Weekly Incubator Update: Tracking Progress from September 11th to September 18th
New course starts!
Spanish for Arabic has been introduced in the incubator. Welcome aboard!
Also, there are several team updates this week. I managed to complete this edition only on Tuesday, even though I started on Sunday. I have added a few old that were missed, and a few new updates that have just come in. Enjoy!
PHASE 1 Progress: Total
Esperanto for Spanish - 100% | 100% | 100% | 100% (+0) 9-Sep-2016
Romanian for English - 100% | 99% | 99% | 99% (+0) 30-Sep-2016
English for Thai - 99% | 99% | 99% | 99% (+0)
Portuguese for French - 96% | 96% | 96% | 98% (+2) 1-Oct-2016
German for Italian - 95% | 95% | 95% | 95% (+0)
Swahili for English - 70% | 70% | 70% | 70% (+0) 1-Dec-2016 ^
Spanish for Italian - 70% | 70% | 70% | 70% (+0)
Swedish for Russian - 69% | 69% | 69% | 69% (+0)
Italian for Portuguese - 64% | 65% | 66% | 67% (+1) 25-Dec-2016
Czech for English - 60% | 61% | 62% | 63% (+1) 7-Jul-2017 ^
French for Chinese - 48% | 48% | 48% | 48% (+0)
Russian for Turkish - 46% | 46% | 46% | 46% (+0) 31-Dec-2016
French for Turkish - 42% | 43% | 44% | 44% (+0)
Spanish for Arabic - (New) 43% (+1)
Klingon for English - 32% | 33% | 33% | 33% (+0) 31-Dec-2016
Hindi for English - 28% | 28% | 28% | 28% (+0) 26-Jan-2017 ^
Indonesian for English - 28% | 28% | 29% | 27% (-2)
Korean for English - 23% | 24% | 25% | 26% (+1) 31-Dec-9999
English for Tamil - 16% | 19% | 19% | 19% (+0) 28-Feb-2017
English for Bengali - 12% | 13% | 13% | 16% (+3) 20-Feb-2017
Yiddish for English - 9% | 9% | 9% | 9% (+0) 7-Jul-2018
English for Telugu - 0% | 0% | 0% | 0% (+0)
English for Tagalog - (New) 0% | 0% | 0% (+0) 24-Dec-2016
Course - 3 weeks ago | 2 weeks ago | a week ago | Now (Progress delta); Estimated Launch Date (provided by contributors) (Date delta)
'Estimated Launch Date' only when provided by the course contributors
Mean - 0.35% | 0.36% | 0.23% | 0.30% (+0.07)
Median - 0% | 0% | 0% | 0% (+0)
* This week's Leader Extraordinaire!
^ The Hindi, Czech, & Swahili teams' progress is as per their own calculation
Here's what the contributing teams have said during the last week:
(For Phase-1 and Phase-2 courses by default, and for Phase-3 courses per request).
1251 words, 63%.
Here's a sample of my handwritten Tamil. என் தமிழ் கையெழுத்து.
அகர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் ஆதி பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு
"Just as "A" is the first among all letters, the first god precedes the worlds."
Has my name (Rohan) written below. [ரோஹண்] கீழே உள்ள 'ரோஹண்' என் பெயர். [Rohan]
This is the first among the 1330 Kur̥als written by Tiru Val̥l̥uvar, in around 31 BCE, but the exact year is unknown.
குரள் என்றால் என்னவென்று தமிழில் சொல்ல தேவையா? :)
أهلا بالجميع و مرحبًا. نحن سعداء جدًا لبدئنا فى الدورة الإسبانية لمتحدثى اللغة العربية و سوف نُعْلمكم فى كل أسبوع بما فعلناه فى المنهج و نحن متحمسون جدًا للبدء فى هذا المنهج الجديد. فى البداية هذه النسبة غير حقيقية نحن فى الواقع انتهينا للتو من الدرس الأول. و نتوقع فى بداية الأمر أن ننهى الشجرة فى خلال ثلاثة أشهر و سنبذل ما بوسعنا لننهى الشجرة فى أقرب وقت ممكن. إذًا نراكم فى الأسبوع القادم
Hello everyone and welcome. we are very happy to start the Spanish course for Arabic speakers and we will get you know every week what we did in the course and we are very excited to start in this new course. In the beginning, the percentage of the course is not real as we actually just did the first skill. We expect in the beginning to finish the tree in three months and we will do our best to finish the tree as soon as possible. So see you next time.
