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Problems With the Latin Course (Your Worries in the Comments!)

Hello Everybody,

In this post, I want to discuss issues with the Latin course I have so far. Please feel free to add your additions in the comments!

First of all, though, I want to say that I already do speak Latin pretty well. In fact, when I started the Latin course I took a test to jump ahead and apparently I already know 63% of the whole course (not exactly, but you get the idea).

My first issue was the lack of multiple possible answers, however somebody in the comments replied to this and I realized that it wasn't exactly valid to complain about this. (See @LingualLightning's comment).

My second issue is LONG MARKS (or MACRONS). I think everybody will agree, long marks are very, very important. Take a look at this chart from Wikipedia:

Latin Orthography -- IPA (Classical Pronunciation): {a} -- [a], {ā} -- [aː], {e} -- [ɛ], {ē} -- [eː], {i} -- [ɪ], {ī} -- [iː], {o} -- [ɔ], {ō} -- [oː], {u} -- [ʊ], {ū} -- [uː], {y} -- [Y], {ȳ} -- [yː],

If you don’t know how to read the IPA, here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA OR, here’s the page where I got this chart from, it has English approximations included: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Latin

As you can see (if know the IPA or have common sense), you should see that long marks don’t just change the length of a vowel, but sometimes its whole pronounciation as well. I understand that it may be hard to type these, but other courses have an easy solution: in languages with accents, you will often see a list of letters that aren’t on a standard keyboard under the typebox. I think everybody who is learning a language with Latin that also uses diacritics knows about this, but if you don’t, please ask me in the comments. Why couldn’t we do something like this for Latin?

Finally, I know how long it takes to make these courses, and how hard it can be, but these are just some of my suggestions. Please don’t regard me as snobby or anything, I just want to help.


Please leave your suggestions in the comments! :D


Please upvote for more people to be able to state their opinion!!!!! :D

[This Article was Initially Written Using GOOGLE DOCS, and then edited again in DUOLINGO FORUM]

August 29, 2019



All courses lack multiple answers when they first get sent to beta, the more people that report alternate answers the sooner they will get fixed.


Oh! Great, thank you :)


In regards to the lack of accepted answers, I'll add that we are working on it! In particular the problem of lack of accepted word orders, but also missing synonyms. Unfortunately though it takes some time for the changes we make in the Incubator to be active for users (sometimes as long as two weeks), so often we've already fixed something and it just hasn't made its way to the user-side grading yet. Still, please don't assume that something's been fixed, please report it (with the button in the lesson, not in the sentence discussion)! We're not perfect and things always slip through.


I have a question about certain types synonyms specifically. When the synonym is actually an obviously Latin derived word but is not accepted. For example inebriated vs drunk, climb vs. ascend, irate vs. angry. Will you be adding these as they are reported or is not including them a deliberate choice? Are there a lot of false friends to worry about in Latin?


First I should clarify that I'm not an expert in Latin, I'm a temporary contributor helping with the initial flood of reports and my primary role is adding alternative word orders and synonyms that have already been approved by the experts, and I never add a synonym without checking. (In connection to that, I'll note that this isn't really something regular users can do, I'm able to do it because I'm a long-term contributor with a lot of Incubator experience so I know what I'm doing with everything and don't need to be trained)

So what synonyms are accepted isn't really my decision (fortunately!). But it's going to depend on the synonym and how well it actually fits. Many synonyms aren't really exact synonyms and often there's an equivalent word in the other language. But if you feel a particular synonym should be accepted, first check the sentence discussion to see if it's already been discussed, and then report if necessary, and that will remind us to consider it. :)


Thanks for answering my question and all your hard work! Will do!


Thank you! But what about word order? Sentences like “At night I stand at the altar” and “I stand at the altar” are the same, but only “At night I stand at the altar is recognized.”


Report it, if you're sure it's right and the same thing, except for sentences like "He studies and writes.", don't report "He writes and studies." even though it's the same thing, because we want to make sure you know which verb is which!

There's a guide on how to be most helpful in your reporting here. :)


A lot of the cognates don't have the same sense as the original Latin.

Frigidus - cold

We brought frigid into English to mean really cold.


I am becoming increasingly concerned for the parrot.


YASS ikr.. I saw the drunk parrot sentence and was like “wut? Oh god...”


What LingualLightning said is exactly right. The more alternate or incorrect answers you suggest or report, the better the course will be. Removing bugs and suggesting improvements is one of the things beta test is for. The developers are already responding to our suggestions, which is really quick work.

Macrons are important, you're right. Like you, I think that they are vital for people who do not already know Latin--that is, for the people who want to learn Latin from Duo. But it may be that the audio will be what the course offers. That is much better than nothing. To see prior discussions about macrons for Latin, and there has been quite a few, a search such as Latin macron will find some for you.


Unfortunately the audio (where I even got any) gets the vowel length completely wrong.


Multiple possible answers is not something you should expect from a course that just entered a beta. That's why we use the report function.

Long marks are known as macrons and I wholly agree that it is imperative that they be added. I don't care how long it takes, they are an essential part of Latin both written and spoken. According to a video I watched, Romans did mark syllables that were longer with a diacritic ("apex", heightened I's), to which the macrons are identical in their function.

Also I just want to point out that your vowel chart is hypothetical and most likely incorrect. Long vowels don't change from their short counterparts in any other quality than length.


YASS! Thank you for your support!! About the chart, in Ecclesiastical pronunciation yes, but in Classical pronunciation I believe they do change the actual sound. I think the pronunciation most common today is a combination of those two.


I disagree.

