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German Philosophy Module

Duolingo, I was sehr excited to get to the philosophy section in the German tree and discover what goodies might await. Perhaps an aphorism or two from Nietzsche? A Kantian imperative? A dialectical paradox von Hegel? Surely a crisp insight from that national treasure of German intellectual culture, Goethe? Nein! There was nothing of the sort!

Surely there is no shortage of monumental German philosophers to choose from. But I was supremely underwhelmed when, in a mere 2 lessons, I only learned some very basic words that are barely philosophical.

There is quite a lot of room for this section of the tree to be improved. I would suggest adding some famous pithy quotes from some of the finest German born philosophers, and extending the lesson beyond just the two offered.

The main reason I am learning German with duo-lingo is so that I can have another aid to learning the language, and one day be able to read philosophical and scientific works in their original. I am a PhD candidate in the History and Philosophy of Science, with an emphasis on some prominent German thinkers, so, if this seems like a good idea, and you need any help mining for good quotes or fun sentences, I could certainly be of some assistance!

September 25, 2017



I know exactly how you feel. The depth and richness of the German philosophical tradition is one of the key reasons why I enjoy Germany and German culture so much. Honestly, I think you overestimate Duolingo; it's not a platform for getting you to the point where you can read Goethe or Kant in their native language. It's a platform to help you learn perhaps 10 to 20 words in various fields of language usage. Duolingo repeatedly worries that it will scare off casual learners if it makes the modules too demanding, so they remain as they are: simple collections of words grouped together into simple, short sentences that are probably about the B1 level at the highest. If you really want to be able to read the philosophers you've mentioned in German, you'll need to go well beyond what Duolingo provides.


Yes, of course. Duolingo is not the only tool I use to learn German. It is only a supplement, though a very fun one. However there are plenty of fantastic lines from philosophy that are linguistically simple but existentially deep. You can use most of the words and forms of conjugation to translate them that Duolingo offers, without really straining the attention of the 'casual learner'. I have in mind things like "Was vernünftig ist, das ist wirklich; und was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig" (Hegel), or "Nichts ist drinnen, nichts ist draußen; Denn was innen, das ist außen" (Goethe), or Schelling's "Die Natur soll der sichtbare Geist, der Geist die unsichtbare Natur sein." Nietzsche has hundreds of aphorisms like "Ohne Musik wäre das Leben ein Irrtum", or the staring into the abyss one. There are all kinds of little chest-nuts that could take place alongside the sentences already in use ("She studies philosophy and mathematics"... Zzzzz, c'mon!). It's just a thought.


ok what is the other supplements sources can help us being able to read in philosophy

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I haven't gotten that far yet but it sounds disappointing to me that the philosophy section; and I see it is only 0/2, is so terribly wanting in content. I hope this is rectified before I get there but I sincerely doubt it. REALLY Duo many of us are drawn to German thinking. Maybe this could be a Bonus Skill that we pay Lingots for, so only people interested in this will want to do this skill.


A reason might be, that the quotes are a bit difficult, because it's not really conversational language.

The categorical imperative by Kant (Kategorischer Imperativ) for example is "Handle nur nach derjenigen Maxime, von der du zugleich wollen kannst, dass sie ein allgemeines Gesetz werde."

And while "Das war wohl des Pudels Kern" is quite simple (from Faust by Goethe), some others are a bit more complicated again. It's probably like the English courses don't teach Shakespearian quotes. It's a bit above beginners level.


Like you, I am a PhD candidate in Western Philosophy, and I'm trying to learn German just because of the pleasure of reading philosophical books German philosophers, specially Nietzsche. So, I think you are right. Duolingo can add some elegant quotes like "Ohne Musik wäre das Leben ein Irrtum" to it's philosophy lessons. I think Duolingo can add a distinct part as "Quotes" to it's lessons.

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