Please stop complaining about weird Duolingo sentences, THERE'S A REASON FOR THEM!
I keep seeing over and over again people complaining that they get a sentence like "My cat is wearing shoes" or "The cow drove my car last night." I've even seen them frequently in reviews as a negative against Duolingo, and it drives me NUTS!
The point of these very strange sentences is to make sure you understand the meaning of the words and the grammar, and aren't only relying on context clues to translate sentences. You are not meant to use Duolingo to memorize sentences word-by-word and repeat them, you are meant to actually understand the language and how it's structured.
This method is so simple and genius, that it honestly frustrates me to no end that people complain about something that is there to help them. I'd ask that before you complain about something, ask yourself or others what the reason is for it. Chances are, given the 8 years that Duolingo's been around, someone has a good answer for you.
Beautiful, but not perfect because it doesn't apply.
Learning a language from extraordinary quotes would make you sound either pompous, or, more possibly, like an idiot who thinks he or she is Shakespeare. The old Latin proverb applies better: "Repetition is the mother of learning."
I agree that Linda's quote does not completely apply, but yours doesn't either. The point is that repetition might not teach us the structure of a language, but sentences that don't make much sense will.
Right. I've studied French with Power Glide, and learning "the princess and the cat are crying in the tower," or, "The cat is singing and the king is playing the drums," made those words stick better than if I'd learned them in more mundane ways.
Although your comment (Linda's comment) is very sensible and generally true, one needs to consider that there are many "Learning Styles" of which a few are usually more dominant in different people; another words; depending on how we learn best, it may be easier for us to adapt new knowledge one way over another. There are three basic learning styles (Visual learning, auditory learning, and tactile learning) which in turn appear to affect different people's learning ability in slightly different ways. This subject is particularly of great importance at nurseries and schools (early learning), and since the development of "Multiple Intelligence Theory" in 1983 by Dr Howard Gardner has gained even more interest among psychologists, educators, and alike.
I applaud you for knowing this...are you a teacher of language? I only ask because it's something so basic for any language teacher to understand. I wrote a thesis on using ASL as a method for teaching 2nd language learners. The concept was to introduce a kinetic component to the language learning. It also worked well for introducing and enforcing phonics for young learners. Bravo.
Also while it's true some sentences here are silly, the fact remains that learning even silly ones can help one to remember the patterns and then substitute the right vocabulary. I do this trick in my own classroom and it's very effective.
As for "It also worked well for introducing and enforcing phonics for young learners."; allow me to add that "reading" has shown by researchers not to be a natural process, unlike speaking, and it is also not a guessing game. Written language is a code, and teaching young kids how to crack the code- teaching systematic phonics- is the most reliable way to make sure they learn how to read words.
Another idea suggest that reading is a series of strategic guesses based on context, and that kids should be taught these guessing strategies.
Strategic guessing can apply to many aspects of language learning. I think you can also call it using context to figure out word meanings.
Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the plate ran away with the spoon.
Thank heaven for Mother Goose and all her silly sentences. How would I have learned to read otherwise. ; )
Also thanks to @Jennifer H for remembering the correct wording. LOL Silly me.
Yes, and how would some people read maps without "Never Eat Shredded Wheat"?
The mountains would be full of lost ramblers stumbling about aimlessly. ;)
These are called https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnemonic
And I collect them, LOL.
Funny how some of them do seem like nonsense.
My favorite is for remembering all the planets My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Served Us Noodles! = Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars etc...
And to remember which way to turn a screw, Righty, thighty, lefty, loosey.
When I learnt the planets I was taught My Very Energetic Monkey Jumps Swiftly Under Nine Planets. Of course it's redundant now as Pluto is no longer classed as a planet.
"On old Olympus' topmost top, a Finn and German viewed some hops" - how medical students memorise the 12 cranial nerves.
Having hidden little Billy behind countless number of fishing nets, Sammy made Alec see Paul scoff chips and possibly cold kippers. (The first twenty elements in the periodic table, with a bonus at the end)
Lmao, i revised the first twenty elements with a song on Youtube. It's like: there's hydrogen and helium, lithium, beryllium, oxygen so you can breathe, fluorine for you pretty teeth, neon to light up the signs, sodium for salty times....
LOL, thanks so much for correcting me on that one. Here is a lingot. : )
Who can tell me what this mnemonic is for: "Katie peeled cucumbers on father's green shirt?" Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species; scientific classification for categorizing living things.
Never heard that one.
Googled it and now I know way more about peeling cucumbers than I ever wanted to know.
Thanks for that, you learn new stuff around here everyday. Here's a lingot.
I had 'kings play chess on fine glass sets.' not as interesting, but it kind of rhymes
My first thought was the taxonomy mnemonic, but that doesn't quite work....
You were right, when I typed it yesterday morning, I got the order wrong (I've since edited and corrected it), I had not had enough coffee yet.
LOL, i remembered them as: My Very Easy Method Just Sums Up Nine Planets! (this was obviously before Pluto was considered a dwarf planet)
Hey diddle diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such fun, And the plate ran away with the spoon. I'm an intolerable nitpicker, sorry!
Thanks, point well taken (here is a lingot). But it was a very long time a go when I learned that one.
I thought of using this one.
Three goose nine the monkey drinks wine, the fox chews tobacco on the street car line, the line broke, the monkey got choked, they all went to heaven in a little row boat
Hope I redeemed myself, but I probably got it wrong too. LOL
LOL, sorry I did get it wrong. Even spelling in my native language is hard. You should try to read my French. And you get a lingot too.
To be clear, chocked is what happens when you block the wheel of an airplane to stop it from rolling. I don't know where that "c" came from. LOL
Kelvin: When I was trying to learn to read music my teacher taught me : Every Good Boy Does Fine and Good Boys Do Fine Always...one is bass and one is treble but I can never remember which is which...LOL
i saw "hey diddle diddle" and i thought you were typing out roll over beethoven
LOL, got to love some Chuck Barry!
"I'm going to write a little letter, and send it to my local DJ, cause I got this record that I want my jockey to play"
"roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news"
"And if you feel it and like it, go get your lover and reel and rock it, with one another, roll over Beethoven...."
That is more good nonsense, that could possible teach you the English language.
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, but since I don't have any fudge here's a lingot.
Exactly - but many people here just want a phrasebook; they don't want tp learn a language. They have obviously never considered that native speakers are not restricted to a phrasebook for answers.
Many people inside Duolingo as well.
Its creator as well.
