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We’re testing some changes to the skill tree and we’d like your feedback

We've recently been testing some changes with 50% of our new users. The tests are going very well, but I'd like to ask for your feedback before we switch all users to the new mechanics.

A new way we keep track of your progress

It’s easy to forget the material in all the skills you’ve “mastered” when you don’t practice. That’s why we’re rolling out a new way to help you track your learning better.

Now, instead of a progress bar on each skill in the tree, you’ll see the average word strength of all the words in that skill (which goes down over time when you don't practice these words!). Also, instead of seeing hearts in the notebooks once you’ve finished a lesson you’ll see a ‘strength bar’ that shows your average word strength. At a glance, you’ll be able to see what your weakest skills and lessons are and be able to practice them. The more you practice your weakest words, the more complete the bar will become, and the better you’ll know the language.

One thing to mention is that if we make the switch, some of your beautifully golden "mastered" skills may turn out to have less than perfect word strengths. Even though this may affect your sense of past completion, it’s a far more accurate reflection of what you actually know in the language. We hope this will help you better understand your progress in the language.

Real-world translations

One of the main goals of learning a language is being able to apply it to real-world materials. We want the real-world content to fit naturally into the learning process, so we are testing different ways for learners to access it.

Rather than seeing real-world documents inside each skill, where they did not always match the skill you were learning, we are trying a different approach. Alongside the normal Practice button, there will now be a “Real world practice” that will give you real-world sentences that exercise the words you have learned much better.

We’ll continue testing these updates with new users over the next week or so. In the meantime, let us know what you think.

Here are some screenshots: http://imgur.com/a/00JHD

February 7, 2013



I think those are great ideas!


The ideas seem reasonable. I'd only want to get more really useful "real-world" translations. I hate translating names, movie titles, numbers etc. It would be great to introduce some simple texts with most common words for beginners.

I also miss the coin stacks that were always visible on the home page. They were much more motivating to study every day. Now they are hidden on another tab and less useful.


A great source for real-world translations would be untranslated articles from the English Wikipedia. There are many that remain to be translated into Spanish and other languages.


That's a great idea. And get Wikipedia to post a notice saying, "There are new articles coming in from this source, translated by people who are still learning the language, so please help clean them up."


Duolingo's business model only has us translate into our native language, though. (As an English speaker learning Spanish, you're never asked to translate real-world articles into Spanish, only into English).


You may try it by switching to "Yo sé Español (quiero aprender Inglés)"/"I know Spanish (want to learn English)". Hover Language flag icon (upper-left of the screen) -> click "+more..." The interface is similar. Though you may likely not understand all the comments, mainly at first, I saw many idioms slangs and/or ortographic faults. So English-speaking native opinion is needed as theirs are needed by Spanish learners. There are for Portuguese, Italian, French and German too.


Anyway overall they sound like great changes.


Awesome! We should be able to choose to be in the "beta test" group. I know I'd like to be!


Dear Editors, All your tests are wonderful (I recommend it to all my students), BUT I believe fail to take into account the individual student's internet connection speed. Since I use a moden, reception, or connectivity, vries throughout the day, from reasonably fast to none at all. So, sometimes, as your clock is ticking on the timed tests, I wait 5 to 15 seconds, sometimes even more, for the screen to change. (I know this is also true for any kind of connection.) The frustrating result is that I never finish in time, and am always awarded 5 points. Please advise . . . Douglas Chapman


Yes this is a problem. The timer should stop as soon as we have selected the answer. If the timer doesn't stop, then we have to quickly press ENTER again. If we're wrong, then we won't see why we're wrong (we'll just see the red message appear and then quickly disappear). Also, we can't read the comments and learn more from others because the time is ticking away. This is really bad.


I agree, although I have no connection speed issues. Independent of whether you got the correct answer or not you have to hurry to press Return to advance to the next question and cannot think about / reflect on / internalize the answer. It makes the learning experience rushed and thus - as I see it - less effective.

Look at Memrise for a better example, where you are not forced to hurriedly skip the explanation page: You have a countdown for every question, but when you answer, it stops and you can take your time internalizing your answer or understanding your mistake. Then you continue to the next question and the clock is ticking again.


