https://www.duolingo.com/Pancho_Delanave

Criticism of Irish Course

Pancho_Delanave
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Hello, I've been wondering about something for a while and I was hoping I could get some feed back from fellow Duolingo users.

I began the Irish course but then decided I would postpone it so I could concentrate on French and Italian. In the meantime I bagan to see criticism of the course a number of times elsewhere on the internet. For example, just today I saw this:

Well native speakers or irish speaking people are pissed in general because it's so bad and sentences, grammar sucks in it. I don't speak irish but if there are so many bad posts about it that means there are a lot of problems.

Posted here: https://www.reddit.com/r/duolingo/comments/5y7262/so_whats_going_on_with_the_irish_course/densfoh/

How fair or accurate are criticism like this? Are these addressed anywhere? Is there some sort of animus against the Irish course? Is there any concern these kinds of comments are discouraging people from taking the course?

I still intend on doing the Irish course once I improve my French and Italian so it's not going to discourage me but it bothers me that it might discourage others if the criticism is unfair or exaggerated. How do others feel about this?

P.S. I know that the audio was an issue and that it was dealt with, more or less.

1 year ago

25 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/teletype1
teletype1
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I'm reminded of Des Bishop's line from "In the Name of the Fada" -- "My experience learning Irish is different from yours, in that I'm enjoying it."

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Stephen__B
Stephen__B
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Great quote teletype1!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

I think the fact that the criticism that you quoted is from someone who admits that they don't speak Irish speaks volumes about the context of the criticism - it is largely socio-political, as Irish people generally have attitudes and opinions (aka baggage, both positive and negative) about the Irish language that will colour their approach to anything to do with the language.

There are flaws in the course - in about 17,000 exercises, there's probably less than a dozen exercises that contain obvious grammatical errors, but where choices had to be made about how certain aspects of translation should be handled (how do you translate the Saorbhriathar, for example), you will always find someone who is dissatisfied , and if you try to accommodate both camps, you create another group who is dissatisfied because of inconsistency or ambiguity. While the course bends over backwards to support dialect usage (making one group happy at the expense of clarity for other users) the audio portion of the course only deals with a single dialect. That's not a flaw, per se, just a limitation - the flaw is that it isn't made clear to people who have no background in Irish that this isn't necessarily the way that all Irish speakers sound, yet it is clear from some comments that some learners are slavishly trying to pick apart the sounds that they are presented with. There are also criticisms from people who know other ways to say something in Irish, who complain that Duolingo doesn't support their extended vocabulary - but that's not a fair criticism either - Duolingo teaches a basic but function vocabulary.

But these are minor in the context of the significant benefits of the course. Like any teaching method, it will work better for some people than for other people, but overall, the course provides a good framework for the committed learner.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LuchairF
LuchairF
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Personally i found the course very useful. It was not the only resource i used, but I got quite a bit out of it. I am aware of the fact that there are a few people who have strong negative opinions about it (and when you learn Irish you become aware very quickly that there are strong opinions surrounding many aspects of this language). There are some mistakes in the course - they are discussed at length in the sentence discussions - you simply take note, and move on. Do not be put off.

There are users of this resource who are about to take the TEG B1 exam this May, and they find It useful - although again, it is not the only resource they use.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/teletype1
teletype1
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I agree with this 100%.

In my experience so far, and it's only been a year, the negativity is all online. Everyone I've encountered in real life is curious and supportive, including the Irish-born folks in my area who learned Gaeilge in school and promptly forgot it when they finished. The native speakers I've run into in person are more than happy to help and speak and correct me when I make mistakes, which is potentially the most important thing.

The Irish language community in the US is wonderful, all you have to do is seek it out.

And besides, now that DL is showing ads, maybe they will invest some money in the Irish course to address some of the criticisms. Still, it was created by volunteers who are pretty passionate... I like that. Errors and all... furthermore -- isn't being able to identify errors part of learning a language?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

That's a good thing. There is no way anyone who has done only Duolingo and nothing else would ever pass the B1. I firmly believe many people vastly overestimate their ability in languages, and doubly so with Duolingo, because people seem to love it. That said, there area lot of issues in the course, and with DL in general, that would turn me off from recommending it as a main program. Even when you count in the free aspect, which many other programs have.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

Duolingo makes no claim to teach Irish, or any other language, to a CEFR B1 level - for a start it simply doesn't provide any mechanism for developing your spoken Irish, and the vocabulary isn't large enough.

