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Why , on earth, does the Vietnamese course initiate the course with such hard sentences, it hurts the motivation for the course and does not encourage, or help, learning.

August 18, 2016



They took a different approach than other courses. They didn't want you to focus on the sentences being learned, only the sounds and alphabet. Due to the way Duolingo works, they were only able to accomplish this with words and sentences. One thing to keep in mind is that Duolingo is not meant to be a phrase book; it is not meant to teach you useful sentences, but the basics of a language. You have to change the way you think about things for the Vietnamese course because the language is so different from English.

Personally, I think they took the correct approach and executed it rather well. The people that tend to find it much too difficult are usually focusing on the wrong things (but that's just what I've observed; obviously each person and their struggles with the language are different).

Also, the word you were looking for is "difficulty" (in case any English learners are reading this).


I think they are doing the right thing. It's more important to understand the word's meaning than the grammar. The meaning of the word changes depending on its tone. Not as in English, when we have only one syllable to put stress on in one word, in Vietnamese, every word has only one syllable and that syllable has its tone. For example: a, à, á, ả, ã, ạ have to be essentially distinguished and they have different meanings. Another example: "Tôi ăn dưa" = "I eat a melon", "Tôi ăn dừa" = "I eat a coconut", "Tôi ăn dứa" = "I eat a pineapple". That's why the instructors first, focus on the sounds of the words and the alphabet and not the sentences :)

[deactivated user]

    eh hem, dưa, dứa and dừa are three different words in the eyes of Vietnamese, not the same word with different tones.


    because different tones in Vietnam make different words :) maybe the word "tone" is not so accurate here, sorry I forgot the word for the small little things we put on the word haha

    I just wanted to complement the work of the instructors of the course when they focus on how the word sounds more than the grammar. I agree that sounds in Vietnamese is the most important, without understanding about that, one could say something really bad, don't you think?


    I agree in full that this is extremelly important for learning vietnamese, but they should teach it in the way that you do here. Just some simple sentences showing the differences, and then you have it. Then, they could complicate it.


    Well said. They are definitely not taking the correct approach. I am not learning Vietnamese currently but I have a friend whom I help on Duolingo.


    Um, I think you might have misread or mistyped... I said I feel they are taking the right approach given the tools they have to work with (they would have done it differently if the Incubator worked differently).


    Oh no I meant that the people learning Vietnamese are not taking the right approach. I understood exactly what you were saying :) I did not mean the course creators. :)


    Of course I know it's a whole different language which require a different approach, but I still think it would be helpfull with some simple sentences at the very beginning so you get a grasp of it, before going for full fully complicated sentences wich make no sense for a beginner.

    btw, whats wrong with 'difficultness'? Even though it is not as common as 'difficulty' it is a solid valid term, good to know for a english learner:)


    Then it comes down to a matter of opinion. I find the sentences at the start quite simple and find that they do accomplish the goal of showing the difference in meaning of words by changes in tone. The fact that the sentences themselves mean nothing or very little matters just as little to me. The goal is not to learn sentences. It is to learn the words and grammar.

    'Difficultness' is not a proper English word (in fact not a word at all) because it is lexically blocked by 'difficulty'. It's simply that the former is the more Germanic formation of the noun form from the adjective 'difficult' while the latter is the more Latin formation.


    Concerning 'difficultness', the dictionaries do not agree with what you say.


    Ah, well then something has been gained from this exchange. It seems that difficultness is a rare, possibly antiquated or becoming antiquated, noun form of difficult, to the point where most spell checkers do not recognize it. Some sources say it is countable and has the plural 'difficultnesses' (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary) while others treat it as an uncountable noun. Personally, any word or word-form that does not come up in the Oxford English Online Etymology Dictionary must be rare to the point that it likely shouldn't be used in everyday speech or simply isn't a word. This case appears to match the former.

    I still stand by the change as not many native English speakers will know this even though they can understand what is meant. Difficulty is also the more versatile term as it has more meanings than difficultness. All in all, you should just stick with difficulty.


    What sentences early on did you find particularly complicated?


    I struggled to point out that "Duolingo/this course is not a phrase book". Besides Vietnamese course on Rosetta Stones that I have not tried, most learning resources on the Internet are presented in a phrase book-liked structure. They organize sentences that tend to be frequently used by tourists to Vietnam in different categories, then learners will approach the language from that. Therefore, when they first came to this course, they would expect the same thing: categorized lessons that teach conversational sentences. Thus the disappointment and complaint in the first few skills.

    Having said that, I still think the course requires more work to make it more approachable to learners, in term of difficulty level and grammar explanation. The team is still working on it.


    Yeah, it's not perfect by any means, but the courses here seem to only get better with time, especially when they gain access to their Tree 2.0. I look forward to when that time comes (hopefully I'll be able to focus on it by then, since I'm focusing on Spanish, German and Dutch right now).

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