The latest tree reorganisations are all about shifting to phrasebook style. And outside of this echo chamber Duolingo is starting to have the reputation it deserves.
Having been here since the first days, it's a pity, but pitifully well deserved nonetheless.
I agree. I think Duo it a bit like the saying "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime." (Although Duo isn't about phrases, I do think Duo should have more phrases.) But the way Duo does things teaches you how to phrase things yourself. Which in the long run is better.
Some sentences seem random, and are random, but if we listened back to our own conversations in our native language, how many times do we string together seemingly random sentences? "Why is there a dog on the ski slope?" "That Robin just chased the squirrel." "The dog jumped at the umbrella." (All real sentences haha) Learning to say random things about random stuff is really useful, it helps put together sentences fast.
Relying on phrases would mean you would be able to order a coffee, or ask where the shops are, but stuck at the first sign of a conversation.
Or Terry Pratchett's variation of give a man a fish:
Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.
Congratulations, you have the most lingots I've ever seen given, and a great quote. Have a lingot.
Weird Duolingo sentences are one of the most charming things about the app. I love sharing them with friends who are learning different languages. It's almost worth bragging about if the language you're studying has weirder sentences on Duo.
I love them. And miss them in the new versions of French and Spanish. Those are probably more "useful" , but not nearly as much fun. I recently came across one in Norwegian '- The archaeologists have been talking about a round stone for forty minutes. Anyone who knows any archaeologists knows that this can and does happen. But people who don't, think that this is a nonsense sentence.
Yes, indeed. And many of them are quotes, from books or songs, proving that people really DO say those things.
You should try Dutch, where we say hi to the juice and we practice how to say excuse me, I'm an apple.
I have. It's almost as good as Norwegian. I think they have some Harry Potter quotes in it too.
I'm glad I started it then, but right now it's pretty normal. :)
Oh, in Welsh course in "Basics 1" you learn how to say "hello dragon".
I think bears eat what ever they want, where ever they are. Penguins and paella, sounds good to me.
It's okay to have a little fun when learning a language. Sometimes I wonder if a lot of the folks who complain about these silly sentences were ever read to as children, or ever sang silly songs like Big Rock Candy Mountain.
As the band the Who famously said, "I hope I die before I get old."
Or at least that old!
I've seen such posts, and I knew that's the case.
Besides, if you learn the word "Man" or "Girl" over and over again, not only it wouldn't help whatsoever but some will review it negatively as well... Having a variety of words means you learn more words what's the problem with that??
Most posts I've seen about them is to enjoy them and share one's weirdest sentences.
I love the weird Duolingo sentences because it makes it more fun to learn the languages. Draws me in to wanting to learn more and I can definitely remember the words and how it is used in a sentence.
Especially "I have eleven cats and twelve dogs." and "No I am not a banana." Translating those in German was so much fun!
good post. I never knew some people would complain about weird sentences in Duolingo. I always grin at them, but never give them another thought. I agree, it probably is frustrating to hear people complain about something so small and irrational.
Hello all, Hi Mike,
I honestly believe that we need a way to IGNORE single words and sentences, like this is supported on Memrise, AnkiSRS (suspended cards), etc.
Basiccally I have to agree with others, that this animal and food stuff (I almost wrote c..p) almost drove me crazy within my first 3-4 months of learning Portuguese....I had started totally from scratch.
Very soon I realized that Duolingo will not prepare me (at least) a bit for the "(active) speaking direction" and I somehow have to push through that phase: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/20450828/What-to-change-optimize-in-my-Portuguese-learning-process-Shall-I-switch-to-Spanish
I truly wished in the beginning, that the course had taken a somewhat different direction teaching the basics or at least let me choose what teaching concept it was focusing on.
The focus of the #add1challenge for example seems to be more "speaking oriented" within the first 90 days.
I like that idea.
BliuBliu.com also had setup "30 challenges" in 2016/2017 for speaking and understanding the language with native speakers...to learn in a group.
For whatever reason I cannot even access their portal anymore.
Newer Duolingo CEFR trees are taking the "theme-oriented" skill direction: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/31573948/New-CEFR-aligned-courses
AFAIU it should be more related real-life phrases, traveling, sports, hobbies, etc.
Staff/contractors are already working on a (quite) different concept as you wrote above.
Unfortunately they remove too many useful decicated "grammar skills" for my personal taste: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/29156220$comment_id=31458321
Several Memrise official 1-2 courses have been reorganized too, especially the earlier levels (for languages like Spanish, French, etc.) to (also) include more useful phrases.
Of course you somehow need to (first) understand the single words, grammar, etc. and why the sentence was written in that form like it is shown.
Unfortunately for Portuguese Benny's longer "Hacking Spanish/French" free Memrise courses were not available, which were created by the user "eurolinguiste".
There are some other (smaller) beginner / Learn Basics or Hacking courses available on "Memrise Decks".
Or take the 100 days "50 languages" course.
I recently stumbled across RoughGuides phrasebook mp3 audio because of a (European) Portuguese blog.
I think the optimal is to do both:
1) Teach sentence structure / phrases which you can use in real-life and a live conversation within your first 4-6 months.
2) Give the user the power to ignore the food / animal stuff if he/she does not want to learn it right now.
3) Other language courses give the user more choice in freely selecting from several available (non-locked) topics about a concrete schema (hobby, airport, hotel, restaurant, animal, food, etc.).
After 1,0 year I had completed my PT course, continued reviewing it for a while, re-tested/re-learn those skills from the update for several weeks which happend 6 months later.
And now 2,5 years "into the learning game" I finally recognize that some of those (more difficult) suspended Duolingo sentences which are back with the crowns method (update from April 2018) indeed are quite interesting to learn and be challenged with typing.
Have I said it already?
I am mainly on Duolingo to learn and practice grammar.
Theoretically I can also do this with animal and food vocabulary once I understand how to construct a sentence and transform it something different (for real speaking, something more useful).
Blindly trying to learn (and remember) phrases or more difficult sentences BUT not understanding ANYTHING from the used grammar does not make too much sense for me either.
I am currently back into the "50 languages" (user-created) course on the "Memrise Decks" web portal as well (some sentences/phrases are indeed challenging for me, even after 2,5 years).
I wish I could later add RoughGuide / LonelyPlanet phrasebooks on 3rd party flashcards with spaced repetition as well.
Sadly to say, but I have not found them in a digital way offered on Memrise/AnkiSRS/Quizlet or as a professional course like you can buy some addons with the SuperMemo software.
