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  5. Finished the Swahili tree!! (…


Finished the Swahili tree!! (and thoughts about it)

I finished the Duolingo Swahili tree yesterday, 11 days after I started. I spent all of my spare time on Duolingo. I was hoping to finish in four days but it didn't happen.

My Journey

I have always wanted to learn Swahili. My childhood dream was to be a missionary and help people in Africa, and as a five year old, I thought Africa spoke one and only one language, Swahili. Much to my dismay, I realized there were thousands of languages in Africa, but stay focused, right?

When I was 10 I learned my first Swahili, not much, but the extreme basics like how to count to ten and some common phrases. When I was 12 I joined Duolingo. The Google result said something similar to "Learn Spanish, French and other languages here". Other languages, that must include Swahili. It didn't. Shucks. So I started French because it is a major African language and I have to learn it in school (I live in Canada where the official languages are English and French; French learning is mandatory).

I discovered Memrise when someone on Duolingo referred me to it. I have been using that off and on for the past three years. In my wait for Swahili I ended up completing the French tree (which I forget most of now and I have reset it so I can do it again), learned the basics of Spanish, Dutch, and German (which I also forget), until Swahili came out. After a 15 month wait, Swahili finally came out. I missed the release into Limited Beta. I completed a third of the course on the first day and I did about 15 lessons a day on average. And now I am here.

Thoughts on the Tree

Tree Structure

  • I really enjoyed the majority of the tree. There were no long skills. The longest skill was 6 lessons and there were a few that were 5. The tedious 10 lesson skills in other courses are such a drag.
  • There was a great mix of grammar and vocabulary
  • The only part I did not like was the last 13 skills (everything after the final checkpoint). Of the 13 skills, 12 were grammar and 2 was vocab (holidays and speech). I've already gotten through 52 of the skills, don't torture me on my final stretch of the tree. Give me some nice vocab. Some vocab skills could really help with using the newly learned grammar. It seems like I am just being thrown a bunch of grammar at the end of the course and no practice exercises outside of the skill itself.
  • A new skill idea: When the audio comes out, maybe another skill could be created at the very beginning called "Vowels". It is hugely important that people realize there are only 5 vowel sounds in Swahili. I don't know about Android, but the iOS app doesn't have notes. Straight out teaching it would really help a lot of people understand one of the primary concepts.

Course Content

  • I loved everything that was taught. There were some words that I couldn't dream about learning in other trees.

  • I think the noun class skills should be scrapped. I have seen it in some of the dictionary definitions that it says what noun class the word is from. Move the words from the noun class skills into other skills and fill in the noun class in all the definitions. For example, kijiko (spoon), and kisu (knife) could both go to the Food skill.

  • In the beginning of the tree there was next to know translating into Swahili. Maybe one or two per lesson. There was more translating to Swahili in the middle of the tree, but I was unprepared for that. At the end of the tree there was about the same amount of translating, but I didn’t like that because It was the exact same sentences. The Swahili to English was the exact same as the English to Swahili. That was incredibly boring.

Other Stuff and issues to fix

*Fix the space in Greetings 2

*Possibly rename the “People” skill to “M-Wa”

*Animals three was almost all one word translations

In the Tips section of the Advanced Grammar skill, at the bottom where it talks about -Po* meaning "when", the asterisks need to be fixed.

*Possibly rename “Speech” skill to “Idioms”

I got “reporting fatigue” a few times. There were several sentences where I would type a incorrect English sentence just to move past that exercise. The worst was especially in the last 10 skills. The English sentences were very badly written. I ended up copying and pasting the English in because it was so bad. One sentence even had the keyboard spelling error of “cppking” instead of “cooking”.

What’s Next?

I will continue doing Duolingo and keeping my skills gold. I will also be going through the entire tree at least twice more to help fix errors. I will be gone for ten days and when I return hopefully there might be audio and the current reports will be fixed so I don’t report the same thing twice. I will also continue doing Memrise. Memrise is better at some areas of learning languages than Duolingo. I also might give TinyCards a try.

Thank You Course Creators

Overall, I really enjoyed this course. It was great going through it and learning a new language. I really enjoyed the course without audio. I listened to movie soundtracks as I went through the course. I would like to express my gratitude for all the hard, dedicated work the course creators went through to make this course possible.

March 10, 2017



Congratulations! I hope to do the tree sometime this year myself.


We meet again, SlowPoke Rodriguez. Como estas, guey? Ten un lingot!


Estoy bien amigo. ¿Y tú? ¡Muchas gracias por el lingot!


De nada. Mismo como lo usual. Estoy aprendiendo el Swahili mientras que pruebo de mantener espanol y frances. Ademas, se me olvido casi todo mi ucraniano. Que lastima!


Quiero aprender Swahili también pero mi español necesita mucho mejora primero.


Asante! Good luck when you do it!


Congratulations! I hope I can complete the tree as well, I'm planning on going hard on it this weekend and seeing how far i get :). Best of luck on any other languages (such as French) that you try in the future.


Don't forget to allow yourself extra time to report things. The course is currently in limited beta, lets see how much we can get cleaned up before it's in full beta and the people waiting for audio get started.


Thank you! The tree starts getting difficult in the last 20 skills, but up until then it is just vocabulary and basic grammar. Send me a message on my stream if you have any questions.


As a native Swahili speaker, I couldn't get through any of the trees. The translations are very abstract and I find most of the answers that I provide despite being correct are invalid.


Impressed with this detailed feedback. You've put a lot of hard work and thought into it. It should be really useful to the course contributors.


