Wiki Poll: What does Duolingo teach well?
The Duolingo wiki is hosting an unofficial poll. (Thanks Dessamator!) The poll asks: What does Duolingo teach well?
The Duolingo wiki is a fan-created resource made by Duolingoers for Duolingoers. It is not officially endorsed by Duolingo.
I'd say reading. Translation is a big part of Duolingo but there's no theory of translation being discussed. And grammar isn't explicitly taught. The exercises have some writing but I feel like something that teaches writing would be more Lang-8 style. Writing is more than just isolated sentences, it's a very complex process. And then speaking and listening feel like after-thoughts to me.
We do a lot of reading through the lessons as well as through Immersion. I can see why someone would choose reading.
I've also found my speaking was greatly enhanced. Always before I would get too shy and I couldn't think of the words. But, once I started saying everything out loud that I was studying between the lessons and Immersion and have found conversations much easier to enter with words sometimes just pouring out of my mouth before I double check it with my brain. I'm still not fluent, but it's a great feeling. :)
Meanwhile, thanks to the notes whenever I misspell a word or leave off an accent, my attention has been drawn to my writing. I have a friend who is already fluent in speaking Spanish (a native speaker) who is using Duolingo to help with her writing.
Conclusion: It was hard for me to pick just one! :D
You know, thinking on it, I'd actually say Duolingo's biggest strength could be vocabulary acquisition.
I certainly learned a lot of vocab here! Though, I think the most important part of my learning experience here was in putting the vocab together.
I put writing. Reading and grammar are right after that. I also agree that listening and speaking (in that order) are after-thoughts. I don't even do the lessons with sound. ;)
I disagree on that. :/ I haven't actually learned how to conjugate verbs. I've learned to look for patterns that I can't always repeat. (This problem is magnified if you are using the iPhone and iPod applications where you cannot access discussion pages.) I've found Duolingo to actually be problematic in this, because I can recognize the conjugated verb to use it in that specific instance, but I don't always recognize the unconjugated verb so I can use it in other situations. When trying to talk extemporaneously, hugely problematic. Hago. Do you know without looking what the unconjugated verb is? Or even just use the root learning to get from Hago to say "they have done"?
That is somehow a valid point. I've noticed that myself but you know, we actually learn languages just like that. As an analogy think of sentences as threads. or a string of numbers for "code minded" like myself! The more you know about different blocks of this string (= verbs, subject, object, etc.) and their position regarding each other (= sentence structure), the more variations you can make and more flavor will be added to your language. I think patience and not relying "solely" on Duolingo is the key to overcome the problem.
From what I have read about successful polygots, a lot of them learn the basics of the grammar first and build the words to support the grammar. They generally would not learn "camino" and "caminando" and "caminaron" as three separate words. The same is true with "fui", "soy" and "serán". It isn't particularly efficient learning.
And it really does not come in helpful when speaking beyond a prepared text. :/ Patterns are helpful, but having to figure them out through practice is PITA, even assuming all the verbs are regular.
I do not think Duolingo encourages learning those words that you mentioned as separate words since obviously there's the same root which means the same thing.
Also on Duolingo I think Grammar is thought from the very first sentence you've translated. It works through comparison which relies on what you already know about your first language. There are however many cases that I myself find confusing and do need more explanation. That is covered by discussion area and help of other people and in the worst case, external sources.
And I believe we learn through practice. I think it takes time and effort beyond Duolingo lessons to become very good at the language.
The discussion area is completely not connected on the mobile application. Unless I use the web version, I am completely oblivious to its existence.
And yes, I think Duolingo teaches them as separate words. There is nothing that links or explains the grammar rules. It wasn't until I was in class that puso was a past tense form of poner. Example. I just opened past participle. "My friend and I ate at the restaurant". I click on "ate". It says "comimos comió comi". "Comer" does not appear there, not does any "more information" that explains this. I am not learning to recognize "comer" and how to conjugate it, and consequently other verbs. I am learning to recognize "comimos comió comi" and in this particular example "comimos".
You're not learning grammar. You're memorizing specific words for specific uses, in a way that can't be replicated easily. It is easier to learn the specific usage inside the game than to learn the rules and try to apply it to other instances inside the game because so often, they do not work.
I think the problem here is attempting to use Duolingo to fulfill all the needs of a language learner, people should be aware of Duolingo's limitations and work around that. Think of a typical student in high school or in a language learning school.
Good students will prepare themselves beforehand and equip themselves with:
A1- A dictionary, A2- A text book; A3 pen; A4 - Novels or reading material; and A5- An exercise book to take notes. In school the student encounters other resources including:
B1. The teacher; B2- Fellow learners; and B3- New study material.
Duolingo provides - Instructional material (practice workbook) which covers,
B2, B3. In addition it also provides Immersion, which covers
Now the missing element here, and what some people who aren't used to autonomous learning fail to understand is that a dictionaries are generally the responsibility of the learner, and so is a pen, and a notebook. Also students are generally supposed to prepare themselves before class (revising old material, or reading a novel) and learn or attempt to work on some problems on their own. No teacher can hope to teach the 500 000+ words that English is claimed to have.
They merely teach the high frequency words and tell students to read or learn autonomously using a dictionary to learn the words not taught in class. That said, Duolingo is quite weak in speaking and listening comprehension, in my opinion.
The poll is a bit awkward because, arguably, Duolingo doesn't actually teach anything. What it does is drill you in grammar, vocabulary, and listening comprehension, on the assumption that if they ramp up the difficulty slowly you'll figure it all out for yourself (one way or another).
