1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Russian
  4. >
  5. It seems there is a very seve…


It seems there is a very severe limitation in the Duolingo Course for Russian

To study English, it is possible to get by on rudimentary grammar and a lot of vocabulary. For grammar, if word order of subject, verb, object for statements, or verb, subject, object for questions, is enough. English is not an inflected language. For Russians studying English, their biggest difficulty is with pronouns, and keeping them associated with the nouns they represent. Beyond that, the vocabulary difficulty for Russian speakers is the words that sound alike but have completely different meanings. The only other really tricky thing for Russian speakers is the logic of the single negative. So, Russian speakers, once the Latin alphabet is understood, they may emphasize vocabulary to learn English.

Not so for an English speaker studying Russian. Russian is an inflected language, with cases, gender, the double negative, aspect and animation providing tremendous hurdles. Duolingo seems to be emphasizing only vocabulary. I see in many exercises potential for emphasis on case, but the designers have mostly missed them. Oh, they have topics for the cases, but they don't drill the cases, only vocabulary, and they certainly don't explain animation on those male cases that require it.

Has anyone noticed this? Is there a remedy? Does Duolingo offer a separate set of exercises to drill grammar?

I'm using Русский язык в упражнениях, С.А. Хавронина и А.И. Широченская, 2011. It is excellent. But it is also limited, in a way that a computer course could over come, for a computer could be adaptive to the needs of the student. Also, the book is not a course nor a textbook, but a workbook, with only a few hundred exercises, and a course on a site like this could be more multifunctional with many more exercises.

I also have a complaint that slang and idiomatic Russian should be emphasized less until the formal vocabularies of the language are acquired. Translation for Russian to English slang is also very strange to me, with many exercises refusing proper English.

The limitation of the Duolingo course is its emphasis on vocabulary at the expense of grammar. To learn Russian, grammar is just as essential as vocabulary. Is there any interest here in correct this?

January 10, 2019



Duolingo is the best for beginners and I use it every day. Unfortunately using only Duo is not very effective. I think we all can help to each other with pronunciation. I recommend to you this site to start talking Russian. https://www.italki.com/i/DbDBEE?hl=en_us It's free and very effective. You can find a partner for talking. It is very easy for English speakers, because English is very popular. I think we all can help to each other with pronunciation. For example look at Benny Lewis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x2_kWRB8-A
Just try it! Let's talking!


I agree. I think Duolingo is an incredible free resource, but shouldn't be used alone. I like to use Netflix (shows in Russian with Russian subtitles) and YouTube. I also like skilled readers in Russian. A lot of people knock listen and repeat stuff, but I find it fantastic for building vocabulary.


What skilled readers to you use?


Hi Anikei, You said this site is free but I find that different tutors charge different rates. Where's the free part? Thanks for recommending this site. David


Hi David! Free part on Itakiki is here: community / language partners. You can find a hundred people who help you with russian with pleasure without any pay. Just help them with English. And do not set From Russia because a lot of native russian speakers living in Ukraine, Belarus. Just set from anywhere. Regards.


There is only so much you can absorb at one time. Drilling on grammar too early is pointless and painful. A process of familiarisation is the best way to proceed at first and I think the duolingo course does an excellent job of this. You need a good vocabulary to hang the grammar on. If you don't know what the plural of a word is how are you going to distinguish it from the genitive form? If you have to grind away at every word how is it ever going to flow? Russian takes patience. It contains many things that just don't have equivalents in English and you need to get used to them and have your brain anticipate them if you are successfully going to produce them. You also have to learn to hear unfamiliar sounds and to distinguish between them. Duolingo won't do the whole job for you but it is an excellent starting point. Every time you go through the course you get something different out of it as your attention is captured by what your mind is ready for. And every time it takes you further.


Duolingo is fundamentally a step №1. Here you can learn a language up to A2 with a pretty solid vocabulary and basic grammar (even when you've met for the first time here, like High Valyrian for me), so you can talk and read basic texts. The inflections are given here too. And you're talking more about higher levels (B1+).

I agree that it can be better. But everything can be better. What I'm saying is that Duolingo is still the best place to start learning a language from.


The course is not only the course. It is also the commentary. If you read the commentary, you will see a great deal of talk about grammar often from native Russian speakers. Also, there is a great deal of discussion posted by those who put together the course; if you don't know that, you don't know Duolingo. It is absolutely false that Duolingo simply focuses on vocabulary. Most of the exercises I encounter demand an understanding of grammar, sometimes only on the level that ordinary Russians would have, but other times to a greatly technical level. Plus, there are many many valuable links posted to material not written by the DL staff. Sure, you can demand that DL does additional things, but if you concentrate on what it does rather than what it doesn't do, you will find that it does enough, and more.