Adios! (Good bye)
The Spanish - Arabic team.
Update Tuesday, 20-Sep:
Adding updates from the Polish (thanks to (Kevinguy19](/Kevinguy19)), Hungarian, & Korean teams...
There is some good news we would like to share with you:
First, say hello to the newest members of our team:
Jellei has joined us to help us develop the best Polish course ever as a course contributor, while Emwue, immery and Vengir are the new forum moderators who are here to help you with all your Polish-related problems and questions.
Second, we have started developing the mighty Tree 2.0!
This has been our plan for quite a long time. The current tree can give you a pretty good idea of how Polish works, but there are some parts that we would like to improve or expand.
Developing and maintaining the first iteration of the skill tree has taught us a lot of things – things we wish we knew right from the very start. To put them into practice, we have to sit down and reconsider the entire tree.
Many skills will be added, expanded or moved. Words that are taught too early or too late will be put where they belong. Concepts that may seem a bit unclear will be introduced in a smoother and more orderly fashion. Unimaginative or convoluted sentences will be replaced with more natural and communicative ones. Topics which were a bit neglected (Polish cuisine anyone?) will finally get the attention they deserve.
The overarching goal is to enable you, learners, to steer through the intricacies of the Polish language without investing more effort than is necessary. Of course, some effort will still be required – let's face it, Polish is not an easy language.
We want you to get an intuitive feel of how the language works without diving too deep into the underlying rules. And we want you to do that by working with sentences that are somehow useful in everyday communication. The beginnings might still be a little bit dull – it is hard to compose thrilling sentences when you are barely able to use 3 of the 7 cases – but they should do a fine job of gently leading you towards basic communicative competence.
And yes, there will be Tips & Notes. Ideally, they will cover much more ground that they do right now. We decided to stop developing them for the current version of the tree, as they would be rendered useless by the many changes made to Tree 2.0. Naturally, we will continue to support the current tree. While there will be no new exercises added to the current version, we will still be going through your reports and trying to squash all these pesky bugs.
We do realize that it all sounds very ambitious. We may not be able to achieve each and every goal we set for ourselves. Still, we believe Tree 2.0 will be a significant improvement over the current tree. If it's not – well, there's always Tree 3.0 :)
Alright, now let's answer the most obvious of questions:
When will Tree 2.0 be released?
We don't know. Probably not in 2016.
Ah, so 2017 it is?
You should ask us again when 2017 rolls around. Seriously, with these things, it is really hard to tell, especially at the very start of the road. Sure, we could come up with some imaginary deadline, but it would hardly mean anything with so many unpredictable factors. You have to remember that we are all volunteering our free time to make this happen.
Keep your fingers crossed! Or even better: trzymajcie kciuki, which literally means hold your thumbs. Yes, that is what we say when we wish someone the best of luck. And that is what we do.
Cheers! Team Polish
Late summer update
many of us have taken a little break from duolingo in August, but we haven't vanished completely! In the last two weeks, our report rates have been fluctuating a bit, going down as low as 15, and currently up to just above 18 again. We've been adding tips & notes, and we're obviously continuing fixing the stuff you report!
It seems that some people at duolingo are also taking well-deserved time off, so there's not much news on whether we can get slower versions of our audio recordings. I'm trying to get some information on that through other channels, too!
More on this soon, I hope!
Thanks to all of you for using and helping to improve the course!
16 September 2016
We're still hard at work building the Korean course and wanted to share some of our latest news.
After several months, we've taken care of the thousands of reports on our English course! This is good news for all of you waiting for the Korean course. It'll be easier to keep up with the reports as they come in and we'll be able to focus more on the Korean course.
We've also noticed that some of the sentences we're adding now to teach Korean have migrated to the English course, so taking care of the reports coming in will help us make sure that more possible translations are available before the course is released.
Current progress: 652/2559 words 80/100 images
Our course was pre-populated based on the Dutch tree, and so as we customize the tree, the total number of words fluctuates up and down. Recently the total has been overall on the rise, which means that it our course completion percentage has been rising more slowly.
We're just past the second check-point and going full steam ahead toward number three!
Slowly, but steadily
we're slowly but steadily pushing our rate of reports down. Last week we were at around 18, this week we're at 15.7, so there's some progress there! More tips & notes are coming, we keep adding translations and listening to your reports and finally duolingo got back to us, as well.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be possible to add TTS (text-to-speech; the synthetic audio you might know from other courses) to the Hungarian course for single words — mixing recordings appears to be impossible. I hope that we can maybe add slowed-down recordings so that we can make the turtle-button work, but I am a bit doubtful about that. You'll hear about it!
