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Mobile lessons are much easier than browser lessons...

Something I've noticed over time is that the mobile (iOS, anyway) version of Duolingo is MUCH easier than the browser version—primarily because the browser version requires the majority of the answers to be typed in, whereas the mobile version has a word bank where only a very limited number of words would make any sort of sense in the sentence!

I'm wondering if there's a way to make the lessons more comparable. Even though now when I get frustrated in the browser (because that voice in Portuguese is still SUPER mechanical, not at all like a human voice or even a super high quality generated voice) it's nice to switch to the mobile version to soothe my ego, I feel like the mobile version is lacking, or practically cheating on my part, because it's just nowhere near as challenging.

July 5, 2013



More than two years ago I did the mistake of updating the Duolingo app in my Android. I've regretted it ever since, and the single reason for that is the regression of the compulsory word bank (and in this contex, I'm also referring to the "translate this word" with a choice between 3 words of the other language.). I don't think about the words, about their translation, and the whole process of recalling the meaning (and as a consequence, strengthening this neural pathway) is avoided by the much faster process of looking at the words that pop into my eyes. I hardly strengthen neural connections and don't practice grammar (inclinations (nominative, accusative, dative, etc.), plural vs. singular, gender, defining articles etc.), and don't practice spelling. But there is another significant result: I seldom err. While this sounds like a nice thing, this doesn't mean I magically became proficient at German (or any other language) due to upgrading. I got to the point that I cover the bottom part of my phone when I press "next question" just to allow my mind to think without being forced to cheat. And sometimes I get it wrong, but it isn't reflected to the app, as I then look and click the correct answer. One of the great benefits of Duolingo is that it tracks how well one knows each word, and (ideally) repeats them if one gets them wrong. It doesn't get that information anymore, and doesn't strengthens weak sentences or words. Sure, when I use the word bank, I can finish exercises faster, but in the end I have a feeling of frustration, instead of that of accomplishment, and with a much shakier grip of the material. It's important to note that adding more words to the word bank is far from the solution.

The simple, agreeable solution I strongly recommend, is to have two additional options in the settings, just like the ones for hearing and speaking exercises: "Use foreign-language word bank" (yes or no); and "Use source-language word bank". That way, the users who want to have a quick easy quiz (or at least, those who don't want to be tested on spelling in their source language) can use it, and the users who use Duolingo mainly in the app, will have the option of a more difficult and efficient version.

Duolingo is great, and I love it. It (understandably) is proud of, and loudly advertises the scientific research showing that using its services is more effective than a university course. Nevertheless, I highly doubt the students in this research spent a half of that time clicking the right words from a counter-productive word bank.


On mobile...

1) Fewer errors from basic typos. It's crazy that a stupid typo, often in the native language, will ding a full heart on a long sentence. 2) More spoken lessons which while useful are basically freebies. On the desktop I have to put very unnatural pauses in and sometimes it just stops working all together. 3) I find that understanding the computer and spoken exercises are much easier with my iPhone and headphones.


On the desktop

1) I can cheat by doing a timed practice, get one point, and keep my streak up 2) I can do "immersion" exercises. 3) I can read/write comments as well as report problems. This alone is a huge help.


Just ran into it again. Same headphone between iPhone and iMac... iMac will sometime REFUSE to understand a spoken passage to the point of having to turn off the microphone to get past it. Even cheating by feeding the audio from the computer back through the mic, and it sound fine on playback, results in a "can't understand you" error. Very frustrating and makes the spoken passages on desktop impossible sometimes. Never have I had to skip a spoken passage on iOS.


Re: mobile spoken lessons, I haven't had any of those, because I've been trying to get my Portuguese level even with my French and Spanish, and I guess NO spoken stuff for Portuguese has been implemented yet... But in the French/Spanish spoken exercises on the desktop, I usually just find that I need to speak more slowly or get closer to the mic.

I usually practice when I'm done with work late at night—so if I practice from 11 PM-12:01 AM, I can get two days of "streak". I'm not totally sure I get the big deal with streak, but hey, if it motivates people, then so much the better.

I agree that it's really great to be able to read and write comments and report problems on the desktop. I wish there were a more straightforward way of doing it on the mobile, similar to the newish dropdown tabs on the desktop during the feedback portion.


I like going back and forth between them and actually appreciate the distinction. I'll often take a first pass at a new lesson on the phone, to prep me for the online version, which involves more effort because of the typing. I always expect to need to repeat lessons several (or many) times—it can be frustrating, but it's how we install those neural pathways into the brain. Because I do the phone lessons to relax or kill time when in transit or have an odd moment to spare, I like the fact that they can be short and sweet. The contrast between the two lesson styles is an advantage. I set my phone app language to German in order to make it easier to deal with special characters, and that helps, too. In German the capitalized words are not necessarily the ones at the beginning of the sentence, so a capital letter isn't necessarily a clue.


Re: capitalization and German—that's a special case! German is the only language that capitalizes its nouns, so in any other language, it's a dead giveaway. ;)

We may be coming from two different backgrounds, which is totally fine, but I use Duolingo in general to relax. Language-learning is a hobby of mine, and I'm relatively fluent in Spanish, French, and German prior to any Duo experience. I know that I'm more motivated to do things when there's an element of challenge to them, so if I'm able to just logic out a sentence ("Oh, here's a multiple choice question where I need a feminine singular pronoun and there's one fem.sg. and one feminine plural and one masculine singular pronoun? Well, I guess I don't need to read the rest of the answers") rather than practice actually remembering the basics and digging down into those neural pathways, it becomes less fun for me and more of a chore. Granted, there are days that I'll lie in bed with my phone and go through a few topics, but it feels more like going through the motions than it does to do the same thing on my computer, where I have to put some thought into typing out the correct articles and gender endings.

But I'd be willing to accept that I'm maybe not the ideal market for the /lesson/ aspect of Duolingo—even if that feels super limiting and makes me feel disappointed.


Also, regarding feedback on mobile—it's easy to just send a message via the feedback link. I so appreciate the fact that the owl does get back to me and acknowledge feedback! Also, one cool thing about the mobile app—on my phone I take screen shots of sentences that I get wrong. I then go back and type them into a word doc for practice, or even write them out in longhand in a notebook. This greatly increases my ability to get those questions right when they come up again.


I agree. I propose the wordbank include typos and more options! :-) there is also the pronounciation functionality missing from the mobile app! Maybe a correction should be added to the mobile version or


Hi, 6 years later and I feel exactly opposite. Browser edition gives me wayyyy shorter phrases than on mobile

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