Exercise Preferences

So, I'm wondering what you all think of the different types of exercises you get to do on the desktop/mobile courses respectively. Here are some of my opinions (for the French course, anyway):


Translate this sentence (foreign language -> native language)

The most common exercise, I really enjoy this one, as it lets you think about the sentence you're presented with, then formulate a new sentence to reflect its meaning, it doesn't have to be word-for-word most of the time. My only complaint is that this exercise comes up way too often on the desktop version, very one-sided.

Translate this sentence (native -> foreign)

Even more valuable than vice-versa. Here you have to use your active vocabulary and really think about how to use the language correctly. Unfortunately, this one is really rare compared to the other way around. I'd like more of these.

How do you say...

You're shown a picture or word and are asked to type in the foreign word for it. Pretty simple and effective, basically a flashcard.

Type what you hear

This is the only listening related exercise, so it's pretty important. I like doing it (in French) because it's important to practice this, but the bots often struggle with the pronunciation themselves, so this can be frustrating. I still like this one.


You're asked to pronounce a phrase or word in the foreign language. I actually haven't done this one in a while since I turned it off. The reason is that I could speak literally any noise into the microphone and it would accept it as correct. I don't know, this exercise might not even be around anymore for all I know.

Choose the correct translation

You are presented with three possible foreign sentences and you choose which ones are an acceptable translation for the given native sentence. This is the worst one, you don't really get to think about how a sentence would be constructed, because all the available options are already laid out in the same sort of sentence structure. You're just asked to pay attention to very minor details, like one word being swapped or sometimes even just wrong contractions being used. This really takes me out of the "flow" of utilizing the language I'm learning just to solve a simple "find the difference" puzzle that doesn't really require language knowledge. I never like seeing this exercise.

Mobile version

Translate this sentence (foreign -> native, with cards)

Very common exercise on mobile. For mobile use, I prefer the card version to the typing version, because I don't like to type a lot on my phone, especially when it needs to be very correct.

Translate this sentence (native -> foreign, with cards)

Just like above, but you have to construct a sentence in the language you're learning. For this one, I think the word cards make it too easy. Often times, I instictively tap the cards I see in the correct order and pass the exercise, then think about the sentence again and realize that some of those words probably weren't in my active vocabulary and it might have taken me some thinking to formulate this sentence without the cards. I don't like how this exercise gets rid of thinking, for the most part.

Translate this sentence (native -> foreign, typing)

Much preferable to the one above, here you need to think about which words to use and how to write them correctly. This actually trains your active vocabulary instead of just pattern matching. Not nearly enough of this exercise on mobile!

Type what you hear

Basically the same as the desktop version


The mobile version works a lot better than the desktop version, at least in French. It actually corrects individual word pronunciations in a reasonable manner. This one is very good and probably the only thing the mobile version does better than desktop.

Tap the pairs

You get about 5 foreign word cards with 5 matching native words and you need to match them up. I like how this is often a refresher for old words, thrown in to all practice units. On the other hand, I often solve these in about 2 seconds because the correct word is already on screen, which makes it much easier than thinking of the translation off the top of your head. Considering this, this exercise shows up way too often.

How do you say...

As opposed to desktop, on mobile you get three cards to choose from. This makes this exercise so trivially easy to the point where I think it's useless. "Secretary - is it secrétaire, voiture or pantalon" Hmm... let me think about that one. It would be a lot more productive if I actually had to write out the word and think about the spelling. Or at least give me "secrétaire, sécretaire, secrètaire". I don't like this exercise at all.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with me? What do you think of Duo's exercise system? What would you like to see more of?

1 year ago

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Definitely, I would like to see more of native -> foreign, typing, in both web and app.

1 year ago

Agree, this is probably the most effective exercise

1 year ago


1 year ago

I wish that you couldn't see what the underlined words are translated to, because then, if you don't know a word, it's really tempting to look at the translation. Then, you don't learn the vocabulary.

1 year ago

I get what you mean but, when you don't know a word, what else are you supposed to do than find out. Plus, hover hints are also the way Duo teaches you most new words in context, so that's an important feature. I think if it hinders your learning, you should take more time to come up with the right word yourself, and if you don't know it, there's no point to not looking at the hint :)

1 year ago
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Guess, particularly if it's in a sentence, try to guess from the context. I'm surprised how often I manage to guess Italian words correctly.

1 year ago

I think you've laid out the differences nicely. I prefer the mobile version because I'm on my phone more, but sometimes it's too easy. Am trying to make more of an effort to do the reverse trees on the website, to get more practice writing my target languages from English. I found this much harder than chosing from cards on the app. Doing a mixture of things keeps it interesting and helps make up for the weak parts. For example even if it takes me months to finish Spanish to French and French to Spanish or don't keep my trees gold I get plenty of practice from different aspects. The reverse trees provide practice translating from English to Spanish/French.

Duo does well at teaching the basics. I would have liked more help conjugating verbs. Perhaps more listening to natural speech, but can go to other sources for that like videos etc.

1 year ago

verb conjugations are one of those reasons why reverse translation is so important.

I think for improving in anything, it's important to always practice in a way that makes you stop and think for a second. Card-translating a sentence into your native language feels very rewarding and reassuring, and it's good to confirm your knowledge every once in a while, but IMO the actual learning takes place when you have to stop and think.

1 year ago

Yes. For me now it's about increasing my vocabulary and gaining experience in as many ways and sources as possible.

Changes can be difficult until things settle, but I still feel that duo can give people a good start. They continue to grow and try and improve, So should we.

1 year ago

give lingot for love

1 year ago
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