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Frustration with Czech course

I have only progressed a small bit into the new Czech course, but I am growing quite frustrated. When a student is learning a new language, it is very aggravating to be confronted with multiple words that all mean the same thing. For example, I am only a few modules into the course, and have already encountered 3 different words (holka, divka, and devce - sorry about the accent marks) that all mean "girl". There is no explanation of the differences between these words.

Throwing too many ideas at the student at the same time is frustrating. If you are trying to teach me how questions are constructed, stick with the nouns you have already taught me.

March 26, 2018



I actually find that quite interesting. I don't know what your native language is, but I'm sure you also have several expressions for "girl" too :)... I know it is maybe too much at the start, but try to look at it like you are enriching your vocabulary. You are getting into the language more and more, and when some of you Czech friend use the word "holka" instead of "divka" you will not be confused :D... I don't belive there is a major difference between "holka, dívka and děvče" by the way...


This is pretty standard that a new language has a bunch of words where you expect one (and one when you expect a bunch).

So far for me the Czech course is pretty easy (my second language is Polish) and mostly pretty well designed. If you want frustrating try the Hungarian course which seems to have been designed by sadists.... I love Hungarian but whenever I get back to that course I end up rage quitting in about 10 minutes.


My native language is English. I'm just trying to get the basics of Czech down for an upcoming trip. While English has a variety of words used to describe girls (babe, chick, lass, etc.) at the beginning of a language course I would hope the instructor would use "girl" since it is the standard term. Thanks for your response.


But English is very uncommon in having just one standard term! All three of the words used here are very common! Compare German Mädel and Mädchen. They mean the same and their relative frequency changes from place to place in various German speaking locations.


Actually its is way more easier to translate literally from Czech to (Austrian/Bavarian) German then Czech to English, the Czech Nationalist Movement tried to sort out all foreign, especially the german words in the 19century, but the languages are still culturally very related..

Holka is more like "That Chick over there" "Nice Chick" and not very polite, Divka is more written Czech and the official word...

I still dont know if this course/duolingo is good for beginners in Czech, I speak fluent Czech B1-B2 already... But the hard thing like with all slavonic languages is the grammar and how to get the endings right...and the Czech Grammar is more complex and irregular then Russian...


It just happens in the language that they have several more or less equivalent synonyms for something the other language has one word. To be clear, English also have different words for a girl, check a thesaurus, but they are less universal.

There is not a space for teaching those subtle differences in usage of different synonyms, that's what textbooks, dictionaries and corpora are for. Space in Duolingo is very limited, especially space for explaining individual words. That is how Duolingo is design, you get the words from using them in the sentences, not from traditional lessons. Maybe a traditional course with a textbook in a classroom would be better for you?

Differences between "holka", "dívka" and "děvče" are subtle, different individuals may perceive them differently, it will change with age (of the speaker), with social background, with how much they read older books. It can change fast, really fast. Just 150 years ago word "děvka" still meant a maid (female servant) while it means a whore today. 200 years ago it was common to address young ladies "panna" while it means a virgin today. Word "holka" is now the most common word for a girl, especially among people who are not too old. But it can also (especially in older usage) be used in a not-so-nice meaning ("pouliční holka"/"street girl"). Some may feel that "dívka" or "děvče" is reserved for formal speech or writing and would not used it in normal speech, some would be less strict.

There is not enough space in Duolingo to write style-guides for each word, really. It also requires quite a lot of research if one is to write some rel general facts and not just his personal opinions about the words.


Thank you for the clarification. I understand that space is limited in Duo. I would just prefer that, at the beginning of the course, a single word was used. I was just getting used to "holka"!


If you were designing an English course would you use only town or city? only street or road? only big or large? With any language you'll have to learn some redundant vocabulary in the beginning. hint: just learn one to use (active knowledge) while recognizing the others (that's what many English learners do with 'big' and 'large' or 'start' and 'begin'....


I don't have a problem with the fact that there are multiple words for "girl". However, in a module that is teaching how questions are structured, it is challenging enough trying to learn the words for how, why, what, and where. Mixing in new synonyms for girl just makes it harder to understand how questions are structured.


That's a problem throughout duo and simply part of how the courses are structured. Lots of times new words appear in questions that seem to be about something else.

