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Lack of macrons to show long vowels is a problem

Hi there,

I think leaving out macrons is a mistake, especially as this is a course aiming at helping people to pronounce and say Latin out loud - even to converse, perhaps.

Many times macrons tell learners important things, for instance:

māla vs mala;

Ablative Italiā versus nominative Italia

Then later:

2nd versus 3rd conjugation, eg habēre vs emere some present tense versus past perfect (venit vs vēnit); many future perfect forms like ēmeris versus perf subjunctive ēmerīs

As a current learner I have found that it really isn't helpful to miss out macrons, both for pronunciation and for some of these grammar items.

I found it particularly unhelpful learning the future tense from another macron-omitting course when I couldn't easily distinguish 2nd ēre verbs from 3rd ere as I didn't know whether to apply bō bis bit type endings, or the am ēs et kind.

If Duolingo aims at helping people to understand through practice as well as to talk I think this course would be much better using macrons.

August 31, 2019



it doesn't make sense to not use macrons. there are only pseudo arguments against it. native speakers of this language actaually distinguished between short and long vowels. their poetry is based on that distinction. it is important for the sound and feel of the language. so you don't care? good news for you: macrons won't hinder you in your way. they are no harm to you.

but if you do care, you want macrons, because there is no rule that tells you reliably where a long vowel and where short one is. and looking it up all the time is just time wasting and annoying.

and good audio recordings, that demonstrate what actually happens and how it sounds, are needed. people won't get it right just by looking at a macron. they need to get used to it first.


yes i agree. they should have macrons.


Yeah, I completely agree. I've asked them to as soon as I heard of the Latin course: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/33618227

Now the course is utterly useless to me and a waste of time to people who want to learn this important distinction later because they will have to learn every single word and ending they've "learned" here from scratch.

[Edit: I don't want to depreciate any of the work that the volunteers have put in this course! As I explained below, I am just very passionate about the phonetic side of languages. Much more than about translation.]


Short and long vowels are important. The recordings should be careful here. Sometimes they could be better. Same's true for stress. Granted. But why the hate?

Macrons are helpful especially when it comes to declension and conjugation patterns. Some say there are anachronistic (which I'm not so sure about). If they were anachronistic, we shouldn't care too much. I mean, small caps, punctuation marks, spaces between words, capitalized proper nouns (and in this course: adjectives that are only in English capitalized) are anachronistic, too.

Macrons may be added later. Who knows? I guess the course creators know the advantages of macrons perfectly well. They were not waiting for us to pontificate about macrons. But adding macrons shouldn't be a top priority. Cause macrons are really not that important. I mean, there are elaborated rules for stress and learning the first person singular active indicative present tells you everything you need to know about conjugation patterns. Fun fact: in most German high schools most textbooks don't teach macrons at all. Some teachers only sometimes use them in order to point out short e's. I understand that macrons are a big deal in some countries but eventually you are able to read, pronounce and understand the grammar of any text even without macrons. Especially given that Duolingo talks to you - my textbook never did. So where's the big deal?


That's the thing, it's not just the lack of macrons, it's also the poor pronunciation of long and short vowels. To my ear, it seems there's a 50/50 chance that the contributors were aware of their existence at all, and are instead stressing words the same way you would in Spanish or Italian.


I hope there is not 'hate' in my postings, if there is do let me know how I've conveyed this as that was not my intention.

As I say I can only go on my own recent experience. Learning without macrons threw up some problems for me which could have been avoided. It's Duolingo's choice of course but I'm not sure they are gaining much by leaving them out. It's easy to think that it lightens the burden on the new learner, and seems less formal, but I think that's a mistake. It's adding some problems for the learner to find a little further down the road.

Given it's in Beta I think it's worth saying these things in case they think about making changes.


Sorry, I didn't mean you. I was even not thinking of any particular comment in this thread. But I've watched some rather uncivilized comments pop-up regarding the pronunciation in this forum. Reminds of the great battles between proponents of church Latin vs classical Latin.


yes I can see that, completely, there's no reason to be uncivil or rude about the creators. They've put in a lot of time for free and a lot of people will use the course and hopefully get something out of it.


Fun fact: in most German high schools most textbooks don't teach macrons at all. Some teachers only sometimes use them in order to point out short e's.

It's the same in the Netherlands. One method does not even use the macron to indicate a long vowel, but a line under the letter. Luckily there are better Dutch methods for Latin out there.


My German textbooks taught vowel length in the vocabulary lists and in the grammar book. But no one understood them because we weren't aware that a language could have short vowels where they don't exist in German and phonetically long vowels in unstressed syllables.


I met with some Dutch and Belgian teachers and students trying out the Lingua Latina PSI approach a few weeks ago. They were quite interesting and forward looking.


Can you give me some more info on those Dutch teachers? I myself am Dutch and I'm trying to introduce LLPSI to traditional Grammar-Translation (GT) teachers here.


for sure: these folks (Caspar Porton, his friends and students) https://www.addisco.nl organise various events, I went to their summer school this year.


Yes, I know of him, he's a pretty well-known figure in the Dutch Classical scene (:


Ah, I finally found a place to complain about this matter. I was very surprised to notice that macrons are not used at all in this course, despite that the distinction of long and short vowels is important in Latin. It would not bother me that much if you could learn them from listening the audio, but many times, the pronunciation in audio examples is just plain WRONG.

For example, take the word domi, which is a locative form of the word domus. According to audio, it is pronounced like "dōmi" (long o, short i), even though the correct classical pronunciation is "domī", (short o, long i). So, the audio samples are sometimes misleading, and the lack of macrons in text does not help me to speak Latin correctly at all. That is why I am disappointed in this course.

I really wish that someone in the administration reads this message and rectifies this matter.


Please, tell us what is the main topics about macrons, to be able to upvote and give lingots, to show our support, and our opinion. Because several topics divided the number of upvotes.


Salvēte, amīcī! My first try of macronized DuoLingo Latin lesson. Could you please have a look? https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/34931826


The next revision definitely needs to add the macrons and also better spoken audio in classical pronunciation. It would be great to have Luke Ranieri from the Polymathy (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLbiwlm3poGNh5XSVlXBkGA) and Scorpio Martianus (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRllohBcHec7YUgW6HfltLA) YouTube channels do some or all of the audio.


I also am disappointed. A painful lesson I learned when I started French is the importance of paying close attention to correct pronunciation right at the beginning. I had to waste a lot of time to go back and "unlearn" incorrectly memorized words like "démeurer" instead of the correct "demeurer". Others have posted examples of how the same string of letters has a different meaning depending on the presence of a macron in Latin. Why not form the habit of learning classical Latin correctly at the outset? This distinction also applies to the pronunciation of long versus short vowels in the exercises as well. I am going to go with the Familia Romana series to learn the language. There are well-pronounced videos on YouTube to accompany it.


Absolutely agree. Clearly indicated long vowels also help with figuring out word stress. Using macrons is even more important than audio quality.

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