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  5. Needs editing--badly!!


Needs editing--badly!!

I have used the Irish version with great satisfaction.

I decided to test out of a big chunk of the Swahili and brush up on some advanced skills. I lived in Kenya for five years and used Swahili constantly.

I have some quibbles with expressions are used which the app marked incorrect . That may be a difference between Kenyan and Tanzanian Swahili.

However, the English side of the Swahili module is atrocious. I am not only a native speaker of English, I have taught English composition for 20 years on three continents. I am a linguist. I know my English grammar. A native English speaker needs to go through the Swahili module and fix the grammar problems. This would include adding the word "the" or the word "a" in the exercises where you have to choose words and put them in the right order to translate the Swahili phrase. Also, the English verbs are often incorrectly conjugated, and correct conjugated is marked as an error. For instance, the exercise insists I must say "if he buy potatoes" and when I say in the exercises where you have to choose words and put them in the right order to translate to Swahili phrase. Also, the English verbs are often incorrectly conjugated, and correct conjugated is marked as an error. For instance, the exercise consists I must say "if he buy potatoes" and when I say "if he buys potatoes," correctly conjugating the English verb, the app marks it as a mistake. These are only a couple of examples.

I am absolutely delighted that there is a Swahili version of Duolingo, but it needs editing. Desperately.

June 29, 2017



Ok, I have now given up on the Swahili module. The English MUST be revised by a competent speaker. The straw that broke the camel's back: A Swahili sentence was presented--Emilian alinifulia nguo--which can mean "Emilian washed my clothes" or "Emilian washed clothes for me" or even "Emilian washed my clothes for me." I entered the second translation. It was marked incorrect. The correct answer was presented as: "Emilian washed for me cloth."

Absolutely not.

A skilled and competent speaker and writer of English needs to reconstruct the English elements of the Swahili module. This is an embarrassment.


Yeah, as others have said, it's taking some time, but these issues will eventually be fixed. What happened with the Swahili course is that it was pushed for a beta release too early, before it was ready, because the CEO was giving a speech or something and I guess wanted to say "and we have an African language". I think the creators of the course were very rushed in the end. They also went from three contributors down to two and the two remaining ones are both active in the Peace Corps and don't have much time. Creators of Duolingo courses are generally not employed full-time to do this and they have to fit it in around the rest of their life. Also, the process of editing the course is complicated by the fact that they have to submit the edits they'd like to be changed a lot of the time.

So, yeah, it's frustrating and believe me, I end up swearing at and giving the finger to my phone while I'm using it, and I'm also annoyed by how many single words are given without any context, instead of whole sentences. Like, there could be a whole lot more content in the course, but instead, there are exercises like kwa sababu ya because of ... just give it to us in sentences! Raagh!

But on the other hand, I'm glad the course exists at all because there's still a lot you can learn from it ... it just doubles as an exercise in patience as well, trying to keep my zen while learning Swahili.

Anyway, I don't judge you for giving up on it for now. Just as long as you don't condemn the people who have put as much effort into this course as they've been able to.


This sentence has been infamous for me as well. Your comment is so relevant it hurts!


If you know Swahili that well, you could be that person you're asking for. You would certainly have the gratitude of the 200K+ current learners.


I went around looking how one would contribute like this, and found this link: https://incubator.duolingo.com/apply/sw/en

I'd be grateful for someone helping them out, but I've only just started learning so I can't really offer my help.


Swahili is still in beta - keep hitting the report button whenever these things occur (yes, it might be quite a lot of hitting still)

Swahili has been somewhat "cruder" from the start than many other courses as Duolingo pushed it to an early release. Hopefully things will be sorted out in time.


I note with displeasure my own proofreading mistakes in my posting above. That's my punishment for dictating, I guess, and for not proofreading carefully!! The exact point I was trying to make... :(


Report any mistakes you find in Swahili or English, hopefully if enough people report it they will do something about it.


Hi - I hope giving lingots to a discussion will make the Duolingo management take notice. These lessons desperately need a native English speaker to edit them. I have also noticed that the correct noun is typically capitalized throughout the Swahili modules, which helps me choose the right one, but probably slows my learning. As nugenpa notes, there is no consistency in article usage (when actually used). I am really learning a lot of Swahili, but it would be even better if the English side were better. Thanks!


I completely agree. I have had many similar experiences, though my time in Tanzania was much shorter, only 8 months. Though the ways many of the phrases translate are a little strange, especially in areas where there may be ambiguity(especially with the 2nd person singular and plural going form English to Swahili). I also despise when the program marks me incorrect for using improper English, when I can see that it's translation is missing articles! Granted it is still in beta, so I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it is disappointing from my point of view(not knowing exactly what goes into this, or the level of commitment from the creators) how unsatisfactory the program still is, and that there is not finish date in sight.


'If he buy potatoes' is a perfectly correct present subjunctive conjugation; you can find 20,400 results on Google Books. I quite concede that this usage sounds rather bookish to the modern ear, but it is certainly not incorrect.


"If he buy potatoes" is theoretically correct but archaic. The Duolingo apps are not designed for speakers of Elizabethan or even Victorian English.

In the case of the app, however, that construction is only accidentally correct. The app shows persistent inability to conjugate simple English verbs correctly. If the author cannot distinguish between singular and plural in the present indicative, he or she gets no credit for having accidentally landed on an archaic subjunctive.

And again, the problem is that a correct contemporary English translation -- "If he buys potatoes" -- was marked wrong. On the other hand, in contemporary English the subjunctive and conditional moods are constructed with auxiliary verbs (would, should, might), which would be more accurate and idiomatic renderings of the Kiswahili subjunctive forms.

The teams that do this need to be collaborations between competent native speakers of Kiswahili and competent native speakers of British or North American English.


I agree, the problems are getting more and more annoying and more and more frequent as I progress down the tree, and the case is happening where I cannot finish a lesson because either the hints are missing, so I can't get back at a newer word, or it won't accept my answer because it's in proper english and the system expects a form of barbaric basic english. It is getting annoying. Please attend to these mistakes!

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