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Egregious errors

For the first time in the five years since using Duolingo, I've had to stop student progress to point out such egregious errors in the French program that they would be beneath a first year student.

I understand error happens, but some of these have actually stood for months uncorrected. I'm talking about unimaginable mispronunciation and basic spelling errors, not opinion. Have the mods retired?

October 22, 2019



We can't do anything about mispronunciation on the French course at the moment, because it uses a TTS from a third party company which we have no control over. Apparently (according to this discussion, but I personally have received no other information about it) Duo staff is working on a way for us to handle this in future, but it will take time before we have that ability. The same applies to any course that uses TTS rather than voice recordings.

As for other errors, the French course is now maintained internally by Duo, not by the volunteers, and they've added a lot of content lately. It takes time to find the errors, especially since the vast majority of the reports received are incorrect or useless clutter/spam/abuse, the reason there were so many fewer errors in the old course is that it was old and the team had had a lot of time to find and fix them. As time goes on, those problems will be fixed and the course improved, it will just take some time.


Your prompt response is encouraging and reminiscent of previous years. Thank you. You have an army of volunteers who love your service whose comments could be tagged. I do know that I, too, have inadvertently submitted error in comments, and had to retract my own. Such is the nature of language...and yet I'd suggest you watch for the volume of reports. There, I'd imagine, is where real error might be discovered.


We do as much as we can, but the difficulty is we also get massive quantities of reports where users think we're wrong. For example, any sentence containing "il faut" is flooded with reports saying that it should be translated as "he needs" (which, as I'm sure you know, is wrong).

My comments here and the AMA I did a few weeks ago here might help give a better idea of what the reports we get are like and how hard it is to find the truly useful ones.


These are eye opening links, that only serve to increase deepest appreciation for everything contributors do for this program. Thank you.


I've done my best to contribute constructively on the French forums as often as questions arise. I can imagine how overwhelming the work is. I even volunteered last year to become a moderator, but never heard back after I submitted my work in French and in English. As I said, having been wrong or unaware of DL's choices (aimer/adorer...with which I'll never agree ;), although I can conform, muting my objections!), and I'm keenly aware of the subtleties that arise in translation where "Il me faut du beurre" can be "I need butter", but where my native speaker friends like Sitesurf and Naz would make perhaps a better call.


Thanks Trofaste and you and the other contributors and moderators certainly carry out an unenviable task, for which I'm sure the vast majority of students are extremely grateful.

However, I don't think Duo's system really helps you. I have been using Duo to learn French for a few years. Today was the first time (and after carrying out an external Google search to find it) that I discovered the difference between the role of moderators and contributors; that some but not all moderators are also contributors and those that are not cannot do anything to get errors corrected. A simple user guide, clearly visible when you first log in, would go a long way to reducing misuse of the discussion boards and reporting system.

The focus should be on reducing reported errors and there are very many ways that could be achieved. Most obviously, taking as much care as possible, whenever any new sentences are added, that all possible correct translations are allowed (in my experience and from reading a lot of discussion fora, many exercises disallow some perfectly good and obvious translations).

Secondly, when marking a translation as incorrect, it would make sense for Duolingo to provide the correct translation in the form the student used. So, for example, if there is just a typo in the answer, Duo could just provide a correct answer in the same form with the typo corrected, rather than giving a correct answer that is formulated in a completely different way - which can be very confusing for the student. From reading the discussion fora, it is clear that many students do not realise what error(s) they made.

Finally, and obviously, once errors in Duo are corrected promptly, there will no longer be comments on those errors and your workload will be reduced.

The proliferation of errors in Duo is obviously disheartening to students. Also, the use of "hearts" in Android and ios means that lessons can be stopped in their tracks because the student runs out of hearts, which is presumably not what Duo wants.


The sense of humor in the classroom is the best mediator for any error. On more than one occasion, I've been aware that the choices we make in French are extremely subjective in nature, and never to be argued! I don't want to stir up controversy, but I have been privileged to enjoy years in France on equal turf with French friends, whose joy was palpable when they could correct me, telling me that "We don't say that..." or "That's so sixties....(vachement chouette!)" only to turn around and say it without thinking the next day. I had a delightful run in with a friend who insisted that my blouson en cuir was really a veston.....until I called it a veston the nest day, and he insisted with the same vehemence that it was a blouson. It helped me realize that I had to be careful in English never to call my jacket a coat...unless it was the right day to do so.


Please don't take this the wrong way, because you probably see a lot of dirt already for which there isn't a thing you can do about, but this is terrible execution in deployment, to release an untested product, and rely on reports from end users who (1) are untrained and uninformed on how reporting works within the system, (2) are given zero feedback on what they do report, (3) aren't able to correct or retract reports, (4) are discouraged from submitting needed detail on the reports or the more open-ended forums, (5) aren't familiar with even general guidelines on content correctness, apart from what they can guess from their own experience with the product, (6) can't even be sure what should be considered an error, as they are learning the subject themselves, and (7) despite all this uncertainty, aren't rated on how well they do report. Nature did a study on the correctness of Wikipedia vs. Britannica in 2005. If you're unfamiliar with the outcome, it found a similar number of errors in both. What's more interesting to me, however, and highly applicable here, is that Wikipedia was able to fix all the major issues discovered within a matter of just a few days. Here we're talking about glaring issues that, as I've witnessed, have been lingering for many months. "As time goes on" is not an acceptable panacea. The system is not in the state it needs to be in to introduce, let alone dump, untested content.

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