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Swahili needs some major improvements

As an intermediate Swahili speaker, I really enjoy DuoLingo's new Swahili track. However, I've found more advanced levels of the Swahili track really frustrating:

  • They might give me a Swahili word like "ndizi" so I enter "banana" but it says I'm wrong and the correct answer is "a banana."
  • Or I'm asking how to write "wanajifunza Kiswahili" and I write "They are studying Swahili" and I'm marked incorrect because the answer is "They are studying the Swahili language."

At more advanced levels, I feel like the app is testing me out on technicalities and I'm teaching DuoLingo more than the app is teaching me (by stating that I had the correct answer).

Any advice for getting this Swahili track working better?


September 18, 2017



These things are extremely irritating to me and others too. The course is in beta still, and sadly it might always be like this. The few contributors are extremely busy and haven't been heard from for months. The best thing we can do right now is hope that the course gets improved and in the meantime, not let the flaws discourage us.


Would it be possible to give speakers of only English or just a little Swahili to edit the course though? After all, these seem like gaps which can easily be filled by an average English speaker with time.


Yes this has been an issue since the debut of the program. I've noticed it's steadily getting better, but it still isn't where it needs to be. The worst part about this is that it isn't exclusively bad for "intermediate speakers," in fact I would say it's more harmful to first time learners, because I can imagine these bizarre wordings confusing people who don't already have some level of familiarity with Swahili. Especially here on DuoLingo where I see lots of people from different programs trying to think word 'x' in language '1' = word 'y' in language '2.'


I agree with what you say about affecting first time learners. Having correct translations not be counted is frustrating; there are a few of these in other courses I have reported, but it is frustrating having to retype in an answer the way the program is set although my response was correct.


I agree, to me it is more frustrating when the "English translation" Duolingo wants me to provide, is incorrect, meanwhile my grammatically correct translation might be marked wrong! I feel it right in my pride! lol


I just had a bunch of annoying experiences like that. So I speak spanish, and I have completed the portuguese course from Spanish. I decided I would see how the Portuguese from English course is and do the skip sections quizes. For one, it is really hard for me to go from portuguese to english—though that is my native language—so much so that translating the words to spanish is way easier and there were some translations that I know the meaning of and the spanish translation but not the english one. And then there were these just peculiar little errors where the system didn't like my phrasing, and just some weird words choices—like the portuguese word for kid/or child not being accepted and it being changes to 'lad' for one question, but my other answers were ok? I like duolingo but shit like that is just preposturous and just so much annoyance.


I agree. They really, really need to decide if they want articles in English or not, because it's very inconsistent. On some lessons I'm marking that my answer should have been accepted on five or six things. Besides, Swahili is very limited compared to other languages in which include audio pronunciation. It's bad enough that I would give up on Duolingo, but it's hard to find Swahili at all on any of the other major apps.


I've barely started learning but I hope that some of these problems are solved as learning Swahili is of a lot of interest to me. Can they get new contributors?


Thanks for your comments. I just started the Swahili course, but then decided to return when (if?) it becomes more mature.


Question. How did you learn Swahili? to arrive at an intermediate level?


I agree, even though I've only started, I have an aunt that lives in Tanzania and she even notices some of the errors in the app. But I do not feel like its something major, but something that definitely needs to be fixed.


This course is broken, plain and simple. There's no audio, most sentences make no sense, the "gamification" aspect is rather poor it's a non-ending suite of basic translation. It's rough around the edges, I just started, but it will affect my learning curb on long term. So until it's fixed I give up.


As a native Swahili speaker this course is terrible and I am only in the early stages. I am trying it out for fun but it does not register that there are different translations and there have been moments where I've been marked wrong. It could be because I'm Kenyan, but that has never stopped me understanding Tanzanians or translating music online. I'm mainly brushing up on words because living in the West there is very little chance of practicing and time has chipped away at my Swahili.

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