I love the commentary! I don't just read it if I have a question. I started reading whenever the discussion looked big, and eventually found them so helpful that I now read the single discussion page for every question. So much good stuff there.


I actually wish there was more "slang" (or any, for that matter) on Duo...I have to go elsewhere for that.


The computer game format would be ideal for systematic grammar drills. E.g. rewrite this sentence in plural, in the past, in the third person, replace this word with this other word but keep all the cases right, etc. I think it's a missed opportunity.

Translations alone aren't enough, and especially (as others have noted) having to translate to your own language is a very inefficient way to test understanding.


I support this, but some languages, for example Chinese, do not need this.


Duolingo suffices as a tool to acquire the very basics of any language. I too have found that the Russian course is simply just "lacking" in material to really solidify a solid foundation for a new learner. Russian is in itself a very difficult language both for new and even seasoned learners. I finished the Duolingo Russian course about two years ago and I still find that I struggle with certain exercises therein from time to time.


For me at least, part of the struggle with Duolingo's exercises is that they can be very strict with word order to force to learn the "neutral" order. So even when you understand a concept you're still making "mistakes". But when you're actually speaking Russian I think you have a lot more freedom with word order before you get to the point where people misunderstand you


I feel like the German tree has a significantly bigger issue with prioritizing vocabulary over grammar.


Also, any time you put in a correct answer and it gets marked wrong, flag it! Let the course creators know and most likely they will fix it. All the courses get better over time through this process.


I spent about a month and a half of learning here back in 2016 before a short trip through Chisinau, Tiraspol and Odessa, and came back finishing the tree in 2017 ahead of a two weeks journey through Kazakhstan and Bishkek, doing both trips basically completely on my own. It worked, I survived, I had a great time, people told me I spoke good Russian, but they were lying, of course :) Nevertheless: As a native speaker of German cases are something very familiar for me. But I really struggle here when it comes to memorizing how words are inflected and which case to use with which words or prepositions. I really thank those men and women who created this course, without their work I would not have had the great experience that I did have, but this course or probably Duolingo in its entirety lacks things that I would say need to be here in order to really absorb a language like Russian. I'd really like to see more transformation tasks, like having to put a phrase from singular to plural etc. Translating sentences a million times is not the state of the didactic art, even though Duolingo, as a community based internet project, should be innovative and daring. But apart from translating (and, in my memory, mostly or at least too often from Russian to English and not the other way around) there is very, very little that course can offer. And, actually, several things you need to know in order to understand why your answer was wrong, are not even explained in the course itself, but only in the comments section (where expanations are plenty, fast and good, thank you!). In order to look up translations and inflections I bought a small Russian-German dictionary with grammar notes. Currently spending time learning some Portuguese I'd like to mention the "story mode" there, which at least offers some variety to the learning experience. So this course has limitations, which is fine, but I'd really like to see them relocated. A little shift in focus and some extra features and this course here is a great thing, but the way it is now I'd rather call it a good teaser to the Russian language, but unfortunately not more.


I agree. I just started studying it, and there doesn't seem to be many lessons.


On the other hand, having spent some time in Russia as a tourist, I noticed that a good russian vocabulary is a must since most russians don't speak English at all.

But since they know the Russian grammar, they have no problem to understand and correct a sentence that is very approximate on a grammar point of view, as long as the right words are used.

Imagine someone asking you in your language something like :

vegetal restaurant to go where

you would have no problem to guess the meaning of the sentence.

Of course this doesn't allow you to have a profound and fluent conversation in the language you learn but DL will not bring you to that point anyway.


I can tell you for sure that having a good Russian vocabulary is not essential for someone living in Moscow, as I did for two and a half years. I found that you could dive into almost any situation and someone knowing English will emerge from somewhere. And I found in some situations not knowing Russian was an advantage, as I found in dealing with a policeman one day, who simply let me go when he discovered that we couldn't communicate. What is essential is an understanding of the sounds and symbols of the Russian language, something that you can learn fairly easily. I will never forget when I sounded out a word on a wall when I first entered Russia and discovered that it was the English P-A-R-K-I-N-G !


Yes, you're right. That's why I'm still struggling with the grammar and still need auto-translators to help me build sentences after spending more than two years on duolingo and having completed the tree some months ago. It could surely be better. And it could use more everyday phrases. Even though I'm not planning to visit Russia or anything they're still useful to communicate with natives. I'm not even an English speaker, my own native language is also inflected but this doesn't make things much easier.


