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A way to improve "word strength"

It seems strange to me that I should have 1 bar of strength for "baguette" but four bars for "baguettes".

I was thinking that you could use two different bars to more fully describe one's strength with any given word. Each word "group" has a single bar, which would be the "meaning" strength, because if you know what a baguette is you certainly can understand multiple baguettes without any issue. And then each word would have it's own bar, which would be the "spelling" strength. In the case of baguette/baguettes, this isn't too big of a deal, but for verbs (and strange plurals) this would make a huge difference. You know what the verb 'faire' MEANS, but you keep messing up "faisons" or "faites".

If this were implemented, you could also have two different practices, one for learning the meaning of words you keep forgetting, and one for learning the tricky spellings of strange plurals and irregular verbs.

I think this is a more natural way of learning. I frequently know what a word means before I know how to spell it, and then well after I've learned it's meaning I still make mistakes and move letters around.

Furthermore, it's frustrating to practice and keep getting the singular form of a noun I know, just because I haven't been presented with that form lately in my lessons.

I hope you like this idea, I think it would really improve the practice experience and the utility of the vocabulary section in general.

June 7, 2013



Firstly, I wouldn't worry about your word strength shown in the vocab tab, these are just guides to tell you how familiar you are with the word in particular contexts (or chapters), both in how often or lately you've seen it and how well you can use it. The bars don't impact on your progression on the tree, you impact the bars.

I don't think the bars are all that accurate though, for instance, I use "avoir" correctly in many forms but my vocab list informs me that my word strength for "a" is weak, when I use it everyday and certainly know how to use it and what it means (this doesn't bother me though, I know what I know). This I assume is because the work I am doing now on duolingo isn't focussing specifically on the "a" form of "avoir" in the contexts that the ratings are being drawn from.

I would also question your use of "strange", these "strange plurals", as you say, are how French is spelt and is a very important aspect of learning a language because it teaches you to read and write. Knowing a word in French means knowing all of the conjugations for it, at least in the forms and modes you need right now (present, past tense, future, subjunctive etc etc). If there's anything duolingo teaches you, it is how to spell, and certainly encourages the correct use of the language.

To solve your problem though, perhaps, when you go into your vocab list to see your weak words, go into the chapter it tells you the rank is being scored from i.e. "basics 2" or "etre/avoir" or "food" and do some practices so that you can update your scores. And if you want to improve your scores for the plural forms of verbs then you need to memorise how they are spelt, or if you're unsure, look it up in a dictionary or verb book before you submit your answer. The spelling is only going to get harder if you ignore it, and you'll have more to memorise once you start learning new tenses and moods!

I hope that helps :) Bonne chance!


You misunderstand me sir. I am quite average at French, I've taken it for a few years, I haven't learned any new vocab through duolingo, and I certainly understand Cheval/Chevaux and the like. However, your comments on the vocab section ring with my own intentions: it does seem like it isn't that useful, doesn't it?

Rather than just giving up on the whole thing, I was suggesting what I thought would improve it, so that instead of "forget the vocabulary" you could say "check out the cool vocabulary section, it's super useful!".

I appreciate your tone though, having re-read my post. I can imagine a less kind person treating the fool who thinks some French plurals are "strange" much rougher.

No, the reason I high-lighted spelling is because I see a word as having two components necessary to fully knowing them: their meaning and their spelling. My suggestion would take the two apart, so that you can practice improving one skill at a time, as opposed to the current setup in which the only blanket practice is your "weakest words", some of which are simply the plural or singular forms of nouns you know quite well!

I also think it would help verbs a lot, because mixing up "a" and "as" is essentially a typo, though they could tall it a meaning issue, I mean "meaning" as in the pure "have" of "avoir", that's a stick quagmire to wade into but I'll make the claim.

Anyway, now that I've explained myself a bit better do you think my idea might be beneficial for the program?


I think you're right on that, it really should be more useful than it is. And you may be onto something, however, I feel if generally you struggle with some conjugations or spellings then you could be lacking in an understanding of the meaning too, perhaps. I'm not sure ranking a word group, like adverbs or verbs, would be more useful, because you can get a range of different meanings coming from the same spelling.

I feel as though the current set up works as generally if you don't remember how to spell the word, it prevents, or discourages, you from progressing while demanding the need for your understanding of the words by asking you to formulate and interpret sentences.

How do you think the two, spelling and meaning, would be separated? Would you do like rote/drills for spelling and like context/pictures for meaning?

Slightly unrelated, but is there anything in particular about my profile that suggests I am a man? It often comes up in forums that I am addressed as a man, maybe I write in a manly way? :p haha


So, by 'word groups' I mean all the conjugations of a specific verb are one word group, all the forms of an adjective are another group, etc. This entire group would have a strength that represents how well you know the whole thing, the "meaning" strength. If you know what "croissant" means, you know what "croissants" means, you don't need two different strengths to represent those meanings. However, you can know how to spell "cheval" but frequently forget "chevaux", so that's what the "spelling strength" would represent, how well you know how to spell the word. The distinction works because even if you translate "I like the horses" as "j'aime les chavals", it still shows that you know "horse" means "cheval", only that you can't spell it right.

The ultimate result of all of this would be two general tests in the vocabulary section; instead of the current "practice weakest words" you would have "practice words I can't spell" and "practice words I don't know", which would allow you to focus on what matters most to you. I want to know more vocabulary, and I'm not too concerned about my spelling, so I would use the "practice words I don't know" test much more.

I guess I should say that this system doesn't benefit absolute beginners. I don't know how the current system works for them, I only know how it works for me.

As for your gender, I apologize for calling you sir. It's nothing more than my ego imprinting my identity on the anonymous internet users I speak with. Your user name kind of looks like Steve, I didn't see that until now but perhaps that has something to do with it!


Thank you. It's so good and important for me

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