So it's a bit perverse to criticize the Irish course on Duolingo for not doing something that it doesn't claim to do, in response to someone who explicitly stated that it is being used by some people as one of multiple resources to study for B1 certification.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Except that it's founder has stated before that he believes it does/can bring people up to the B1. So while it might not officially claim that, von Ahn mentioning it definitely implies that it can.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

Given von Ahn's interest in helping Spanish speakers improve their English, I can well believe that Duolingo could help someone already immersed in spoken English through TV and other media to improve their written English to B1 standard. But I doubt that he ever said, or even implied, that Duolingo on it's own would bring people to B1.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

I can't reply directly to CalliopeSoul's comment, hopefully they will see this response.

You can read more about the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages on Wikipedia, and the site for Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pancho_Delanave
Pancho_Delanave
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To be fair to galaxyrocker I remember Mr. Von Ahn say something like he thought that one can reach A2 or maybe even B1 either in one of his interviews or in one of his "Ask Me Anything" threads somewhere but I'm fairly certain he wasn't making any guarantees. Also, to be fair to you (Knocksedan) I don't remember seeing any guarantees like that being made on the website either.

I'm almost finished with the French tree and I think it can take someone to an A2 level, depending on the amount of study and effort. Even for speaking. From the CEFR description for A2:

Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

With enough practice and repeating things out loud, I think that's possible with the French course. It remains to be seen for me if that's possible with the Irish one.

I'll even go out on a limb and say that at least one or 2 aspects of B1 are possible with the French course such as:

Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.

but for now I think that to get that far on Duolingo one does need some additional resources but Duolingo would still work as the main or principle resource for French and, it seems to me, for Italian. Again, it remains to be seen for me how much of that is possible with Irish.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CalliopeSoul

Excuse my ignorance, but what are these standards being mentioned? Where can I find more information?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CalliopeSoul

I did see your explanation, Knocksedan, though I hadn't gotten around to responding. Thanks.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Aria487
Aria487
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I'm at 64% of the tree (I know I've been going very slowly), and so far, I think it's the best tree I've seen on Duolingo.
I've found it very useful, and have used it as a primary resource so far. (In Iran, I wasn't able to find any book about Irish, and buying one from e.g. Amazon would cost me an arm and a leg, so free digital resources are all I've used) If combined with other immersion resources, such as TG4 series, it should do nicely as an "above basic" course.(Much like other Duolingo courses)

Also, the new audio is an excellent addition to the course.(You can find evidence in discussions that the old one had a lot of mistakes) I just love the lady's voice, and I don't have the knowledge needed to criticize her pronunciation. It certainly isn't perfect, as nothing and nobody is, you can read the greetings post here.

The course does have mistakes, but none of them are bad enough that I would mention here.

Regarding Irish herself (I refer to languages as living beings), there are people who "dislike" the language, yes, and that's putting it mildly. I don't know why, and I've never made much effort to find out. To me, Irish is a beautiful language.(And I've been asked quite many times why does an Iranian want to learn Irish so badly! I've stated my reason here)


I personally don't like antagonizing articles, or pay much attention to any statement with this type of language:

  1. "Pissed"
  2. "So bad" (This is something that's even less likely than "pissed" to be used in a well-worded, established statement)
  3. "...and sentences, grammar sucks in it." (Also note the wrong use of comma)
  4. "...so many bad posts about it that means there are a lot of problems." (Horrible irrational conclusion, also notice the wrong English grammar with missing "and" or comma before "that")
1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SkipperClanJr

I'm very intrigued by all of the comments put on here. As someone who studies Second Language Acquisition, I've been overall surprised to see how bitter linguists can be between each other about the way their colleagues do studies and what studies do to support one theory over another. One of the things that has been taught to me, however, is that in some studies and comment sections of the studies linguists tend to miss some of the basic concepts that their studies prove. (which tend to be rather impressive, because even though maybe an immersion program didn't give its students native-like fluency, those students came out as very strong bilinguals. This is something that native monolingual speakers simply don't have the ability to be) Overall, I've been very impressed with Duolingo for Irish. I came in completely from the outside (I'm in the US and I didn't really have a reason to learn Irish). I've made it just past the last checkpoint, but even now I can do a lot with Irish. I imagine, sometimes, encountering a native speaker and I feel like I could get by with communicating a lot of basic concepts with them. I imagine that someone could use Duolingo as a primary learning material and then immerse themselves quite successfully into an irish-speaking community. Returning to my point about studying Second Language Acquisition, I actually believe that Duolingo uses activities in-line with recent (supported) theory...which is impressive to me, considering that there are barely any resources out there that do, much less in Irish. As a last comment, I will supply that for the person to make the argument that "It's not perfect, so we shouldn't do it at all" is a terrible way to approach life and opportunity.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pancho_Delanave
Pancho_Delanave
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I actually believe that Duolingo uses activities in-line with recent (supported) theory...which is impressive to me, considering that there are barely any resources out there that do, much less in Irish.

