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recent changes

To my mind previous version of duolingo was much better. Recent changes just made it more complete and less understandable

October 4, 2012



I've been wanting to write a question myself about this, but since you asked I might as well say it here. I love Duolingo (I'm an early adopter) but I am very disappointed about the new translation section. It used to be a fun way for me to discover interesting stuff online, and try to make sense of them with the little German I now know. Each sentence translated was a little victory in itself, and it was both hard work and fun. With the new translation system however, all that is gone. When I open a new article I see that everything has already been translated, everything but one or two sentences no one wants to touch because they are so hard. The sentences that I enjoyed trying to make sense of are now already translated and with their translation out in the open (I have tried not looking at it but so far I didn't manage to). I know that a few people have asked about seeing the translated sentences, and I see the appeal, but at the very least being able to turn this off would be an improvement, I think.


Sure, you could translate anything, it didn't matter if 2000 people had already translated the information, it was about practicing a language. Loved that under each section you were working on there were a couple of articles to translate that were in that section range. You didn't have to be picture perfect but were encouraged to keep trying. With this new method, you are locked out of the easier translations because they've already been scored 100% and I think it locks out beginners to a new language.

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@Luis; just like Kay I have been tempted to write about the translation issue, but haven´t done so yet because of the rather unpleasant discussions that have occurred in blog.duolingo. On the one hand I understand that you as CEO are eager to get more people to work as translators because 1. the number of translations most people do is not very high (personally I think the points earned with translation should be 20-25% of the total number of skill points earned) 2. but in changing the way we do translations you lose a couple of advantages while "gaining" as the discussion shows, disgruntled users and a dubious translation quality. (sorry for being so frank; no rudeness intended) -> by limiting the number of translators per sentence to only a select few you lose the advantage a crowdsourcing tool is supposed to have (cf. Wikipedia) of creating good translations through a high number of participants (in contrast to the expert approach); sorry but the number of translator you are working with at the moment is not statistically significant) ie. you get no usable result. -> worse than that from the users´ point of view you "waste" a perfect translation tool, one of the (beautiful) tools of language learning implemented in Duolingo by creating the impression that the user is not longer working for himself but only for Duolingo; what used to be a promise to help Duolingo now becomes an obligation. -> worst of all this takes the fun of learning out of translation; of course nobody has to do translations as you rightly say. But we had the joy of being creative with the things already learned through Duolingo translations - even if it was hard and sometimes frustrating (but isn´t that part of learning), and you were not only practising but alive. 3. Of course the old type of translation was not perfect and the selection of texts to translate must be improved; why don´t you use some of the improvements of the new version and, but -please- do not throw away a good approach (ie. the old approach) for something I hope I could convince you has more disadvantages than advantage. Thank you and I hope you find time for an answer.


Thanks Luis for you and your teams' hard work


I completely agree with what Kay and Linda52 have said about the translations. It was not only more satisfying to translate the whole text before but also it helped by providing a context. Can I also agree that I too love Duolingo and thank you for all your hard work!


Can I just say that I do like the new structure. The only thing that's bothering me is that I can't pick a different sentence to translate in the translation challenges. I'm basically stuck at the moment because I don't feel I fully understand the selected sentences and I don't want to submit a bad translation.


I really like the new skill pages, it makes it extremely clear what is required to master a skill. As for the translations, yes it does seem like the "easy" sentences go first and the only ones left are paragraph-length, but perhaps it is a holdover from cherry-picking in the past. Previously I think some people racked up a lot of points by translating easy things like the headings in Wikipedia articles, which isn't really what this is about. No one likes doing the sentences that look the most difficult, but we probably learn more that way. Perhaps the way points are awarded should be refined. A sentence with 50 words should be worth a lot more than a sentence of 10 words, no matter how many grammar and vocabulary concepts there are in it.

I do agree that some of the "finished" translations are not very good. Something isn't quite working there. Perhaps more translations are needed, or more ratings, or more ratings by advanced students. Perhaps ratings by beginners should have less weight.


The only real problem I see is that some articles or sentences are translated bad, very bad or simply wrong. Some long German words are just copy-pasted by over 90% of the people because they can't or don't want to look it up in its basic form. Some idioms and complecated sentences are translated differently by every single user, while about 80% of the translations don't make any sense.

But I'm not sure if the recent changes have anything to do with it. Before the changes we just couldn't see if a sentence was finished so we didn't notice when a wrong translation was chosen for the final correct translation.


