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The Good Things About Weird Sentences

I often hear comments about the weird sentences in duolingo, but I think it is a good thing. First, it forces you to pay more attention to what you're reading or hearing, since it is unexpected. Second, the users learn to reconstruct new sentences in their heads, with the words that they already know into more useful sentences. And at last I personally think it is more fun to read ;) Have a nice day!

July 6, 2013



Spielst du mit den Elefanten? My husband asks me this question a lot now;-)!


I think everyone enjoys them, certainly doesn't deter me from learning and keeps things interesting.


The voice and some languages silent characters often makes interpreting the audio near impossible until you've gotten the same sentence a few times and then you are solving it by rote.


It sounds like you're saying dictation and the listening portions are difficult and pointless and I'd have to disagree. Yes there are times when it seems too difficult, but it's important for people to practice hearing the words at a realistic speed. There's sentence about a lion in the early French lessons that I did have to memorize, but later on when a new difficult sentence came up with the word lion I learned it much faster because I remembered struggling earlier. In a way, ALL the lessons are essentially memorization and repetition can be your best friend!


I'd say the biggest problem with dictation, especially with French, is if you receive a word that you've never heard prior to moment, you're bound to fail. If you get stuck with getting that dictation a few times, you could be stuck on a lesson for a very long time.

I'm almost certain that the devs have tried to prevent this as much as possible, but there are sometimes when dictation hounds you.


Isn't the answer usually given to you after you get the question incorrect the first time? It would be better if you weren't tested on new words until after you learned them, but after getting it wrong you've been introduced to it so there's no reason to get it wrong in the future.


Sometimes. If you're on a Mobile version it may stutter, or completely skip the correct answer. Also, there is neither full vocabulary list or conjugation rules. For me, dictation was much more of an issue early on, when I was still trying to pick up on the rules of pronunciation; now, I really only have problems with homonym like words, the occasional new word, and certain conjugations.


"Elle veut être nue." This one takes the cake! Makes me wonder what I am translating really...


I have a lot of fun reading the silly sentences sometimes! I never thought of how it forces you to learn to construct sentences in the language because so many of them are not practical. It teaches you the tools without doing all the work for you. I'm keeping a list of the funny sentences I find in the Italian lessons and will likely give it to my Italian teacher once I've completed my tree.


I agree with both antioli and DarcyHart i think we've all been through enough boring language courses. And the weird ones as antioli says keeps us on our toes.


I completely agree with you all. I had some difficulty with questions and just odd sentences in general when I first began. They can be completely backwards and messed up sometimes, but the more practice you get, the more you learn how to word your sentences correctly.


I agree. This is a fantastic site.


I'm of mixed feelings on this.

On one hand, the weird and whimsical sentences stick in my brain and help me remember certain words and phrases a lot better. I'm also glad in general that there are a number of idiomatic phrases and things thrown in as well, because that's the way "real" people talk.

But on the other hand, if you get one of the weird ones in a dictation (sound-only) question and you haven't seen it written out yet, you're doomed. Especially in French where so many words sound the same.

I've wondered if it would be possible for them to add a rule where dictation questions never precede the translation ones. It seems like they already have a rule that won't give you a Source->Target translation question if the translation includes words you haven't been exposed to yet (e.g. the French-English questions for new words always seem to happen before the English-French ones for me), so this would just be one extra little step that would help a lot.


Duo's weird sentence method is so much better than the flash-card approach used by most language apps, which will teach you 1000 words before you have a clue how to speak a sentence. We all learn differently and my best way is starting with the abstract, moving to the particular. The bizarre sentences foreground grammar and structure which is so rare with language apps. I prefer to build this scaffold before filling it in with vocabulary.