Some other questions I asked where solved in the meantime — the course has been available on mobile for a while now, and the accents that many of you were asking for should also be working properly.
There are still many improvements to be made, but we're making progress in fixing sentences — our declining report rate testifies for that. I cannot help but thank you all again for your feedback and reports!
Spanish for Arabic starts in the Duolingo Incubator!
Previous Update 4-Sep to 11-Sep
I just really want to see a new course for English speakers in the Incubator, or a new one in Beta. The progress has been pretty slow recently:/
Really? I see comments like this a lot, but I never really get it - we (English speakers) currently have 20 courses available and another 8 being made, while most other base languages only have a single course (teaching English). I'd much rather see new courses being made in other languages, especially since some of the courses teaching English have well over a million users. It's not like there wouldn't be demand!
(Obviously I'd like new courses too -cough- Mongolian and Persian -cough- but I'd also like for things to be a little more evenly spread, and I'm 100% for that being Duo's focus for the next while.)
Don't forget that "we (English speakers)" also includes non-native speakers who ladder from English because their language isn't big enough to get their own courses (Nordic languages etc.) or there aren't enough people to contribute (Swahili for Mandarin speakers).
I don't know what percentage of Duo's English speakers are non-natives but I can say anecdotally that most of the potential Finnish learners I know are non-native English speakers. They probably wouldn't mind a course for SV, CZ, JA etc. speakers but realistically speaking those are not happening any time soon™. English is their best bet.
It boggles my mind sometimes how insulated from the rest of the world so many English speakers not only are, but insist on being. For example, health care and educational professionals with Spanish language skills are in high demand in many Latin American regions (including here on the US-Mex border) and we have to rely on immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia to make up for shortages. In the US border city where I live, we actually have a group who help Middle East health care professionals who immigrate here assimilate into this very bilingual part of North America and there are people here tutoring Arabic speakers in Spanish as a full-time job. Materials for Spanish for Arabic speakers are in demand and that Duo has added such a course shows they are either cognizant of this demand or are open enough to respond to the demand. Good for them. We need more of this and less English speakers' bellyaching about how the entire world doesn't revolve around them.
On a kind of related note, since the course most likely has very little to do with the situation you described above (which I know was just an example) and more to do with Spain/North Africa, especially Morocco, does anyone know if the course will teach Castilian Spanish?
I think it has a lot to do with languages being popular and the learners feeling left out. Arabic is popular in military linguistic studies in America. Japan has been popular due to especially the younger generation immersing in its culture, media and technology. Chinese has always been popular for business. Tagalog has been getting a lot of attention. Finnish is also popular for many reasons. And Latin is a popular higher education subject.
Basically, I think some learners in English-speaking countries have been feeling left out by not being able to strengthen a more popular language they have been struggling with, and so everyone has been demanding more languages on Duolingo while Duolingo has been expanding. Even in forums like Spanish, you see "quiero japónes y chino" every month.
In the case of Japanese, Chinese and Arabic, these languages have had English courses for a couple of years and the English speakers who want to learn those languages have either been looking elsewhere or doing the reverse tree method. Finnish and Latin are demanded to a fair amount on Duolingo and elsewhere and many Finnish speakers also know English, plus Latin is a dead language so there is no need to have "English for Latin speakers". Many people have been asking "how come these courses aren't made yet?" I doubt Irish and Welsh are actually popular despite Duolingo's attempt to advertise them, and I say that as a fact.
Despite that, I appreciate Duolingo has been expanding and I hope to see more of this in the future. I see it as a sign that they will eventually supply the demand of English speakers (at a slower rate) while building more courses for other languages, current or eventual, so maybe we will see things like English for Mongolian or Persian in the future and then the inverse of that combination, and they will start adding more learning languages to base languages they already have. But only time is certain.
I think you might be on to something re: native English speakers feeling left out (rightly or wrongly, since, as Ceid-Donn points out, English speakers are incredibly well catered for on Duolingo). Rather than left out, I would say many people who were educated in countries that are English-dominant feel left behind. Many Americans are increasingly aware that we got screwed over when it comes to formal foreign language education - when I was in high school, my choices were Spanish, Latin, or French, that was it. Before high school, my particular public schools offered nothing (and I didn't come from a family that could afford to seek private lessons).
