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Language Experts

I have noticed that the number of Experts varies a lot from one language to the other. Has Duolingo allocated them in proportion to the number of learners? In other words are there twice as many German learners as French or Portuguese learners? More generally, could you share with us regular statistics on the number of learners per language (at least in percentage)? Thank you.

June 6, 2013



Oh yes, please give me some graphs!!!


The most popular languages that people learn on Duolingo are English, Spanish and French (in this order).


Thank you for your brief answer.


My guess for the "odd" distribution of Experts....Is that if we saw the job descriptions of each of the experts, it would be clear what was happening.

It seems that each language has 1 -2 language experts assigned. Then, individuals with BIG job descriptions are added to the language experts. The peeps with big job descriptions speak Spanish. One of them is Luis, creator of Duolingo. The others are also experts on the general Duolingo and/or Troubleshooting boards which presumably means they have big job descriptions, too.

I doubt the number of experts has anything to do with number of users, but rather, just that Duolingo "executives" may speak Spanish?


To improve your language lessons quite easily and dramatically, please introduce vocabulary based on word frequency lists for each language. I was introduced to the Spanish word for 'spider' quite early in the lesson sequence, which seems rather dumb as I doubt it ranks very high in Spanish frequency lists, per Zipf's Law.


Care to explain Zipf's law?


It's a distribution law, essentially claiming that the k-th most frequent item is 1/k times as likely as the most likely one. Not sure whether it really applies for vocab frequencies and how that would affect duo's lessons, though. It has a lot of applications in network (graph) theory.


Thank you wataya :) I could have used wikipedia, but I thought it would be more constructive to have it added to the discussion. It's more helpful to explain how D would benefit from using Z than to act surprised that D is not aware of Z.


George Zipf did a lot of research on word frequency distribution. It would help because it simply means that a small number of words account for a disproportionate amount of usage. A simple English example is that 'chair' is a lot more useful to learn than 'neem' because the former comes up a whole lot more often than the latter. Hence, imho any language course should introduce high frequency lexical items earlier to give the learner the most bang for their linguistic buck.


OK, you surely are right about 'chair' vs 'neem'. But araña? It's on position 1610 in wictionary's frequency list: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Frequency_lists/Spanish1001-2000 That's pretty high up.

And apart from word frequency duo has more points to consider:

  • learning words in context helps a lot (e.g. learn animal names or kitchen related vocabulary together)

  • nouns are far easier to learn than – say – prepositions and conjunctions which always are very high up in frequency tables. If duo would strictly follow such tables, I doubt that learning would be much fun: Just scroll through the top of this list http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Frequency_lists/Spanish1000 and you'll see what I mean ;-)


Wataya, your reply is very interesting, and thank you for the link to the ranking of araña! I'm surprised it is that high. Yes, nouns are easier to learn than 'function words' like prepositions and conjunctions, but I will stick to my original claim that higher frequency words should be introduced earlier rather than later. There are not very many function words in any language, so given their high frequency (for most of them), I think it is extremely important to learn them early on. But of course, my original comment was about all words, including nouns, and also verbs, etc. In fact, irregular verbs (which are more difficult to learn) are irregular precisely because they are high frequency words. As high frequency words, they are more resistant to the normal influences on linguistic change; hence, they tend to diverge over time from what becomes the norm in a language.


I would like to add that frequency lists differ depending on the corpus that they are based on. A textual corpus might include different vocabulary and idioms than a corpus that is based on spoken language. I wonder whether Duolingo makes use of a mixed corpus or whether it's focussing more on written language to complement its translation service.


Lenkvist, you are right about your last point and I have edited my comment to be more polite. Thank you.


Do you have Canadian French?o


Canadian french and France french are basically the same except for the accent and some slang


Seconded. I like to tell native speakers of English that the "inter-language distance" between French varieties of Canada and France is similar to that between varieties of English: American, British, Australian, Indian, etc. Then I like to startle them by saying that the "distance" between French and other Romance languages (when i get something like " but then you should get most of a conversation in Spanish or Italian", which is quite often), is similar to that between English and other Germanic languages, like German or Dutch. It is a bit mean because a lot of them don't like the idea, but i think it is a fair comparison.

Sorry about the digression


@sitesurf I am wondering how you know the number of experts varies a lot from one language to another. Do you mean the DuoLingo team? If so, how did you figure that out? Does that mean that it affects our learning curve?


On the main discussion page, on the right side, there is the list of forums. If you click on French, you see Remy as an expert. You may also click on any other language (don't need to be a learner of that language to access all of them), they you can compare.


I don't understand why Sitesurf isn't listed as a French expert. They should at least make her/you a moderator! ^^


The 'expert' flag is reserved for duolingo employees. And yes, of course, Sitesurf has been offered to become a community moderator. But she is not only very helpful but also very humble and turned down the offer. But for me she is the ultimate authority in the French section ;-)


Why have cotton when you can have silk? Thanks guys!


I only hope the other languages have their own Sitesurfs.


I sometimes thought Sitesurf actually is a moderator.


There isn't a green M, but there is definitely an aura of awesomeness. People were asked to be a moderator, because they were already behaving like a moderator. Whether "official" moderator status adds something to that is up to the individual user.

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