That said, while I don't remember details of exactly which sentences I got (I kept count, I didn't write them down), "She likes warm bread and milk" does sounds vaguely familiar, and would definitely have gone in the list of half a dozen more complex sentences out of my sixty. Most of the ones I tagged as 'more complex' were along those lines.

I think there were a couple that edged a little beyond that degree of complexity that I thought were a bit of a stretch, but when I say "more complex", it was the "She likes warm bread and milk" type sentence that I was referring to.

The majority (54/60) were of the simpler "Something is something"/"Someone does something (to someone)" variety - eating of bread, drinking of milk, the book or the apple or the whatever being nice/beautiful/good/sweet, wanting of the cake אני רוצה עוגה, admiration of the nice cake העוגה יפה kind of thing.

(With apologies for any errors I make, I'm a fellow learner!)

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/amaratea

@flootzavut whoever made the Russian course you were taking definitely had their own idea of complexity :D anyway, just to make sure we're on the same page, my problem is not with "long" sentences but with the fact that it's hard to follow sentences with no cognates when you cannot read them along with the audio. This is the point when even the simplest and cutest phrases may become intimidating. Because you (I :D) cannot pick them up and feel completely lost. Apart from that the course seems to have a good structure and it's entertaining too. So hopefully after the initial rocky start it becomes smooth (I still have to get there though).

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut

Well, it was at uni, and we were expected to get up to speed fast, and it was almost twenty years ago with old fashioned teachers who probably wouldn't have had much truck with doing things to make stuff easier...! 8-o

I agree about the cognates and such - I do think a lot of it is to do with the language and the alphabet more than the course. And possibly more to do with the lack of cognates than the alphabet. I mean, I had the same issues with Hungarian, which uses the Latin alphabet. So much that's unfamiliar and for which I have no handy preexisting hook in my brain which I can latch the new information onto, if you know what I mean? And yes, it is easier when at least I can more rapidly see the relationship between the writing and the sound, but there's a reason I rapidly stopped trying to do both at the same time, and actually I was finding Hungarian harder at that point, to be honest. I think if Hebrew used the same writing system but had more handy cognates (I'm sure there must be more, but literally the only one I can think of right now is קפה...), I don't think the writing system would seem nearly as impenetrable.

It would definitely be easier if they were able to have individual audio for the words, so that they came with the picture exercises at the beginning of vocab-heavy lessons.

I was a false beginner when I started the tree here - I learned the alphabet and some small bits of grammar and vocab 8-9-ish years ago, but had forgotten most of it. I'm sure that older knowledge of the alphabet helped some, and I remembered a few words - please/thank you/good morning/I speak English/I don't speak Hebrew were probably the main things I retained.

I do recommend the Memrise courses - I've found them enormously helpful. I wish I'd started on them for a few weeks before the course came out! They're brilliant for pronunciation of individual words, and they're also really helpful to get more of a grip on the vocab, especially the large chunks of said vocab which have very few cognates with anything most of us speak. For the most part I find brute force memorisation kind of boring and pointless, but I have found it fairly essential to hang on to vocab for Hebrew.

(So far, most of the mnemonics I've come up with have been to stop me being completely confused with Russian vocab rolleyes For example, the word for jam/jelly sounds rather like the Russian word for fish, so I have to think jellyfish, and the word for pot sounds like the Russian word for cheese so I have to think pot of cheese...)

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/amaratea

@flootzavut there is a "Norwegian Duo" course on Memrise, and your post made me wish really hard for someone to make "Duo Hebrew" Memrise course as well. It would be immensely helpful! Someone? Please? :D

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/amaratea

@A_User silly me.. :D

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User

Yep. :-D There's a link in the Welcome post. :-)

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Tzipity

What I think would be a big help (because what you said about it all blending together has been brought up quite a bit and while I've had quite a bit of Hebrew exposure and soem formal even university level classes before starting the course I still sometimes have to play things multiple times or hear things wrong on listening exercises as well), would be if they had audio for each word so you could click just that word and hear the pronunciation.

