New format for mastering a skill is less helpful

I understand that Duolingo's current business model is to get us to translate web documents. However, I believe that they should encourage us to do so by facilitating our learning process. But the way the new mastering skill process is organized is against that. It is so easy to "master" a skill now that actually calling it that is a big misnomer. How can you claim to master a skill by translating only 3 or 4 sentences?

Before, the mastering process was a new set of lessons related to the topic at hand that you had to complete and gain points for. It set the challenge compatible with the notion of mastering something and enforced the necessary repetitions to get those lessons in your memory.

Now, the lessons are a small set of translations. 3 or 4 of them. These are often too hard and composed of a vocabulary never seen before. I am often forced to resort to the dictionary to translate very specific words unrelated to the topic. Sometimes, the whole sentence is unrelated to the topic. I just did one lesson where I was asked to translate "Jacques Chirac nomme Premier ministre Jean-Pierre Raffarin." in the clothing skill. Where is the clothing part?

My suggestion is a compromise: First, the algorithm should improve in order to give sentences with vocabulary and grammar that are 1) closer to what the learner has already seen in previous lessons and 2) related to the current skill he or she is studying. Second, just one translation per exercise is not enough to master a skill. There should be a set of related translations in each exercise (more or less like the lessons work) in order to help the learner in that skill.

Sorry for the long post. Hope it is helpful.

Regards, Ricardo

October 10, 2012


Thanks! This is quite helpful and we're making some changes that should address most of these things.

October 10, 2012

I'm so frustrated with this that I'm adding a post here in addition to one of the many other forums.

These are huge problems, I think for the learning process here - plus this method does not allow one to correct sometimes glaring (or not) errors which have made it to the top of the pile in a previous translation.

Not to mention that vocab retention virtually disappears. When you read or translate an entire article you get reinforcement in every passing paragraph without so much as a flashcard or a vocab list. Ironically enough, the same model duolingo uses for practice sentences.

Duolingo could combine the sentences it needs translated with others so that you have to translate both at the same time if the issue is people skipping things. Or make the ones in need of more translation worth double or triple points and extra credit for skill sets.

The other issue is that when learning to translate (I write this as someone who has been trained both in conversational language and in translation) one of the real skills is to pick up the tone of a text. When picking and choosing from tiny texts it is virtually impossible to learn that skill and it is one not just needed by translators but by conversationalists and casual readers.

October 12, 2012

I completely agree with this, but i've found a solution to simulate the old for mastering. On the right of the page, there is a "practice" button. It does the same thing as the refresh button (but don't give skill points, only general points). Before doing the "real world translation", i make sure i do a round of practice. This way, i learn the same way as before.

If I might add a suggestion, instead of translating several real sentences (since some of them are long), could there be a sort of hybrid between the old and the new way? Some exercices and then a real translation?

October 10, 2012
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