I think this would be optimal for me as I have already mastered a bit the "language core / the grammar basics" (including seeing weird sentences or other vocabulary).
(Free) RoughGuide MP3 audio seems to be quite challenging for those recorded topics....judging from the European Portuguese recordings by natives (which I hardly understand as I am learning the Brazil variant).
Sorry Mike that I can not directly agree with you.
I would be happy in seeing all possible ways supported by their software...and hopefully one day more customizable (advanced) settings for an user.
I will let you know in the next years how the Portuguese->Spanish or Portuguese->French tree worked out for me in my first 3-6 months and how I liked their tree design.
I still have not really started those Duolingo courses as I am busy with the remaining two Portuguese reverse trees (and Memrise/Mondly/50languages stuff)...so it might take another 1,5+ years before I can push forward with those languages.
Thanks Mike for sharing your opinions with our community.
Viele Grüße aus Deutschland / Muitas saudações
I just wanted to thank you for sharing your input. I highly respect your opinions and I hope admin will take the idea into consideration - that of giving a learner his or her choice in direction. I think it does fit in quite well with the Duolingo scheme of things, in that their system has always offered a great deal of flexibility.
I am currently studying Latin myself, and I'm really enjoying some of the memorable sentences even though many of them involve violence inflicted on drunken parrots, and I love parrots. I can also say things (in the voice of a Roman orator) like, "the dirty poop is floating in the toilet."
On the other hand, I also think that core vocabulary should be included in the trees. Studies show that most languages use some 2,000 words in 95% of their published media. Imo Duolingo should make sure this vocabulary is taught within the tree. They can still make memorable sentences with them.
As always, my advice to all you users out there is to supplement your DL learning by simply speaking out loud! This includes repeating every sentence after the DL speaker (I learned Portuguese on DL in "silent mode" and cannot speak it!) and just talking to yourself or to your pets in your target language. The reason this is necessary is that we literally do have muscle memory and in order to speak a language you must train yourself.
Happy learning everybody!
hi jairapetyan, great tip about speaking out loud to really learn. Muscle memory, yes that's it. I have been practicing silently, but I'll change that going forward.
Yes, I really like that tip too, and have been trying to do it more often.
I have been studying Esperanto silently for a while now, because what seems to be the primary speaker's insane, incomprehensible speed. I'll never be able to speak it, but similar to you, I am not learning to recognize spoken Esperanto. Also like you though, I believe in multiple sources, so Vialingo and Fingtam Esperanto are helping fill in the gap left by Duolingo.
Something like "the cow drove my car last night" seems like a good example of what you're talking about, but occasionally I run into sentences where it is not clear whether the sentence is nonsense or not. In these cases, it's tough as a learner to decide whether it's an idiom with a clear meaning or nonsense.
For instance, in the Greek tree, there are quite a few sentences using the term γλυκά κουταλιού, literally "sweet of the spoon" or "spoon sweet". Now, is this nonsense to test whether I know the construction of this kind of term? No, it's a specific kind of candy without a name in English. The accepted translation is "spoon sweet", which sounds like nonsense in English. Without looking into the discussion section, I'd have no way to know whether it's nonsense or not.
This isn't a knock against the Greek tree, or even these kinds of sentences. But it does help explain why some people don't like them - what's clearly nonsense (or clearly sensible) to you may seem like an idiom to a learner.
Does Duo do such a terrible job of signposting idiomatic expressions that one is left to wonder what is idiomatic and what isn't?
Yes! You are so right. I’m a foreign language teacher and people just don’t understand the big picture with learning languages.
But, not everyone cares about foreign languages. Some may just need to learn some basics to help them get by in rare circumstances.
Duolingo even admits that they have funny sentences. I just got "Duolingo tiene muchas oraciones graciosas."
I mean, learning phrases can help with conversation, but what about when you're asked about something not in the phrasebook?
or when you ask a question from the phrasebook, but the person replies with a sentence that the phrasebook didn't expect?
Exactly! You don't want to just memorize phrases, you want to understand the structure of the language.
Some may, some may not. I, for one, do not understand grammar for the most part. Learning words is my only option.
The Hungarian course has many sentences about kindergarten teachers flying around the chimneys or through the windows, frogs jumping into the bus, spiders crawling under the carpets and young men walking on the water and flying off.
Surprising at first, they are refreshing and they become a kind of private joke among the learners. I like them.
Gets to the point that when someone is flying in plane you think"obviously not a kindergarten teacher".
The Welsh course has an on-going drama about Owen and his parsnips (similar relationship to Baldrick and his turnips, for Blackadder fans). Hardly a day goes by without someone posting the latest twist in the saga to the Welsh learners Facebook group...
All true, and very useful, but let them complain. Another reason for those sentences is that they prompt discussions. Discussions prompt associations. The learning of a language is a big undertaking. Some are under pressure to perform for grades, some for work or for travel plans. Others see expansion of their language skills as a boost to self esteem, or the opening of a door to another literary, dramatic and social world. It's healthy for people to vent frustrations.
I agree! And hey, don't diss your cow. It may very well drive your car one day...into a river.
I've often wondered this myself and I have never thought about it from this perspective. Great comment
There are a whole series of sentences about the dog. Sadly one of them is, "The dog died." I almost cried, because I so wanted to buy one of that dog's hats.
I totally agree. The reason for this I've assumed is because it forces you to focus on what is being said (vocabulary) and how it was structured (grammar). For me this was the biggest advantage Duolingo has over others with it's not mainstream sentences. Duolingo is the best for me with the way I struggle to learn in regards to grammar. It has saved me years of struggling while studying other conversational programs. I actually now KNOW the correct grammar! With the other approach of using usable sentences or phrases a person tends to not see or gloss over the correct grammar and just memorizes sentences but the end result is they will struggle later because they don't know the grammar empowering it. Once you know the grammar the conversational stuff is a breeze to learn.
Exactly the point I've been unsuccessfully stressing for months, yet I get negative marks in the discussions from others. I'm here to learn from Duo and others’ understanding, not argue, and I don't take it personally when I get a wrong mark, or when one of Duo's experts correct me in the open discussions; I learn from it.
French is, as we Americans are fond of saying, "what it is," established, and the standard form won't change because people won't make as much of an effort to study and attempt to comprehend as dispute what is presented to them. They won't accept it yet they persist here nonetheless, using an inordinate amount of time arguing about what would or wouldn't be said in English, which gets in the way of learning the primary language, the one they're studying, not their native tongue, which in a way is secondary in that it isn’t the main focus.