So, had I not lucked out and got some early foreign language exposure from family and from an experimental private school when I was quite small, I would likely have struggled immensely with language learning. As it is, I still struggle with it far more than friends of mine who were educated in systems that require their students to learn 2-3 non-native languages, and well before the age of 14.
I hope Duolingo continues to broaden its reach by offering more courses for non-English speakers (and for people who do speak English but would prefer to learn a target language from a language besides English), so I'm okay with there not being a raft of more X for English courses... but I do think a lot of the pressure comes from the fact that a lot of native English speakers feel like we're playing catch up with the rest of the world.
I can't speak to Welsh, but I think you might be surprised how many people on Duolingo are incredibly grateful for the existence of the Irish course. I'm sure it's not rabidly popular with those who choose their language of study via dipping their toe into everything, but due to a comparative lack of resources, any site that offers Irish is going to attract the serious Irish learners out there. I can learn Spanish through any number of websites, local classes, local discussion groups, etc. For that matter, I can walk next door and practice my Spanish with my neighbours. The same can't be said of Irish, especially for those of us living outside of Ireland (and in some cases, those living in the Republic/Northern Ireland, but far from a Gaeltacht area).
Basically, I wouldn't be on Duolingo if not for the Irish course, and I'd bet that's true for quite a few users whose main focus is Irish. Providing resources for under-served languages can't be (and shouldn't be) Duolingo's only focus, but doing so pulls in many learners whom they otherwise wouldn't reach.
Those are good points. I was actually telling someone the other day that my old high school dropped their Chinese program because so many people wanted to take Spanish, French and German, which are "less scary". And my new school is lucky to have Latin and ASL. I was exposed to foreign language at a young age and so when I picked up Spanish I was asking my teachers how to say somewhat complex sentences for my level while everyone else in my class was struggling to remember their vocabulary.
I also hope that whatever minority languages they choose to include will get some attention for a number of reasons. Irish and Welsh are good examples of that, but rarely I see a person actually seriously dedicated to either compared to popular school languages. Yes, there are serious learners, but the gamified environment makes it easy to start the language and get all the rewards without serious study (which sadly is done all the time here). It seems that more people are trying to find the most widely spoken languages to study because they are going into business or marketing or some sort of global field of study where a L2 with many geographic areas of use is helpful. Not that it's a bad thing, however many think language preservation should be a goal on Duolingo at some point. Personally, I think that this goal would be a fine one once the popular demanded language are tackled, and more courses teaching English are in beta.
I also don't think it's the fact English speakers want to have more courses to catch up, but the fact many feel as if the most popular ones in universities and some high schools aren't even being expected. I'm almost certain that demand will go up until the courses are at least announced in the incubator. After that, there might be less pressure for X for English, and more English for X courses could be a priority, as well as expanding options for speakers of other languages. I don't expect the X for English courses to fall behind anytime soon, but I also feel like the creation of those courses won't be in the numbers we once saw, probably in order to expand the market to larger demands of other populations elsewhere.
I think some of the disconnect you're noticing between what's offered on Duolingo and what's "popular" might be due to generation gap - not sure how old you are, but I'm in my mid thirties and graduated high school early, so high school was quite a long time ago for me. Had anyone suggested Arabic or Mandarin or Japanese or Hindi to high schools then, they'd've been laughed out of that meeting by all but the most "maverick" of schools. Nowadays, a high school in an English-dominant country that doesn't offer at least one of those is considered to be lagging behind the times, and justifiably so. Even anime/manga was just barely beginning to be a thing (i.e. available to buy in the US/Canada/UK/ROI etc) when I graduated high school, so learning Japanese never crossed my mind at the time.
Add that to the fact that Duolingo's platform is designed for Roman characters, and you've got a problem on your hands - the fact that Duolingo's engineers may or may not have anticipated that not just Japanese, but a whole host of non-Roman-alphabet languages would suddenly be in massive demand for English speakers, added to the fact that even if they did anticipate it (Japanese, for example, was certainly in high demand for English speakers by the time Duolingo was off the ground), non-Romanized languages remain difficult to implement when the system is based around Roman characters.
As for what drives popularity, the most popular L2 around the world is English, as I'm sure you know. For those of us lucky enough to speak English natively, a lot of what's popular depends on one's age. The kids learning in Duo for schools want whatever is either easy, interesting, or popular (culturally or with their friends), and which of those is most important depends on the kid. Few of them are thinking about any kind of return on investment, yet.
