Strategies with Duolingo
I've been seeing so many posts about wrong answers, typos, etc that Duolingo makes, and I thought I'd share a strategy that I have.
I keep a (rather long) list of French phrases and their English translations (according to Duolingo) so that I can refer to what is acceptable to them. I also add what I've determined to be the correct response and whether or not I've notified Duolingo. This has been very helpful to me because it's very hard to remember some of the rather contorted translations they come up with. Since this program is in Beta, we must understand that there are lots of kinks and this is one way that helps me to keep my composure. ;)
It would be great to hear any other tips and strategies from you all.
I don't keep a list, but sometimes I just write down the most complex and weird sentences and their translations for future reference.
My main strategy is refreshing the page. If a unit is especially hard and the sentences are too difficult to translate (mostly, they are ok to translate but difficult to guess the precise answer that the owl wants), I get my first task, answer it, mostly fail, try to remember the translation, and then refresh the page. If I make a mistake in the first or second task of the unit, I usually refresh. Sometimes I learn four or five new sentences before I can begin the unit with a series of correct answers.
And yes, I always remind myself two things: 1) this is only beta, 2) I'm here to learn, and I learn anyway, even if I fail and have to retry.
I also don't rely solely on Duolingo. I use other resources as well.
@Ipacker, that is a very good system, but I won't follow your example because I am just too lazy. Besides, at the moment I try testing out of a skil by using the short cut. When I have lost my three hearts I generally go back to refresh my knowledge with an exercise. that refreshes my memory on the weird translations also. then I try testing out again. that worked with a number of skills. I am not sure if it will function with the last ones, which are rather high up the tree (or down on the page).
Good stuff... Refreshing the page is something I do, too, when I'm at the end of the day and it looks like I'm not reaching my goal. I also don't rely on Duolingo alone. I use Yabla.com ($10 a month) which is really helpful for those of us who have trouble understanding spoken French, books and tapes, about.com's French section, which is awesome, wiktionary, French radio stations, and also http://conjugator.reverso.net/conjugation-french.html, which is a conjugation tool that accepts practically every verb you want to throw at it and you can search by any verb form, not just the root. Google translate, of course, but it's a little wonky sometimes.
Although bypassing the kinks provides a (temporary) solution, I think it would also prove helpful to actually help the makers of duolingo to improve their Beta version on the long run by actually submitting correct information in the lesson area, so they can -in time- go back and correct the sentences and the answers. The same goes for the translations. Although I am not a French native, I have seen many incorrect translations that for some reason or other have been rated the best translation sofar. This doesn't help the cause of the website, nor those who are seriously trying to learn the language.
It is a bit ambiguous. In your heart you know what the right form is, but you use the error to keep on going. Most people give feedback on errors, so they will be fixed. As for the translations: rate translations. Tell the system which ones you like and which ones you don't. That is the way it is supposed to work. Don't accept ludicrous translations nor refrain from praising excellent translations. Especially the last is necessary to make the good translation get the upper hand.
@seren_n_calm -- believe me, I am giving beaucoup feedback. I'm sure they're sick of me! As for the translations, I totally agree with you! Some of the most appalling translations are rated the highest. I don't know what effect this is having on the program, but it can't be good. Maybe Duolingo needs to rethink having students rate each others' translations.
@siebolt, do you also suggest edits on faulty translations? I guess you're right about rating the translations; if those of us who are more advanced refrain from rating, the bad translations will be the norm.
Oh, I just remembered: another thing that has been helping me learn is French in Action - just look for it on youtube. It's a language course out of the 1980s, I believe, and it's immersion learning. Kind of addictive.
I've used a similar system to get through some of the boring exercises for which I couldn't get the points from the 'regular' translations: copy each sentence and it's recommended translations into a spreadsheet, work through about half the lessons this way, then test out of the skill with the stuff you have. It doesn't make me feel proud, but at least I can move on through the skill tree that way. In French it's rather ok, but in German I've found many skills are never(?) rewarded while translating (and yes: I've already reported this).