Further, so many complainers here approach learning like school children, ignoring that they have been hasty to click “check,” when they’ve been sloppy with their typing, have not grasped the proper conjugations, used wrong words or phrases or missed them, or placed them in the wrong order. They all want French and the English translations to be what they want them to be, even when they are patently incorrect. Rather than taking instruction and approaching learning with maturity and openness to learn, they cry, “Not fair!” like my daughter did when she was five.
I agree with you wholeheartedly. This method is indeed "simple and genius," and I love it. I have taken French courses in high school and college. The Duo method is the best in my experience.
Also, what would you rather study? Boring stuff like "I went to my house" or "the boy is in the fridge."?
This sentence is not part of the fun for me, it's confusing, and should be removed in my opinion.
While I enjoy sentences like the drunk parrots dancing.
I understood that from the start. Before I tap on blocks....actually before I tap...I translate offered sentences out loud in English, or my translation from English to Spanish then tap or write the translation I think is correct, (works both ways!) then tap CHECK and read Duo’s sentence...my point being....there is a lot of laughter in my living room.....
I don't think I needed to know how to say "The lion is eating a boy" in Hebrew, but hey.
Got to say though - when you need that phrase, you need it urgently ;)
tbh I like those "weird sentences" regardless of if they're helpful or not. They're funny and are a nice reminder that this is a chill way to learn a language instead of paying for them or being stressed. They lighten the mood if you're frustrated or just make you laugh. So you're right about it being genius and smart but it also makes this an even fun-er way to learn a language
Thank you for this explanation. This never was a complaint of mine. I just thought it was humorous or for entertainment. To keep us awake. I see that i wasn't that far off!
I really enjoy the quirky sentences. "Yo soy un pingüino" in Spanish and "Je suis un chat" in French!
Also as an exercise in creativity i like to consider the situation(s) in which the given construction could be useful! For the examples I have given one could be at a halloween or other costume party and others think your costume is ambiguous.
But maybe I am a penguin or cat after all?
That is pretty much how I learned to type. Limited characters, limited words. Same as language. Limited words, limited vocabulary. How many sentences can you make out of a few words. Some are dumb, but they do employ the new and old learnt words. ex. abcd a bad dad abba cab.
I agree with you. The random sentences are funny and great wich is another reason why people choose Duo.
I don't think people are complaining so much that they are showing them off to make others laugh.
I had to laugh when I got "The mouse is reading a newspaper" Haha. I had to listen several times to make sure. It forces me to pay attention to pronunciation and makes me laugh at the same time.
That's a great point, I saw a post the other week that was opposite this post. When I read her post, I thought to myself, Duolingo is what you put into it. If you want to learn you can, if you want it to just "memorize" little words and get points you can also do that. Myself I am trying to learn, but to each is own.
Please don't take away the Norwegian chicken who became prime minister :D
It already survived the frying pan and the avalanche, so I think it's here to stay.
I am not sure genius is the word I would use. I teach ESL to immigrants and I can promise you I have never taught my students to say my cat is wearing shoes or my cow drove my car home last night. We mix grammar lessons with reading and conversation getting the students to practice and produce English in everyday contexts. So yes I do teach sentences you would find in a phrase book just like I use phrases found in a phrase book everyday in my work. Duolingo could use more practical material. The goal is to speak and communicate and not sound like a madman. In this regard Pimseleur is a better method.
Quote: In this regard Pimseleur is a better method.
I have seen that there is also Brazilian Portuguese available with Pimsleur.
Do you know if there is a PDF text eBook too?
I think I have to agree with Brent from language101.com that - as a beginner - I have to hear the audio but need to be able to also read the text in parallel.
For me it clicks better that I can remember the actual word(s) which I heard but I have seen or remembered the written text before (or both).
I have already tried it back in 2017 with 50languages with the free MP3 when I was going for a longer walk and only listening to the audio vs actually learning and practicing (reviewing) the taught sentences on "Memrise Decks" (web portal) when I hear the Portuguese audio (enabled TTS) but I can also read the full text of the phrase / sentence.
Well, maybe the (strict???) Pimsleur audio method would still help me too with Portuguese as I have been learning it for a longer time (2,5 years) so I should have the appropriate upper-beginner level.
But I can honestly say that having to start with an "audio only listening approach" would have been way too much for me in my first 3-4, 6 or 12 months; I hardly remember anything from the last "50 languages" levels / MP3 files.
Even LanguageTransfer.org (Complete-German, Complete-Greek, Complete-Spanish, Introduction-French, no Portuguese) supports to have their text eBook (PDF) in front of you when you listen to the audio files.
I wish Pimsleur would sell transcriptions of their courses. Their written component is weak. When I taught Italian I actually made my students do Pimsleur and gave them my own transcriptions.
The whole point is there are no transcriptions. You are learning by ear - not by eye.
Not everyone learns best that way, though. Different people, different learning styles. Plus, learning only by ear is not a good idea.
Yes, I learned some Farsi, Japanese, & Korean using only Pimsleur, but I really like being able to see the written words too. The aural/oral method is great at first, as it is for children, but after awhile you grow up and want to know and see more. :)
That's not much help if you are partially deaf and need to see the words written at some stage...
the easiest ways to earn lingots :
complain about stuff
complain about complainers
give a lingot, and necessarily say about it in a comment
You forgot (4.) Make a list about how to earn lingots. Here is a lingot for your efforts.
Now that should get me a few more lingots, even thought I have way too many already. LOL
Im sure is serves some purpose, but it is a bit odd, Duolingo can choose other words for us to learn languages with.
nothing against mnemonics, however I find it just stupid to call a lesson "Farm" and have ONLY nonsense sentences: "the cow cooked this dish", "the dog cleaned the kitchen floor ", "the owl watched TV yesterday" etc...
So you got to practice the farm vocab with the past form of verbs you already knew. Sounds good. Unless you'd rather learn "chewed cud" "barked" and "regurgitated a mouse".
"regurgitated a mouse".
Ewwwww, I'm eating breakfast as I read this, LOL.
Up vote and a lingot, because I'm laughing too.
Well, and someone may have already said this, it's that we are trying to learn sentences and phrases that would help us in everyday occurrences. While there is a method to their madness, it's just confusing for us. Not that it'll stop me from using this software; it's too valuable not to use it. I figure once we hammer out these exercises and put them into practice will we be able to think about constructing words and phrases and thus speak the language properly...I hope.
