What I Like and Dislike about Duolingo's Latin Course: An Improved Way of Learning
As a Latin student, I was both pleased and displeased with the Latin course here on Duolingo. And before I make my points, I want to make it clear that I think that the creators of this course put together an excellent, informal overview of some of the key parts of this beautiful language. A big thank-you to all of the creators for their hard work and dedication in creating this course! In order to create a more in-depth course that would further help Latin learners to achieve their goal of mastering the basics of this beautiful language, the way vocabulary is introduced, and the scope of the course need to be changed.
In Latin, nouns, pronouns, and adjectives decline, and verbs conjugate. However, a declined noun, pronoun or adjective, or a conjugated verb (i.e. "agricolīs" and "laudābō") should not count as individual vocabulary entries. Instead, they should be marked as the case and number (for nouns), or the person, number, tense, voice, and mood (for verbs), of the dictionary form of that word. In my example above, "agricolīs" would appear as "farmer" in the Duolingo dictionary or in the hover feature in a lesson. That is misleading. This notation confused me at first, and I'm sure it did other learners. I suggest that "agricolīs," or any declined noun or pronoun be notated as a form of the dictionary entry of the word. In this case, "agricolīs" would appear as "Dative pl. or Ablative pl. of "agricola, agricolae f. farmer." This goes for verbs, too: "laudābō" would appear as "1st. sing. pres. act. indic. of "laudō, laudāre, laudāvī, laudātus praise." Notice that I have placed macrons over long vowels. Macrons do not have to appear in the Latin course, for they don't often appear in some modern printed versions of some writings. The tips of each lesson reference these notations, but don't encourage the learning of these notations. Tips should also include full synopses of verb conjugations and noun declensions. Especially when introducing a new declension or conjugation, or even irregular words (i.e. vīs, --- f. and volō, velle, voluī wish, want; mean, intend). Certain lessons should be dedicated to introducing new topics, meaning the tips sections should include a full synopsis of a declension or conjugation. Lessons already do this, but it's looser and more broad, which can be confusing.
In order to get more in-depth overview of Latin, glimpses of basic syntax and an introduction to new verb forms need to be included. I'm not asking that a whole lesson about the subjunctive or future imperatives be added to the course, instead more basic topics like the entire present and perfect-active systems need to be added and explained.
I express this opinion because I want the people who chose to take Latin on this website to learn as much as possible, and enjoy it, too, but I notice that people are already very happy with the course as it is, and perhaps my suggestions are too complicated for the Duolingo software, and that's fine. Everything seems to be working out just fine as it is, and that's what matters. Thanks again to all of the contributors to this course, and happy learning to all!
Valēte, sociī, scientia ipsa potentia est!
I definitely am happy with this course. I am simply impatient to see it grow. It was so quick to get to the end -- and now I want more! (I have been doing the Greek course for nearly twice as long and am less than half-way through!) I am so grateful to the creators for this course!
Thank you for being more open-minded than many others who have made suggestions. I can't tell you how many people have made complaints about this or that either because "that's not genuine Latin" (I mean, let's be real, "genuine" Latin in its purest form would be nigh impossible to read) or simply because "I don't like that." It's beyond frustrating.
That said, you do have some good points, and believe me, the course contributors are already at work implementing some of these in the new tree - because yes, in order to implement any such changes, they must produce an entirely new tree which contains them. Unfortunately, the word hints including labels with parts of speech is beyond Duo's capability, but I do agree that they would be a good idea!
And, macrons ... I personally don't like macrons, mainly because I learned Latin without them (my teacher was the kind who tried to actively speak Latin), and also because they just seem like a lot of extra work - you don't need macrons to write in Latin, unlike how you need umlauts to write in German (schön and schon are two completely different words!) and háčeks to write in Czech. It just seems unnecessary to me. Especially when the sentences already have audio clips to go with them, so you already know where the long and short vowels are.
I also have to add that flooding a new learner with all five forms of a noun, or all forms of a verb, at one time can be very overwhelming. We didn't even do that in Latin class! First we learned the nominative and accusative, then (once we were comfortable with that) the ablative, genitive, and dative. And I think the same kind of principle applies here too. Sure, introduce new information, but don't bombard new learners with it.
(If you don't believe me, I actually ran into this very early on in the Greek tree. It's part of the reason why I've stalled it for the moment, is so that I can focus on it more in-depth at a later date, and thus learn it better.)
Also keep in mind that a good number of the contributors for Latin are Latin teachers themselves, and they do know what they're doing. :)
Thank you once again! Enjoy the course!
Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.
Thank you for appreciating all of the hard work the team put into the course. I wasn't involved with the the first phase, but I hope to help with the rest.
We have no control over how the hints are handled. That's a staff issue. We've brought up everything you mentioned and more with regards to the hints.
We have to cover the six tense in the next part. I don't know if we should try to tackle passives or subjunctive. The team needs to decide how much we want to cover next. If we bite off more than we can choose, we'll fail.
The Latin tree is about half of the size of the original Spanish tree. It's been growing for at least nine years.