I'm speaking of the reconstructed classical pronuncation. There are only five + one vowels: [a, a:], [ɛ, ɛ:], [i, i:], [ɔ, ɔ:], and [u, u:] + [y, y:] from Greek lonewords. [ɪ] and [ʊ] predominantly exist in German languages and aren't found in almost all Romance languages, so it doesn't make sense for Latin to have them in the first place.



Thanks for the video! I guess we've been looking at different sources that disagree with each other.

Take a look at this Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Latin

If you go to the vowel section on the chart, you can eliminate the Eclessiastical pronunciation and see just the Classical one. I trust Wikipedia more, but I understand that since Latin is a dead language (hopefully not for long though, thanks to Duo), many people disagree on things, and that some arguments have no correct side. :)


The problem I have is that Wikipedia is presenting the estimated vowels rather than the ones that are based on evidence provided by the Romance languages we have today. But of course by all means everything is notoriously theoretical when it comes to Latin pronunciation, so I'm open to anything that makes the most sense.


My second issue is LONG MARKS. I think everybody will agree, long marks are very, very important. Take a look at this chart from Wikipedia:

Nobody will deny that macrons are important. However, the fact that they are important does not necessarily mean all words - let alone sentences - should be spelled that way. I know of no Latin text editions that use them, aside from books to learn Latin from.


But this is not about texts but about a learning resource. If they aren't in the learning resource, we aren't going to learn them!


True. Still, we do not know for which purposes people start this course, and I suspect not everyone is necessarily in it for perfect classical reconstructed pronunciation.

Macrons could also, you know, distract new learners from what's arguably more essential to learning the basics, like finding your way in the case system and basic verb conjugation. Spelling sentences in the course material with macrons would also create the expectation of users adding them themselves, which is not only a hassle with keyboards, but also adds to the already complex grammar.


But it would help if they did learn the correct pronunciation.


Macrons are not distracting - how hard can it be to remember five more letters? Even if one is not interested in learning the correct pronunciation, macrons are very useful when one is learning the inflection systems. In fact, I believe that using macrons makes the grammar less complicated for beginners, because it helps them distinguish between cases such as the nominative singular and ablative singular or the nominative singular and the accusative plural. Beginners find it hard enough to interpret the right case for inflections such as -ae or -um; ignoring macrons only adds to the confusion by introducing more ambiguities.

Sure, macrons may not be used in actual Latin texts, but that is no reason not to use them in the learning process. When we learn to ride a bike, we begin with training wheels and then take them off when we are ready to balance without their support; when we learn how to write, we use neatly lined and partitioned exercise books even though we will eventually write on unlined paper; when we learn a new piece of music, it is often helpful to count the beats aloud at first, even though the lyrics are not actually "1-and-2-and-3-and".

bas sake buxbeze sabeDev


Actually, I think all Latin texts use them. They are part of the language. Most texts will go even further and put “short marks” on letters, specifically in poetry.


My editions of classical Latin texts beg to differ (OCT, Teubner, Loeb and such). Vowel length is part of the language, these diacritic marks only to indicate them whenever necessary.

Yes, of course they are important in poetry. But your average edition of Horace of Virgil will not put macrons and breves on every vowel. They will not be used outside of an appendix or paragraph on the meter.


I’m not saying that you’re wrong, I’m just saying that macrons are an essential part of the Latin language and they should be used.

Those editions were probably written before the discovery that macrons were used. Not adding a macron is almost like writing “holla” instead of “hello.”


In the texts that leave them out (Teubner, Oxford, Loeb, etc.) the reader is still expected to put them in . They are essential for understanding.

When people pronounce Latin (quoting it to others, or discussing it with others, etc.), those who don't know the correct vowel length are (how to put it?) vulnerable to the condescension and unkind judgment of those who do know.

In other words--you must know the correct vowel lengths, to communicate about Latin. I've always thought it a lot kinder, nicer, fairer, more inclusive to use macrons in writing Latin (and scholars of the language, if not literature scholars, will so use them), so that people will receive all the information they need.

(Far from being an added complication for the student to avoid, knowing macrons is essential to the beginner who is learning to distinguish the noun cases. How can you tell abl. pl. pueris (with a LONG I that I can't replicate here) from gen. sing. arboris (which has a SHORT i) ? Or (as has been mentioned) the difference between nomin. sing. puella (short a) and abl. sing. puella (with the long a) ?)


Those editions were probably written before the discovery that macrons were used.

No they weren't. Modern, scholarly editions of classical Latin texts do not use them. I have studied Classics, I can assure you that, at least within classical scholarship, macrons are not a spelling convention. Just look at any of the major text edition series: Oxford Classical Texts, Bibliotheca Teubneriana, Loeb Classical Library, Budé.

Not adding a macron is almost like writing “holla” instead of “hello.”

No, just no. Macrons are a tool, not a spelling convention.


They ought to. Romans did mark long vowels, and we should too.


I'm not denying they were used. But they were not used in most texts; just look at a random Latin papyrus. And they were not normally written for a very good reason, as Romans knew vowel length of most words anyway. It was their native language!


But those scripts were written by native Latin speakers, who understood out of context.

In English you can say “Idk” or “u” or “l8er” informally, but in formal contexts you will write “I don’t know” or “you” or “later.” This isn’t such a great example, but hopefully you get what I’m trying to say.

The people who wrote that were writing quickly probably, almost like cursive.


No, I am not just referring to cursive writing. I mean proper text editions of poetry and prose. There may well be some examples of texts with diacritic marks like the macron, but it was by no means standard in Antiquity.

In any case, I feel it's not very productive to point at the few indications we have of Romans writing macrons. The point is that there are already spelling and lay-out conventions of Latin texts in place, developed since the Middle Ages. Even the best text editions do not indicate long vowels. If it's done, it's for educational purposes, and usually only within the living Latin communities.

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