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: OR, here’s the page where I got this chart from, it has English approximations included:

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.

August 29, 2019

Oh! Great, thank you :)

August 29, 2019

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.

August 29, 2019

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?

August 29, 2019

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. :)

August 29, 2019

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

August 29, 2019

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.”

August 29, 2019

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. :)

August 29, 2019

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.

August 31, 2019

I am becoming increasingly concerned for the parrot.

August 29, 2019

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

August 29, 2019

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.

August 29, 2019

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

September 1, 2019

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.

August 29, 2019

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!

September 1, 2019

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.

September 2, 2019

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

September 4, 2019

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.

August 29, 2019

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.

August 29, 2019

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.”

August 30, 2019

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.

August 31, 2019

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

August 29, 2019

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!

August 29, 2019

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.

August 30, 2019

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.

August 30, 2019

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.

August 29, 2019

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.

August 29, 2019

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.

August 30, 2019

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:

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. :)

August 30, 2019

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.

August 31, 2019
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