Are you seriously suggesting you want to memorize every sentence you - or the person you are speaking with - is likely to use? This is an impossible task. That is not how you learn - or use a language.
I never thought people were complaining about those? I always thought they were funny, though I never realized the purpose of them. A sentence I got today was "mi estas frago!" (i am a strawberry) and it made me chuckle.
Maybe it's on how I personally learn, but sometimes the weird sentences hinder and sometimes they help.
In some units I felt too many of these weird sentences were used, which in my case meant that it took me longer to grasp the underlying grammar since the actual message didn't make sense even after I'd just written the correct answer.
I don't think many people here "just" want a phrasebook. It's not an "either you're with us or against us" -scenario. Perhaps some people want a bit more familiarity to concentrate on the unfamiliar.
But if that is the reason, there would be two good answers in this question: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/28654984
"Trăind în Franța, Maria a învățat limba franceză." (Translation: Living in France, Mary learned the French language.)
And "Netrăind în Franța, Maria a învățat limba franceză." (Not living in France, Mary learned the French language.)
Anyway, I don't mind if a phrase is bonkers. Actually, I love it. But if my answer is bonkers as well it will lower the number of hearts which isn't very stimulating. And yes I know: Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.
There are also methods that actually use the human nature of seeing the contexts, for example the ones from the French firm Assimil.
"“Подгоняя лошадь кочергой!” – английский язык в жизни Корнея Чуковского" ("Мы переводим подобную ахинею вёрстами и от неё в восторге.")
Translation: “ Pursuing a horse with a poker! ”- English in the life of Korney Chukovsky" ("We translate such nonsense with versts and are delighted with it.")
Did you see that recently? In which story? Not that it's "bad," but some middle school kids might make implications.
Thank you Judit for the Hungarian kindergarden teachers and planes. I might have used it years ago, as a primary teacher in Scotland, when we designed and made, then flew paper planes in the school hall. We then measured the distance and discussed who one and why we thought they won. Art/design & technology/maths/discussion and fun all rolled into one. Sadly my planes were always a bit of disaster!
Wish I could remember mimonics but sadly, I have problems doing so. Being dyslexic I am analytical in my approach to learning languages. Never mind, if we were all the same what a boring world it would be!
It is fun seeing what others come up with. And even if we disagree, there is no problem. What a boring world it would be if we were all the same. So roll on the ideas, please.
Very well said. And I thank heavens also for the many school teachers that I had who strived to keep my attention and focus so that I could learn something. But I think it was often their creativity and sense of whimsy that kept us on track.
Your earlier post got me wondering and I looked up some Welsh Nursery Rhymes. This one brought a smile to my face >>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eMY9BtLI7Y
I especially like the line that goes;
Jim Crow Crust
One, two and four,
And the little pig is sitting
So pretty on the stool.
Doesn't make a lot of sense (to me), but now I want to sing along. LOL
But is it a natural way to learn? As children, we didn't learn our native languages by learning ridiculously unnatural sentences. We learned our language by hearing natural sentences in natural contexts.
I'm not a big fan of translating "The dog doesn't read the book because he is busy cooking a boot".
We learned our language by hearing natural sentences in natural contexts.
Not only by hearing natural sentences in natural contexts though. Children are widely exposed to language that describes the fantastical - through the oral traditions of fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and in the modern age through simple books.
When I was a kid, for example, a popular book aimed at small children was "The Tiger Who Came To Tea". You can understand the gist of the plot from the title: let's say it was less than 100% naturalistic.
[The author Judith Kerr sadly died earlier this year but I'm sure it's still in print.]
Of course, adults learning second languages may have different preferences, and that's fine.
I can't see what would be so wrong with sentences using natural situations.
One person's natural situation is another man's weird. The Guarani course is full of references to working in the field and dealing with animals and professions not common in cities - not terribly useful for city dwellers but something that the speakers of the language apparently find important. If like going to zoos when you travel, knowing how to say "When do they feed the tigers" might be useful. If you confine yourself only to words for the most common and/or prestigious professions and family members, you quickly run out of conversational material.
I was lucky that the last unit at school was on agriculture and animals. While the rest of the class struggled with the unknown (and to them unuseful) vocab I sailed through with only few extra terms to learn and had to stop myself writing a novel for the end of week essay. It is the language used in almost every conversation I have n Hungary (at some point).
Next you'll be claiming that a renowned serious novel has been written that makes extensive use of farm animals as a metaphor...
My favorite is the one about the 'Holy Potato'. I lie awake at night, wondering about that one.
It might be a Terry Pratchett reference: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_of_the_Discworld#Potato_Church
As someone that has dedicated a lot of time to language learning, I can say that weird sentences are great, so are children's books. My german lab teacher always gave us Heidi and whatnot. We had an exam that was to write erotic full-on stories and read them out loud. #whateverworksman
Not to mention, "The dog is drinking beer" is sure to help you remember Portuguese
I got a similar sentence in german. "The fly is drinking beer / Die Fliege trinkt Bier". Very funny. Those are wierd sentences but they are funny and you can have some fun while learning.
Very well put - I completely agree. Come on guys, it doesn't matter what the sentence is, they're only like that because it's helping you learn the language! So please stop being negative about them and have a good laugh at them, and just learn the language!
Some people like weird sentences, but I don't. I want to learn sentences that are useful and that I might actually use. I don't need to learn "The fly smells nice", "The bird lost her toothbrush", "My rice is singing" and other sentences of very little use.
Just have a good laugh. It really isn’t the end of the world. And anyway, the words in those sentences could help you put together more sentences. You never know. So let it slide mate, ok?
I want to learn sentences that are useful and that I might actually use.
But that isn't how language learning works. You don't learn every sentence you might say - you can't - there's too many. You learn the words (fly, bird, toothbrush, smell, lose, sing, nice, etc) and how to put them together. And then you also have a chance of understanding what the other person says to you.
Learning a language is not actually memorising a phrasebook.
it won't make you sound bad, but there is no reason to have them. You could have normal sentences.
I love some of the crazy sentences. My favourites from French 'My snake is purple' and from Spanish 'The monkey walked over the cat' or it might be the other way around, its a while ago. I've got two cats and they aren't letting any monkeys any where near them. Also I went to France and did not see one snake purple or otherwise. But I love demonstrating my limited language prowess on the people at work with these sentences.
That is so true! People should stop complaining about methods that actually help you learn a new language!
