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Why are the courses mostly onesided?


I am currently learning French and when I do strengthen the different lectures, I mostly get a french sentence which I then have to translate into english. Very rarely I do have to translage an english sentence to french, while I think that this is the stuff that is complicated and what I need to speak the language.

Why are the lectures this onesided and is there a possibility to change that?

July 6, 2017



Try to learn English from French, you will have both. It's called the reverse tree. ☺


Thanks for the tip. I did not know that possibility. I started it and it seems to be a good solution.


Duo says that too many people give up on the course if they have too many sentences to translate into the target language. It has been a frequent topic of discussion in the forums with the stronger learners wanting some way to vary this. Maybe one day they will manage to put in something that allows us to choose how hard the lessons should be!


It seems wrong, right?? Fortunately, at least Duolingo has given a very clear answer to this issue and we don't have to wonder why.

It's because Duolingo prioritizes continued usage metrics first and quality of courses for those who use them second. These two interests are both important to Duo, but they are actually at odds with each other and Duo had to make an ugly choice.

If Duolingo makes you use the target language a lot, then the people who are less committed and interested in learning a language say "this is too hard! It's making me think in another language too much! I quit!" and then they quit. So even though those who do stay would advance faster and father if Duo was less one-sided, Duo decided that keeping the iffy people who are kind of interested in a language but don't actually want to challenge themselves and go through the difficult phases required to learn a language effectively is more important than challenging those who are committed and definitely want to learn.

In Duo's eyes, a BOAT TON of people learning a little bit of a language is better than a half a boat ton of people learning a language really well.

Whether they are right or wrong in prioritizing this way is subjective and depends on your opinion. I think my bias is clear... What do you think?


It is certainly up for debate. For instance, I don't think keeping beginners, iffy people and advanced users is necessarily at odds with each other. All they have to do in my opinion is add progression and opt-in features. It might also be possible to have the system adapt to one's preferences so committed users have a different experience than people just looking for some fun. Being able to progress at one's own pace is important for a positive user experience because people have varying levels of aptitude, time, prior knowledge and frustration tolerance.

It seems to me that they are trying to optimize numbers but that's the wrong parameter and they will reach the point of diminishing returns whatever their motivation may be, instead they should optimize the number of people and how much they learn combined. Of course if Duo want to become cheap entertainment (which is already very abundant) then sure they can focus on numbers, but I am not sure if that is a good long term strategy.


@TracyS221, @Boujleba and @Xymheia,

It is so easy for English native speakers to do also the "reverse trees" (See the comment of Prenom.Pierre). Why are there so many (fortunately, not all) lazy English native speakers, who only wants to learn it in one course?

Fortunately Duolingo is also caring for the millions of serious learners, whose native language is not English.
Many of them can only learn English (L2) from their native language (L1) in a Duolingo course.
For them it's really difficult to learn a foreign language L3 (e.g French) from foreign language L2 (English). This is only possible, when the majority of the questions have to be translated from French (L3) to English (L2).

The next step in the learning progress is "translating from English (L2) in French (L3").
For that purpose every serious learner can use the "reverse tree", the course "English for French speakers".

In this way Duolingo provides the best language education for non-native English speakers by providing "trees" in combination with "reverse trees.


Why are the lectures this onesided ....

Please read Duolingo's explanation in
"Why are there fewer translation exercises from my native language to target language?"

and is there a possibility to change that?

Yes, do ...

  • the "reverse trees", the courses "English for French speakers" and "English for Spanish speakers"
  • the "laddering trees", the courses "Spanish for French speakers" and "French for Spanish" speakers.

And when these four courses also are too easy for you, than you are too advanced for the Duolingo courses. For more advanced courses Duolingo should have to hire linguists and that is very expensive. You can see the prices of advanced courses on the internet.

That is why Duolingo's free courses are only intended to be for beginners and people who want to brush up their school knowledge.
Duolingo will only bring you to an A2/B1 skill level in reading/writing and A1 (maybe A2) in listening/talking.
Info about language levels: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages
Read from "Common reference levels".

But you can learn more by self-activity, because no one can learn a language only by using an internet course!

  • Use the web version of Duolingo (http://www.duolingo.com) instead of the App. The web version also works on a tablet or phone, when WIFI is available (or 4G/LTE in an internet bundle)

  • Try to read and write in Duolingo's French and Spanish discussion forums.
    There you will find the daily used words, sentences and idiom.

Apart from that

  • read a newspaper article every day and try to learn its new words
  • listen to podcasts, watch movies with or without subtitles
  • converse with a native speaker as much as possible
  • write smaller texts, upload them on lang-8.com and let them be corrected by native speakers a.s.o.
  • try "Duolingo Labs" https://www.duolingo.com/comment/23206004


Slow down, repeat the skills and show the algorithm you know what you are doing. It will start giving you more translations into your target language (but if you make mistakes, you are back at translating into English). For some reason the algorithm isn't smart enough to figure out your level without some repetition.


yes this is correct, I have found this, it starts easier and gets harder, so you can familiarise yourself with the sentences and then it hits you with the opposite translation.


This absolutely does not work on my account. I very rarely get anything wrong in Spanish and I do it a lot, finished the tree forever ago, always all gold, and it never gradually gives me more translating into Spanish.


Interesting, as it has worked for me with several trees. My method is (usually, not with Hungarian) to pace myself: one new skill/day doing every lesson twice and strengthen two or three older skills. Everything stays golden if I do it like this and I get translations into my target language often too much and too soon for my liking (until I make mistakes, which happens soon, so I'm back at translating into English). But it takes methodical repetition (or maybe we are in different groups of an A/B test... one never knows with Duolingo.)

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