Thoughts about the new French tree

I don't know if people have posted things to this effect before, but I've been seeing so much (deserved) criticism of the French tree and I'd like to share my thoughts.

Duolingo's new French tree, for now, is IMO a big step backwards- yes, it aligns with CEFR standards, and yes, it probably includes a larger vocabulary than previous trees, but there are huge problems with the content and translations, and with how the transition has been carried out- first, there should definitely have been an option to retake the placement test so that our progress aligned with the previous tree, and second, Duolingo should definitely communicate better with its users- not "we added to your tree", but an option to see what was added, removed, consolidated or spread out, so that we aren't taken by surprise and worry about what's lost from the tree. For example, I can see that with "Tree 13", the Subjunctive skill was removed without explanation, which made it seem like the tree just didn't teach the skill. Per Duome, "puisse" and "ait" are still in the course, so it still includes examples of the subjunctive in other skills- but it would be much more helpful if Duolingo announced and explained the changes, because changing things without explanation only creates uncertainty and comes off as a little uncaring about the quality of the community's experience. Also, it seems like some of the new target translations are so exact as to be meaningless; this really degrades the learning experience by forcing rote memorization and repetition, rather than giving a sense of the nuanced meaning of a word or phrase. Of course Duolingo has a way to report these problems, but there's no way the team can be immediately responsive to this feedback, and it will take time for French to get to the point most other trees are at in terms of accurate but not precise answers.

However... that is exactly why I'm willing to look over these flaws and continue to use Duolingo, and even look forward optimistically to the future. The new French tree is only 3 months (?) into release, and it will have time to mature, as the tree hopefully settles into its long-term shape. Of course, each transition is going to be sudden and unpleasant, but hopefully it will pay dividends as the CEFR-aligned course is expanded and fleshed out. IMO Duolingo should be doing a lot more to smooth these transitions, and it's deeply frustrating when they don't communicate with their users; on the other hand, if the new tree stabilizes and starts allowing users more flexibility in their answers, and if it's a clear improvement over the previous one, I feel like it's at least a temporarily headache for a good long-term reason.

July 20, 2019


What worries me more is that Duolingo really doesn't seem to care about the languages that aren't the extremely popular ones (Spanish, French, German). Hindi barely teaches you any vocabulary and only has 32 skills. Arabic was delayed for years. Even Chinese still has basic errors.

July 20, 2019

To be fair, I am glad to see Duolingo stepping up their game and making trees compliant with CEFR standards. This will make it so much easier to use in line with other training resources. Get this basis right, incorporating other languages will become a lot easier.

July 20, 2019

An eloquent analysis thank you. My reaction was somewhat less elegant when 7 new parts to the tree were added when I was just 3 short of finishing the tree but my frustration will be short lived

July 20, 2019

After doing Duolingo for about 2 years and completing my French for English and English for French trees about 6 months ago, I took a vacation from Duolingo but continued my French in other ways (reading Harry Potter--on the fourth book now, watching JT2 daily newscast, Youtube, etc.). I thought I would return to Duolingo to see if there had been some new content added that would be of use.

I was shocked by the changes. Apparently my tree has been updated yet again. Not only do I no longer have the golden owl, I lost many crowns and am actually back at level 0 for many skills, all the way back to "Basics 2". Apparently Duolingo thinks I need to start over by learning how to say "Good night Paul" in French. I have no idea at all if there might be any new content that would be helpful to me.

This is actually the second time that this exact experience of losing my tree and having to start over has happened to me following an update. There were numerous discussions about this posted the last time this happened. I wish Duolingo would learn from its previous mistakes instead of just keep repeating them.

July 21, 2019

As near as I can tell from old forum posts, previous tree launches were as rocky as,this one. Things are looking better now. The main thing to worry about is when the original French sentences are bad, which is rarely the case, thank goodness. Bad English translations should go away fairly quickly, but we will be stuck with bad French sentences for a long time.

July 20, 2019

Doesn't this new tree concern about giving the users the proper initial keys for the development of the language? I think it does. It seems to me as if they are just following a standard that already exists.

July 22, 2019
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