Someone my age who travels a lot for business is likely going to be interested in which languages are being driven by business prospects or economics. Same for someone ten years younger than me who's trying to figure out how to give their resume/CV an edge.
But neither of those categories are necessarily going to include the most dedicated language learners of all - those learners, regardless of age, who are learning for the love of a specific language (or for the polyglots, the love of languages in general). I suspect "spanish for english speakers" has more abandoned accounts than the Irish course has total learners (abandoned and active!) All that means is language learning is a long process that requires a lot of effort over time, and some people lack one, the other, or both.
And that presence or absence of passion is in many ways what this whole debate is about - people are champing at the bit for Their Language of Interest for English Speakers, because they like Duolingo's format and they're really excited about the prospect of learning that language here. And that's awesome, and should be encouraged. But kicking out Catalan or Irish or Welsh or Esperanto or Yiddish or Klingon or English for _ won't make Mandarin or Japanese or Hindi happen any faster. (I know you weren't suggesting that, but I see other people complaining about minority languages and conlangs being available/developed here a lot, and I think it's important to remember that it's not like Team Klingon is working on developing Klingon instead of working on developing Mandarin.)
As far as people getting the rewards without doing the work, completing the tree in any language won't get you any kind of mastery in the language without outside sources anyway, so just because someone completes the tree or reaches level 25 in a language, that doesn't prove anything other than that they're good at using Duolingo (and perhaps that they enjoy using it).
For those of us who want more than A1 level abilities in a language, the onus is on us to seek out other sources however we can, whether that language is a "popular" one or not. One of the biggest things Duolingo has done for me as a student of a minority language is point me to other, hard-to-find resources that I never would have turned up on my own, either because that resource was created by a fellow Duo user, was sitting on someone's long neglected college server, is only accessible via the internet archive (wayback machine), etc.
I love seeing all the new courses for other learners too, but there hasn't been a new one for English speakers in a while.
Because we already have so many. As others have pointed out, that's not to say there aren't many more to come, but we have way more options than any other base language. Also, generally, the sooner an "English for X" course comes out, the sooner the "X for English" course can/will be worked on since, in many cases, the "English for X" is made before they'll start the reverse.
I agree, I'd love to see English for Lao, Hebrew, Papiamento (I went to Curacao, barely anyone spoke English well enough to converse, they usually knew Papiamento or dutch), and other such languages
Since Duolingo already has Hebrew for English speakers, an English for Hebrew speakers course would be easier to make. :)
I seem to remember the Hebrew team mentioning that there will be English for Hebrew speakers in future.
THIS THIS THIS. Obviously, from a completely selfish POV, I absolutely want to see loads of new courses from English, but we are totally spoiled. Not only do most languages represented here have only one course - to learn English - but there are loads of languages which don't even have that.
Given one of Duolingo's aims is to give people free language resources so they can make their lives better, and that for millions that basically means English, it's makes sense for them to prioritise this way.
I don't personally want to see it one way or the other, I want them to design a different system that is completely 'instruction language' neutral so that any language pair could happen automatically.
But then I also did too much bad stuff as a teenager so I could be a bit delusional about the possibility of such...
See, I think that might be possible, but I'm less convinced it's preferable. I don't know that I trust a computer to automatically put together courses and capture nuances in how the languages relate to one another.
And there are going to be certain phrases which are taught in one course but not another... so a new course teaching language X to speakers of language Y wouldn't necessarily have all the translations done already. For example, if language Y has courses teaching English and Spanish, they're unlikely to have suitable translations for words and sentences from the Russian course such as "borscht" or "in winter, my grandmother uses the balcony as a fridge".
Those are relevant to the Russian course. I don't think that each course should be teaching the same set of sentences, because some aren't relevant to some languages, but it does mean that whenever a new course teaching Russian to X is started there will be sentences that won't have been created in X before, and which I wouldn't want to leave to a machine. If the courses taught the same set of words and sentences, then maybe it would be possible to do automated courses (though I'm still not convinced it would be wise), but as long as the courses have any degree of being tailored to the language/country/culture, then sentences specific to that language are going to need more than Duolingo just riffling around in its memory banks to slap together an automated course.
It does seem to me that courses into a given language should be easier to create, since the "structure" to teach the language is in place (there's already a (hopefully) logical and helpful structure, the team is not starting from scratch). I'm less than convinced that it would be good (even if it were possible) to do so in an automated fashion.
Of course, it's entirely possible I've misconstrued what you meant ;-p but I don't honestly see how making courses automatically would work unless the courses were much more uniform than is currently the case, and IMO the courses being uniform in that way would not be a good thing.
