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Option to make punctuation (accents, etc) compulsory

I think it would be great to have an option that makes the accents compulsory in order to get a correct response.

Many times I find myself simply not bothering to enter the accents because I know it will be marked as correct either way. Being able to switch on compulsory accents will instil proper practice from the start and condition your memory to include them every time.

April 28, 2013



Accents and capital letters are not aesthetic accessories. They condition pronounciation and/or understanding. In my opinion, they are not negotiable.


Indeed -- just ask anyone who's missed the umlaut on "schwül".


Yes, I have been thinking about this too, including all diacritical marks, and correct sentence punctuation as well as all German capitalisation rules. Perhaps Duolingo can make it optional in the early lessons, like it is now, to not scare off newbies.

However, by the time you reach the more advanced levels (after the last keyhole exercise), they should be compulsory. Or as you suggest, a user could have the option to switch it on or off depending on their preference. If you really want to learn the language, you need it learn its diacritical marks and all its correct punctuation.


I am newbie. I don't intentionally leave off the accents, but if an * was in the answer box; it could serve to remind us to be aware of accented word.


That is not a bad idea because I know that i purposely forget them and later when I write the words in a class or for other purposes than Doulingo I fail to put most of the accents into the words


yes it can be a bad idea for some laguages but it depends on which laguage.


I think the problem is with the timed lessons rather that the un-timed ones with me. I make a point of them when I do the un-timed lessons, and there is no real excuse for not doing so, but on the timed lessons, pressing the right button to get the correct umlaut can take a few seconds and make the difference between continuing the practice and failing.

Perhaps they should be compulsory on the un-timed lessons, but you are given a choice on the timed lessons.

(an alternative would be to learn how to touch type in German, but I'm not sure where I would find a tutorial to do this, or how I would convert a standard keyboard to a German one, though going forward it would be obvious useful skill well beyond Duo-lingo)


I believe there should not be any "choice" to deliberately type without necessary accents. I don't think you'll remember correct spelling if you allow yourself to type without accents. I am grateful to Duolingo when it forgives me my mistakes on accents, but those are really mistakes because I never deliberately omit the accents. In fact, I am even surprised that somebody does that on purpose.

Try US International keyboard layout that adds a lot of special characters: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/306560

I made my own keyboard layout by adding additional French and German characters into the US typography layout I used. I don't need [, ] and ^ symbols very much, so I set them as dead keys. Now, if I type [ and then с, I get ç. If I type ] and then U, I get Ü, and so on. This way I can type proper French and German anywhere.

Update: I don't think anything has to be changed concerning special symbols. Making them compulsory may indeed result in people quitting Duolingo. I just think that those who are serious in their learning should not use this "option" to write without accents. This can be done without making anything compulsory.


I disagree with you. If you really want to learn diacritics then do so, but if you don't want to you shouldn't be bothered by the program forcing you to do so. In the era of internet, typing accents is a hassle and not a lot of people do it (at least, all the time). I'm French, so for a long time I had a french keyboard with easy to access accents, but I didn't use them all the time, only when I was typing a report (and not using Word's autocorrect) or in some cases for participe words (mangé, tué...), but that's it. And now that I have an english keyboard, I rarely use accents anymore.

If duolingo started caring for diacritics suddenly, I would be as annoyed as if they were removing typos. And a lot of people would do so. If they create an option to do it though, it could be an interesting challenge once in a while.

And also, you should consider smartphone users in the whole.


Please kindly re-read my comment: I don't suggest to make diacritics compulsory, I just think that people should not disregard them on purpose if they want to learn proper spelling.

As for smartphones, there is an option to type accented characters on iPhone, you have to hold your finger on a letter to see additional options. I always do that (and again, I don't suggest to make accented characters compulsory for everyone).


I definitely see the point that making special symbols compulsory may result in people quitting Duolingo. You want to make learning fun and not chase people away.

I would personally prefer to be corrected when I forget an accent/tilde. There is a big difference between como (I eat) and cómo (why). I don't want to put in all this learning effort just to appear illiterate to others who know better. I want to learn it correctly from the ground up.

I think not enforcing it in the easier levels and then suddenly enforcing it would result in a LOT of people quitting at that breakpoint. Folks would be accustomed to being lazy and doing well and suddenly they'd be unable to progress at all.

So personally I prefer either a setting in personal preferences or enforcing of special characters across the board.

I also agree that the timed exercises would be much too difficult to pass if the special characters were enforced. The timed exercises would need to be made longer or the special characters would need to be optional. Naturally I favor increasing the time allowed.


Wait, there's a note about missing accents? I will pay attention to this. This is probably all that's called for.


I already knew about this International Layout, although I think this keyboard tip should be highlighted under the screen keys in the exercises. As well the Mac / Linux alternatives.


