https://www.duolingo.com/smearedink

Duolingo's handling of French past tense

I've grumbled about this in a couple of the exercise-specific threads, but it's something that warrants a larger discussion. Perhaps there has been one before that I am unaware of.

I have noticed that when translating English to French or French to English, Duolingo accepts both passé composé and imparfait, regardless of the form used in the sentence being translated. As a simple example, if I was asked to translate "Il a mangé" into English, Duo would accept "He ate" or "He has eaten," as it should, but it would also accept "He was eating," which is in fact a translation of "Il mangeait."

I think this laxness must be intentional, but is a mistake on Duolingo's part. Since we are learning by example here, how are we expected to learn the difference between imparfait and passé composé if they're treated as interchangeable in the exercises?

May 21, 2013

5 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Sitesurf

I agree, 200%.

May 21, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/Potatosage

Yes I noticed this - so different from what we were taught in school. But it did occur to me that what was taught 50+ years ago in English schools may not reflect French as it is currently spoken. Does anyone know whether this distinction is maintained by native French speakers and writers?

July 22, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/smearedink

Sitesurf is a native French speaker, so I think it's reasonable to assume so.

July 22, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/spanish11235

I haven't gotten there yet (but I have in class), but do they actually explain the difference in the lessons?

May 23, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/smearedink

No, I haven't seen any explicit explanations. I'm fine with the "minimal explanations" approach, but not if it means you come out of it thinking two distinct forms of past tense are completely interchangeable.

May 23, 2013
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