What were they thinking?

This part is absolutely horrible. Duolingo French Beta is generally pretty frustrating (except for the first few lessons), but I found it impossible to do this part without copying each sentence and pasting it back when necessary. Even this way, I failed two times in every single task. Apart from the ridiculous solutions typical for this part (we BE late and such) there is also an epic proportion of the typical Duolingo failure of using ridiculously long and complicated sentences which can be translated correctly multiple ways, but only one is accepted (like 'Parents must bear the responsibility' is accepted, but 'Parents are responsible' is not). Sometimes I could figure out what Duolingo wanted - word-by word translations often work even if they make no sense - but there is this random tendency of sometimes accepting an alternative and sometimes not. Sometimes 'I must' and 'I have to' are both OK, and sometimes only one. Sometimes using a instead of à in a word only gives a warning, but sometimes it costs a heart. This is horrible. Why do you have to use 3-line sentences with special expressions that can be translated several ways? Why can you not be lenient at least in the beta, and tell the software to accept at least both 'must' and 'have to'? I realize this is both a free application and a beta, but none of these reasons are good enough to explain the epic frustrating failure Duolingo French, and especially this part is at the moment.

August 13, 2012


@naut - Ah, but could you please help us to help you? Whilst French is in Beta, the "Three strikes and you're out" model for both hearts and attempts at testing out, doesn't give us a chance to find all the bugs. I suggest you either increase the number of hearts / attempts in Beta, or at least give us extra attempts at testing out when a valid "Still think you are correct?" submission has been acknowledged by Duolingo. I've finally got through the French Beta keyhole - but it's been a highly frustrating experience and all I'm doing is second guessing the "correct" answer - even to the extent of not risking the English rather than the US spelling of "neighbour". It doesn't help you to improve Duolingo, if I can't risk answering in natural French or English for fear of "bombing" a lesson or test.

August 13, 2012

I agree, sometimes only one of two equally popular words is accepted or you have to type out the sentence literally even if it's nonsensical. At this point, it's pretty frustrating and makes me just want to go read a novel to learn more.

August 6, 2013

Sometimes there is no "Still think you're correct?" link. Of course, we can use the Feedback tab on the left, but not everyone knows about this. And it is not so convenient. Please make the links "Still think you're correct?" appear at every task. Moreover, I'd like to see a similar link like "Check or suggest alternative translation" when I have answered correctly. Sometimes I also don't risk to give a better but less literate translation. I'd like to check it AFTER I got through the task, and if it is not accepted, suggest to add it.

There could be also some great crowdsourcing stuff like showing the most popular suggestions from people and voting for them. Thus we could avoid tons of the same suggestions for you to check and decide upon.

August 14, 2012

Thanks for the heads up peteru88. We know that the quality of duolingo decreases the further you go down the skill tree, and we’re working hard to improve it.

If you want to help us, use the link "Still think you're correct? Let us know" at the bottom of a challenge. This way we get more correct translations and can easily add them to the system.

August 13, 2012

Part of the frustration with this feedback process is that it sometimes feels like it's going into /dev/null, never to be seen by anyone. I'm in this half-way state of wondering if I should bother and wanting to help improve things, y'know?

April 30, 2013

The "my answer should be accepted" definitely works, as I have received close to 40 confirmations now that my suggested answers are now accepted. I have no idea about the other forms of suggesting errors, but I think it's reasonable to assume they're also looked at eventually.

June 21, 2013

Up-vote for knowing both French and Linux, and for using /dev/null in a sentence about feedback on Duolingo. I salute you :)

February 2, 2014

Just one little note: "That we be, that I be, that they be, that you be" etc. really is correct English in the subjuntive. It's just not very often used outside of Oxford and Cambridge (you will hear it in London, Paris, and even Geneva or Washington if you hang around with diplomats.)

August 31, 2013

agreed. Instead of focusing on getting more languages they should be focusing on mastering the ones they have now.

March 7, 2013

This lesson is a real nightmare for people like me who have no idea about the subjunctive. I only came to understand what it is when I listened to the relevant part of Michel Thomas's course.

Here there are a lot of French sentences of more or less the same type, but they are translated into English differently. It would be much easier if the English translations were of the same type like "that we be", "that he see" and so on...

September 9, 2012

Well, I managed to "learn" this unit by writing the sentences and their translations into my exercise-book and then checking my answers before submitting them. This seems to be more useful than copying and pasting because I learn something when I write and type myself. I also noticed that the main problems that I had were with English, not French. The French sentences are more or less consistent and use the same structure while the English ones vary a lot. I sent a large feedback on it.

