https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg

Helping learners should be more important than entertaining course editors

ove_sundberg
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Is anyone else irritated by the joke answers in Duolingo course content?

In "Italian from English", every week Duo forces me to translate "dead" as "dead hedge." In "German from Italian", it forces me to translate "we have sugar" as "we have diabetes." Even if the jokes were hilarious, they'd still distract from learning, and reflect poorly on the site.

Now I have to wonder for every word I come across here, is it an accurate translation, or just a goof.

Edit: Some interesting info in the comments here. It looks like the issue is that it's difficult for contributors to correct errors in Duolingo, as opposed to the mistakes being intentional jokes. It puzzles me that more users here don't have a problem with that, but on the bright side, it's kind of pleasant that everyone maintains such a positive attitude.

1 year ago

28 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/poa-alpina1
poa-alpina1
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Actually, in colloquial German "er hat Zucker" can mean "he has diabetes" (it's short for Zuckerkrankheit).

http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Zucker

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg
ove_sundberg
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Thank you. Huh, that does make me think it might just be an error. It must be a fairly obscure translation, because I checked a couple online dictionaries, and didn't see such a translation, before I posted here.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pentaan
pentaan
Mod
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In Dutch we have the same colloquial expression "hij heeft suiker".
This can mean "he has diabetes mellitus". It is just short for "Suikerziekte".

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EpicPowerHero

I'm fine with jokes, in fact they add some fun to the learning. Besides, people say weird stuff in real life. Duolingo's weird sentences may help you to translate some bizarre stuff you hear.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
pont
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I don't think ove_sundberg is complaining about the comical but correct sentences like "The horse is eating the holy potato". Rather, he's complaining about some erroneous translations and (rather uncharitably in my opinion) assuming that the course creators put them in deliberately for their own amusement. Personally, I would assume that the errors are simply errors -- firstly because the course creators seem like diligent and sensible people, and secondly because translating "dead" as "dead hedge" doesn't really seem to have much in the way of humorous potential.

dqxxmvyvoedn

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg
ove_sundberg
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If they are innocent errors, then I have a different complaint: Duo, don't let obvious errors sit around for longer than two years! That's how long I've been seeing "dead hedge" pop up here. If they can't respond to errors in course content after 800+ days, something is wrong.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
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I'd agree that that's a legitimate complaint, but probably one that's more justly directed at Duolingo's staff or management. I've never been a course contributor (and never plan to be one), but from what I've read I get the feeling that the contributors are often fighting the platform. I recall that the German contributors spent at least a year or two unsuccessfully trying to replace "Weber" in the vocabulary list with something more relevant, and for all I know it's still in there...

dqxxmvyvoedn

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg
ove_sundberg
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Agreed. If the issues are mistakes, and not jokes, it's clearly the engineers, not the contributors, who need to address it.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EpicPowerHero

Couldn't "dead hedge" mean that the hedge is brown as in, a dead plant? Is there something I'm not getting?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
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Yes, it could simply mean a hedge which has died, or a hedge constructed from dead material. But either way it seems that Duolingo is somewhere providing it as a translation of the Italian "morto" which just means "dead".

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EpicPowerHero

Ah, now I understand. Danke.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg
ove_sundberg
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I guess I didn't express myself very well. If the translations are jokey, but accurate, I'm fine with it. The fact that they are also incorrect is the problem.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenBookmye

I disagree joke answers are even worse than the literal translations that you would never hear anyone say.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EpicPowerHero

I was just pointing out, not everything you hear in life is going to make sense. They won't all be saying, "Hello, how was your day?" They'll be saying things that may not make sense.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenBookmye

There is a German coloquial expression " was ist los" which literally means what is lose referring to farmer's livestock escaping to the neighbors. If the English translation is how's it going or what's​ new that's ok. But it needs to be clear that it is a translation of the coloquial expression

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
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Is there any reason to suppose that these are jokes, rather than accidental errors or glitches in the course implementation?

Now I have to wonder for every word I come across here, is it an accurate translation, or just a goof.