I agree completely! I know before I even begin that I will fail and that is not helpful at all. It's mostly just very discouraging.


Dawn, my translations usually start out awful. Remember, though, this is a crowd-sourcing project where people build on each others' work. I do the best initial translation I can, then look at other translations. They always have words and phrases that are better than mine, so I incorporate them into my draft. I read and improve, and read other people's work and borrow, until I've done the best I can. Then I submit it and realize that other people will do the same thing, hopefully using parts of my work to progressively improve the translation. Even the translations that are marked as 100% done are often, IMHO, awkward or even wrong. I make lots of suggested changes to the "finished" translations. It helps me to think of the translating as a word-game challenge. Which it is.


Oops, I replied to the wrong comment ... sorry, Dawn


No problem! At the moment, it's only the timed tests that discourage me but I can always use some helpful hints for writing the translations, too. Thanks!


All those changes sound very positive. My only comment would be, is 4 levels sufficient to indicate your current strength in that lesson/word strength? Might more levels (say out of 10) give you a better idea?


Or they could have a continuous bar that shows the average of all words?


The proposed changes are very positive, especially the ability to feed users sentences that match their current level of vocabulary. One challenge I foresee is having to translate a sentence which is out of context. That would lead to accurate sentence translations, but not necessarily accurate article translations which I believe is your ultimate goal. Not sure if it would be helpful but it might help for better translations and learning, if the sentace that is to be translated is displayed next to the current most accurante translations of the other sentences that form the article.


Both ideas sound promising to me.


Allow people to sort the in-skill vocabulary by strength (you offer this on the vocabulary pages but not the skill ones)


I noticed a BUG in the new system: All of the words strength display as if they are in the long term memory, so 4 stripes, but I have even made mistakes in the lesson, and only practiced these word for a short time.


Even if i deliberately give wrong answers, none of my word's strength decreases.


Yes, we are working on this.


Will the strength for "la robe" keep going down if I don't practice it? The problem with that is I'm never gonna forget that word so the computer making it's strength go down over time won't really be a reflection of what I do and don't remember.


I like the progress bar because I've been going back to get all the hearts anyway. It makes me feel like I really know the content in that lesson well.


This is the only 'but' of the change I can think of. After it is rolled out to everyone, you won't be able to do that anymore because you won't know how many hearts you finished with in the first place.


Good ideas! I love how you mix the spoken word into the lessons. That's one of my big challenges, understanding a native speaker (they talk so fast!) And I love the ability to slow it down when I can't understand. Thanks for this great program!


Oh, I think this actually answered a question I was going to ask. I am new, this is my first day on the site. I was doing Basics 1 of German and I just completed lesson 4. I saw on the skill tree there were "5 more lessons to master" and after clicking to have a look, they are "real world translations." But when I clicked on them to try to complete the activity it was way above my level! Way, way, way above it! I've just learned how to say "man" and woman" and "I am drinking water" and its throwing paragraphs of german at me like "Darüber brauchen wir uns nicht streiten, denn unter den 85 Filmen..." which is very confusing not to mention there is probably zero chance of me translating that properly! So I like the idea of a real practice that uses the words I have learned.


Yeah, everyone gets those exercises. The idea is that you mouse over each word to see its English meaning and try to piece together the translation one word at a time, refining the phrasing as you go so that the final sentence you submit sounds like good English instead of a bad machine translation. You'll get the hang of it after you do a few of them.

It might help to put it into Google Translate to get a "second opinion", and if you get a really tough one you can also click "try another translation" - you don't lose any points for that.


That's how I've been doing translations. But the crowd seems to prefer more literal, "machine-y" translations. (Or maybe they just don't like the way I write. <sub>grin</sub>)


Yes, the crowd's preference for total literalness over fluent English is one of the biggest problems with the translations.


I'd to hear Duolingo's thoughts about this one. It is a big problem. If their intent is to build a for-fee crowd-sourced translation service, they'll never sell translations like the ones I've seen so far.


I don't have the new screen yet but the changes sound great! I agree with another commenter, that the coins are very motivating. Having to flip tabs to see the coins is less than perfect for me.