One thing I strongly dislike about the DuoLingo format is when learning new words not all of the new words have audio right away and for some of the tougher to pronounce ones especially further in the course when the sentences do get long, it's just so hard to have to repeat an entire sentence multiple times to hear the pronunciation of one word.

I like the audio and its very true to native speakers (I've used CDs and am concurrently working with some Living Language workbooks and CDs and some of their speakers are definitely non native and their vocab is up to date as are some pronunciations) but good gosh, I would love to see the ability to click and hear each word. It really shouldn't be so hard to take the audip they have and break it down like that though I know it would be time consuming and im unsure if the format would support that as well as the complete sentences being read which is still important as well.

But I suspect this would also help many of the issues you mentioned and overall would be of great use to everyone.

August 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut

Well, you found it in the end, that's the main thing! There's an alphabet course, too: http://www.memrise.com/course/1087087/hebrew-alef-bet/ - I can't say from personal experience if it's good, but the same user created it and has done an excellent job with the vocab course, so I see no reason to assume it's anything other than excellent!

The vocab course has been an absolute godsend for me. Like I say, not usually a fan of brute force memorisation, but with Hebrew I've really needed it.

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut

1 - This is not something the course developers have any control over.
2 - The first few skills are designed to teach the alphabet, they're not perfect, but the team had to work within the confines of the Duolingo system. Other languages which use non-Latin script have had the same issue, though the nature of an abjad poses different problems. However, there are scads of resources available to learn the alphabet, many of which have been introduced in various threads. I'd suggest the sticky threads at the top of the forum would be a good place to start.
3 - Again, the alefbet game idea is all very well except the people who created this course had to work within an existing framework which doesn't have a specific resource for doing this. The course developers are bilinguals trying to teach their language, they're not (afaik) programmers, and even if they were, they don't have access to Duolingo on that level.
I think you seriously underestimate the complication that adding latinised pronunciation to sentences would be, particularly given that the way the alefbet works is not conducive to an easy one-to-one transliteration such as the Russian and Ukrainian courses use (which transliteration is not very good anyway). I would also say that "English spelling of Hebrew", given the many varieties of English around the world, is a wildly disparate thing and might not be as helpful as you think unless the person doing the spelling has the same accent as you do.
4 - The team did exactly that during development, with an alpha tester who had no exposure to Hebrew, including the alphabet. I'm sure they incorporated feedback. This beta is also a chance to do that and it's part of what it's here for.
5 - Again, this is something the developers have relatively little control over (the feedback system on individual sentences is an automated one that is the same for all courses), though they have provided a sticky thread and requested feedback on the tips and notes. I'm not sure what else you expect them to do than provide a specific thread for feedback, invite comment, and make it a sticky thread at the top of the forum.

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/BrookeLorren

Hebrew does have a pretty steep learning curve. I'm doing the alphabet 1 skill at least twice before moving on. Maybe I'll do it three times... although the next skill is alphabet 2, so I might move on, or try to.

I also put a preview of the keyboard up on my desktop to look at while I'm typing. Since I touch-type, stickers wouldn't really work. That helps.

I don't think it would be helpful, in the long run, to use Latin-based letters. It's a necessary skill if you want to learn the language.

Duolingo is not really the best place to learn alphabets. At least the way it's set up at the moment. Maybe that's why they have not done more non-Latin based languages yet. I'm teaching Spanish and German to homeschoolers through Duolingo this fall... and if it goes well I might offer a Russian class next year... but I don't think that I would end up teaching it through Duolingo (although I would definitely suggest it as a supplemental resource). The challenges of teaching the alphabet AND how to type the alphabet are a little more than I can offer (the class is one hour per week).

August 4, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Guitardude2000

1) I completely agree, this would be a helpful tool. 2) the new Duolingo-affiliated app " Tiny Cards" has done some to help with the Alphabet learning-curve. I recommend this one for learning the Aleph-Bet : https://tiny.cards/decks/152d6418-e940-4726-b9ca-e61dd2fae8d4

August 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/wyzra

I also think it has a very steep learning curve. There seem to be a lot of kinks in the system, for example, some of the lessons only have 7 (!) exercises, and once I got just one with audio, and some of them have 22. You can get a new vocabulary word and they expect you to learn it just by seeing it once, possibly in a conjugation or plural form or with no audio.