Over the years, I've encountered errors in Duolingo courses, Memrise courses, Anki card decks, textbooks, websites, audio courses, and podcasts, and in claims made by professional teachers and native speakers. Unfortunately, nobody and nothing in this world is perfect, and wherever you're getting your information you have to consider that there's some chance it might be erroneous.

dqxxmvyvoedn

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg
ove_sundberg
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They might be longstanding errors. I thought "dead hedge" was a mistake at first, but I've read elsewhere in the forums it was a joke. The "we have sugar" one seems obviously jokey to me, but I can't claim 100% certainty.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
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I thought "dead hedge" was a mistake at first, but I've read elsewhere in the forums it was a joke.

Someone claimed at some point that it's a reference to Minecraft, even though (1) there's nothing called a "dead hedge" in Minecraft and (2) even if there were, inserting it as a translation for "morta" would hardly qualify as a joke. Despite this the claim somehow took on a life of its own and now seems to be brought out on an occasional basis as a stick with which to beat the Italian course contributors. In this discussion from a month ago, one of the course contributors writes:

It [i.e. the "dead hedge" translation] shouldn't be showing up in the lessons (in the hover hints), because I removed that one a while ago. Unfortunately we can only change the hints there, which does not always seem to affect what shows up on other areas of the site. It's one of the great mysteries of Duolingo where on earth these things come from. : /

So it seems fairly clear to me that they are doing their best to get rid of this mistranslation.

I agree that "sugar" for "diabetes" might be taken as a poor joke, but considering the obsolete English synonym "sugar-disease" for diabetes, and the Duolingo platform's well-known and inexplicable fondness for obscure synonyms (often despite the best efforts of course contributors), I would assume that it is, once again, a glitch.

Edit: I initially missed that the "sugar" mistranslation was in the German course, not the Italian. As poa-alpina1 points out, "diabetes" is indeed a valid translation of the German "Zucker", which you can verify for yourself with a dictionary.

dqxxmvyvoedn

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg
ove_sundberg
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They have an error in their content, but they can't fix it? What happens when there's an actual bug with the app... Unless they chose an intern as their project lead, I find it hard to believe that they designed the site that poorly.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
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I find it hard to believe that they designed the site that poorly.

Considering the number of easily fixable bugs that have persisted for years in the bits of DL that I can see, I can well believe that it's equally shoddy behind the scenes.

For instance, I just had to retype this comment because it was wiped out when I upvoted your comment before posting. And as soon as I've posted it, I'll have to edit it because the greater-than character for a block quote only works on edit, not on initial post. And whenever I need to post a link to Pons, as in another comment on this thread, I have to run it through a URL shortener because DL can't handle ampersands in URLs.

dqxxmvyvoedn

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg
ove_sundberg
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Downvote away, but I'm not wrong in saying that would either reflect bad design, or bad programming.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ifphigenia
Ifphigenia
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Never assume that the person who is answering you is also the one downvoting you. Yes, your correspondent may have downvoted you but it is equally likely that they didn't, apart from anything else you had 3 downvotes when I last looked, how could they have done that? (pont is no troll with sockpuppet accounts, they are a serious and longstanding user).

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ove_sundberg
ove_sundberg
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Never assume that the person who is answering you is also the one downvoting you

No worries, I didn't mean to imply that that was the case. I didn't even realize I was coming across like that (i.e.: like I was accusing any one person in particular). My bad.

Anyways, the downvotes were probably on account of my tone (i.e.: cranky), and if someone doesn't like my tone, that's their prerogative. It doesn't make sense for me to complain about what tone a person does, or does not, like.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ifphigenia
Ifphigenia
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Sorry, ove_sundberg I misinterpreted your comment but having been wrongly accused of downvoting someone I had written to who had expressed a different opinion from mine, I am maybe a little quick to react when it appears someone else is in the same position.

Thank you for clearing things up. Have a good week. Gena. :-)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gjthomas1990
Gjthomas1990
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They may be doing their best to remove "dead hedge," but it's still there. Irritating to say the least.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
DonFiore
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The "dead hedge" is apparently a minecraft reference and Zucker is slang for diabetes. Since they are technically correct, I understand that they are accepted but they shouldn't be the main answer and you shouldn't be forced to enter them.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pont
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The "dead hedge" is apparently a minecraft reference

No, it's not.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DonFiore
DonFiore
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I've never played minecraft so I wouldn't know. After using way more time researching this than I would've liked, it seems like the thing in minecraft is a dead bush, not a hedge, so you might be right.

1 year ago
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