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Space bars, word boundaries, dictionary entries and "beta" status

One big issue I have with the way Duolingo is currently set up is the way that dictionary hints are available for only one "word" aka only one set of letters separated by spacebars (and sometimes, in Italian at least, by apostrophes). In Italian right now I am working through a lesson on a compound verb tense, the present perfect, where e.g. "è stata" should be translated as "was" or "has been." Instead I get "is" and then "be."

This is also very important for clitic pronouns, which are sometimes their own "word" and sometimes are not orthographically. (In my opinion grammatically they are a prefix or a suffix--but prefixes and suffixes are also mini words in my way of viewing things and should get their own "dictionary" hints!) Not to mention the fact that a reflexive pronoun can change the translation of the word . . .

In an actual bilingual dictionary, there is generally clarifying information about how a verb can change depending on its context, and in a textbook created by humans with little or no assistance of automation meanings relevant to the current content are highlighted. It would be fantastic if Duolingo would place a greater emphasis on including content like this, it would lead to a lot less confusion in the discussion sections! It might even be "crowdsourced" pretty efficiently from the discussion sections and people's complaints about the various sentences--however you would have to have a human look at all the things and not just push an automation algorithm.

I also have a quibble with your definition of "beta"--I think you should wait until you have a lot more of this type of extra information in place for each of the lessons before removing the designation rather than doing it immediately after you've for the bare bones of the skill tree in place. Right now the Italian tree is miles behind German, and a potential minefield for anyone who has not studied the language by other methods; a "beta" designation would make this clear to confused learners!

April 28, 2013

1 Comment


These are all very good points, I agree with you.

If I were asked, I'd keep the "beta" status for all the courses. German may be much better developed than Italian, but I still report a few suggestions for every lesson and they are accepted.

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