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I can understand but not produce

Dear community,

I think it was more than 6 months since I posted in the forum. Duolingo for me was one of the most exciting resources and because of it I can honestly say that I am now very comfortable speaking in Italian, so I cannot express my gratitude enough.

Nevertheless, last time I wrote I asked the question, when will there be more translation from English to the target language. Back then I got a reply from Luis who said that it is in the works. Do we have any more information in regards to this?

The reason for why my use has declined is exact this. I know I might be an anomaly and that Duolingo caters to the masses, but several suggestions have been made including allowing users to choose the difficulty level.

The only reason I can think of why this has not been implemented is that science actually shows that retention gets impacted negatively. User satisfaction should not as it is a choice, not a necessity to have it more difficult.

I am sitting here, and I really want to learn, but when I can recognize most sentences but struggle to produce them I cannot help but feel less prepared for the real world.

If there is anyone out there with words of comfort, I am eager to hear them.

Thanks for your time.

July 23, 2017



First of all, it's very normal to be able to understand more than you can produce at first in a new language. It's a stage that language learners go through. See here for more information: http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/news/five-stages-of-second-language-acquisition/

From what I recall, Duolingo did try previously to have more translate into the language being learned. The result is that many people gave up altogether or it reduced participation. Giving up does affect learning negatively.

The only workaround at the moment is to try the reverse trees (English as a second language) or laddering (learning one foreign language from another foreign language). For me, this helps with grammar, spelling, and learning to produce written sentences. Some people try the reverse trees and really don't like it, but it depends on your goals and it's worth a try. For the reverse trees, you should turn the sound off, so you'd need other additional resources to work on listening and speaking.

No one talks about conversation classes anymore, but they really do help. Other alternatives are tutors, language exchange, or the many similar services offered online. For many, the main purpose of learning another language is to communicate with other people and you need to interact with others to start being able to speak. As it can be a bit embarrassing for a lot of people at first, it's important to find someone with whom you feel safe.

There are also a number of services online for learning to write. You write something and then get corrected by a native speaker or someone with advanced skills in that language. Writing and speaking are different skills but they do help and support each other.


I will reply to this comment and the one above at the same time. I know that production is harder than recollection. My point is that I think Duolingo as a resource could help us focus more on production. I am also aware of the fact that people ("the masses") were less inclined to continue with Duolingo when it was too many translations from English > Target Language which is why I mentioned making it an option. Sure, the reverse tree works, but this is not optimized for learning the target language. Lastly, about coding, according to Luis this has been in the works since a few months back, as such, I was wondering if there is an update on the matter.


I see your point however a lot of the words on Duolingo are taught by showing you a sentence and you working out what the new word means, or if that fails hovering over it, doing to much in the reverse would make that impossible, I would suggest doing translation outside of Duolingo, prehaps translating English wikipedia articles into spanish or write what you did that day or a short story in Spanish which is kind of similar and maybe even better because with practice you may be able to cut out the english and write straight into spanish which is faster and greatly improves your language ability


Why don't you start the reverse tree Spanish-English on the web interface to get more L1-L2 target language translations?

To do so, you have to disable the audio speaker (for L2 English listening excercises) in the DuoLingo settings and install the user script (working on the web) from Camilo "DuoLingo tree enhancer": https://www.duolingo.com/comment/19654789/Userscript-Tree-Enhancer

My speaker is disabled anyways, but you also might have to do it (maybe you will get English speaking excercises, I am not sure).


I like that idea how ever perhaps a more realistic reason as to why it has not been implemented is that coding takes an extremely long time, at least in my experience, not only do you have to write the code which for something like that would be very difficult and very long but then they also have to debug it and it is very popularly said in computer science that it is twice as hard to debug than write. Also languages are involved so you would have to go a ton of people involved which even without the coding is very difficult to manage


In my GuaranĂ­ tree, I routinely get 9 out of 20 sentences as translations into GuaranĂ­. I wasn't paying attention to anything similar 6 months ago so can't tell you if this reflects any change over time, unfortunately. I do assume that most of their efforts on this point will be focused on people pretty far along in their trees. I'd suppose they're running tests. As soon as you consider outcomes like "6 month retention," obviously it gets much slower to figure out which changes work and don't.


I hope that what you say is true. I can just remember that when I was reviewing my Spanish tree which is more or less complete, exercises were still mostly Spa > Eng. Maybe it's different for different trees :)


Anecdotally, I think it might be better after doing all the skills a first time. I suspect it also particularly matters whether or not you can get the transcription questions right.

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