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English for "Simple English" Speakers

This week I talked to some Congolese refugees in the US who are trying to improve their English. They speak Kibembe and Swahili, but not French. They have smartphones, and they have rudimentary English skills. But there is no simple way for them to learn English on Duolingo -- and I don't imagine that "English for Kibembe speakers" is coming down the pike anytime soon.

Why not create a course where the target language and the "native" language are the same? Duolingo's early lessons are already designed to be intuitive for someone with no knowledge of the target language, connecting words with images. A course could start with simple language -- think of the Simple English entries on Wikipedia -- and gradually build grammar and vocabulary.

The same could be done for French, Portuguese, and Spanish. A "Making Duolingo" blog post^ shows that lots of people, especially in Africa, are already trying to use Duolingo to learn their country's official language. This could be a lot easier with a course specifically designed for that purpose.

^ http://making.duolingo.com/which-countries-study-which-languages-and-what-can-we-learn-from-it

October 15, 2017



I mean Duolingo could be a really powerful tool for increasing literacy.


They have mentioned a while ago, working on other apps for math and literacy, but as separate apps. However, I have not heard anything since.


I actually like this idea a lot. It sounds similar to the approach that Rosetta Stone uses, and Duolingo could use "immersion" to gradually introduce the language.


I like this idea. In fact, it has been suggested before. But the problem with that is the exercises would have to be almost completely different. But there are many people who need this course. Duolingo should really add it.

Maybe an English for Swahili?


Duolingo is not really designed for that sort of language course because it is based on translating one language to another language. One course I can recommend is at www.abaenglish.com and although the full course is subscription based there is a reasonable free section which gives you a taste of the course material.


We , Iranians, learn mostly French because, many of the tourists who visit Iran are French. And the most important reason (in my opinion) is because of our history : many many years ago, before English became an international language in our Nezamieh schools (the Khaje Nezamolmolk schools) the people used to teach French to the students. Finally we believe that French is a very beautiful language and useful :)

Thanks Duolingo We love you a lot :D


You could try visual dictionary type courses. They have some of these on http://memrise.com

There are also things like: https://babadum.com which is quite fun

I believe Rosetta Stone is immersive, but it costs a lot, and you would have to choose a base language, and give them translations for the UI strings.

You could also try the Swahili for Englsh speakers course, on Duolingo, as a reverse tree. You can make it easier by doing it on mobile.


Nice ideas; thank you.


lots of people, especially in Africa, are already trying to use Duolingo to learn their country's official language.

I don't know where you are getting lots of people from. The only thing those graphics tell is that the official language is the second most studied in almost every French or English speaking country in Africa but we have no way of knowing if the sample size is 10 or 10 million people. As the article points out, there are no English or French courses for African languages, so the question is, what language are these people using as their base language? Are the people with rudimentary English skills studying French just so they can do the reverse tree to improve their English? Or is it more likely that those English students are immigrants whose native language is French, Portuguese, Arabic etc and thus wouldn't benefit from an English to English course?


Fair point, but we know there are lots of people who don't speak their country's official language very well, and we know a lot of those people have smartphones - - to me it doesn't feel like a leap at all to posit that those people could benefit from an English for English or French for French course.


My mom is having that problem - she has been tasked with teaching english to a woman who's first language is an African language that has no writing system. They are not able to use a dictionary or use google translate. It's really tough.


i like this idea it is amazing


English for non-English speakers. A course all in English. I think that's a good idea. The team creating it will need very good didactic skills.


I was thinking about a similar "immersion" concept as sebastians.s, but I hadn't thought of Rosetta Stone. Perhaps if Duolingo added some Rosetta Stone-like features (but not completely replaced existing features with them), an English for Simple English speakers course would be possible. I'm not sure about the translation exercises though... any ideas?

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