As a drill tool, Duolingo greatly improves your grammar. And Immersion greatly improves your translation ability, but it's nothing like what you can get just using a Kindle with a bilingual dictionary. As for vocabulary, tools like Anki are far, far more effective. Listening comprehension I'm less sure of because the voices are so unnatural.
That said, there really is no other tool I know of to drill you on grammar. That's where Duolingo really shines, in my opinion, and that's what makes it an indispensable app.
I think the authors once called it a glorified exercise/practice book. It is much like printing all test questions we've ever had during our high school years, adding some hints, some "recordings", and allowing us to endlessly practice until "we get it".
During basics 1 and 2, Duolingo attempts to teach you something. But for most of the lessons, it just lets you try.
I think this might be a bit like someone giving you a bicycle, and saying learn to ride it. When you fail, they show you a bit, and then give it back to you. Overtime and with practice you either learn or give up.
Duolingo does at least tell you when you're wrong, and offers some hints indicating what your mistake was just like a teacher. You could argue that it teaches a bit like parents teach their children, by letting them try and correcting only when they are wrong!
Actually, when you include the per-question discussions--I think Duolingo is more like a really bad college professor. One who gives useless lectures but still assigns and grades homework. The students band together to find resources for learning the material and they help each other out, so somehow people get through it okay.
In this case, though, the professor doesn't charge anything. :-)
Great analogy. An overworked, unpaid college professor who marks strictly and only passes people who get more than 80% (3 hearts). Well, at least "she" organizes competitions in class (Duels) for her favorite students (iOS). :)
First, Greg, I greatly respect your expertise about languages. I want to give you my perspective as a beginning Spanish student. To answer the poll's question, I would say oral comprehension is the most important drill that Duolingo offers me. I do not find the voice synthesizer bad; the English "voice" for the hispanohablantesusing Duolingo, however, is awful. I feel for them. What Duolingo has allowed me is to hear rather simple spoken Spanish sentences any time I am on the computer. That accessibility has been huge for me. When I go through a lesson, I close my eyes and listen to the sentence. Often I need to play them multiple times, and sometimes I push the slow button. I can study Spanish grammar anywhere with a text book, but to have spoken Spanish available 24/7 has helped me a lot. The fact that it is pitched sentence by sentence is very helpful to a newbie. The silly sentences like "The pink elephant eats rice." drove me crazy. I just do not see the point of teaching goofy stuff unless your target audience is young students who would love something like that. I finished the tree at Level 14, I think. I still have a huge way to go. My next step is to go to a Spanish speaking country for immersion. Thanks for your time.
You could probably find something among these resources Duolingoers have recommended in the past: http://duolingo.wikia.com/wiki/Useful_links_for_learning_or_practicing_a_language_outside_of_Duolingo :)
Reading, definitely. I wish there were more English-to-German translations, so you could read an English sentence and automatically know how to translate it into German.
@4of92000 once you finish your German for English speakers tree, you can take the reverse course (English for German speakers) That will flip your ratio of sentences from one language to another. I'm guessing it is somewhere around 2/3 English into German right now. Once you do the reverse it will probably be 2/3 German into English. Have fun! :D
I'm going to say grammar because Duolingo doesn't explain it very well, meaning that I'll spend quite a bit of time researching a specific feature of a language when I'm confused (which is a lot of the time) instead of having a clear figure to learn by heart. This is a bit counterintuitive since the question asks what it teaches well, but I wouldn't be learning grammar anywhere near as well without Duolingo, so I'm going to go with that. On the off-side of things I'd say it doesn't teach how to spell at all since it doesn't mark down accents and capitalizations, and being a language-learning website, one of the things you're supposed to do is at least getting the letters in the right order (meaning I'm not counting that as "teaching how to spell well").
Very helpful, I really like being here.
Reading. I can read what something says in German and translate it into English but I have trouble the other way around.
I voted 'reading' but I what I think it really helps with is understanding sentence construction.
I have studied Italian on and off for years, and although I understood a lot of individual words, I really struggled with understanding the meaning, especially for more complex sentences.
After only two months here, I understand a lot more already, and I am now reading free Italian kindle books from Amazon (currently children's books, but I hope to work up to adult books soon). I like that rather than learning 'set phrases', we are learning to build our own sentences, which I think will set us nicely on the road to real fluency.
I think the balance between spoken and listening exercises, and translating sentences from and into the target language, is very good. Certainly I find it a lot easier to translate back into my native language, but I think that is the same for everyone.
I also like that immersion is available for further practice. I recommend Duolingo to anyone who asks me about languages. :D
Wow, it would be totally weird if you were testing the polling system for some sort of contest, wink wink nudge nudge
- Teaching that learning a language is FUN! - I really didn't know this before Duo.
- Reading and Vocab - That is what it mainly teaches me, I will try to immerse myself in real-world language learning opportunities, to help with it more, as well as speaking and listening.
Wow, I didn't expect many to even look at the poll. I did it more as a proof of concept. Works rather well. I expected most people to claim it teaches translating, it is nice to be pleasantly surprised.
I've really enjoyed reading people's feedback and watching the number of votes on the poll rise. Thanks for creating it Dessamator! PS Here are your lingots ^_^
PS I was pleasantly surprised to see that while it only has 29 upvotes, 161 people have participated in the poll.
Indeed, I guess it makes perfect sense, instead of voting twice, most people voted once in the poll itself.
I am familiar with Spanish. I am not a fluent speaker. Because I am so familiar with the vocabulary and the basic present tense, I am zipping through the lessons... However, if I were not so familiar with the language, I really do not know how I would be learning it--from what I have experienced so far... Unless I am somehow missing the meat of these lessons, there does not seem to be enough to actually teach me to where I am "13 percent" fluent... It says I am 13 percent fluent, but I do not believe it...