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Easy solution to fixing the Swahili course

The Swahili course has a lot of potential. It easily has the best grammar notes of any course I've tried out, rich in examples and leaving no stone unturned, and it is one of the more lengthy courses, overall, I'd say the creators did a good job, however there are two big obstacles which are putting me off as I progress through the course and which I imagine put a lot of others off as well.

Firstly, there's the lack of audio, which has been brought up many times before and which has no solution other than simply getting Swahili speakers (of which there are plenty) to provide audio.

The second obstacle, which I want to highlight in this post, is the bad English present throughout the course. This becomes more and more apparent as you progress through the course. Here are some examples of what I am talking about, taken from the Conditional Tense skill:

"If we come to Tanzania, we will listen Swahili songs" (listen TO Swahili songs)

"If you drink alcohol, you will not dance music" (dance TO music)

"If they go to Kenya, they will bring present" (bring A present)

"If I study, I will pass examination" (will pass THE exam)

"If he buy potatoes, he will pay" (if he buyS potatoes)

This is just a small sample from one skill. Later skills are rife with incorrect English, and its not picky pedanticism like "who" vs. "whom", its straight up wrong.

This is a huge problem because the course actually marks you WRONG if you enter the CORRECT English translation. For anyone who speaks English (which presumably is everyone doing the course as it's for English speakers) this means having to remember incorrect forms and reenter them just to pass the skill, which is enormously time consuming.

Here's the thing though, these are easy mistakes to spot and correct if (like me) you are a native English speaker. I would happily spend 15-20 minutes a day editing the course to provide correct English translations as well as every valid alternative (as most of the time only one translation is accepted). I'm sure that I'm not the only one out there willing to help out here. If the admins would allow just a couple of native English speakers to edit the course we could fix this problem pretty quickly and the Swahili course would go from broken (and it is, at this point, a broken course), to a fully functional Duolingo course like any other.

Swahili is the only language native to the African continent currently on Duolingo. It is spoken by millions, it has a fascinating grammar unlike any other language on this site, and most of those who learn it do so for a good cause: volunteering, so it is worth making sure that the course works and doesn't put off learners.

The solution is simple, I'm here if you need me.

November 29, 2018


[deactivated user]

    Duolingo really dissapointed with the Swahili course, first African language on Duolingo and such a mess. It's been ages since the course was released, many of these silly errors should have been fixed by now, audio should also be a thing by now. Luis once said that they want to bring Zulu to Duolingo, I just hope they do it properly, if they ever do.


    By now I'm pretty sure I have reported all of the egregious English sentences in this tree, but the problem is that it doesn't seem to have any active contributors.

    I myself did apply recently but no feedback so far.

    I suspect this tree has been long forgotten by anyone who can do anything about it. Swahili simply seems to be a low priority language, and whoever prioritizes work at Duolingo must have deemed the state of this tree to be Good Enough™.


    The lack of audio is a big disappointment to me as well. I feel like there's something seriously lacking by not being able to do "type what you hear" exercises the way I can do with many European and Asian languages. How are you supposed to get a proper feel for a language you can only read but can't hear?

    I'm only in the very early stages of the course and so far haven't come across any major English howlers, but the examples you cite are certainly very poor and should be eliminated from a course like this. I would definitely find this sort of thing very annoying if I made it far enough through the course.

    I do agree about the fascinating grammar of Swahili. That's one of the things that made me want to try it out. Also, I'd be happy to devote an hour or two to editing major English-language errors in the course if the admins were to permit it.


    I really enjoyed learning Swahili basics and would like to advance in the next few years before I travel where I could use it. I'm holding off until there is audio as I am concerned without hearing it at all, that I'll develop bad pronunciation habits that will be difficult to break if I go too far. Really hope the audio will be added in the next year!!!


    Great suggestion. It would also be great to get rid of the inconsistent answers that are selected especially around the "you all/ y'all". Although I did notice you commented that "most of those who learn it do so for a good course:". I think that should be "cause" instead of "course" - even use native English speakers make mistakes!


    Ah yes, that doesn't look good on my part! I'll just fix that.


    Joanne, you might want to edit "use native" to "us native".


    Actually, it should be "we native English speakers." If you want to be a grammar snob about someone's post, at least do it right!


    You're quite right. Thanks, Jonathan.


    Count me among the legions who are interested in Swahili, and see a lot of potential in the Duolingo course, but I'm also waiting for the audio. Still. I agree with OP 100%!


    I know that many people (including myself) have offered to help DuoLingo to correct all the abominable English mistakes. But, thus far, it has been totally silent from DL's side.


    The last one sounds like a (badly worded) threat:
    "If he buy potatoes, he will pay."

    The Swahili course has so much potential, I just with something would get done.


    I really want to learn Swahili but the lack of audio is keeping me from doing so. I want to make sure I am learning things properly. Sure, I could plug every sentence into forvo to make certain, but that sounds pretty annoying. I hope they finish the course soon.

    Learn Swahili in just 5 minutes a day. For free.