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How Duolingo looks inward for competition

So far ahead of the competition, it's counterproductive to measure

There was a recent tweet, and post on linked in, that I think this community may also be interested in.


I will also provide a partial transcript of all this, also as for many of us, our first language is not English, so being able to access this through text, it is greatly beneficial.

In short:

What do you do when you're so far ahead of the competition, it's counterproductive to measure your startup against them? It's a nice problem to have, and Duolingo has an answer. ....

And Luis tweeted:

How @duolingo Looks Inward for Competition.

edited: Others interested in this topic may also be interested to check out:

In case you missed the #duocon livestream...

January 11, 2020


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Luis :

The promise of Duolingo is to get you from knowing zero from language to really being fully fluent. We're not there yet. If you use Duolingo now you can get from zero to being intermediate.

There's no app or software that can get you form zero to being fully fluent, despite crazy marketing terms. If we ever get from zero to fully fluent, I am sure that what will happen is only a small fraction of our users will do that.

Because, well, learning a language is like going to the gym.

It is entirely possible in the gym to go from very unfit to very fit.

But only a small fraction of people do it.

So, once we are able to do that, the next goal is, well lets get everybody to do that.

There's a lot of work to be done.

And I think the thing to motivate everybody is just look, of all our users what fraction are really getting fluent.

And as long as that is not 100%, then we have more to go.


It is entirely possible in the gym to go from very unfit to very fit.

But you wouldn't become a top-class competitive runner only by running on the treadmill in the gym - however much you did it - without practising in actual races.

Not a perfect analogy for language learning, but there's something in it...

  • 1184

Thank you for providing the transcript.

We've bit there yet.

I think he said:

We're not there yet.


You mean "Luis" not "Louis".


The promise of Duolingo is to get you from knowing zero from language to really being fully fluent. We've bit there yet. If you use Duolingo now you can get from zero to being intermediate.

He must have a much lower definition of "intermediate" than most language programs!

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And which ones (edited: to point being "app" ones) do you see excel in this area ?

This is good to also share with our community Judith. For all sorts of reasons.
And is right on line as being main stream appropriate with our guidelines.

Edited: if in doubt check out : https://support.duolingo.com/hc/en-us/articles/205079384-What-are-the-Moderator-Guidelines-

Moderators will NOT:

  • Delete threads just because they are critical of Duolingo

and of course the guidelines that I still refer to on about a weekly basis. ;P Perhaps though that is also my Roo brain. ...

edited ... also not just that it is the "spin" of the other companies, but that they have statistics to match it up. And also make themselves open to review, and ensure they internally review as well.


Intermediate low, methinks. Certain courses on Duolingo (Spanish and French, I think) are CEFR-aligned to B1. Or so I've heard. That is Intermediate Low.

It's just pretty much all the other courses that aren't CEFR-aligned at all. German, I know, they gave up.

Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.

  • 345

Bozena Pajak :

Duolingo is really pretty good at teaching you how to read the language and how to write in it. 'Case it's an app, and that is mostly what you do. It's a little bit harder to develop those skills in listening and speaking. But that is what we are really trying to improve.


Hm, I actually use Duo primarily as a listening comprehension practice tool :P It does that fairly well I would say. Teaching grammar, not so much though.


How @duolingo Looks Inward for Competition

I want to say Luis's comment is dishonest, but I'll be charitable: his comment is delusional.

Duolingo's SRS might as well not exist. Duolingo does not support custom vocabulary. Duolingo doesn't bother to instruct users on grammar. Duolingo's corpus is nonsensical. Duolingo's audio uses TTS.

In short, Duolingo is pretty bad. I mean, it's really easy and forgiving, so it's popular with users. It's just pretty bad at actually teaching them languages, in comparison with many of its competitors.

Luis should stop patting himself on the back, and just steal features from the competition. Because Duolingo, in its current state, is pretty bad.

  • 345

WOW, interesting points. Also, Kudos to your steak of 1807 days !

Are there any things you like about Duolingo ? Things you consider it may have right ?



Hi Ove,

have you ever tried the (classic, non-CEFR) Portuguese from English course here on Duolingo?

Do you really think it is "that bad"?

See my points here: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/35990786?comment_id=35993558

The classic tree design with dedicated grammar should be comparable with Italian from English whereas the updated EN->PT tree (update June 2018, final) by contributors splitted several "grammar skills" into 1-3 sub skills to teach Romance grammar step-by-step which is IMHO good in the beginning not to get overwhelmed too quickly.

You know, the Duolingo classic PT BR course and provided T&N (on the web) got me started with Portuguese as my very first Romance language and now I have been here for three years.

Time is soo quickly passing by...


I am very thankful for that experience and what the contributors are doing for us learners (another very good example is the French tree3 contributor team because of updated T&N and now they focus on the EN<-FR reverse tree) and I think I have done better going with Portuguese and not having started with Spanish or switching to it (much better Portuguese T&N back in 2016+2017).

Actually there is a lot of help which we received in the Portuguese "sentence discussions" from course moderators.

Das ist bei weitem nicht selbstverständlich....

Or the grammar help index: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/6331998/Portuguese-Help-Index

Quote: It's just pretty bad at ....in comparison with many of its competitors.

Sorry for asking, as I still have not found the "right resources".

What are the proper other / better resources for learning Portuguese (BR or Portugal) from the competition in your opinion without burning me a hole into the purse?

For the next months I will have to rely on free resources; prices of "Portuguese (BR) Semantica" was out of scope in 2017 and still is, sadly to say.
To use videos with good explanations/reviews would have been an excellent idea.

I still need to find didactical / interactive grammar resources to practice and enhance my Portuguese grammar for more difficult tenses on an upper-beginner (after three years / low to mid/high intermediate level.

I have not developed the same "feeling" for Portuguese sentences compared to 25+ years of English when to use this or that or what the correct solution from 3-5 multiple-choice answers (cloze-deletion) specifically is, like you usually have to mark with exams/tests and there are so many fine details.

Kwiziq only works for Spanish and French, not Portuguese (BR).

I think there are some (free) Portuguese courses / Podcast videos from an institute from Texas...maybe I have saved the found link some time ago..probably not.

There was a website which listed so many resources....which one was it?

What happens:

When I take the "Cactus language" 40 grammar questions I make quite a few grammar errors and it rates me (together with 1-2 online tests) at an intermediate level (B1) so they suggest to enroll on that level if I would sign up classroom (teacher) courses (either low B1.1 or B1.2 course).

Same happens with "Language Trainers" and their 10x7 = 70 question adaptive test where I was more buffled about the difficult Cactus grammar questions at the end (several wrong answers in a row).

Sure, I am now a bit worried that I do not score any better for now...

Well, somehow this was to be expected even with my two PT->DE and PT->EN reverse trees "in progress" without any language usage in real life, do you agree?!

I think B2 is already upper-intermediate so I am not rated into it.

- 13 January 2020 / 19:09 GMT+1 (CET)
- Last time 14 January 2020 / 09:09 GMT+1 (CET): smaller fixes

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