I agree, weird sentences are very good to use our brain, trying to see which are the possible contexts, or the possible double meanings.
But only when the sentence are grammatically correct, and possible.
I had a "The university is not my sister", or something like this. And it's definitely something that should be removed, as it doesn't help to learn new meanings, but promote a confusion between the meanings.
"An elephant drinks soda", is perfectly fine, and funny, on the other hand.
So, there 2 kind of weird sentences, the funny and interesting ones, and the others.
I know right, if they are that bothered about it, they can delete Duolingo but there is nothing wrong about random questions. They help you to learn. just get over it, they are not weird questions .This method of learning is simple and is genius so before you all complain, ask yourself is there an answer to this problem. There probably is as given duolingo has been around for over eight years now, someone must a have a great answer for you right now.
"The cow drove my car last night."
That sentence reminds me of a scene from the Walt Disney movie "The Shaggy Dog" that I saw on TV many years ago. In the scene a boy had turned into a shaggy dog which was driving a car. Two cops were driving by. One of them saw a dog driving a car and said to his partner, "I'll have to stop eating in those cheap restaurants."
not to mention it makes it interesting. in my swedish course theres one sentance that is "Du ar en fis" (theres some accents but i cant get them to work on this keyboard but it translates to "You are a fish" and i have a joke about someone who i love dearly being a fish so it was perfect. That and "Du dricker min katts mjolk!" (you are drinking my cats milk!) this is what makes learning fun and funny
my french lessons kept teaching me how to say "i am a pizza" turns out there is a well known french song about you being a pizza. the teacher played it for us in class
Well said. I don't mind the wierd sentences as long as they help me understand the structure of a language.
I just got another funny sentence today in german. "The mice are reading a book / Die Mäuse lesen ein Buch" It's wierd but it makes learning fun.
well let them complain their people your complaining about them complaining
I rarely complain about anything, except I have been known to complain about the complainers. Which begs the question, which is worst, the complainers or those like me who complain about them?
After a bit more thinking about this it gets even deeper, so @Nicolalvey is complaining about @Mikerulez complaining about people who complain about nonsensical sentences.
So we have a complainer complaining about a complainer who is complaining about complaints.
After that it is clear that I have too much time on my hands, time to go and study my languages.
So we have a complainer complaining about a complainer who is complaining about complaints.
You say that, but that just means you're complaining about a complainer complaining about a complainer who is complaining about complaints. :)
Come for the offbeat sentences, stay for the lingustic recursion!
: ) See that is what I'm talking about. I was just saying (on another post) how I learned to learn (yes I meant to say that) languages from computer languages. And nobody does recursion better than computers.
Have a lingot, for recursions sake.
I think this makes sense, but I also think that Duolingo needs to balance it more. There is no way to have much of a sensible conversation if you know how to say, "The speed camera was chewed by a bear yesterday" (an actual sentence in the Welsh course), but you can't say or understand: "Where is the library?", "It's just past the post office."
Of course, Duolingo shouldn't be your only source for learning a language, and I picked up a lot of everyday material in Welsh on Memrise, so I'm not saying that Duolingo shouldn't do what it's doing, and I enjoy the whimsy of some of the sentences.
If you can say where is the speed camera you can ask where the library is - or if you can't remember the specific word, the building with books would probably work.
If you can remember the word for book - llyfr - you're halfway to library already - llyfrgell.
I agree with Judit (as usual) to a certain point. And as a primary teacher, "Hey diddle diddle" would NOT have taught you to read. The phonics there are too complex and difficult for someone just starting to read. You could memorise it, but not the same as reading it.
I'm getting sick and tired of Owen and his parsnips in Welsh. I think Owen has turned into one . I can't see a reason why Owen can't eat something else. We have lots of fruit and vegetables here in Wales. We want to learn to speak a language to communicate with others (maybe some Duo folks don;t, they just want a tick sheet, that's fine). So it is not beyond human reasoning, although you are teaching grammar, to come up with usable sentences. Other courses do.
As to red owls .... in Wales! We have brown owls and white owls but not red ones in Britain - at least not in the wild.
Reminds me of a "Teach Yourself" Portuguese book, many, many moons ago, that had a sentence about the guard on the train feeding your camel!! How that could be of use in 1970s Portugal was beyond me. We did have a good laugh when I went to Lisbon and showed it to my tutor at uni there.
Certainly when I taught children French we were trained to use sentences and scenarios that were usable at at the same time taught the necessary vocab and grammar in a credible scenario. To say it is just "phrasebook" language is somewhat demeaning to the language and also the learner. Maybe you don't want to actually communicate to other native speakers when visiting/staying. But I do.
I suppose if you are learning a language just to say that you are learning it and not actually using it ................
So I can see some reasoning but ....... I am also doing another language course here in Cardiff and all their sentences are useful and make sense. So why can't Duo do that. I think it's lack of imagination, to be honest. Duo courses are both oral and visual . You need the visual to understand what is happening in the grammar. That's why it is so good.
But I'll still use Duo as practice because it's good for that. But it won't teach me, by itself, to communicate in Welsh, to a decent level with my friends in Cardiff and understand what they are saying back in a conversation about politics, or what we were doing last week, or the latest film or what the Welsh Government are doing; it won't help me read an up to date newspaper in Welsh because it doesn't have the breadth of vocab; nor in reading a Welsh book written in Welsh (if you don't use a translation alongside.) But it is very helpful in practising what I have already learned.
So keep learning and laughing at the silly sentences in Duo. But remember you won't get very far in a real conversation with a native speaker, by only using Duo's sentences.
The sentences may seem silly, but they teach you. They teach you vocabulary, and grammar structure. People, in general, under-rate the importance of grammatical structure, but it's super-crazy-important. Without a firm grasp on it, you'll never speak anything even close to well. To dismiss the sentences as 'silly' is wrong - you're not seeing that there are plenty of things to learn from those sentences. And you will get far in real conversation by learning this way, because, unlike people who just memorized phrases, you have an understanding of grammatical structure.
If people want to just memorize handy phrases, well of course that's fine, nothing wrong with that - but that's not learning a language, that being a phrasebook learning, and it's not the same as learning a language, and you're going to be super limited; you won't be able to truly understand a language or its underlying grammatical structure because you'll only know the phrases, without the understanding of what built the phrases....and as soon as someone starts talking differently then those phrases, you'll be totally lost. And people - in real life - mostly talk outside phrases, so you'll be lost quickly.
