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Why are Duolingo exercises so unbalanced?

When studying a Duolingo course, the most usual kind of an exercise seems to be translating words/sentences from language 1 to language 2, or vice versa.

I only study language courses for English speakers, and in all of these courses I feel like I always have to translate from the other language into English, and rarely the other way around.

I find it much more effective to translate from the familiar language into the unfamiliar language, because it requires you to really know and memorize what you learn. Written text is much easier to understand than it is to write your own translations. When translating from English into the other language, you really have to know what you're doing, because you can't rely on context and guessing.

So am I in the minority in that aspect, or why are Duolingo exercises leaning so heavily towards one-way translations from the unfamiliar language into the familiar language? Why is Duolingo making us skip the harder exercises?

January 14, 2018



Translating from a target language into one's native language is easier than the reverse, as you have learned. You may consider doing the "reverse tree" (from Spanish into English) as a means to sharpen your skills in the target language. In doing so, you will be required to think/write more in Spanish than English.

[deactivated user]

    I would like it to be possible for us to pick which kind of exercises we wanted to do... native language to learning language / learning language to native language / hearing exercises / speaking exercises. We should be able to pick only one or all of them. It would be much more flexible and each person would be able to train what they needed the most.

    Strengthen exercises should also include sentences from ALL of the tree (up to the level you're in), not just one or two skills at a time... it becomes very formulaic after a while.


    I agree with you in all of that, especially the part about strengthening skills. Knowing that the strengthening lesson only contains one or two different themes at a time makes the skill strengthening way too easy. You see that the first exercise contains a verb in past tense, so you'll know that the rest of the exercise will have them too. You'll never have to stop at a verb and actually think for yourself, is it in past tense, or is it a plural, or a conditional, or what.


    Maybe it depends on the course ? I personally don’t think that I have this problem, I have to do both in the exercises.


    Really? I've had this problem in the Norwegian and Japanese courses as well as other courses. Could you please review your lessons the next time you practice, and tell me how many you get of each exercise? Then we could see how the same courses work for different people.

    For reference, here are some lessons I just did in Norwegian:

    From a total of 13 exercises, 4 were "select the right word", 8 were "write in English", and 1 was "write in Norwegian".

    From a total of 7 exercises, 2 were "type what you hear", 4 were "write in English" and 1 was "write in Norwegian".

    From a total of 17 exercises, 4 were "type what you hear", 2 were "mark all the correct meanings", 8 were "write in English" and 3 were "write in Norwegian".

    As you can see, the exercises where I have to translate from Norwegian to English, are pretty rare compared to the ones where I have to translate from English into Norwegian.


    "Duolingo places a high value on users' engagement and does not want to make it too difficult for users..."

    Duolingo focuses mostly on translating from target language into English according to all the discussions I have read.

    Much easier of course, and It gives the illusion to some to have acquired "fluency".

    Nevertheless, a useful tool as a starting point, and there is nothing to prevent you from taking notes and test yourself...


    Thank you, I am capable of reading all these answers myself, I don't need them repeated. I believed jimnicholson's answer the first time I read it, but since I'm getting different kinds of answers from multiple different users, I want to find out more.

    There are two people here reporting that they are not experiencing this disturbance in the balance of the exercises. That's why I'm asking them to look at the numbers, how many they get of each type of exercise, so I could know if some users really are getting their exercises differently, or if it's just a difference in what we pay attention to.


    They are running many A/B tests - all the time. A lot!

    So in some ways you could argue that there isn't a definitive Duolingo ... there are many Duolingos all in competition with each other. That's why these forums are confusing - you never really know if someone is mistaken, of they are seeing a new iteration of Duolingo that nobody has seen before.

    So it is possible that some users are seeng more translation to target language, if they are in a test group for that. But generally that isn't the norm.


    Yes, I will try to think about it! However, I think the English to Norwegian exercises are decreasing, not sure if it’s because of the lesson I’m doing or because they think that it becomes too difficult to ask us to do it this way…


    Do reviews.

    Reviews have a much better ratio.


    Stealth classes are not unbalanced you just need to L2P.


    I thought the balance was pretty even between the different translation exercises. Maybe you are noticing what you are used to and overlooking something.


    That's what I thought at first, so I started paying attention to it.

    I redid some lessons (in Swedish and German), and even though they all had lots of Other->English translations, they only had 3 English->Other translations, AT MOST. Some lessons didn't have a single exercise, where I would have had to translate from English into the other language!

    So maybe it's a course specific problem? I see you have studied mostly Spanish on this site, and I have not touched Spanish at all, so our experiences are from different courses.

    I'll keep doing more lessons and counting the translation exercises to see more specific numbers.


    This is typical. It is because Duolngo places a high value on user engagement and doesn't want to make things too difficult, as many users will stop using it.

    This is why some people choose to do the reverse tree (learn English from the relevant language). It forces Duolingo to give you exercises the other way around.

    However, this may be fixed by the Skill Levels (the thing with crowns) that is coming this year. Since I believe that the higher Skill Levels give you more typing to do and in the target language.

    In the mean time, you can try the reverse tree (with speaker and microphone off), or even try laddering.


    Well that's a bummer. I get that these guys need a lot of users (obviously), but I just viewed Duolingo more as a place for learning, and less as a place of user manipulation.

    I hope this could be fixed so we wouldn't have to fool around with the reversed courses. The skill level thing sounds really nice. Or if there could be a setting, like the daily xp goal, where we could choose our desired exercise difficulty. That way every kind of a user could be happy.


    If you want more info, here is the post about Skill Levels: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/25615588


    Duolingo uses a very good teaching method for beginners and for people, who want to brush up their school knowledge.
    For instance:

    1. In the course "German for English speakers" you are learning the grammar and the pronunciation. You will mostly translate from German to English and the user interface is in English.

    2. In the "reverse tree", the course "English for German speakers", you will mostly translate from English to German. The user interface is in German. And you can start to read (and write) in the German discussion forums.
      (set the microphone and sound to OFF in Duolingo's settings)

    3. In the "laddering trees" you can do "Foreign language 2" from "Foreign language 1" and reverse. If you are learning two ore more foreign languages. For instance:
      . "German for French speakers " and "French for German speakers"

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