Verb hint standard

I believe it would be better for the students of Swahili if you guys would choose one standard for presenting the hints for the verbs.

Some of them are presented as conjugated forms like "ninasema", others as infinitive "kusema", and some others as the stem "-sema". this makes it difficult for those starting to understand the language. I understand that to provide all three forms may cause a huge delay in the alpha version release, thus choose one and use it across the board ;)

March 3, 2017


The -stem hint applies when the noun class changes the agreement, whereas kusema will always mean "to say", and "ninasema" will always mean "I say/I am saying". It's three different types of hint for three different types of behaviour.

I have to go to school. Ninahitaji kuenda shule.

One conjugated (ninahitaji), one in the infinitive (kuenda) because that's how it is being used in the example. Makes sense to me. I don't particularly know how I would handle something like nisingalikunywa (if you hadn't drunk) if I was only given the infinitive!!

I think for verbs the -stem occurs when applied to non-humans? With all the different noun classes, that's the only sane way to go. Work out the noun class, find out what the agreement is, apply. Very different beast and very tricky to get to grips with because of all the rules you need to memorise. At least we know "he/she is saying" will always be anasema whether it's mama, baba, dada, kaka, Rahema or Emilian doing the talking.

The course has been out for about a week and a half. I started off with very few words of Swahili, and I finished the tree about an hour ago. At that rate I didn't truly get an understanding of most of it, and I've already forgotten far more than I have retained. I found this set up helpful, and while there is a lot that needs fixing before the course can graduate out of Beta, this is not, I think, one of those things.

March 4, 2017

I understand the difference between the three, the problem is that they give different types of hints without a pattern. Some places would call for one and you actually get the other, The example you gave isn't hard to understand because it is a common pattern in most languages that apply person-dependent verb conjugation: the first verb comes conjugated and the second in the infinitive.

The verb stem is connected to the pronoun prefix + tense markers to create the full Swahili verb form.

If you would go slowly through the tree you would realize that some of the hints and even the translations cause more confusion than enlightenment. I'm not bashing on the team, which by the way did an awesome job, I'm just raising a red flag to be checked in the beta process.

We are at the very same level in the Swahili (give or take a couple points), and I'm not even in the middle of it, because I don't allow myself to move on unless I understand at least 80% of what is going on, and while I am going through the tree I make my own wordlists, phrase banks, grammar notes, and "extra mile" studies outside Duolingo. There is though a big advantage of going clear to the end non-stop, which is to get a glimpse of the "big picture", but it is far from understanding the language.

I totally understand the fact that it is in beta phase, and the fact that it doesn't have audio files doesn't even bother me as the language is extremely phonetic, but at the same time this module has so much potential that I feel we should point out everything we can to make it a definite tool to improve Swahili learning. ;)

March 4, 2017

I will go slowly through the tree, my intention was a quick blitz then a slow backfill of everything I missed out on. So maybe you're right and I missed what you are saying. Certainly there are several places where the hover hints do need work (and many a blank needs populating).

So you agree that the three different ways are useful, but there are places where they aren't applied consistently? Or am I still misunderstanding?

There's a section or two later in the course that really need quite a few fixes, getting there early means pointing those out so they are (hopefully) fixed for you guys catching the more subtle errors early on. ;)

March 4, 2017

Yes. I do agree they are important, and I personally believe all of them should be given at once, but it will take time to add all the other forms.

Did you flag all the mistakes at those later lessons?

March 4, 2017

I did do a fair bit of flagging. Think I missed some due to report fatigue though. Hopefully the bits I missed someone else caught. If not, well. Next time through.

Have to say though, I don't envy Brandon the task of going through all the reports.

March 4, 2017

Thanks for the sympathy! Haha.

I agree on hint standards. I've been trying to go through and look and standardize. That was one of the challenges/gaps we had making the tree; three different people creating hints and not having that standard. Lessons learned and an opportunity for improvement going forward, that is for sure!

It would help if free-hand reports were written to identify the hints rather than the standard incorrect/missing hint form because those reports get rather lost in the quagmire that is the reporting system :-). In the past week, though, reports have gone down from about 40 per 100 users to less than 20, so we are making progress!

March 6, 2017

Very true! I wish they would let us help the team with the process. I know we don't know the language enough, but we could help with eliminating duplicates, categorizing reports or something. 3-4 team members for a couple thousand users is quite disproportional!

March 4, 2017
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