And, as I said, if a person just wants to be phrasebook learner, okay, cool, nothing in the world wrong with that. But it's not the same as actually learning a language.
People with a strong desire to learn a language, truly learn it, they take all the lessons they can out of everything they can. Those 'silly' sentences have so much to teach a person - but some are not willing to listen, and learn.
You can teach people grammar and vocabulary with actual sentences though. That's the irony behind all this. The silly sentences in Duo do less to help you learn than you think, but more to help Duo's reputation being a silly beginner friendly app. The marketing works.
These are actual sentences. People thought them up, wrote them, they are grammatical and can put a picture in your head. Silly sentences are useful. I use Which witch wishes which wish to teach students the difference between ch and sh sounds. I use "Thirty-three three toed tree toads trippingly travel the twisted trail" (Actual lyrics from a song) . to teach the difference between the t and the th sound. I use "Six slick snakes slid up the snake" to help students with the pronunciation of s plus a consonant (same song).
"Hey diddle diddle" would NOT have taught you to read.
Actually it was my mother reading it to me first, that made me want to read it myself.
Well the point I was trying to make, is that some of those silly sentences caught my attention, and I kept coming back to them.
And some of those sentences made me want to read paragraphs, and the paragraphs made me want to read pages and the pages made me want to read whole books. And some of those books led to other books, and the books led to libraries and that led to going to school... elementary school, followed by junior high school, followed by high school, followed by college, followed by grad school and by then I could read (that is a joke, ok, don't try to take it literally).
And along the way I started watching the weather channel, and arguing about politics, and the Welsh government (I'm not sure I've every really considered the Welsh government, but I could, not in Welsh but in other languages). And watching the latest films, and surfing the internet, and etc.
And no I did not learn all that from Nursery Rhymes or from Duolingo, but they both make it fun to learn. Which is part of what makes silly sentences fun.
Hi I guess you get all the cool practices, there hasn't been a shoe wearing cat or cow chauffeure for me so far ! But interestingly I get lesbian married practices ! "Alice et Marie sont mariée" however Paul and Martin never get married to each other they're always heterosexual, whhhyy? :D
My friend is learning Russian and he told me he got "Papa, this is not my motor"
you are right. I also find these sentences very enjoyable, because they make me laugh, and they confuse my brother!
This makes a lot of sense. I never liked the sentences, but I knew that they were strange for a reason.
Solid point, new here and have been noticing that, was thinking there was some logic behind it.
The cat is eating apples. For a good reason, in fact. Get to level 25 and you'll know why.
Yes, but there's no excuse for the grammatically incorrect and otherwise non-native crap in the Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese courses.
Today's prize goes to one from the Spanish course: The party was very fun.
My "The party was much fun." was rejected. Silly me, I should have typed "a lot of." (sarcasm)
Maybe it's on the Brazilian contributors. In Brazilian schools people try to crowd our brains with excessive grammar rules, so people just think colloquial Portuguese means freestyle, no rules, "no ragrets". If they are fluent in English, English is probably changing how they write and speak Portuguese (it happened a little to me), what comes across as natural to them and what does not. No one remembers the "safe controls".
Which makes sense, because almost no one in Brazil speaks Portuguese "as it should be spoken" out loud, and less than 5% know how to. I am not talking about tu conjugation, but regras de concordância. It is harder to identify a safe, comfortable middle ground in which you are neither as pompous as Chaucer's #1 fan nor as hip (or socially ostracized) as someone who speaks a sociolect with zero academic and journalistic prestige.
I think Portuguese as a second language courses are usually "cowardly", just teach fully formal and fancy Portuguese first and then add both the Lusisms and the Brazilianisms in their rich variety and diversity, and let foreigners figure out which in-between state fits their personality. Not everything needs to be casual, friendly and laid-back.
Of course, in order to do that, we would probably need two Portuguese courses, and have both be longer than the Norwegian one. People do not realize that the gap here is wider than that between Bokmal and Nynorsk, and really compares to Arabic diglossia, and present Portuguese as this nasal-sounding funny cousin of Spanish who is a harmless, friendly child perfectly within anyone's comfort zone. Not quite.
Not the hardest language in the world, but like in many continental European languages, the grammar might surprise you, and you are supposed to care. As a culture, though, we are eternally in denial about the existence of difficult things, and prefer just to take a detour around them.
Except, as a native English speaker, I'd never say a party was much fun. I might say the party wasn't much fun, but I wouldn't say it in an affirmative sentence. Don't know why it sounds unnatural to me, but it does. And yes, you should have typed " a lot of" . Note, the party was very fun also sounds unnatural, I'd probably say the party was really fun.
It's something that comes up a lot in the Spanish course - parties, or sports, or whatever, are "very fun". For me as a British English speaker, very fun sounds completely wrong: like you, I'd probably say really fun. But from reading other people's comments on these sentences, there are parts of the English-speaking world where people really do say very fun. So sometimes you end up learning more about other forms of English as well as the language you're supposed to be studying.
You have a good point here, grammatically incorrect and non-native sentences are a bad thing. And should be removed from the courses ASAP.
But that is not what this post is about, it is about sentences that seem to be nonsense but are still teaching you something. It is about why you might want to focus on sentences that don't make sense and not complain about them.
Very true. Not that big of a deal but yes I see what you mean. They are for learning and comprehending the language, I can agree.
Very well said - I totally agree. It frustrates me too. BTW I also beleive that I learn and retain much better when I use the keyboard not the word bank. So most of the time I am on Duo on my computer not my phone.
I totally agree with you. I does help you understand the structure of the language.
Well it's confusing not to know any useful vocabulary after studying for a month. What's the use of knowing rules of conjugation if one does not know words
You know 484 more words than a month ago. 100 words a week is pretty good. The problem is to be useful you need thousands of words. This takes time. This is a huge part of learning a language - along with gramamr etc.
the problem isn't the weird sentences. The problem is the computer generated voices. They need to record native speakers to read the sentences so learners can get an actual feel for the language and accent.
A meat sandwhich A meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhichA meat sandwhich
I don't know. My brain ignores useless sentences, so the educational value of weird phrases are nil. They aren't helpful, just unnecessary burden.
You mean they contain no vocab that you will use? Display no application of grammar, verb conjugation, or word order?
Not for me. If a sentence makes no sense for me even if there is any grammar, verb conjugation or word order, I do not see it and I do not memorise anything.
