Why is course expansion not a priority?
I get that Duolingo's best feature was removed because it wasn't sustainable. I can accept that. But Duolingo has been subtly hinting at grand promises that they would make the most of this reluctant change in direction by dedicating their energies to new and exciting things to help users learn languages, and that the site would be better than ever for everyone. So far all that's come of it is pathetic and unappealing gimmicks (bots, clubs, tinycards, DuoPlus, new formats that no one seems to like).
Am I the only one that thinks it's absurd that Duo is spending so much resources on junk while the courses that are core of Duolingo are basically in the same state they have been in since they graduated incubator? These courses should be constantly curated, improved, and expanded, as the first priority for use of time and resources. Duo seems to have an attitude that when a course is done with the incubator that's the end of the course's journey. There is SO MUCH work to do to expand the content covered by the courses (this should be ongoing all the time for every course) and improve them (why does Spanish still have a robot lady instead of a human voice?).
If grand side-programs (like immersion) to the courses aren't sustainable, then too bad, but I understand and accept. But put your resources back into the courses instead of mass-producing junk.
What duo is doing now is like if you have a car with a 20 year old engine that needs work badly but instead of updating the engine (courses) you throw some rims (tinycards) and a fancy paintjob (bots) on it.
The courses will always have robot voices. They found learners make it a lot further in the courses when there's a robot voice, and that's because the human voice recordings don't have an option to listen to the sentence slowly so that people can more clearly hear the sentence when they don't understand it. Human voices are just a last resort for languages that don't have a good TTS.
The courses are being worked on, but for most, putting out updated versions of the tree is a lot of work on volunteers who already have to spend a ton of time just responding to error reports.
And they have said various times they're working on new features that would actually improve learner's ability to read and have conversations, like reading longer texts and picking an answer. It's just that those kinds of things are going to take a long time to implement.
Your first paragraph is true, but only because Duolingo tools are so basic, that they can't handle both TTS (for sentences that don't have recording and for slower version) and human recordings at the same time. They could easily add that, but… It took over a year just to implement multiple voices for a TTS and it seems their resources are otherwise occupied, like for example with bots, so I wouldn't hold my breath for now, as you might just asphyxiate, unfortunately. ;)
That is true, but at the same time, there are new tree versions ready, that are waiting for Duolingo to begin A/B Tests – from what I seen, it seems that the Contributors themselves would really like to know what's the hold up…
They said so, and then they have given us bots… I don't know, but I've lost hope that Duolingo will ever become a valuable resource for learners beyond ~A2/B1, it seems that it's really not their priority or consideration – which is not bad actually, materials for beginners are also valuable after all and concentrating on your strengths is always desirable, I think. ;)
The main reason that the slow version is necessary is because there are so many flat out errors in the normal speed versions with the robot voices. And the inflection is often so out of whack compared to natural speech that it really does a disservice to someone who is trying to learn how to understand real people.
I'm glad to hear that the courses are being worked on. Personally I'd rather they pay professionals to curate the courses with the money they use to pay the people who work on, program, and launch bots, cards, etc. If it was done really, I might even be willing to pay for Duo. I would certainly be willing to do it with banner ads or some other kind of ad system. They could be really clever about it and show only ads in the target language, maybe from time to time a short video ad using target language and even use it as a learning tool, win win for everyone and money for duo.
To some extent I agree with you. In my opinion, TinyCards looks more like a toy than a serious learning tool. I am amazed that they don't have a simple down-to-the-point flashcard system like memrise or readlang. They could easily ditch a few features and still have an amazing tool, and take over a big portion of memrise users. Bots is another toy, which is a nice idea, but it is limited to same first languages, and probably will not be updated in any serious way any time soon. Clubs seem to be the least useful item, at least to newcomers. I almost think it was developed to keep the existent users, since they were expecting this backslash from all the changes while exploiting social network aspect of todays world. DuoPlus is a reasonable action from their side. They need to start making money, and if this happens to work, so be it. No adds is an obvious purchase, but the offline mode is one of more serious things, that is not being practised by bigger language learning app companies. I tried Anki on phone yesterday, and it works without internet connection. For people not needing to be on the internet 24/7 this is a serious aspect. I hope that after they are done rewriting the whole system anew, new serious changes will come.
It is Duo's business. Like it or not, in today's world the top priority is the investor, not the subjective opinions of users of a free program. Not sure how one person's opinion of what was Duo's "best feature" (I hated immersion, thought it was a waste of time) or how one person knows that, out of hundreds of millions of users, what "no one seems to like." Duo, from the beginning, said that it was not going to be like school, but many of the "demands" people are making is that it become more like school. And for very gripe about courses needing upgrading there are several requests for new languages. It is a free market. Don't like Starbucks, Burger King, or Duolingo? Plenty of other options.
I 100% agree duo could've moderated immersion a lot better than they did. Instead they decide to neglect it, claim that its unsustainable, trash it, and make the website a pathway to the app and the 'bonuses' that go with it e.g.: bots, clubs, the tiny cards app, etc, they really need to change their approach!