Actually the Czech course overall doesn't do that as much as some of the others (cough Hungarian cough)

IME duo works best as a refresher or for some quick drills of stuff you already know, it's not especially aimed at taking a learner from zero to proficiency


thanks, i did not want to go there, but you are right on the money. duo requires at least one new word per sentence. sometimes a new grammar concept is not associated with a new word, and then we have to teach by side effect of unrelated new words. at times we do have a directly related new word, but only side words can ensure that we demonstrate multiple aspects of the concept.

and because we use these side effects a lot, we sometimes use a new word just to speed up the vocab acquisition. some users will object, but that is a fact of life whatever we do.


i wonder if your frustration trigger may be a tad too sensitive for czech. good luck!


the same with chlapec, kluk and hoch, all meaning boy, but I don't recall more such combinations further in the course.

I had problems typing dívka. Too similar to polish 'dziwka', which means the same as 'děvka' in Czech. We alse have a similarly sounding word 'dziewka', but this one actually means 'dívka' :)


I think there is also Polish counterpart of word děvče - dziewcze. At least both words means the same and sound similar, but dziewcze, is a old word and is not used often anymore.


This may or may not be of relevance / help ... in Ireland, I overheard someone offering advice on a difficult college test, "embrace the madness" .. I have been using it ever since :)


Dear Mary, I am sorry that you find the new Czech course difficult. It is not easy to learn just from Duo. May be this link http://www.czech-language.cz can give you some inspirations. Please, hold on and have a pleasure of getting know a new grammatical structure. Good luck !


Thanks for the link. It looks very useful.


My native language is Czech. Your critical notes inspire me to go trough the Duo - tree from English to Czech. I finished the Duo -tree from Czech to English recently. Happy Easter M.


Sorry, I wanted to elaborate on my comment earlier - I understand your frustration if all you want to learn Czech for is to get around, but for someone who wants to learn the language thoroughly, I think it's a great idea. I know from past experience when I was learning Spanish that it's hard to learn new synonyms when you only initially learned one word for something... it was hard to get past always using the very first word I used.


If you would like to listen a nice Czech language, you can find many tips on rozhlas.cz/ iradio

for example Karel Čapek a Spring essay http://hledani.rozhlas.cz/iradio/?query=&reader=&stanice%5B%5D=%C4%8CRo+Vltava&porad%5B%5D=%C4%8Cten%C3%A1%C5%99sk%C3%BD+den%C3%ADk&offset=50


IMO holka, divka, and devce are synonyms.


In my view, "dívka a chlapec" are formal, "holka a kluk" are informal and "děvče a hoch" are outdated. In a conversation, I use "holka a kluk".


Yeah that can be frustrating with any language, plus they sound kind of similar, dívka, děvče, and then make sure not to mix those up with děvka haha lol.


I absolutely agree, I'm on animals now, do we really need to know ass (donkey.) Czech is hard enough without learning words we will never use.


I have used word "donkey" in English many times after I learned it.


I love the Czech farm animals. So tired of cats and dogs in certain other Duo courses. But more seriously, I have looked at other methods, and I find the Duo Czech teaching of declensions along with very limited vocabulary at first to be highly effective. For me it helps me learn Czech that German also has cases. (Whereas for Italian, knowing French is a huge advantage.) Another thing: the Duo system makes revision attractive. And as you wean yourself off the hover-hints, you manage your progress. You can progress behaviourally with little understanding, or find receptive moments to profit from reflection. Thus constant testing is palatable and even effective. Finally, of course, one uses additional resources constantly, and maintains a lexicon. ( I don't see people sharing these thoughts enough, in my opinion. How we learn. What works for us.)


I think my problem is I know donkey, but can't count, I know the fox chases the dog, but can barely figure out a real conversation. There has to be a better way to learn. The machine broke or is quiet is of no use.


I don't think Duolingo (any language) can presently get you to a real conversation on its own. It is simply too low level. I finished the Russian course, I have an advantage because it is a Slavic language. They did not teach how to say "donkey" and still I am nowhere close to pursue conversations with Russian people. I can only tell them which bus to take to the ZOO and where to get out (for some reason they visit the ZOO in Prague in large numbers).


Movies and books can help to go further with the language after (and meanwhile) DL's course.

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