https://www.duolingo.com/Andrealphus

Question For Anybody Who Works on Incubator Courses

Andrealphus
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So I was looking at a lot of the courses and seeing all the courses from things other than English and I started to wonder something, and I would love an answer for it. If you make say, Finnish for English speakers or whatever, how easy is it for you to make English for Finnish speakers? Do you just tweak the tips and switch the the questions to answers and vice versa?

Many thanks and much love!

1 year ago

10 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/scarcerer
scarcerer
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Like jellei said, if an English course is ever going to happen, it's usually made first. If there is not much point making an English course (as is probably the case with Finnish), then you can start with the foreign language.

The method of just switching things around is much more likely to happen between two similar languages, say Finnish and Estonian than Finnish and English. To give a very small and simple example, Finnish doesn't use articles, English does. Therefore the English for Finnish course would have to teach the foreign concept of articles to Finnish speakers but that skill would be pointless in the Finnish for English speakers course. The general idea of definiteness vs indefinitenrss might be covered in the partitive and accusative case skills which in turn wouldn't exist in the English course.

That being said, I don't work in the incubator, I'm only talking based on my understanding of how it works and what I've heard contributors say.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Andrealphus
Andrealphus
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This makes a lot of sense!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jellei
Jellei
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As far as I know, "English for X speakers" should always be the first one to create.

I am working on a new version of Polish for English speakers and we don't look at the English for Polish speakers course at all. The problems are just different.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Andrealphus
Andrealphus
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Thank you for your input and for your work on a course I have been struggling with!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nueby
nueby
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For the two directions of the course to be connected, the languages would have to be very closely related. There is no "reverse" button we can hit, though. The contributors have to make the new words (being taught, shown orange in new lessons) into lessons, the lessons into skills, and the skills into the shape of the tree. Consistency/viability constraints (preventing words from being used before they are taught) would make it so we would want to copy the skill/lesson structure of the opposite tree. We would just populate the lessons with new words in the new language. Sentences could be added for those new words that match the main translations from the opposite course, and the system would recognize them and fill in the translations.

So the issue really comes down to the low probability that a course will ever be added for two languages related closely enough for the structure and sentence matching to make any sense. Think Polish<>Czech. Those courses would probably be structured around topics and vocabulary, not grammar. We have the same number of cases, genders, tenses--no reason to treat a Pole learning Czech like an English speaker. It would be like learning an amusing distortion of your own language, probably quite fun. The deviations in grammar (different case or preposition for a particular verb, for example) would still have to be taught, but that would go more towards considering the opposite direction already when designing the first course, so it can be turned inside out later. Or, come think of it, at the same time, not later. Such courses would benefit from being built in parallel.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Andrealphus
Andrealphus
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I would love to see courses made in tandem! Thanks for the food for thought!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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So the issue really comes down to the low probability that a course will ever be added for two languages related closely enough for the structure and sentence matching to make any sense.

Portuguese<->Spanish? I haven't done this precise pairing, but Catalan from Spanish and Italian from French seem to have a largely similar mix of vocab-centric and grammar-centric lessons as other trees. Even if the tense use and grammar points are obvious, the forms still have to be taught.

Isn't there a feature that sentences from the reverse course are automatically incorporated if all the necessary words have been taught?

It would be like learning an amusing distortion of your own language, probably quite fun.

I have found Catalan from Spanish to be very fun indeed :) (even though Spanish is only a second language for me)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nueby
nueby
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[...]seem to have a largely similar mix of vocab-centric and grammar-centric lessons as other trees.

I speak from ignorance when it comes to Romance languages, as kind of knowing one makes me ill-equipped to compare them :-) So just speculating here, the traditional nature of those trees could have resulted not only from actual differences in grammar (I have gathered that French partitive articles can drive Spanish speakers bananas), but in many cases also from the pragmatic decision to reuse a tree already teaching that language, probably from English. The grammar distance from English to Spanish seems pretty short compared with that from English to any of the Slavics (especially other than Bulgarian), so just tweaking the "from English" trees may have looked too tempting a solution to pass up. And even if the contributors started to build the tree from scratch, it may have been their personal preference to build a largely traditional tree.

Even if the tense use and grammar points are obvious, the forms still have to be taught.

Nothing prevents the forms from being taught in theme-based skills. Themes do not just have to introduce nouns, even if that seems to happen a lot in practice. The parallel design of both directions would probably be essential for this to work, and might even take care of exceptions going beyond systematically predictable patterns.

Isn't there a feature that sentences from the reverse course are automatically incorporated if all the necessary words have been taught?

Lord, no, the loss of control would be a PITA. (An aside: There does seem to exist a spontaneous incorporation of the "forms" exercises from courses teaching the same target language. I suspect this is the reason we get untranslated "forms" challenges as users. I have very low appreciation for this if it is a purposeful feature.) One way of incorporating a sentence from the opposite course on purpose (there are unwitting alternatives) is to enter as a source sentence the main translation from the opposite course. Say the Es<-En course teaches Dime. and translates this as Tell me. in the main translation (which English sentence forms the basis for the reverse translation in that same Es<-En course). Then if a contributor in the En<-Es course enters Tell me. as an English sentence, the entire set of translations in both directions gets sucked from one course to the other. The connection remains live, and editing the side translations on either side also edits them on the other. If memory serves, changing the main translation gets iffy, as the previous main translation must remain the main translation for the sake of consistency with the opposite course. All of these bidirectional issues associated with a language pair are best considered in the context of a shared database of sentences and translations between the two courses for the pair.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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It's interesting that it seems to be the Japanese course where the idea of grammar-point-focused skills seems to have been most completely and prominently abandoned. There are none whatsoever. I think this actually ends up in its adopting one of the more annoying features of language textbooks: they have these cutesy vocab theme focused chapter titles which largely have the effect of making it a relative pain to find out what chapter to look in for the stuff I actually care about looking up: grammar. I can see why such a layout might be more amenable to a beginner with little knowledge of grammatical terminology. However, the consensus is certainly that the Japanese tree is basically undoable for a true beginner.

I have to imagine it just takes more work to not go the grammar (= named after grammar point) skills route. If one sits down to build a tree, one knows one much teach demonstratives, direct and indirect object pronouns, past subjunctive, what have you. But it obviously requires additional effort to decide what "animating theme" to use when object pronouns happen to be introduced.

Thanks for the explanation of sentences between trees. Very interesting. By "'forms' challenges" do you mean the ones where you have to pick just the appropriate e.g. verb or adjective form in an otherwise complete sentence?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nueby
nueby
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By "'forms' challenges" do you mean the ones where you have to pick just the appropriate e.g. verb or adjective form in an otherwise complete sentence?

Yep. A sentence in L2 with one slot with a pull-down of choices. These do not actually have to be the forms of the same lexeme, even if that's the main use. The choices just have to have been taught no later than in that lesson. In the Czech tree, I am even trying to force the choice between two members of the Czech aspectual verb pair (sort of like tuvo/tenĂ­a).

I am with you on the cute hiding behind topics. And guilty just the same. I should probably publish an honest image of the tree for serious people. Most of our theme skills have a grammar-related reason to exist :-)

1 year ago
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