Yes, I agree. People should be encouraged to use special or multipurpose layouts that work everywhere rather than Duolingo-only onscreen buttons.


I tried a while ago to follow your advice and install French, Spanish and German keyboard options on my computer, but without success. Having to use the mouse to pull up umlauts and so forth really slows you down, and in discussions like this it's not even an option. Another commenter somewhere suggested that in German you could just use ss, oe, ue,ae and so forth instead of those other symbols that I can't use at the moment! Haven't tried it during the lessons so far.


What went wrong with those layouts? Also, have you tried US International keyboard layout? I believe it is a good option to be able to enter all the characters you need while keeping only one keyboard layout for all languages.


I would ask for it to be left as is-or-let someone click onto (compulsory) button. I don't want my learning german to become such a (perfection) level at all costs that it makes me quit it. After all it shows you what you need to do, so learn from that, the ones that purposely leave out the puncuation as they know they can do that, well that is their choice.


I hate to admit it, but you make a good point. Within English, I make it a point to write as correct as possible. As a result, I do tend to place the accents, although I am tempted. If we're trying to learn, we absolutely need to LEARN, and the accents are key.


hmm - it's been marking me wrong when I forget accents, umlauts, etc - in both french and german


It will correct you when you ignore/forget to put an accent on and it will make the bottom red like it does when you get something wrong but it doesn't take your hearts/points away.


Yes this would be a good idea as long as it's an option. Sometimes I am not on my personal computer with my accent layout and can't be bothered as there are no fast keyboard shortcuts for accents on other computers (friend's house, library, etc.). I would love to practice accents at home, but not any place else (especially with timed practices)!


It would be helpful, but maybe in a later stage. If you're just beginning, it could overwhelm you!


yes it can overwhelm you


Just make it optional! Should keep everyone happy! I prefer compulsory use of diacrtics and punctuation. Diacritic marks indicate a phonetic value different from that given the unmarked or otherwise marked letter. Omitting them changes the pronunciation or meaning of a word and is critical in determining verb tense in many languages. It's easy enough to do using the US International Keyboard.

Even the lowly ? mark can be important because many languages use a voice intonation that is different from English where all question have a rise in intonation when asking a question.

A challenge for the timed exercises to be sure but I think that can be addressed with either more time or having the option of turning off compulsory entry. If you enter them all the time, it becomes second nature and really doesn't slow you down very much.


Most people that start an account on duolingo will never complete the skill tree. If Duolingo raised the bar higher the drop out rate would just increase. I think you naturally pick up accent use with a lot practice.


i don"t think that it would be a good idea because of how many accent marks you would have to put in just one sentence or even a paragraph. sometime it does not let you get correct when you leave out the accent marks for some words in different laguages. some things don"t condition into your memory unless it is something that you will understand for a long period of time.


Spelling and/or punctuation is unimportant to me. Speaking is what I care about. I have no need to write Spanish, only speak. This idea is ok only if it is optional.


I touch-type in English. Thirty seconds is already way, way too short on the timed exercises (Duolingo: 45 seconds worked much better, especially on ridiculously long sentences that one has to hear twice to get everything). Yes, I could change my keyboard to a German layout - but I don't touch-type in German. I'd be hunting and pecking the various letters and symbols on a keyboard that doesn't show where they are. Not a bad idea for lessons that aren't timed, but a terrible one for lessons that are.


I agree about the insane time limit. I tried timed practice a few times, but found I was spending 1/3 of my time clicking through the screens needed to start again, after managing maybe as many as 5 questions per session. I now no longer do timed practice. It would be nice if I could select that as an option somewhere, and have one less screen to click through on the way to practice. From where I sit, timed practice is unusable, so stop asking if I want it ;-)


The English and the German layout are not that different. The brakets and symbols on the numbers are very different, but all letters are the same aside from y and z which have switched places.


Re accents ...is there any rule for accent placement other than memorizing?


Well, the accents does exist because some words has different meanings depending which sillabe is stressed. Even English has this even not using it. Like REcord and reCORD, if English used accents they would differ by something like "Récord" and "Record".


In German, the pronunciation depends on the presence or absence of umlaut. It's pretty much consistent, so if you know how to pronounce the word, you know how to spell it (vowels, at least) and vica-versa. The problem for German is the specialized S - they change their spelling rules every few decades, reducing where the fancy S is used. I'm making errors because I've been reading material printed before the latest spelling reform, and Duolingo is, quite correctly, teaching the later spelling.


I completely agree, in Spanish the meaning of the words changes completely depending on the accent. Make them compulsory. Example solution: add a "hardcore" mode where you only have one heart and you MUST do the accents, but make the lingot awards triple for that mode.

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