And... this unit made me go and buy a textbook and a grammar book! So I guess I'm going to do some good old written exercises :) Tant mieux!

September 9, 2012

[deactivated user]

    Hello Olimo, Yes you are finding out that English has so many roots that multiple translations are possible and correct. In many cases if someone is trying to speak English, providing all the words for a sentence are there, it will be understood by native speakers even if the word order is totally wrong. Try getting the word order wrong in most French sentences and it can be very difficult to work out the meaning. I suggest you try reading "Mother Tongue" by Bill Bryson. JD

    January 11, 2014

    I am struggling with the lessons here but I don't think it is all Duolingo's fault. Maybe it was much worse before and it improved.

    Anyway, I think part of the problem here is that the English subjunctive does not seem to be as commonly used as it is in French. For example, the sentence "My boss demands that we be late." is grammatically correct.

    Other two cases that struck me at first were the "if" clause where you have to use "were" instead of was: E.g., "It is as if he were alone." and the conjugation of certain verbs in the subjunctive being just slightly different than the present tense: E.g., "I wish that he see me more". Yes, "see", not "sees".

    Once I got hold of these aspects in English (and read a bit about the grammar in French), it started to be easier to get Duolingo's lessons.

    March 17, 2013

    just writing to say that I agree. This section is so needlessly idiosyncratic and difficult that it is making me dread signing on to Duolingo.

    June 29, 2013

    Yes, I do it quite a lot - sometimes I even get replies. Anyway, it's great to see that someone is actually watching this and cares. Duolingo is a great idea, with some adjustment it might work great. It's not necessarily a skill tree think - Education is great for example, and it's at the same level as Subjonctif - probably it would immediately help a great deal to use shorter sentences because it would decrease the amount of 'noise' the user has to figure out without hurting the material which is actually being taught, which is usually just a word or a conjugation.

    August 13, 2012

    I agree with that last statement. Shorter sentences which test the module would be so much more useful. It is very frustrating to get the subject of the lesson correct and fail because of writing pour instead of de.

    July 23, 2013

    Four months on from this post and I can confirm that this is still a horrible, horrible set of lessons. It seems all the same problems listed by peteru88 are still present, just going to have to grind this one out...

    December 22, 2012

    [deactivated user]

      With the very strange English translations it is difficult to work out the real sense of the sentences written in the French subjective. Having to concoct weird English to satisfy the computer does not really help. I think it would be useful if Duolingo included some basic guidance for each of their principal grammar sections before we students attempt the questions

      December 18, 2013

      You might want to look at this: Note the "weirdness" you mention is there in the examples, eg.: I suggest that they be removed".

      December 18, 2013

      This will always be difficult for a native speaker of a language where the subjuctive mood is no longer part of everyday grammar for the majority of the population. In practice the normal translation into English could easily use the indicative but would that not in itself create confusion for the learner? The wierd English you speak of is in fact grammatically correct, you would just be unlikely to hear these phrases spoken beyond a courtroom.

      January 6, 2014

      Yes, exactly! I ought to have put "weirdness" in quotes. (edit) Fixed.

      January 8, 2014

      Subjunctive is just difficult in French anyway. It describes a condition in which something hasn't happened yet, and I wouldn't really understand it had I not learned it in college (just taking these because I want to review). If you are really confused about something you can always look up the conjugation with a tool such as Verbix and then that will help you until you have the endings memorized.

      November 12, 2013

      all these posts are from months and even a year ago when French was still in beta.

      November 15, 2013

      Well this section is nevertheless clearly the worst of what i've seen so far. I'm French and just doing the fast track to see how things are and I failed this lesson three times because of valid French sentences that were rejected. I'm not learning French but this is frustrating and it makes me anxious about German and Italian that I don't speak fluently... I hope it's just this lesson and that they redesigned the beta process to improve quality for future languages. Duolinguo is a great tool, but the lessons are worthless if we can't trust the machine...

      November 23, 2013

      Translation means that adhere to a certain rigor in specificity. Sometimes there is a "better word" that Duolingo wants, which for the purposes of basic comprehension is not necessary, but remember, Duolingo is training millions of people to translate documents for them, NOT speak the language for them, so... its users are somewhat at cross-purposes with its administrators.

      Anyway, Duolingo's far from a perfect language learning environment, but from what I've read in the forums it's clear that it's come a long way.

      November 23, 2013

      True, but I was just remarking that subjenctive is difficult in general, from personal experience

      November 15, 2013


      November 16, 2013
      Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.