I LOVE these posts - thoughtful, humble, well-written and insightful. Do I feel another lingot party coming on?

  • 2602

To Mr.Quizzical. Congratulations on finishing the tree! There is a Duolingo Golden Owl Hall of Fame - a Google search should take you to the relevant site.


Is that still updated?

  • 2602

I know that the Streak Hall of Fame and Level 25 Hall of Fame are still regularly updated.


Hongera! Good feedback.


Thanks for the great feedback! I know you've been anxiously awaiting the Swahili course, and I'm glad you've had the chance to pass through it!

Some thoughts and responses to the feedback:

  1. Pole sana for the last few skills being heavily grammar-focused! Unfortunately, we can't edit the tree now, nor can we add skills (to the point on Vowels), so that potential edit will have to wait until a second tree version! Similarly, we cannot add new words anymore now that the tree is locked, so those skills cannot be beefed up with additional vocabulary within the lessons.

  2. I agree with Piguy3's assessment of the Noun Classes. They are too unique to Swahili to incorporate into other lessons, and there are linguistic rules that apply differently to each noun class, hence why the Tips and Notes for each cover a wide variety of topics.

  3. In terms of the translation exercises - unfortunately, we have no control over what kinds of exercises appear! That's an internal Duolingo programming algorithm of some sort. However, I'm continually trying to find new words that have available images to include image exercises. I hope that the introduction of audio and speaking exercises will help break that up.

  4. I cannot add a space in Greetings2 because of the character limit :-( I tried just now!

  5. There are some skills that need a lot of attention. Animals is one of them. Numbers is another (just creating a variety of exercises). Object infixes is also one that needs some work. Thanks for pointing those out - we'll try to address them ASAP!

  6. Fixed the -po- typo.

  7. I cannot find the cppking sentence! Let me know where you saw it! Pole sana tena for the report fatigue. My eyes hurt as well, processing all the reports :-). There was an added time constraint unusual to other courses that we were under with the limited Beta release to coincide with the Design Indaba event I linked to in our most recent course update. I wish we still had a few months to work on the course, as there are always ways to improve. Issues such as typos and fixing translations to accept ones with/without articles, adding words, rearranging and adding skills, etc., would have then been possible. It was a great learning experience, though, and with the incorporation of the audio exercises, the course is going to be a lot "fuller" and "robust." These lessons learned will also serve well to launching a Tree 2 in the future and including valuable feedback like this!

  8. Thanks again for the excitement that YOU - in particular - had in the run-up to the course launch and for this feedback!


Brandon, the sentence is "If you had not gone, you would not have been cppked", first appearing in lesson 4 of conditional past.

If you still have any of my reports from a week ago to go through it's probably in there.


Oh it was "cppked", not "cppking".


I cheated. I remembered which skill it was in, so it was just a matter of skipping through each of the lessons until I found it. From memory I probably would have said "cppking" too.


I totally understand about the noun classes. It was new to me learning all sorts of words instead of topic based learning. Too bad the tree is locked, but in the future Tree 2.0 will be a lot more organized. There would probably be a lot less errors to report if you had more time to work on the course. Thanks again, and I look forward to providing more feedback about this course.


Mambo Branden! Here is a mistake I have just reported (I see you have still a lot of reports to check) and I would like to share it here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/21867125

(The English sentence shows only this: "There are different" in Spirituality skill, I found it just starting the strengthening)

Asante sana rafiki! ;)


Noun classes being the linguistic concept likely most unfamiliar to most learners, I think relegating them to an afterthought of vocab-thematic skills would be a significant pedagogical misstep.

Vocab can be easily taught through simple flashcard apps like the ones you mention. Duo's strength is in addressing the grammatical points that can only be seen on the sentence level. I share the wish that the many grammatical points introduced near the end of the tree could be woven together / drilled in a more integrated matter, perhaps by moving their relative position higher in the tree so that they could show up in more vocab-centric skills further down, but the grammar skill by grammar skill approach is something of a Duolingo staple, so I can't find too much fault with it. I'd rather the grammar be there than not. And in any event, any talk of altering the tree structure is quite premature as yet. It's not even a consideration until the tree is out of beta, which, well, it's not even fully in yet :)

BTW: I would counsel you to not reset any trees. In doing so, you delete all the spaced repetition info that Duo relies on to help customize your learning experience. It ramps up the percentage of translation into target language over time as it sees you passively knowing the vocab. Resetting jettisons all that.


Wow, I didn't know that Duo did things that way. That is really cool. I will just go through the skills one by one. Thank you very much for telling me that!


No problem. Make sure you're doing Strengthen Skills for the skills as well. There are plenty of sentences / sentence exercises you'll only ever get to that way. I suspect the direction of translation percentage begins to change particularly as you show Duo you can get the aural transcription exercises, which I'm sure will be here for Swahili here soon enough.


That is really good! Make sure you know everything you learned.


I've been working on the Swahili tree for weeks, and only now am I done. How did it take you only 11 days? Swahili is supposed to take 480 hours to learn, and Duolingo teaches about 2,500 words, halfway to fluency. If it took you 11 days, you must have been studying 22 hours each day (obviously you weren't but you get the point). How were you able to accomplish so much in so little time? Any tips?


Impressive speed. You are my role model haha


Speed ain’t everything. You need to actually remember the stuff. I have forgotten most f the Duolingo Swahili I learned. Will need to do it again sometime


Agreed. What I meant is 50 xp per day are nice but not that serious. Doing 1 level of one skill a day I think is the most efficient. But making time is my issue;)

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