"Weak declension" and other grammar exceptions

I know that the approach taken by duolingo in language learning is through immersion and examples, as opposed to learning only grammar and conjugation rules on one side, vocabulary on the other side, and hope for the best (pretty much how i was taught in school. I understand how the former is much better than the latter, but I actually also think they're 2 extremes. Rules are useful too, in the sense that they help you generalize. And every student using the immersing learning strategy deduces the rules in their own. For example, once you went through the dative case with "das M├Ądchen" and "das Pferd", there is a good chance you will just assume that "das Kleid" will behave exactly the same, and just "discover" for yourself that particular rule.

But sometimes there is an exception to the genral rule, like the weak declension on some masculine substantive like "der Junge", which in dative yields "dem Jungen" instead of the deduced-rule-expected "dem Junge". In these particular cases, if the student makes an error while applying what he started to feel comfortable with as a general rule, duolingo tells him "no you're wrong, the correct answer is "Dem Jungen" ". And of course it is true.

BUT i believe it would be extremely helpful to add a simple mention, something like "Junge is an exception in the declension rules". The student who cares will just open another tab, go to a german grammar website and check out that exception thing. The student who does not want to care at the moment will not check the rule, but they will be able to keep the confidence in their homemade rule about dative for masculine nouns, just remember that "der Junge" behaves funny. And i believe that is tremendously better for learning than just getting the correct answer, which for the caring student won't change much (he'll still go and check why he got it wrong), but for the rule-hating sudent (what, 80% of us?) will result in losing confidence in its own skills and motivation for learning the language alltogether. Some of us don't need much frustration to just let go...

I thought of that with this example of "der Junge" today, but i had the same feeling a couple of times, although i can't remember the examples now. I really believe the duolingo team should consider such an enhancement: when you bring up a sentence that does behave different to what was taught in previous lessons, and the student fails giving the right answer, let them know that this was a particular case. They'll curse at the other language, they'll still have got it wrong, but at least they'll keep confidence in what they thought they had learned before and will feel like they moved forwards, not backwards.

April 11, 2012


"BUT i believe it would be extremely helpful to add a simple mention, something like "Junge is an exception in the declension rules". The student who cares will just open another tab, go to a german grammar website and check out that exception thing"

It could be with the link in-line: "Junge is an exception in the declension rules <u> Learn more</u>"

June 6, 2012

I'm with you guys. I posted this not long after discovering duolingo, and at the time felt often that i'd like to check this kind of stuff with other users before giving feedback.Often somebody would point at something i overlooked very quickly, and avoid wasting time of the staff, and more importantly dilute the attention they give to feedback. I did send them something about this and might again, trying to be more concise...

Now i don't know what to do with this "insight", should i just delete it? Anyhow, thanks for the input and enjoy learning.

June 12, 2012

Seconded. I had a similar problem with 'Kinder' to 'Kindern' in the dative. I managed to find a brief answer somewhere in the comments, but only because I was that annoyed at my rule failing.

As someone who likes forming rules, I appreciate the Tips that are present on some of the lessons that outline these. I would personally like to see more of these with some of the most helpful questions/insights included, such as the weak declension. It may have been useful, for instance, to have a mention of adjective endings on the colour lesson.

June 27, 2012

I don't understand the ones saying it should have been submitted via the feedback button, I am sure it has been submitted already anyway. Can't the users have a discussion and share their inputs, other than on an individual basis? Thanks nlaugel for starting the discussion!

July 15, 2012

@nlaugel I think you've raised a good point which we as learners need to be aware of as well as Duolingo staff.

June 30, 2012

It might be prudent to suggest that while the Duolingo programmers whittle away at doing this for us, we might just need to supplement Duolingo with another source, like

I'm one who likes to understand the grammatical construction of a language as well as do the immersion learning. I use and to practice/hone my skills. :)

July 20, 2012

I found this post really insightful. A little pop-up (as occasionally happens now with explanations of new material) would be a lot of use to me in incorporating exceptions into my 'rules'.

May 8, 2013

Thanks guys, I just came in here to complain about my "den Jungen" mistake and saw this. I feel better now :) Somehow, in a general sense, these things should be developed, the "You got it wrong because of this or that", then probably give you similar examples or questions focused on that exception. I just heard about a simple strategy somewhere else: use the data you have to find the most common mistakes, trace the misconception, then help solve it to people who get the same wrong answer.

August 5, 2012

I agree with the OP.If I could add just one thing, I would say that exception's like this should only be introduced at the very late stages (i.e. at the bottom of the language learning flow chart). Even if it inhibits vocabulary, the grammar lessons should try (as much as possible) to stick to the usual cases to reinforce the students confidence in the rules.

August 7, 2012


June 12, 2012

I totally agree with this!

November 10, 2013

So true, nothing to add.

November 6, 2013

Exactly what I felt and got frustrated when I had no idea about Jungen ;(

December 1, 2013
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