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Won't the new Health system hurt tourists and travelers?

A thought came to me today. Won't the new Health system hurt tourists and travelers? I agree that cramming is, most of the time, a bad idea for most people. However, I also think that there are exceptions and one of those is for people who are traveling or going on a trip. They often have to cram a lot of information in order to prepare for their trip or while traveling. Learn a lot of vocabulary and phrases in a short amount of time. It seems to me the app is no longer as useful and convenient for that purpose and that travelers might look elsewhere to fill that need.

June 1, 2017



Let's be realistic here. No one is going to expect an app like DL to teach them anything useable in a hurry. That just isn't realistic. From not giving specific "touristy" phrases to not immediately giving into on asking for help in emergencies, DL isn't setup to be an app designed for fast learning for those situations.

Phrase books and phrase apps are going to be as popular as ever. DL isn't marketed for that and even if some used it that way, it won't matter in the long term.


Actually, I frequently see Duolingo recommended to travelers on line. Go to a site like Ask Metafilter, search for threads with words like "traveling to Country X in X weeks/months" and Duolingo gets recommended all the time. You really can learn the basics of a language in a short time on here if you use your time well (obviously, best accompanied by a good phrasebook but that goes without saying.)

ETA: What do you mean, "it won't matter in the long term"? It seems to me Duolingo wants to keep users and gain market share. The tourism/travel market is a big market for language learners. That's why print courses like like Teach Yourself and Colloquial, and audio courses like Pimsleur have material geared towards traveler's needs . Duolingo would be shooting itself in the foot if it neglects the travel market.

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@CarolinaViking, I beg to disagree. Here is a real life story. A PhD Mechanical Candidate, that i know, has postponed his graduation by one semester simply because he landed a project with one of the Fortune 100 US companies that had a limited budget and that, in addition to his Mechanical Engineering expertise, required Electrical, Material Science and Software Engineering skills. This was an 8 month project. Prior to the project, the person had no real Computer Science courses to speak of but he did the typical programming (like Matlab) that came with his classes. Do you know how he succeeded to finish the project on time and on budget? By cutting corners (as much as possible) and by CRAMMING in as much knowledge about programming, material science and electrical engineering that he could! This is a real life story that happens all the time and that gets rewarded by the business world (at least in some parts of the world). I trust this puts a different perspective on the term CRAMMING! Now, regarding school, Oxford Learning (for what is worth) is not so quick to go against Cramming. For example, see:



For sure, cramming has its place. I don't think language learning is that place, though. At least, that hasn't been my experience; I need to review things enough times that the knowledge is really solid, and the recall is instant. Otherwise the sentence I'm listening to has passed by before I've remembered a key word.


Different methods work for different people. I haven't got the health system yet but the new version is slowly infecting my computer. I was using cramming with timed practice along with the purchased tests to see my progress and it was working for me but they removed those too. I would rather they just allow us to go at our own pace rather than attempt to decide it for us.


Good point CarolinaViking.


Fortunately, Duolingo's web version (www.duolingo.com) is also working in the browser of an IOS device.
So, nobody has "to wait for 5 hours" or "to buy Gems for cash" to continue the lessons.


Unless it's a trip with extremely short advance notice, then I don't think it will hurt.

Any trip planned in advance gives plenty of time to learn what you'll need, while anything with only a few days notice is better served with a phrasebook or similar tool than Duo's methods.


Needing to learning something in a hurry doesn't suddenly mean that it'll be possible. If you cram before a trip you'll be in the same position as if you cram without travelling; you'll have seen lots of material once, and you won't know it well enough to use it.


I think we've all been in situations where we've had to cram some sort of knowledge, like before a test or quiz at school. It's never best but there is often some benefit and, as I made clear in the OP, this is about tourists and travelers who need something in the short term. What they learn in a few weeks can be used during the days/weeks/months they are traveling.

It should be obvious that somebody who is cramming for a trip will keep studying and reviewing as much as he or she can in that time and probably while traveling. It would suit that persons needs in that situation. Duolingo would no longer be as useful for people in that situation.

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I find cramming the best solution when I do translation work of a specific document that is of interest rather than the language itself. That is, when I am not interested in the source language per se but only in the contents of one or more documents from that language. Duolingo was a great tool for that kind of work when it had the Immersion feature available. It allowed me to get a basic feel for the language (through the tree feature) and then to use Immersion to dig in the area of interest...


Yeah, I think your comment hits the nail on the head. Cramming is short-term learning, so it's useful when you have something specific and short-term to accomplish, whether that's understanding a particular document, or taking an exam.

...and yes, Immersion is sorely missed by many.

("Hits the nail on the head" - is that phrase used outside the U.K.?)


"Hits the nail on the head" is used in the USA and in Denmark.


Hits the nail on the head" - is that phrase used outside the U.K.?)

Yes we use it in the Netherlands too.
Translation to Dutch: "De spijker op de kop slaan."
Source: https://nl.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/spijker


I think most of us probably have been in that situation, yes. My experience has been that cramming is better than nothing, but not by much. Cramming is good for remembering a few key dates, or a few key terms, but that's about it. I've done that version of language learning for travelling, where I learn "hello", "thank you", "sorry", and the first few numbers, and there's nothing wrong with doing that. That's not the language-learning service Duolingo is trying to offer, though. They're trying to help people gain some actual proficiency in a language.

If you don't have much time, and you want to use Duolingo, the best thing to do is not to rush ahead an successfully forget the entire tree, it's to focus on the first few skills. That can be a very successful strategy - it's enough to get your ear into the language, and to learn the first few key words.


Pancho_Delavane, that is an excellent point. I have used Duolingo on recent trips where I needed to speak German and Italian. I was able to learn a LOT by cramming, because I had some previous knowledge. I don't know if those who argue that 'lots of intense practice on Duolingo won't help tourists anyway' are not considering that possibility. Maybe it's a refresher, and maybe you're refreshing and expanding old knowledge.

Now, Russian, is another story. I'm starting from total scratch, and I make a million mistake trying to decipher cyrillic. But now I can say and read useful words like 'restaurant', 'where is our luggage' and 'whose tea is she drinking'.

I think all these examples demonstrate the usefulness of Duolingo, and I would be concerned if that gets hampered by changes in the app.


Surely if tourists and travellers have to cram as much as you say, and they don't have enough Gems, they can buy extra Gems for cash. It just becomes an extra cost of their travelling like the cost of vaccinations, travel insurance, flights and hotels etc.


But travelers are also on a budget, and if they could avoid the hassle of the health system and not have to spend any spare money I think many of them just might ditch the app and go for something that's free and more convenient.

My main point was that until now, on iOS, Duolingo suited a lot of traveler's needs. It has now made itself less convenient for them. I'm not sure that the hassle of paying for or gaining extra gems is worth it when they have limited time and can download free podcasts and word frequency lists instead. They might be willing to spend money on gems once or twice but more than that is liable to drive them away.


thank you for pointing this out. One more reason I will travel with a computer, and not rely on the app. (I haven't tried the app yet, but it seemed like a good time to use it on a trip)

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