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  5. In Duolingo's defense . . . .


In Duolingo's defense . . . .

Yes, there are a zillion bugs and frustraions. I don't why I have to call a Roman Catholic "iglesia" a temple, either. But ... I don't walk into an algebra class and ask questions about calculus.

Many learners here are working at a level that is obviously "beneath them." They have a better grasp of the language than is being taught at the level they are at on Duo. I think this leads to many of the "Why can't it be _?" comments regarding translations, and dialogues about picky points of syntax. Many times the correct translation may be the one we want to use, but it is not in Duo's dictionary because Duo's lexicon is not comprehensive and/or the word is not appropriate for teaching at the level being taught. Yes, I got tired of "the chicken eats rice," too, but the person trying conjugate "comer" in the present indicative is where he or she is. If we want to argue about why we can't use "gallina" that may not be the place to do it. I have seen folks ask, regarding low level questions "Shouldn't this be in the subjunctive?"

This, coupled with the fact that a few of us here, it seems, are the folks that got 99% on a test and argued with the prof, vehemently, about that 1% :) means that some of us may be asking, good, but untimely, questions. I am constantly reminding myself that Duo is primarily for folks at the shallow end of the pool, and the swimming teacher is a robot.

I still don't accept "temple" as a translation of "iglesia, " though! ;)

February 4, 2013



Me three. People are far too picky about their learning. I think another problem is that people éxpect DuoLingo to do everything for them. It's almost as if they don't seek out other avenues of learning other than the practices and lessons on this site, which are an excellent resource but can never replace, for example, speaking Spanish to a native Hispanophone live in person.


Yep. Many good sites will explain grammar points, and one can find a used Spanish/English dictionary and a used textbook for cheap.


I love the site, and one thing that's great about it is that the developers actually pay attention to feedback and sometimes respond. This gives me hope that what's already a great free service will eventually become an even better one. Why not post criticisms and suggestions, if there's a chance that they could lead to improvements?


I am not suggesting we do not post criticisms and suggestions, but that they fit the situation. We are dealing with a computer, a robot, yet some people seem to think it should have the abilities of a Nobel Prize winner in multi-cultural literature. ;)


For me it's fun to train DL, even if many sentences are nonsense or just too basic. Also I don't care about lost hearts, when I try to use uncommon translations, because every new suggestion I submit can help to improve the system. I really enjoy this flexible system and am pleasured whenever an emails pops in, saying my suggestion has been accepted.

A great new feature would be, to have a test at the very beginning to check the user's level. If one manages to translate high level sentences the level should be raised accordingly.


I fully agree. So when I make a suggestion this is not meant to criticize Duolingo.


Most definitely! The questions could also dynamically change mid-test based on the student's answers.


Plodding through the repetitive beginner exercises on here has brought my level of French up from almost nothing (besides bonjour, merci, un deux trois etc) to the point where my exploration of the language has got me questioning some of the translations on Duolingo. I'm nowhere near fluent, maybe high level beginner at a push, but this site has been a godsend for giving me at least some basis on which I can build my French. I started several months ago learning 'la pomme' and 'la fille' but now I'm beginning to understand the spoken language and I'm dipping into some easy books. All this progress and I haven't yet perfected all my lessons or finished all my translations.


I didn't get much from the translations, and did not do very many.


You get as much as you put in.


If I like the article I enjoy translating it. I just can't usually bring myself to translate articles about cars and motorbikes. It doesn't interest me, there's a lot of technical words and a limited vocabulary since it's such a specific subject.


Translating articles does provide much exposure to what it takes to carry on an everyday conversation with someone, IMO.


yes, but languages are about speaking, reading, listening and writing so even though it doesn't help you have a conversation it does help you learn all sorts of other things that are important too


I feel that it helps you get a better hold on how words fit together. You start with "La fille mange une pomme," and then you do a real-world thingy and get "la fille est toujours à la plage avec l'autre fille," and you start figuring out how far out the grammar rules reach.


It can definitely be tough but sometimes you can find more rewarding ones. And then sometimes you learn some more technical words that might come in handy.


I browse a Mexican newspaper, online, 4-5 days a week, and it helps a lot.


What I like to do, because I often spend lots of time on Wikipedia reading about whatever takes my fancy, is to occasionally go on the Spanish-language Wikipedia and read miscellaneous articles there. It's written in relatively simple international Spanish amd clicking on hyperlinked words in the articles helps to learn more about each one. Other than that watching Spanish-language films with English subtitles is great.


@ MagdaSoko I have used Destinos, a free video series (54 30 min episodes) you can Google. www.studyspanish.com is a good reference for grammar issues. BBC has a decent online, free, basic program in European Spanish. Spanish TV/DVDs help me, if I watch a familiar movie, or watch them several times. A decent dictionary and textbook really help. I like the books of the "Practice MAkes Perfect" series by McGraw-Hill. There are some good side-by-side Spanish/English readers, some with free mp3 downloads (check the McGraw-Hill site) that are good. I have also picked up basic children's books, in the "Goosebumps" series, with an English copy and a Spanish copy, and worked through them. Go to Half-Price Books or online to PaperBackSwap and you can get old college texts, labs, CDs, DVDs for cheap, too. I've got Spanish radio (online) going quite a bit, and when I visit Mexican restaurants I talk as much as they'll allow -- usually a lot if I ask them about their home state in Mexcio. If you want specific links to some of this stuff, just holler.


rspreng ... do you have any additional resources (other than Duolingo) that you might suggest. (I like the newspaper idea.)

I use the Spanish Word of the Day site A LOT ... especially to help me understand grammar points. I also started taking children's literature books out of the library, which is giving me a different kind of practice.