@chilvence I think the "blueprint" idea is used. For instance one of the En->Korean course contributors mentioned somewhere recently (I think usagiboy's alpha tester thread?) which tree had been used as the starting point for constructing the Korean tree. And in an interview with the primary creator of the Guarani course, she mentioned something pretty similar. And sometimes the fact this has been done is all too obvious: the French for Portuguese speakers tree has a "modal verbs" skill, a concept which doesn't really exist in French but is an obvious function of it being a translation of the English for Portuguese tree. Meanwhile, some of the most carefully pre-planned courses, at least into a new language, do it pretty much from scratch. Shady_arc laid out in some detail his journeys through the Russian National Corpus and other sources to establish exactly the word list to include in the Russian course.
You're both making excellent points, but I was thinking in a 'pie in the sky' way so I wouldn't give me too much credit for thinking it through :)
Perhaps each course deserves to be unique, and I like the fact that each team has worked their own sense of humour into the game, but I think the bulk of vocabulary taught in each one is probably largely the same, so can't one course serve as a blueprint for other ones, at least allowing for minor adjustments? I am not suggesting trust it to a computer, that would be nasty, but there must be a way to streamline the process of creating a course, so that it doesn't take starting from scratch every single time.
I also really like the way of target language only instruction. It never starts easy, but I think you are forced to adapt more quickly. I can't think of any grand ideas to make that functional or popular, but I think it would be a winner.
flootzavut's points are all excellent. Another interpretation of what you mean is that you'd like languages to be taught using only the target language? There a well-known intro Latin text that does this. The only thing written in any language other than Latin in the whole book is some of the copyright info. Certainly, this wouldn't just be possible for Latin (although I don't know that anybody has actually gone to the effort to try it in any other language; were there successful efforts, I'd probably learn the language just because the method is so enticing). However, attempts have been made for ancient Greek (ideas percolate among the classicists more quickly than without their ranks, I guess...), but to a much lower level of success. The wealth of obvious cognates just isn't there (well, for anybody else than speakers of modern Greek, I suppose), so the books don't stand on their own as well. I'd suppose this to be the case for most potential language pairs.
I think target language only instruction can be good, but honestly I personally think a mixture of ways is better.
Part of the issue with target language teaching is that it's best really in a classroom environment where the teacher can react to what the students are or aren't getting, and adjust accordingly. With a skilful teacher, it can be brilliant, but I have yet to see it adapted well for any kind of automated system. It's either boring, because it has to start so slowly, or it's entirely bewildering, and because the system is computerised, it doesn't 'know' that the student is floundering.
For the most part, in my experience, it's the former - so deadly boring that I want to cry from ennui before I ever even get to any interesting or useful sentence creation.
A free resource like Duolingo isn't realistically ever going to replace real life teachers until it can affordably replicate one, and I don't think compsci is quite there yet! I think it would be brilliant... I just can't see how they'd do it. (Though if any compsci bods want to come along and explain how it could be done, count me down as more than willing to be proven wrong.)
I think some courses have served as blueprints for others, but that only works to a certain point. Courses into a language are often used as blueprints for each other. For example, so far, all the courses into English I've tried have used exactly the same blueprint, and I know EnglishFrench and RussianFrench are also the same; ditto English and French into German - the Russian to German tree hadn't been updated last time I looked.
Courses into other languages are more challenging. For example, you'd have to quite drastically modify a tree meant to teach French if you wanted to make it teach Russian; French has no cases and only two genders, Russian has aspect but otherwise a much simpler tense system. That's why you can't just flip the RussianFrench tree and automatically make a FrenchRussian tree, because it would spend too long on things that didn't need so much practice in Russian, and would not have enough focus on cases and aspect, etc.
I believe some of the courses have been somewhat based on each other - I think Norwegian started with the framework of either Danish or Swedish (I don't remember which one they went with). As a closely related language, it provided them a good template. But even with related languages, there will likely be a degree to which things still need modification.
Take Polish and Russian; Polish learners do need to get used to all those consonant clusters, but they're using an alphabet that's essentially somewhat familiar, whereas Russian learners need to get used to Cyrillic.
On the other hand, Russian learners don't need to worry about the instrumental case for a while, whereas Polish learners have to start getting to grips with it almost from the get go.
Similar tense system, but the Polish past tense in particular doesn't work the same way the Russian past tense does. (Don't ask me how it differs, I can see that it doesn't work how I expected, but I got through the lessons on guesswork and general Slavic-language knowledge. I don't think I have any real understanding.)