I agree about the coins. They were a very good motivator when they were always visible.


I like the idea of seeing my actual progress toward learning Spanish! Please update my interface as soon as possible! :-D


Great, I hate the hearts and how they make me obsess over some exercises due to trivial errors.

On the other hand, I miss having the ability to judge when I know a word good enough. There is an option to tell the system you know a word already, but only if it is not at "longterm" level yet. I'd like to be able to forever be left alone with eg. niños, but also be able to say that I should practice eg. cebolla more, even though I have it at the longterm memory level.

Maybe you shouldn't be able to reach the longterm level for a word in a single day, it's just not realistic.


I'd like that option with individual words too. Something like: I'll need more practice in 3 days / 1 week / 2 weeks / 1 month / 3 months / never. Though I wouldn't use the "never" option until I started using a new language live, daily. Without that I'd never know which words I might need refreshed. No, it isn't possible to reach longterm level in one day, with anything. Memory doesn't work like that (mine for sure). Repetition over time is what makes any new information stick.

I think the three strikes -- sometimes four or five -- system is good. If I'm doing that badly with a group of words, I do need to start over. As it is, I've voluntarily repeated several entire units until I felt competent with them. I'll ask for one specific change, though: when I run out of hearts, the picture of the teary owl replaces the exercise I just did, and I don't get to study what I did wrong with it.


Less aesthetically pleasing. I don't like the new graphics, and I'd rather see if I made mistakes rather then if I had less interest in words or something. I like things the way they are :(. Other then all of that I suppose I'm fine with the rest of the changes.


I like these changes and look forward to their implementation, I think you've solved a major problem with the translations because I was avoiding translating things until I was at a higher level because I felt the likelihood of me producing accurate translations was low. The only other thing that I think I want is the ability to downgrade a word's strength because I feel that I don't know it as well as the program thinks I do.


Yes - I particularly like your idea about the Real World Practice. I think I will use it more. When I began this program (which I think is great), I was doing the translations at the end of each lesson and just laughing cause I understood so little --- BUT, as I progressed, I began to skip this section. Thought your trying something new with translation is good -- hope it incents students and rewards them for doing it - that, it seems, is the key - students feeling a bit of reward........


Awesome, I can't wait for this! It will make it so much easier to keep track of lessons :) I also think it's a good idea to detach the translations from lessons, because they indeed do not always match.

The two blue action buttons on the right, "lesson practice" and "real world practice" (something I just asked for when answering the Duolingo enquête a couple of days ago), will make it possible to simply go to the Duolingo site and immediately start learning. No more need to figure out which lesson I should update.

Can't wait!


No doubt some people like the real world translations, I personally ignore them. Far to difficult for my level of understanding. Would be nice to have the option of opting out, and having the old method available.


Good ideas! Especially having access to real-world documents. It's not just the appropriateness of the level, but also what appeals at any particular time -- whether that is studying, learning new things or translating. Fun program (fun is the key for a self-learner like me!) and the Beta keeps getting betta' . . .


Does the removal of hearts change the way you finish a lesson?


No, there are still hearts in lessons. We just show your strength bar on a lesson now rather than the hearts you finished with.


Will there be any record of how many hearts you finished with after this change?


Will it not have a mastered golden look once you have all the sub bars full?


I think these are great ideas! What hinders us is not those we accomplished but those we are weak about! Strongly support the changes. and welcome more and more practical to come.


Regarding real-world translations, I really appreciate Duolingo's flexible approach -- suggesting certain sections but not preventing you from trying others. I'm an intermediate student, but am going through all of the lessons from the very beginning to brush up on vocabulary. It's nice being able to choose more advanced material to translate, even though I'm working through basic vocabulary in the "lesson tree."


Looks like my skill tree is running the test version. My problem with word strengths is that it looks like they depend on how much I had the words in the questions, disregarding if I didn't know them well. I have a bunch of words I have (more or less) no idea about, but they show full word strength bar. I think it would be a good way if in a question I omit or totally mess up a word, it's strength bar should drop at least to 2 bars from 4 straight away.