Thanks for your insights on this forum.


Thanks SO much for this rspreng. Lots of great ideas here ... I really appreciate it.


You know it's so true. For people who are genuinely completely new to the language, the repetition of a lot of words is ACTUALLY helpful. I introduced a Chinese friend to this site and she's learning German, it really is a perfect system for her. People would complain less if they were studying languages they didn't know.


Yes, people have to remember it's a computer and not a human being. Languages have so many valid translations that unless one is meeting with a human, there will be a limit to the number of correct answers.

I accept this. I'm not concerned about how many hearts I get. I'm learning so much more than I ever did with a teacher plus DL is available 24/7.


yo estoy de acuerdo (lo pongo en español porque no tengo buena redacción en inglés), a mí me ha servido mucho con el francés, del que no sabía absolutamente nada. Con el inglés me cansó un poco porque se tiene que empezar desde cero y cuando sólo quieres reforzar un idioma no es la mejor opción. Sin embargo, cuando no conoces nada del idioma ES LO MÁXIMO!!! por lo menos para empezar. Después, supongo, ver constantemente series, películas, etc. en el idioma, leer textos y demás ayudará a tener claro tanto modismos como nuevas palabras, y a corregir errores, porque como toda cosa creada por humanos, duolingo debe tenerlos. Pero me agrada que se aprende de manera muy intuitiva, casi sin notarlo. Me parece una gran página. Y el que no esté de acuerdo porque ya sabe el idioma... ¡¡¡¡que aprenda uno nuevo!!!! (aquí hay muchos que seguro no conoce)


Yo tambien estoy completamente de acuerdo contigo.


loca, si quieres publicar algo en Inglés, Google Translate (http://translate.google.com/) es una gran opción. Lo he utilizado mucho para hacer negocios con quienes no hablan inglés. Sus traducciones son bastante buenos. (Como ejemplo, este post es el producto de Google Translate. He escrito en Inglés y la traducción aquí copiado sin cambios). Traductor Google es mi ayuda indispensable para el aprendizaje de idiomas.

For non-Spanish speakers: loca, if you want to post something in English, Google Translate (http://translate.google.com/) is a great option. I've used it a lot to conduct business with non-English speakers. Its translations are pretty good. (As an example, this post is the product of Google Translate. I wrote in English and copied the translation here with no changes.) Google Translate is my indispensible aid for learning languages.


Hah! I feel kind of sorry for you if you rely completely on Google-Translate for your business. I'll use it once in a while for the dictionary/thesaurus feature, but it's far from perfect. For example, I enter "I am sitting. I sit. I have sat. You are sitting. You sit. You have sat." In French, I get "Je suis assis. Je suis assis. J'ai sam. Vous êtes assis. Vous êtes assis. Vous avez sam." Sam? Where'd that word come from? It's the abbreviation of Samedi, which is French for Saturday. So instead of giving me a translation of "I have sat down," Google Translate gave me "I have saturday."


"Yes, there are a zillion bugs and frustrations"...but, personally, when I have posted comments that are "critical" it is done without anger or irritation. I realize that Duolingo is a work in progress & think it is a brilliant idea if only...oops, I had better not start. Thank you, developers, for this opportunity to solidify my basic Spanish. I hope that you can collect the kvetches & use them to sort-out the fine points so that this thing works well & makes you a pile of money somehow or other.

BTW, I still find some of the translations pretty funny. That includes a few of mine, when I come across them later...but don't tell anyone.


Yes I agree.

I also think the constant criticism of Duolingo is somewhat tedious. Yes, it's not perfect, yes some of its translations can be a bit mind boggling, yes some translations are in a form that would never be used in the native language it's being translated into.

But for a free resource, what it does, it does extremely well. Not only does it do it well, it makes learning a language fun and enjoyable – which is exactly what it should be.

I've personally made substantial progress on Duolingo and that in itself is testament to just how good Duolingo is.

It's not perfect, it's evolution in progress, but it's still a lot better than many paid for services on the web.

I have nothing but praise for Duolingo and all the people who work there.


Mir auch! I am grateful...still at a beginning level, but I really find it addictive (in a good way). Thanks, Duolingo!


Remember guys this is a FREE service, so don't go expecting top notch quality


You can expect top notch quality. Duolingo is a dynamic teaching website, meaning they are always listening to the crowd and tweaking it to improve its service. If you have any suggestions, please share them because DL is always improving. It's not the same as it was a week ago, a month ago or last year.


I agree with all of you. I like Duolingo. It has helped me with my German. Even though I do admit that there are a bunch of bugs, but really? To take away something that actually has some use is childish.


I just recently discovered duo after spending a year or so of self teaching and finally giving up in frustration. I think this is the BEST online learn to speak a language program I have discovered so far. But of course that's coming from one in the shallow end of the pool. No, my dogs don't eat rice or cheese, but I am learning and one day I know I'll have reason to ask for a bowl of rice in a spanish speaking country… maybe even with cheese.


Let's not forget this is a free website. If you want to complain about the website, then just go buy rosseta stone. When you are paying hundreds of dollars you have a right to compain, but when it is free be grateful for what you get


I agree. I am approaching DuoLingo as a student who has had no exposure to French whatsoever. I think that the lessons are very well designed for complete novices. It's an amazing opportunity to get to learn a foreign language, simply by sitting at my desk at home. I think that people who are fluent in a language, fluent enough to argue specifics of conjugation, for example, are beyond the intended scope of DuoLingo. I'm learning something completely new to me, and it's great to be able to work at my own speed, whenever it's convenient for me to spend time on it.

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