Even in terms of vocabulary, the way Russian maps like/love to любить/нравиться/очень любить is quite strange/complicated, where the Polish kochać/lubić appear to relate to love/like quite neatly.
And those are closely related Indo-European languages 8o
(I think that Ukrainian and Russian could probably handily share a tree, for the most part, though there are some differences that would require modifications to structure, but the Ukrainian tree is much smaller than the Russian tree. I think Russian was built more or less from the ground up, and tbh I don't think it's a coincidence that it's one of the best laid out/structured courses from English. Frankly, I think they did a marvellous job and it was worth the wait!)
With the disclaimer that I've not seen the inside of the incubator, it's my understanding that the teams have a certain amount of latitude as to the basic tree they start from/if they start from scratch, so if a team wants to, they can choose to adopt and adapt a pre-existing structure. So... to some extent they do, if they want, have this option. I think some teams have just found it easier for their purposes to build a course from scratch as seems best to fit the language they're trying to teach.
My Rosetta Stone Russian, purchased four years ago has "Они готовят" and "Они плывут" in the first section and gets to "У мальчика есть яблоко" by the second. I couldn't help but think it would have been horribly confusing had I not already been familiar with the language.
I think you've just laid out another privilege English speakers have here: courses more tailored to their needs in learning other languages! It's inconceivable that English speakers and Russian speakers learning French would need the same areas of focus, for instance (although, language learning priorities around the world being what they are, most Russian speakers with any interest in French likely already have enough command of English to somewhat bridge the gap).
I've tried Rosetta Stone, which is a target language only affair, for Russian (not the current version, I don't think). I think it could have been ok-ish, but some basic interface problems kept it from really yielding benefits. And for me it was certainly too slow, although for someone with no exposure to the language, it might have been ok. But I think Duo beats it by a mile. Even though there's ever so much translation into base language here, that's still a lot better than most everything being multiple choice.
Yes, I agree. I mean, the tips and notes (where they existed) were tailored to Russian speakers - if I recall correctly, there was stuff about articles, and definite/indefinite articles that I doubt was in the course for English speakers - but really I feel like a Russian speaker learning French is probably going to need, in an ideal world, more practice on things like articles and the verb "to be" than an English speaker. I think there probably is something to be said for the fact most of the people trying that course probably have at least some exposure to English, but it is definitely a privilege us anglophones take terribly for granted.
I've dabbled in Rosetta Stone (the free versions!) in Hebrew and Russian and a very little bit in a couple of other languages - in fact, my very first exposure to Russian was RS, in a freebie CD that came with my dad's computer magazine the summer before I started uni... which was 1997 8o LOL. I do remember some of the sentences... I don't know if people found it too hard, or if the freebie I had jumped in at a higher level, because I remember things like мальчик под столом мальчик в самолёте, whereas the newer versions seem to be more мужчина, женщина for an absolute age before you even start making simple sentences. Unless the full version is an order of magnitude better than the sample they try and hook you in with, I think even for free I personally would still not find it worth investment.
I think immersion teaching is fantastic, with a talented, human teacher. I am just not convinced that really good full immersion without an actual person at the other end is feasible with current technology :-/
I agree, I spend most of my time on here doing practices with the reverse tree French to English. I've been considering learning a different language using my French, perhaps Spanish. But there aren't a great deal of languages for French speakers to learn. In comparison there are lots for English speakers to learn. We don't realise how lucky we are sometimes. Although I doubt I'd learn it, Catalan for French speakers would be good. Just something interesting that caters to French speakers would be interesting.
Good point about Catalan for French speakers - and see http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20444110 for how some of Catalonia is in France.
Also, see http://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/sardinia/alghero/introduction for how a little of Catalonia is in Italy.
Maybe Duolingo will have Catalan for French speakers and Catalan for Italian speakers before Catalan for English speakers?
Including the ones in Phase 1 of the incubator, Duolingo has 9 courses that teach French. Maybe someday it will add the reverse courses of all of them? Imagine Duolingo having Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Turkish courses for French speakers. :)
shows course completion rate on the Y-axis. The courses teaching English are green. The courses teaching other languages for English speakers are pink. As you can see, the completion rates for courses where people are learning English are better in every case than any course which people are taking as English speakers. In other words, people learning English seem to be the most motivated, probably because there is real economic benefit to them for doing so.