I feel you, I'm doing other apps like busuu and doing the course at the RT Lessons webpage to improve my russian, the declensions are not very well explained in the course, we need help from a lot of gramatical tables to learn, which are hard to find in this site.


As a Russian speaker I tried this course just for practicing English in reverse order, but I have found that Duolingo evaluates some of my answers "wrong" when I am not only a native speaker but I have also a M.A. degree in Slavic philology from the Russian unversity:) For example, Russian has very free word order but the system considers only specific word order "right" but every other "wrong":)


This is something which annoys me too!


Hi !

Actually, my opinion has changed on that over time. At first I found it really frustrating to have some answers marked wrong, in spite of the fact that I knew they could work.

I also tested for fun some courses around French, which is my native language, and it drove me crazy to have half of my answers incorrect on some chapters, because I used a synonym or something like that.

However, now that I'm quite advanced down the russian for english speakers tree, I have to say that restricting answers to a very specific word order helps to clearly point towards a difficulty. If more translations were allowed, I wouldn't understand clearly what the course wants me to be aware of. Since Duolingo works by trial and error and by example, it's probably an unavoidable consequence of the method. It also makes me learn some phrases by heart, that I can reuse in other contexts, or remember easily to compare with new situations.


Yes just now I am working with English to French course and I have the same problem. I am not a beginner in French so when I have those false "wrong" answers this kills my pleasure from the game. I thank "well, it is French, I can read Wikipedia in this language, probably it will be easy", but now I spend much time just by learning what answers do they want exactly from the failed attempts:)


But things are much better in Spanish so maybe it depends from the creators of the course


Amen to that, 3 native speakers told me exactly the same and advised me to look elsewhere. The fact I am practicing on my phone makes it worse as I need to check each answer 3 times for typos, in other languages Duolingo is way more forgiving.


It all depends on your goals. My goal has never been to write perfectly. I speak Russian better than I write it because I started speaking from the beginning, making mistakes but I didn't care. Grammar is important but Russian grammar especially can be discouraging at first. If your goal is to speak Russian then I think learning the first 1000-2000 words and speaking right away, even while making mistakes, is more important than perfect grammar.

I used to speak Russian semi-fluently and after a few years of dormancy I'm actually using DuoLingo to go back and review grammar that I forgot. Maybe they could do better, but it is certainly less dull than going through the Penguin book again.


I have this course added and will learn it in the future. When I looked at the first lesson it doesn't introduce you to Cyrillic at all; it automatically assumes you already know the Cyrillic alphabet despite not knowing anything about it.


I think it does teach you the Cyrillic alphabet: by showing you the spelling and pronouncing the word. That way you can build a map between sounds and letters. By the end of Skill 1, I think you'll have seen and heard all the letters.

Duolingo teaches by example. I grant you that it's a shock to the system to have even the alphabet taught by example.


To add: the greek abc is not taught separately as well. And it's absolutely fine I guess. Arabic would make a problem though... to me it doesn't even look like a text. It would have to be taught.


These days, Duolingo has a set of exercises to teach writing Japanese, as well as a separate flashcard app. It was not the case in 2014. Lessons can now have transliteration exercises to teach you the reading of a character and check that knowledge.

I believe new languages will use this feature.


Sorry if that has already been asked, are you planning to add these flashcards or it's unavailable for Russian already? Also, are you aware if Duolingo's stories will be available for other languages than now, like Russian?


2E3S have you checked out TinyCards Duolingo content yet?https://tiny.cards/courses/CndH4/duolingo-russian-course


That's good, but this functionality has been available with Anki, for instance. Duolingo Stories would be far more exciting.


The alphabet is covered in the tips, which are on the website version, but not the phone app. Not sure about tablets. I deleted the phone app and use the website. A lot of grammar is explained there, at least in rudimentary form.


yeah very problematic. I studied Russian 7 years and spent time there. it's been a while, but when i did the russian placement test here, i did make a few minor mistakes (не instead of ни, other minor mistakes). duo brought me back to learning the alphabet which is ridiculous. i deleted russian because that's a waste of time for me going to such a basic level.


I feel you, because I am a native speaker but it proposes me to study the verb tenses, already studied by me during my early childhood about 40 years ago:)


Same happened to me with Hebrew. I've lived in Israel for 36 years, nearly 2/3s of my live, and I only got 36% in the placement test.


I’m Studying Russian and also German on duolingo. German has tips/notes before each exercise Russian does not??


Yes, Russian also has tips & notes but they're only accesible through the web version of duolingo or the mobile browser, not on the app.

You can also find them here:

Also check out this:

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