I think the alefbet is not really the main obstacle...it is just the first one. I was able to learn it alright just from doing 10 minutes on Memrise in addition to the lessons. I also learned to touch type in Hebrew from this --- my system is Duolibro without keyboard stickers.

The Memrise course is invaluable. I'm trying to supplement these courses by consuming Hebrew media as much as I can, and I can already pick up words here and there and sometimes even a sentence just having completed up to Present 2.

August 20, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut

I believe that the lesson length is based on a combination of how many letters the lesson is trying to teach + how many errors you make. (There may be some A/B testing also in the mix, though I think that would be consistent for one individual, it would be weird if you had different A/B tests going on for the same person in the same language.)

I think 7 is the shortest lesson I've had in any language, when I've made no mistakes. When I make a lot of mistakes, the lesson is that much longer. I remember that in my failed attempt at Turkish, I was relatively commonly managing to make a lesson last over 30 questions, because I got so much wrong. I don't think I've often hit 40... but when I do, I tend to assume there's something in a previous lesson I should review! I think Turkish is the only language I've been that awful at LOL

September 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/dorotheian

That's also what makes the first few lessons so painful in Hebrew. If you're encountering elements you haven't been taught before, and are still learning to recognize, the more mistakes = longer lessons is very discouraging early on. Which....the lesson length is fine, but the fact that several challenging concepts are thrown at beginners early, with no introduction, causing the lessons to be longer, is not.

April 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/DavidCoombs

My biggest challenge with the Hebrew lessons is that there is no audio when you click on individual words. I have zero exposure to Hebrew before, so for me the audio is critical to pick up the sounds and get comfortable with a new alphabet. There are numerous exercises with absolutely no audio (more than half, sometimes two-thirds of the time), which makes it a nearly worthless exercise to me. When I hear the audio while looking at these foreign characters, I am associating sounds with these characters and thus learning the alphabet. For me, this has been the biggest shortfall. I've found the course extremely challenging because of this hole, and has made it discouraging to learn. Also, because so many of the characters look similar to each other, hearing the sound helps me know which character it actually is, and helps me fine tune my sensitivity to the Hebrew script. Please add audio to each word when you click on it in a sentence! And make sure that each sentence has audio available to listen to!

September 28, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut

"Please add audio to each word when you click on it in a sentence! And make sure that each sentence has audio available to listen to!"

As has been explained elsewhere, this isn't something the team has any power over. They're limited by several things, the main ones being the structure of Duolingo (which isn't ideal for teaching an alphabet) and the lack of a good TTS (which means they are reliant on voice artists and it's prohibitively expensive to add all the sentences and (as far as I am aware) impossible to add in invididual word pronunciations. (I think the team were talking about this with Duolingo but recently discovered it wasn't going to happen; this is second hand knowledge, so my memory of the details might be shaky, but I'm pretty sure I'm basically right on that.)

These are not things that are likely to change/be solved any time soon, so your best bet is to accept Duolingo has limitations and use the Memrise courses the team have provided and other resources to make up for the inherent shortfall of the Duolingo system in this regard.

Duolingo isn't a 'total' system anyway, since it doesn't really give good speaking or listening practice, and should always be supplemented. It's not ideal that the audio is limited, but you're better off working with what is available than asking for solutions the team are not able to provide.

I haven't used the alef-bet course on Duolingo, because I was already semi-familiar with the script before, but the vocabulary course is enormously helpful. And honestly, if I'd had a resource like Duolingo back when I first wanted to learn Hebrew, I'd be much better at it than I currently am. It's not perfect, no, but it's really good, and if you really want to learn Hebrew, then it's very much a worthwhile task to utilise the resources the team have provided to get the best out of it.

September 29, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/mao4269

The FAQs (https://www.duolingo.com/comment/16292319) explicitly say that the DuoLingo course (based on limitations in DuoLingo's platform) starts with sentences, that this is a challenge for those who need to learn the alphabet first, and links to a Memrise course (also created by the course creators) to help with that.

August 8, 2016
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