https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StewartMM

Possible Hacks for improving the Vietnamese course?

As those who have followed my comments have probably guessed, I've been a faithful but exasperated DL Vietnamese learner. I'm a pretty even-tempered, fairly calm guy, but the course material here can get me making snarky comments at best, or screaming at the computer at worst. What I especially hate is when the stupid DL bird pops up and say "Even when you are wrong, you're still learning!" after an answer you actually got right but was marked wrong because you didn't type in the only arbitrary answer DL accepts. I especially hate that bird icon as it shows that the DL devs are actually busy, but busy with implementing cutsey crap that doesn't do anything meaningful to improve the course, while also not allowing us students to do more on our own.

By contrast, in the two years I've been here, most of the changes implemented by DL's programmers have made the course worse, not better--taking away the vocabulary lists, increasing problems with diacritics and server issues that break communications with standard browsers. It would have been better if the devs had simply had done nothing, because when I began two years ago at least one could keep the vocabulary page for each module open while taking the course, which gave you an opportunity to try to match what you were hearing with the vocabulary list when you had audio exercises; and back then it handled diacritics and server communications flawlessly. Now all these things are gone or broken to varying degrees, and broken due to the deliberate measures taken by the devs. My Vietnamese friends see how my taking the DL Vietnamese course affects me, and some have recommended me just abandoning it. However, I'm a stubborn sort, I'd like to get through the entire tree at least (all five crown levels) plus there are no real-life Vietnamese courses available and some of the web courses--paid or unpaid--may not be any better. I was thinking of doing another online Vietnamese course after I complete the DL tree anyways.

Anyways, my doing some digging has alerted me to a possible way of improving the course. Just if you're curious--here is the list of the original course contributors (some of who you will see in the course comments in each exercise, but now all seem to be pretty much all absent):

https://www.duolingo.com/course/vi/en/Learn-Vietnamese-Online?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_term=vietnamese&utm_content=vietnamese&utm_campaign=vietnamese%20from%20english

I also found this interesting memrise link:

https://www.memrise.com/course/1070394/duolingo-vietnamese-vocabulary/

Click on each course module, and you will see something better than what DL ever offered, which is the vocabulary list for each exercise module and its English translation.

This led me to thinking--what if we created an external page that did something more than this. I am thinking that it would have:

1) The vocabulary list of each exercise module, with translations, like the memrise page.

2) All the tips and notes on DL.

3) All the exercises (i.e, material which is covered in each module, with its English translation)

4) All the useful comments for the material covered (like explanations by Huy and others).

This would give students a page to review (before) starting an exercise, give them a resource that they can check to see if there is problem with an awkward or arbitrary answer being accepted, see the comments which were posted by Huy and the original course contributors why or why not a certain construction is used, and more. It would take what existing material there and put it in a central location that you can review before taking the plunge. At least it could lower the frustration levels here.

It's not an ideal situation--ideally, one would want the equivalent of a 'calibration or learning set' and a different 'test set'--the 'calibration or learning set' provides the instructions, vocabulary, examples, and whatnot--while the 'test set' would give similar examples incorporating what the lessons taught that the student has to solve (interestingly enough, this reasoning applies to the sciences too). But that is a problem with Duolingo's current methodology too; now it consists of just blundering through the 'learning set' of material until you can spit it all back with DL's "right answers". Being able to spit back those "right answers" may not predict how well you would handle a different but similar case.

Lastly, for this to work--this has to be implemented wiki-style. No one has the time to spend a large fraction of one's waking hours. Huy doesn't, and any other future moderator(s) won't. And I think it has to be an external page, as DL isn't listening to us mere students (I applied as a moderator to clean up the English at least, but Huy said it took two years for him to be approved, which tells you something about Team DL's lack of interest in this course).

Anyways, comments, replies, ideas, and raspberries welcome.

September 7, 2019

3 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Chairhead4

Thanks for the link to the vocab flashcards. I love that they pronounce each word, as this is what I have been struggling with most. Also I feel that the duo lingo exercises repeat the same words over and over which may or may not be relevant.

September 12, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IzaacChann1

I love the Vietnamese course. If you think your so slick, give the Korean course a go. Or even better: try the English from Thai course, and see how far you get. I have 23 crowns in the course so far. I prefer to learn through immersion, and I am in no hurry. I see you maxed out the xp for this course. Maybe you should move on to bigger and better things; like checking out actual Vietnamese books at your local library?

September 11, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StewartMM

I see that you're just on level 6th in the Vietnamese course. The Vietnamese course starts out pretty good, but about a third of the way through the 'tips and notes' start disappearing, and you run into arbitrary and awkward English translations, arbitrary Vietnamese "correct answers" that rejects equally correct Vietnamese constructions as wrong, audio that either omits words or includes extra words, and some answers that just are flat-out wrong. The Vietnamese course appears to have been started by a group of contributors who meant well and started out committed to do a good job, but midway through their effort they either ran out of time or resources so they just slapped the rest of their 'rough draft' together and published.

I have been taking this course and none other on DL, for almost two years. Maybe I'm on Level 25 and have almost 43,000 points at this writing, but I'm only about maybe 60 % through the tree. This points to another problem with the course, it is way too ambitious; the exercises try to cover way too much material for anyone to really retain in five passes through it, so I make myself go back repeatedly and retake exercise modules again and again and again after reaching Crown Level 5 so I don't lose what I have. I don't claim that I really know the material unless I can recall it almost automatically and type in in with all the diacritics right. And even when I achieve that, that's just indicating mastery of written Vietnamese; when I try to hear it or speak it as most of my friends are from the South, it's hard for me to hear what they're saying and they correct me as their pronunciations differ from those in this course (and their word selection too!).

I'm a believer that like in learning anything as large in scope as a language is like preparing for a marathon; just like you don't dive in and try to start running 26.2 miles from scratch, you break everything down to its components to practice independently. For a marathon, you build up mileage, you practice long runs, you do speedwork, all in separate workouts, etc--and then on race day you hope all that 'homework' allows you to put everything together. Similarly, I believe that for learning languages (or anything else 'big') tit's most efficient that you master it in separate, independent, 'pieces'. In both efforts, you'll have good days and bad; that's part of training too. But the most efficient way to achieve everything is a structured approach. Sure, people can and do self-teach themselves all sorts of things--heck, to a significant degree I self-taught myself much of my current job--but it wasn't a particularly efficient process or one without hiccups.

I'm not a fan of 'immersion' for that reason, when I go to Vietnam although I try to practice with anyone the best I can, I feel I go backwards rather than forwards, because of the unstructured nature of engaging in real-life conversations. In addition, when in Vietnam, Vietnamese who are learning English are also pressing you to let them them try out their English on you. Just my experience in several trips.

September 11, 2019
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