Translations need their own dedicated Insight pages
Looking at the number of persistent errors being made in translations, each translation page really needs an area - perferably somewhere that Duolinguists can will read it BEFORE starting a translation, i.e. at the top - to post up vocabulary and traps for the less experienced translators.
Just a few random French examples: "L'Ile Maurice" is NOT "The Maurice Island", in English it's "Mauritius", "chambre" is NOT "room", it's "bedroom" when talking about real estate, and "gare!" doesn't mean "train station!", it means "watch out!" (vb. garer), etc.
OK, so we can down rate these horrors (the students will never know), we can post edits (time consuming, fills up your and your followers' Streams and it only helps one person at a time). But if the objective of Duolingo is to teach languages, why let students make these mistakes in the first place, if they can never learn from them?
Understanding a foreign language can be really hard, even when you think you know what individual words mean. "Bois" anyone? I'm afraid that's not a free drink for anyone reading this Insight, or even a walk in the woods, I'm offering you an antler.
Another thing is the ínability to rate the best translations directly. It's a good idea that the translations to be rated are shown randomly, but if a native speaker or a good translator knows the current best translation to be wrong, I think some button like 'rate the best translation' would be handy.
@shoenewaelder - Thanks for your interesting comments. I started a separate Insight about the amount of wasted effort a few days ago: http://duolingo.com/#/comment/28371 So I've started this Insight to look at it more from the students' perspective. What benefit is there is guessing, guessing wrong and not being told that you are wrong? You can easily pass the 50% translation rating by slavishly following Duolingo's suggested word-for-word lookups and be none the wiser, unless someone else takes the time to point out what a "repas de chien" (dog's dinner or breakfast) you have made of it. If anyone is not sure about the English idiom "dog's dinner", it's typically a mess and not very appetizing!
To answer schoenewaelder's question about the "best translations" being correct, I've just revisited the source documents. "Carburants: gare ... " is now "Fuel: beware ... ". Excellent! But from "Le Club Med", the other two translations are still incorrect, even though over 300 translations have been contributed. That's 300 students who have gone away with some misinterpretation already.
@1km Not 100% certain, but old versions persist after the edit in at least some cases. I've seen translation version 1 with a typo followed by version 2 with no typo from the same user. It seems pretty clear that the person edited to fix the typo, but both versions remain. I can't fathom why this should be -- maybe it's a bug?
Edit: Also, the idea of a discussion page or something along those lines is really good.
I think that is a realy good idea and suggested something similar a whie back. I have had wrong edits suggested for translations which I know are correct and have sometimes failed to get the 50% pass mark if I have been the first translator after duobot. At least a translation corner with a few specimen translations to argue over would be good. It would also be useful to see what edits have already been suggested for a translation as no-one wants to be told about the same typo ten times.
@1km - Thank you for pointing out your other insight thread. Now I'm beginning to wonder if it is possible to produce good translations with this model. It would be really interesting to see if duolingo is actually producing any final products, but in any event, presumably an opportunity for the users to communicate like you suggest would help.
Another random thought: before I did my first translation, I assumed that I would only be offered documents appropriate to my knowledge. But even after getting half way through the training, the highlighted "known words" that I see are usually just a few prepositions and determinants. It's a little odd that duolingo is letting us translate such documents in the first place. or maybe we should be allowed to translate, but an appropriate weighting given, both to our own translations, and the recommendations we can award, based on the percentage of known words, which I think might be quite simple to implement, or some other way to give more weight to the mored advanced users.
Notes in an insight thread about less common translations is an excellent idea. I would also find it helpful if we has some way of discussing the original in a general way. When I asked for help with something I couldn't make out on le blog minceur I got the comment "c'est pas français, ça!". Since it looks like French, to me at least, I guess she meant : it is casual French OR it uses an occasional English word OR it has not been typed carefully. I would also have found it useful to hear the opinions of others on the children's Wikipedia articles, which seemed to vary in quality.
While I love the idea of a thread to discuss vocabulary and the text itself I'm not sure how many would read it or use it. It is clear from the suggested translations that many people have not even skimmed the whole article before starting work.
I must admit, there does seem to be a lot of wasted effort going on, but in theory it shouldn't matter in the long run, as only the good translations should get through. But I've no idea how it's working in practice. On the examples you cite, did the "best translations" look correct?
I assume the translating is also part of our training. If we make an attempt at a translation, and then peek at the correct answer, we should learn more, than just reading the final translation.
@angiedaytripper - Sorry if this is just repeating what you've raised before; I'm new here. Also a good point about repeated edit suggestions. I rarely get them, so it hadn't occured to me it could be annoying. Perhaps there should also be a way to delete your own translations that you know are rubbish. Editing your own just seems to leave the original behind to haunt you - at least I assume that's how a Duolinguist has created multiple entries for a single sentence. Anyone know for sure?.