Thanks for all the feedback! We're working on improving this (and should be better later today).


@bf2012 Thanks. We'll work on making this better.



This article has been locked down in a dreadful state. It would be acceptable in as a work-in-progress, but now I see punctuation errors, poorly worded translations, literally translated Spanish idioms, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.


Follow the star and work through the lessons. Don't worry about mastery. Forget about the points. Don't bother with the translations until you're ready. Just learn the language in a style that works best for you.

I don't understand what the big deal is about the recent changes. Duolingo is truly revolutionary. Why not let them experiment and innovate a little?


For mass data to apply here, you definitely need more translations for each sentence. Right now, translating and rating a sentence advances it by 5% ?! That takes a lot of luck if you want the result to be a good translation...


I much preferred working on the old format. It was fun, I felt highly motivated and I was making progress. Can someone explain the rationale behind the deducting of points earned for correct answers when errors are made in answers to subsequent, unrelated questions? I know this strategy is used in other contexts (medicine, aviation), but language learning is a very different field of endeavour. Different pedagogies are required. I would happily pay to have access to the old version. Is this possible? None of this means that I'm not appreciative - so thank you ... but I am also very frustrated and disappointed.

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... not with a bang, but a whimper;) (T.S.Eliot)


Can you tell us what is harder to understand?


The new version says I have mastered a couple of topics which I definitely haven't mastered. I also find the translation pages much less user friendly.


I have to agree that the translations setup before was much more useful. Being randomly selected to translate certain passages of a text is rather difficult, especially when some of the portions of the text are much greater difficulty than others


I hate the translations section, its sucked all the air out of this program. This may be a great way to have experienced linguists translate the internet but if the goal of this program is to teach people other languages, I think you've dropped the ball big time. Didn't go into this with a negative attitude but its a heart breaker for so many of us that have worked very, very hard.


I understand that... but translating sentences was part of the fun.

  • @luis and @naut
  • make more obvious ... that someone can try ( test out of this skill ) ... in the layout
  • perhaps exchange the place of the two functions "test out of this skill" and "real world translation"
  • BTW: I like it - that now - it is more difficult to become ( mastered )

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@Kelvinsong; you are absolutely right. That´s exactly what I was refering to in this insight "recent changes". Using crowdsourcing with (as in this case) a maximum of 26 (!!!) people makes a mockery of any kind of translation. Crowdsourcing as competition to expert translation has a tough stand as it is since many people who have had expert training (including me) have an inner resistance to the work of many (mostly untrained) people. My opinion is that if Duolingo does not dramatically change its approach to translation (what the numbers of people translating concerned the old approach for example) it will only help to give translating by crowdsourcing a bad name.... (but maybe we are all just guinea-pigs to help set up a huge and faulty database as a testing ground for a translation program that would rival google.translation or bing.translation or.... :-( ) Unfortunately the people could say something about these fears keep quiet.

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@linda52 and @luis: Linda, everybody having to do with learning is fascinated by Duolingo; but the point made in this stream is about the recent changes, especially the translation section that Duolingo implemented. There are various items people have problems with (just read the stream + blog.dulingo.com again for details); to my mind the basic problem is that users do not know why Duolingo is doing what it is doing and where it is heading. This is when Luis should come in. Luis, you introduced Duolingo brilliantly on TED (http://www.ted.com/talks/luis_von_ahn_massive_scale_online_collaboration.html) where you explained your reasoning for creating Duolingo.(And it was one of the best pep talks I have ever seen) But this was in the middle of 2011. Isn´t it time to share your thoughts on what you think Duolingo will be like in the near future ? How about a second TED talk in which you recapture (sorry for the pun) your users´ attention again and give them the necessary feedback that only you can give to end this ongoing discussion ? Thank you.


@bf2010 Couldn't have said it better myself. I think you've nailed the issue perfectly!

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@territurtle; Thanks


@bf2012: I totally we need to communicate where we're going better. In general, though, we're doing everything we can to make this the best language-learning website. That's our #1 goal for now.


@linda52: The translations are optional.


So you liked the old translations better? Can you tell me why?


Luis, I love the concept of Duolingo, translating the internet and teaching people a new language. Most especially people who wouldn't ever have the opportunity otherwise. It makes language more accessible and hopefully the world a friendlier place. My enthusiasm for this method of learning was partly geared to that greater good.

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