I'm new to Duolingo, and I have the new "beta" progress tracking system. I sought out this discussion specifically to find out why my "completed" progress bars were all going backwards. After reading your explanation, I love it. The word strength indicators match my own concerns about my mastery of some sets of words. Even before reading this, I re-took several of the units because I didn't feel I had adequate command of the content. Since I never used the current system I can't compare it with the beta, but I love the beta. I completely prefer have ongoing indicators of what I need to review and re-drill, than a pretty tree showing past performance. I'm here to learn fast and thoroughly.

Re. translations, I ditto others' comments about much of the real-world practice material being above my level. I'd like to be able to choose a document at a certain level of difficulty, which should be easy to do since each sentence already has a difficulty rating (looks like a 1-10 point scale?). Maybe the system could give us a choice of "material at your current skill level," "easier material below your current level," "more challenging material above your current level," etc.


I keep trying to get myself to translate real world translations but I can only get myself to do them when there is the requirement to do them intermixed with the skills. Perhaps consider a bit more gamification of them if you are pulling them out of the skill tree requirements.


Great idea. I haven't been pracising my Spanish enough lately and have noticed that I'm struggling with words I've already learnt. For there to be a function on Duolingo that can measure how well you remember each word over time would be a great benefit instead of feeling frustrated everytime you fail a practise session because of a word you're supposed to know.


I haven't seen the changes myself yet but this sounds like a great idea. I'm at quite a high level in German but since I haven't practiced that language for ages, every time I try to get back into learning it I get discouraged because I can't remember half of the vocabulary! Being able to see and strengthen forgotten skills would give a more realistic picture of where we are with a given language and probably make it easier to get back into the habit of learning it again.


If the words in a section are all well remembered and used, and the bar is full the skill should turn gold. I like that feature and its easy to identify which skills you have mastered the words in, even if the mastered drops down if you start forgetting. I know I would aim for mastered everywhere. (perfectionist)


Hit the switch :) I sure like the idea to be pointed to your weakest lessons to repeat them.

I would also appreciate new vocab coming either to the lessons that exist or to new lessons (say Animals II and III). Rationale: the repetition algorithm of duolingo helps learning those words far better than real world translations where this word might show up only once in a while.


In order to keep the present "mastered" style, you could add the progress bar under or on the left of the gold mastered skill icon.

That is, adding instead of replacing. And the color of such "strength bars" may be other than gold, i.e., green, red, silver, or variable fading according to the strength of the skill.


Any estimation on when these features will be made available?


So it seems some people have the new system when will us old folks get it?


Both ideas sound great!


All sound like good ideas


I like these ideas. I have been worrying about forgetting vocabulary as I forge on and the translations do need to be tailored to skill level.


sounds great! can't wait :)


Sounds quite good!


These adjustments sound great!


The idea really makes sense, and it is true, if you don't use it you loose it.


I love it...and Im looking forward tothe new change!


Great! Could you also make it accessible offline?


That's not as easy as you think, it would probably take several weeks or more development time.


It's easy-ish with the right know-how. 1 week max!


If it would be that easy, almost every service on the web would be available offline. One week is not enough for to much...You need time for planning, development, testing, that takes a lot of time. It's not as easy as an outsider would think. But it's no point arguing over that.

I am just saying, that if the devs say it would take a lot of work, then believe it, it really takes a lot of work. And they must have more important features to develop. Like the new changes they are prepearing now...if you would like, you could ask them if it took only 1 week or more? :)


Real-world transation - These translations are way beyond the skill level. Which is really bad, as I cannot go back to previously passed levels and refresh the lesson.


In my opinion these changes seem to be a good direction.


Real word practice sentences is a great idea. Nice bridge between the level that a lot of us are at and translating real world documents.


Great ideas! I greatly appreciate this site and the 'algorithms' to help drill until the words/phrases/sentences are really learned. Many thanks for your hard work!!


Well I was working on verbs one and not feeling confident save the practice bar and thought I had missed it before. I like have this button her and also the idea of real world sentences. Always felt the translation were way over my skill level. But you know what they say about getting thrown in the deep end. I have to say I could see it was getting easier but like this improvement


Great Ideas! When will I be able to update to that?


