Duolingo on Android Wear

I just got an android wear device, so naturally one of the first things I did was try using the Duolingo app on it (I was pretty excited to see it in the list of apps that wear supports before I got the watch..) I had no idea what to expect in terms of DL integration, and now that I've tried it it seems like a good complement to using Duolingo, but there's a couple small problems.

First, for those of you who don't know how it works (like me, before today), it goes like this: you open the Duolingo app on your watch, then it asks you to choose one of the languages you're doing on DL. From there, it essentially works as a flash card app. It tells you to "think of the word for: x", and then after a timeout gives you the translation and asks if you got it right or wrong. It's a neat idea, and means that, in theory you can practice your languages anywhere you want. Not as in depth practice as on a smartphone or computer, but sometimes you want something lighter, and sometimes you don't have the time or aren't in a place where you can talk to your phone (on a bus, in a restaurant, etc.), and any reinforcement is good, even if you don't advance in the tree.

So what's the problem? The problem is basically that "I was right" and "I was wrong" is more ambiguous than it sounds, and that there's no "Report feedback" like we're used to having on Duolingo when Duolingo is wrong. Some examples (from French):

The first word it asked me to translate was "(to) buy", so I thought of the word "acheter". It then told me that the word for "to buy" was "offrir" and asked if I got it right. Er.. did I? I clearly thought of the word for "to buy" if you ask any french speaker. If I say "yes", is it going to strengthen the word "offrir" for me in Duolingo's backend even though I didn't think of it? If I say "no", it going to weaken it?

It then asks me to think of the word for "to throw", so I first think of "jeter", and then "lancer" before the timer runs out. Duolingo tells me that the word is "tomber".... what? Was I right or was I wrong? Well, I was right, but in this case Duolingo is just wrong. How do I report it so that they can correct it? .. as far as I can tell, I can't (other than posting this here.)

In the next set of words, "What" is "Qu'", "sleep" is "sommeil" and "hopeless" is "nul", "to love" is "adorer". They're not wrong, but outside of any context I would expect "Quoi", "dormir", "sans espoir", and "aimer", etc.

There's also a few things that it asks you to translate that just don't make sense as presented. When going through a couple to come up with examples for this post, it wanted me to translate "present (tense)". What does that mean? (It apparently expected me to think of "présent", but the timer ran out before I could figure out what it meant. I guess that means I was wrong.) I've seen some that have weird codes like "s/b" in it (the ones like that are usually about 3 lines long and can't be read before the timer runs out, let alone translated.)

So, this post is complaining a lot more than I intended. As I said initially, it's a very good complement to Duolingo. It's just that it really needs a way to report feedback so that it can improve. At the very least, I think it needs "I was right", "I was wrong" and "You were wrong." options. ("You were wrong" should give further options of "The word presented didn't make sense" or "the answer didn't make sense".)

July 10, 2014


Seems like the big question is whether this is merely a vocab driller or does it also affect the person's tree. If it affects the tree, the need for alternate answers is important. If it is just a friendly driller or time passer, the lack of alternates really makes you think about the words. Just in the examples given, it seems like a bit of a puzzle -- did they want the verb or the noun? Did they expect a Brit or a Yank? Just a way to look on the positive side of the coin, er watch.

July 11, 2014

"Sleep" can't be dormir because of the lack of a preceding "to". "Sleep" is a noun ("sommeil") whereas "to sleep" would be the verb ("dormir").

I totally understand that's not what you're asking but I figured it might help in your studies. Can't wait for an Android Wear device myself!

July 10, 2014

Yes, I was actually thinking about it after I posted it how that was a bad example for that reason, but keep in mind that it's timed so you don't have the same time to think about such technicalities when you're doing it, and then after it gives you the correct answer you're entirely self graded. Since you don't know what Duolingo does with the right/wrong choice*, you don't know what you should say (and who likes to admit they were wrong? People will error on the side of "I was right").

Also, in English, when dealing with a verb, you rarely say "to", you just say "I sleep", "you sleep", "he sleeps" or give a command like "Sleep!", so under time pressure it's easy to assume it's talking about the verb (because when do you ever use "sleep" as a noun in English anyways?) It just seems like DL missed the "(to)" and it gives you the correct answer before you have time to process it as a noun.

  • After playing with it a little more, it seems that "I was right" takes it out of the set that you're currently studying, while "I was wrong" will repeat it after you've gone through the set until you claim you got it right.
July 10, 2014

Oh, one other problem I forgot: it seems to be British. I get words like "bin" and while I'm still trying to figure out why it's talking about Unix file directories, it tells me that I should have thought of "poubelle". It gives me "flat", and while I'm trying to remember what the word is ("Is it plat? Does that mean flat or boring? Or is it the same word? Is there some other..") the time runs out. ("Appartement? What I don't understand... oh, that type of flat.")

I'm not saying that it should be American English, but this is the first time I've ever seen Duolingo err on the side of British English, so it's a little confusing.

July 10, 2014

Interesting. I haven't come across that yet. As an American, I hadn't really considered that it might be inconsistent with the different English dialects. I think most Americans would understand that usage of flat though. Perhaps it should give multiple translations when they are appropriate. I don't know how well that would work in the context of a watch app though.

July 10, 2014

I don't know about Americans, but as a Canadian the only time I understand "flat" to be an apartment is when the speaker has a British accent. Unspoken text outside of any context, no chance.

Though the details of any given translation aren't important, I think the important thing is that for it to get better, the app needs to have a way to report things that are confusing or incorrect.

July 10, 2014
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