This chart is from duolingo's own blog (http://making.duolingo.com/for-which-courses-do-students-make-the-most-progress), so you can be sure that they are well aware of this pattern. I think this is part of the reason why they now seem to be focusing on increasing the ratio of courses that teach English versus the courses that teach languages from English.
From the same blog you can also see that the reason why people complete the English courses is that they already have prior knowledge of English and the trees are the shortest ones out there. When over 50% of the students can start 15 rows from the end, the completion rate in 90 days is going to be higher than for a course where 80% start 45 rows from the end.
If only we knew the scale of Y-axis, so we would know how different the completion rates are.
I feel the same. Still waiting on Arabic, Japanese and Traditional Chinese..... Hopefully once Esperanto for Spanish, English for Thai and/or Romanian for English graduate, we'll see more courses for English speakers being built. I feel like the demand for courses for English speakers went up since the four courses teaching English were announced.
In the meantime, I've been making a monthly goal checklist to help keep me motivated.
You don't need a course for "Traditional Chinese". You need a course for "Chinese" with the ability to choose between Traditional or Simplified characters - which good online courses all do have.
I'm a Chinese teacher. In everyday life I prefer to write in traditional characters, but in class I teach in simplified as that's what the vast majority of Chinese speakers use (and people literate in simplified can usually read traditional, but not the other way around).
Remember that reverse courses are easier and faster to make. ;)
For example, once the English for Bengali course is in Phase 3 of the incubator, Duolingo will have plenty of sentences already translated between English and Bengali. :) It will also have some volunteers who are literate in both English and Bengali, and already experienced with its whole course creation process. :)
Likewise, see the incubator dates at http://duolingo.wikia.com/wiki/Course_list and remember these:
- Czech for English speakers got added after English for Czech speakers reached Phase 3
- Greek for English speakers got added after English for Greek speakers reached Phase 3
- Hindi for English speakers got added after English for Hindi speakers reached Phase 3
- Indonesian for English speakers got added after English for Indonesian speakers reached Phase 3
- Korean for English speakers got added after English for Korean speakers reached Phase 3
- Russian for English speakers got added after English for Russian speakers reached Phase 2
- Ukrainian for English speakers got added after English for Ukrainian speakers reached Phase 2
- Vietnamese for English speakers got added after English for Vietnamese speakers reached Phase 3
- and probably some more cases are like this too
You could think of the English for Bengali, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, and Thai speakers courses as progress towards Duolingo's future Bengali, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, and Thai for English speakers courses. ;)
I am thrilled to see the date for Romanian for English. I have been waiting for that for years.
I'm excited for Romanian too! I really do hope the course comes out sooner rather than later, although maybe I'm in the minority who doesn't really care if the Beta course is pretty low-quality. ;P
I'm also looking forward to Romanian. A Romance language from eastern Europe seems very interesting to me.
That is exactly it for me. I have studied Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and Catalan in addition to Polish, so the idea of a Romance language among Slavic countries sounds fascinating.
I hope they add a Turkish for Arabic speakers, it's always exciting to see a new language in the incubator. Let's go Swahili! They've had a dead past couple weeks, I hope we see some activity from them soon, I enjoy alpha testing for them!
I hope English for Thai finishes soon so the reverse course can start early next year
You're not alone. For English speakers, Thai is one of the five languages I want to see most.
Grammar of other languages (Not in the incubator)
Great discussion as always!
Update Tuesday, 20-Sep:
I have just managed to complete this week's edition which was still "Under construction..." :(
Added updates from the Polish (thanks to (Kevinguy19](/Kevinguy19)), Hungarian, & Korean teams...
One of the updates was written barely three hours ago, it is fresh out of the press :)
Please revisit & enjoy!
Because there is no point in writing it in Spanish as Arabic speakers won't understand anything, so we write in Arabic in order to make everything clear for them. As for writing in English, we used to write updates in Arabic only and when users in the English forum see our updates here on the weekly incubator update, they ask for translation, that's why we write in English.
A few of the teams do the same thing, or close to it. French for Turkish includes an English translation and Swedish for Russian summarizes each update in English. For what reason, I couldn't tell you if I had all the time in the world to answer.
For all I know, someone else is posting weekly incubator updates in another language in another Duolingo forum. That would be cool. :)
What's with Telugu and Tagalog waiting for weeks before begining? Even the more for the latter as it has set its target date to be this december.
Many times it takes weeks before we see percentage increases, it doesn't mean the teams aren't hard at work on the course in ways that the algorithm used to calculate the percentage can't measure.