This seems like a brilliant idea; it makes a lot more sense than just having 'mastered' something. I can't wait to see it in action!


This sounds great to me. I`ve been going back to the vocabulary section and practicing the weaker words on the list. This new idea sounds like we will be able to see word strengths on all areas at a glance. Thank you guys for making this a quality learning site.


I think that's a great idea, I am looking forward to being switched to that system.


Cute and an excellent idea, but please don't neglect the audio! Right now, I believe most learners would have difficulty speaking and listening. Short "real-world" texts sound great. Keep improving duolingo, it's amazing and it's free. You are sharing language with the world. Magnificent. Thank you so much.


I think the "Real-world translations" are a good idea. But I don't think I'd really want the "A new way we keep track of your progress". Otherwise, they're good ideas!


I am new at using this site but I find your new ideas excellent ! Do you plan on offering Russian and Chinese ? Keep on the good work !


Great idea, I'm all for it :D


The whole idea is a great thing but kind of a mess, not to be mean, but i don't like the idea.


I like the current progress bar but I can see the attraction of the average word strenght too. Why not do both?


Hi Luis can u help me? The translation pages froze in Verbs: Etre/Avoire and the page won`t pull up. Help please?


Please send a screenshot of your problem using the feedback button on the left of the screen. Thanks!


I am really looking forward to this change going live. It's been a couple weeks, so I am hoping for tomorrow. Keep up the great work and thanks!


mom49 Good ideas, those little check marks for learned don't inspire confidence. I know I havn't really got it under my belt so the skill bars would help me do a more realistic assesment.


This idea does sound a lot more suitable and will cue you to practice old lessons when the strength bar is down. I also agree with previous posts that the coin stacks being on the home page would be a motivator and could there be a badge or something that you get each week if you can max the coin stack.

Would translating children's book be a good start for lower levels and as you progress through the "real world translations" you can progress through to other literature. I am currently reading the Harry Potter books in Italian and these are extremely helpful for testing knowledge of vocab and grammar, as I have read the English version. I know there would be a copyright issue with this example but literature that appeals to the users more (compared with technology blogs or food recipes) would help the real world translations section develop.


i think that would really be good


Hi! Well I was actually having my lessons 'not completed' according to the the strength of the words, and I thought it would be some problem... but actually it is a feature. Nice!

While I think it is great to go back and practice the words we don't use that often, I think it becomes somehow boring to go back to the very basics when we are on more advanced lessons... I think that this practice you propose here should use the words of that previous levels, but the sentence constructions should be from the level we are in... in this way, we will be improving altogether ;)

But anyway, it is nice to hear about these ideias! Best regards, nuno


Hopefully this will be happening very soon! Looking forward to it!


Can you please make it clearer how to earn points and climb levels after "mastering" a language's skill set? (I'm having this problem with Spanish.)


Nice - sounds good. I'd also love a quick way to refresh vocabulary. Maybe flashcards. Also gender tests for words too. It's hard to learn that other than rote learning, and I often fail the tests because of that.


I hope the real world translations get reintegrated. They were my very favorite part. I know I can pull them out of the translation tab, but I appreciated the program picking ones with words I'd just worked on, while I don't see any way to search through them myself. It would also be nice to search by ones which are have a low percent complete.


What about all the timed skill challenges? They were very tough but i found that they helped me a lot and now they are just gone! I do like the other updates though


All great ideas. I especially like having the "Real world practice" button added


I read about Duolingo tonight and thought I'd try it. As someone very fluent in German (I used to teach in German university over 30 years ago), it looks to me like there is only one correct translation of several equivalent ones that your system accepts. I do no want to go though the whole sequence to figure out what you consider acceptable to get up to my level. This seems like a limitation in the system and a nuisance that will drive good translators away.


I think its a great idea. I wonder if there is a way to test out of levels more quickly. I am a sloppy typer and accidentally hit the enter key ... which has made it so that I dont pass a level, when really, I am ready to. Then I am stuck through 10 lessons....i find it boring and discouraging.


Instead of the backspace, I sometimes hit enter.


i cant unlock the new lessons in the basic level!!!

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