Thanks for your comment. If you don't mind, could you expand on this just a little and briefly mention or describe the "recent (supported) theory"?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SkipperClanJr

I make the comment not knowing how they actually came up with the activities. They resemble, however, activities that conform to what is called the Input Processing theory... Basically, it comes down to meaning. Duolingo uses some WEIRD sentences, but that doesn't change the fact that learners have to comprehend the entirety of the sentences they're looking at in order to keep going on. You can try getting by looking at just forms and such and trying to memorize words, but if you trust it and you shoot for looking for meaning wherever you are in the tree you can actually do pretty well for yourself.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pancho_Delanave
Pancho_Delanave
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Thanks!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pancho_Delanave
Pancho_Delanave
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Thanks everyone for responding! I haven't forgotten about the thread. I just want see if there will be any more responses before I write down some more thoughts.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CathalCork

Considering it's free I can't complain about it too much. I came to the course as an Irish person looking to finally get fluent so I can follow the Irish language portion of the media. But this course isn't nearly enough for that.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

There's no question that Duolingo alone will not make you fluent, particularly in terms of understanding the spoken language. I don't think that that's just true of Irish, I doubt that you'd be able to watch the news in French or Spanish if you only used Duolingo to learn the language.

What Duolingo does help with, though, is providing some vocabulary, and some practice in mapping the sounds that you hear into spelling, so that you have some chance of looking up a word that you don't understand, if you wanted to do that, though, for the most part you get used to filling in those blanks from context, as you usually have some idea what is being discussed. Depending on how much you remember from school (or how well you were taught), being able to recognize the tense alone can help to clarify what you are hearing.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/becky3086
becky3086
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I think the Irish course is definitely better than it was when I started. The new audio is obviously better though it still has a few issues and, of course, there isn't enough of it. There now seems to be quite a bit in the beginning of the course but a lot less as you go on and I can't learn the words unless I know how to say them. I think Irish is just a rather horrible language to teach and learn. I think duolingo helped me quite a lot at first and then there just got to be way to many words in each section and I couldn't learn them all. I find the odd sentences teach me less instead of more. I recognize an odd sentence easily and will know the answer but won't really learn the actual words. I basically have quit the Irish course here. I am learning from other sources now that maybe don't move quite so fast and I get more vocabulary out of and more useful sentences. I do intend to come back to duolingo when I know more but I just don't think it is a good place for beginners of Irish.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KevinCarte16

quick question is this irish course irish gaelich? I am interested in Irish poetry which I know is in Gaelich.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pancho_Delanave
Pancho_Delanave
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Yes, it's for Irish and follows the official standard (An Caighdeán Oifigiúil ). Wikipedia article : http://tinyurl.com/orta3vz

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/velvelajade
velvelajade
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  1. Duolingo was meant to give you a good taster of whatever language you are learning so that you might want to persue learning the language further.

  2. "Insert person from dialect here" will always say that the "pronunciation, sentences, etc." is wrong because that is not how they say it.

  3. "Insert native speaker here" will always say the grammar is wrong because they don't say it "colloquially that way where they live". "No one talks like that!" is what I often get from natives (from two different countries, in two different languages).

  4. Textbook, authentically and excruciatingly correct doctorates level grammar of "you name the language" will ALWAYS be considered "wrong" according to "you name the native speaker who does not have a degree in Grammar of their own native language".

With all this in mind, I ignore all negative feed back about courses when they say the "grammar, dialect, pronunciation, etc." is wrong. However, I will listen when they mention "requires aural listening" or "Ankin type learning", etc. as this will tell me if the learning style of the program will work for me or not.

2 months ago
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