It benefits me because it forces me to listen to pronunciation, and it makes me laugh. Laughs I desperately need! I've learned a lot.
No, I do not understand them. It is like with this sentence made by Chomsky, Colorless green ideas sleep furiously, for me this is just five words, I don't get any grammar or meaning from it.
And yet, it is used to show that grammar is a separate entity from vocabulary. The sentence is indeed meaningless. But if you ignore meaning, the sentence is perfectly grammatical. Perhaps you just have a different learning style. By the way, the Norwegian course uses this as one of its sentences.
What difference do you notice between these two sentences?
"Colorless green ideas sleep furiously"
"Ideas colorless furiously sleep green"
Even though neither of these two sentences make sense in depicting something in the real world, there is a key difference between them. The first one conforms to the rules of English grammar, but the second one doesn't.
Chomsky's point is that English speakers realise this very easily, basically automatically, because rules of grammar are deeply internalised in their minds. The sentence doesn't need to "make sense" for them to make this judgment.
Noam Chomsky is popular for the study of linguistics in North America, but as a Finnish professor of Linguistics once said to me, for most Finns he's just a hobby!
Randybvain - are you a native English speaker? I think most English speakers can tell you the first sentence doesn't make sense but it is otherwise correct - even if they don't know the correct grammatical terms. The second is just gibberish.
Often the rules are not easily explained even with grammatical terms. Take word order in Hungarian. There are rules but they are incredibly complex. In the end it is a matter of being exposed to lots of sentences; the meaning is almost secondary - you see the form and get a feel for them.
Phil682961, IMHO the only difference between these two sentences is that the words are put in a different order. I cannot see there any grammar structure, subject or verb.
I need an explicit explanation because without it I cannot deduce a grammar rule just from translating sentences.
Judit294350. I am not a native English speaker although it has been my main language of communication for over 15 years.
This is a very interesting part of the thread, I wish I did not have to scroll all the way down here to read the points that are being made.
@Randybvain I will tell you that Judith is making some good points, you learn grammar from just hearing and reading the language over and over. Little children who have never been taught any grammar at all, know a lot of grammar.
And they start out by saying many nonsense words and sentences and then being corrected by their parents and families and that is how most of us learn grammar in our first language.
And while you do not think you are getting anything from these nonsense sentences, you are. Because they contain structure and other elements of the language that are required to understand it.
I can see that you disagree strongly with this, and will just agree to disagree with you. But you might want to do some reading on "comprehensible input" and what exactly it is.
Also I guess we should distinguish a couple of things:
1) Sentences which are grammatical but don't really mean anything, either true or false (like "colorless green ideas sleep furiously")
2) Sentences which are grammatical and have a concrete meaning that we can mentally picture, just would never occur in the real world. Like "my dog is ironing the lettuce".
I think most of this thread is talking about type (2). Now opinions obviously differ, but I find a dog ironing lettuce a pretty memorable mental picture (it really has to stretch to reach up to that ironing board!), and that aids my memory.
I agree, and you did a good job of pointing out the distinctions. Another category that people are confusing are sentences that are actually grammatically incorrect with sentences that are whimsical.
I like your sentence, "My dog is ironing the lettuce." Ironing cabbage would been even funnier.
The collocations - that is the point. Children just repeat collocations because of their frequency. Then they go to school where they learn grammar behind them. Now, with regard to sentences on Duolingo: they are useful if they are made of collocations because then they might be recycled. My dog is ironing the lettuce has three elements which taken together do not form any collocation. The same with colorless green ideas sleep furiously - five elements which do not form a collocation. This makes them incomprehensible for me. No collocation means no structure, no grammar. I might memorise them word after word but I will forget them in few hours. I might translate them word for word but as I do not perceive any grammar the new sentence will make no sense to me. What usually happens is I skip such sentences and copy/paste answers to finish a lesson. I should add that I do not see what you call mental pictures.
Can you explain to me how, My dog is ironing the lettuce is different from the sentence Your wife was washing her car other than the words being different?
And do you believe if you were presented with one, you could not figure out some of what the other meant?
Your wife was washing her car is a sentence because there are two collocations keeping it together (your wife was washing and was washing her car) so there is a grammatical structure. My dog is ironing the lettuce lacks it because the elements my dog, is ironing, the lettuce are not bound together.
It is like a chord in music: you have to press proper keys to make a chord and if you press random keys they won't form a chord but a dissonance. Your wife was washing her car sounds like a chord, My dog is ironing the lettuce sounds like a cacophony to me.
No, I could not figure it on my own. If a sentence is cacophonical like that one I just ignore it.
I'm glad you brought up music because that was one of the things I was aiming for. The rhythm of these two sentences is basically the same.
And believe it or not the rhythm of a language is as important as the words, and the grammar. I can not tell you how many times I have listened to a Spanish sentence or Japanese sentence where I knew the words, and even understood the grammar, but did not catch the rhythm and therefore could not understand what was being said.
The structure of the two are similar, Your My, wife dog, was is, washing ironing, her the, car lettuce.
Not only do the words match each other they are in some cases the same parts of speech.
I believe you when you say you don't get any of this unless you are told, but believe me when I tell you most people learning English will be able to see these relationships that I have pointed out to you.
And most people also see these relationships in other languages too.
Children just repeat collocations because of their frequency. Then they go to school where they learn grammar behind them.
It's true that the very first things kids say are simple one- or two-word repetitions of what they hear.
But they quickly move beyond that to internalise and apply the rules of the language, and this happens (a) mostly before school age, (b) without the rules being explicitly taught.
Somewhere around age one or one and a half, the child will actually begin to utter single words with meaning. These are always 'content' words like cookie, doggie, run,and see - never 'function' words like and, the, and of. Around the age of two, the child will begin putting two words together to make 'sentences' like doggie run. A little later on, the child may produce longer sentences that lack function words, such as big doggie run fast. At this point all that's left to add are the function words, some different sentence forms (like the passive), and the more complex sound combinations (like str). By the time the child enters kindergarten, he or she will have acquired the vast majority of the rules and sounds of the language. After this, it's just a matter of combining the different sentence types in new ways and adding new words to his or her vocabulary.
Now, as adults we don't seem to be equipped to absorb new languages so unconsciously, so (in the opinion of most language educators) we need a mixture of explicit rule-learning along with natural language exposure.
And different things work for different people as adults - which is fine! But if you started from a premise that "adults should learn second languages like children learn first languages" you wouldn't end up with lots of explicit teaching about structure and grammar.