https://www.duolingo.com/LoisMPrest

Problems with Duolingo Swahili

The concept of Duolingo is terrific. However, the reality is not so great. I have now completed every one of the study topics in Swahili once, but I have no interest in doing any practice with Duolingo. The English translations of the Swahili phrases become worse and worse the farther through the course one progresses. It makes no sense to be forced to translate into incorrect English.

The most hilarious example was a phrase that was translated to English as, "If you had not cooked you would not have been eaten"! Hmmm. Is the problem cannibalism or incorrect English grammar? Logically, it should have been translated EITHER as, "If you had not been cooked you would not have been eaten", or as, "If you had not cooked you would not have eaten".

June 19, 2018

12 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3

The relatively stationary person rotating the spit over the campfire is a tempting target for the saber-toothed tigers you see... If that's what the Swahili says, that's what the Swahili says (and could be a very useful exercise to keep learners on their toes and not just relying on context to translate things, but rather requiring deep understanding of the relevant language structures). However, I suspect it might not have been.

June 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Polyglottomaniac

Don't give up on the course! Reporting "My translation should have been accepted" actually works! Do you know why the English translations seem to be getting worse towards the end of the course? Because many more people have already done the earlier lessons and reported the often ridiculous mistakes.

June 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3

The bottom of the tree also did start out in much rougher shape to begin with.

June 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/RudolfJan

You can report errors, and they will be handled gradually by the course authors.

June 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/HerrArbo

While that is true, when it is not clear what a sentence is supposed to mean it is difficult for a learner to know what the answer should be and therefore it is impossible to correct.

June 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/phb2013

That is a funny example! I suspect the latter version you gave is the correct one. Please continue with the course and keep adding your comments. I find this language quite baffling and therefore read most of the comments to see if they help me make sense of it.

June 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jay150339

I think it's a very simple language so it's hard to discern the meaning in the written words, but in a conversation context helps fill in the gaps. In speaking they rely on a lot of idioms and slang. There's usually a lot of english thrown into a Swahili conversation, so much so that there is a creole called Sheng which is a combination of SwaHili and ENGlish. I'm told there are people in some of the larger slums who can speak only their local sheng and neither Swahili nor English. I'm not a professional or anything I've just been married to a Kenyan for 10 years so take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

edit: Well some people seem hurt by my comment. It wasn't meant to denigrate the language or the people who speak it. What I meant is the language sticks to it's rules, has uniform pronunciation and has a relatively small vocabulary. It's a relatively new language which is a mix of bantu and arabic. Although it is widely spoken it isn't a first language to many compared to the number of speakers. Although children in the cities often speak it as a first language, most children still grow up in a village where a tribal language is what is spoken primarily and they learn kiswahili later in school (kiswahili is a tribal language for some peoples on the coasts but that is a small minority). In Kenya, at least, I know when people are with people of their tribe they speak the tribal language, when they are amongst black Kenyans they speak Kiswahili and when they are amongst foreigners they speak English. Language exists on a spectrum, and depending on the "complexion" of the group conversing the predominate language changes. Look at the "swahili" words for pink and blue. They didn't have these words so they just took them from english and "swahilified" them. Pinki and bluu are dictionary swahili words, but they're clearly English words made to sound swahili. This swahilification happens ALL THE TIME in normal conversation. If most of the people in the conversation are Kikuyu speakers (for instance) then needed (English or Kiswahili) words will be Kikuyufied. In my experience language there isn't about following the rules, it's about making the most people present understand the conversation. In my opinion that doesn't make it inferior it makes it superior. It makes it more interesting, more clever, and more inclusive. I'll never be able to learn my wife's native tongue (it's tonal). If I can at learn Kiswahili I can at least be a part of conversations with people in her family who speak mostly the tribal language and understand a little swahili. People won't go full English out of respect for the Kikuyu speakers or full Kikuyu out of respect for the English speaker when Kikuyu speakers are around. It may sound strange to many, but a conversation taking place in 2 or more languages at once is NORMAL in East Africa.

June 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/EmiUkwa

Tonal languages are feasible, they just require a lot of practice. Don't quit before you've started!

July 28, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/ElijahCFGolpe

The original sentence and the suggested sentences each have different meanings from each other. The original could mean that the person is being forced to cook or else they will be eaten. The first suggested sentence could mean that the person wouldn't be eaten if they weren't already cooked. Then, the second suggested sentence could mean that the person is able to have eaten only because they cooked already. I would definitely say there is a problem if the translation/meaning isn't the same meaning in Swahili, but if it means what it says it means, I don't think your suggested sentences can fix the strangeness of the sentence. Duolingo just makes weird sentences in order to teach learners through memorable sentence mining. I don't think you should give up though. :))

June 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/YoungGreg1

I empathise with your frustration with the course but please don't give up! I suggest that you seek further learning resources out in addition to duolingo there are many available online by just google searching :)

Good luck and don't give up!

June 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/penina747161

I also tried swahili and I have to admit that it was not the thing I was hoping for.The translations are hilarious.

June 22, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/FsqBrDe

I find the English mistakes funny, but I do hope that they are fixed soon. The 'worst' sentence I've met so far was "Tourista need visa to go USA".

However, something that actually bothers me is the vocabulary about crimes in the "Tourism" skill. Associating doing tourism and being target of a crime is a bit out of tone, in my opinion.

June 28, 2018
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