I have to disagree, its frustrating when you've already done a lesson many times and you finally got to the point where you made it to the end, your out of hearts, but thats ok if I can just answer this last question and because of some oddity in the sentence itself, you get it wrong, you know everything and had they not essentially tricked you (without wanting to), you would have passed the lesson, but no, you now have to do the whole thing again. The problem is we are learning, if I knew all the words like the back of my hand, there would be no problem, I would just be reading an odd sentence, but since I kind of know what I'm doing, kind of know what words mean, I have to be sort of play detective. It goes like this, ok I know for sure its a boy something, and it ends with a car, so its either he wants the car or got in the car, ok so this other word sounds like that word for happy, so let me is if that makes sense with the rest of the sentence, ok, ok, ok, yeah, so this should be that, and this should be that, I hear it again, it kind of makes sense, thats got to be it. Enter. Now I can do that if all the sentences make sense, because its like a forensic scientist investigating a crime scene, he makes assumptions based on laws of science and or statistical data, if we are in bizarro world and the laws of physics cease to exist he can't investigate his assumptions are based on nothing, so when sentences don't make sense I can't figure it out, I end up, wasting time, questioning my understanding of words, building false rules in my head.... In the end it becomes a moment of unlearning instead of learning. However, there really aren't that many of these sentences, they do keep you on your toes, I do like the fact its opposite to say a really easy sentence where the sentence tells you what the word is without you actually knowing the word, I just wish it was something in the middle. Conclusion is these odd sentences just make you spend extra time analyzing, relearning, unlearning, discussing, doing lessons over........some of which is beneficial, so not a huge deal.


All this is good feedback! Dankeschön.

In general, we intend to keep the amount of weird sentences minimal. If we present them, it is usually for a purpose.

It is never our goal to trick users. Rather, we are introducing some idioms or unusual sentence orders that are natural in German, but might seem weird in English. For instance, "Eine Zeitung liest sie." is a natural (not the most frequent way though) in German for which we accept many, many English translation. We hope it serves as a good way to introduce the flexibility in German sentence order. I was wondering if you referred in your example above to "etwas gerne haben", a German idiomatic expression, which uses "gerne". Memorize "etwas gerne haben" but know that "etwas" can be replaced by a specific noun. "Der Junge hat etwas gerne." = The boy likes something. Or "Der Junge hat das Auto gerne." = The boy like the car." If you want to express that the boy would like to have or own something (rather than is fond of something), it goes like this. "Der Junge möchte gerne ein Auto haben." = The boy would like to have a car." We are working on better hints for German phrases.

Please use our "report a problem" feature below sentences if you want us to look further into a sentence.


I hope I didn't come across as mean and actually insinuate Duolingo is trying to trick us, I was just expressing the type of reaction you feel, while knowing there was no intent. If Duolingo stayed the way it is, I would be fine with it, I have so many good things to say about Duolingo, that this would be a scintilla of an infinitesimal spec in comparison. I express myself as I do to be heard, its not a reflection of how I feel, because as small as a problem it may be, unless you speak nothing gets done, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

I kind of figured some of the phrases were idiomatic, and I guess its kind of hard when you want to teach a phrase common in another language and when you translated it over in reality you would need to used different or more words, but you need to teach what each word means also, so this half step translation comes out which is weird. Though it does seem that sometimes the ones who comes up with these phrases is more an expert in the other language, than in English, but that may be you guys keeping us on our toes and really testing out our knowledge of the words without the use of context. It good to hear, from those working on this, that everything is for a purpose.

Its not a big deal anyways, I'm sure most people will get to the point, as I have, where they give the questions a quick shot with minimal thought and move on, if you have to repeat, so be it, your learning and that's part of the process, you learn by repetition, and in the end I think I save time now.

By the way, I'm not learning German now, but it is my next language I plan on learning so you've giving me leg up. Also the example I gave was totally random, an improvisation if you will.


Thumbs up to all you said. How's this for frustration--last sentence, no hearts, you do the whole csi investigation, get it right then write something dumb like::':he doe' instead of 'he does' and you hear the bad bling, (because of course you have your eyes closed at this point) But we get right back in the saddle.


I think I've said this a dozen times about the French lessons: Dictation is murder, especially when we get a word that we've never seen or forgotten about. I've been stuck on some lessons for hours because of how I would get a dictation sentence before I actually got to see the words - heaven forbid that I'm working on my mobile app that day.


Here's a trick: let yourself fail on the first round. Just consider it exposure to the new vocabulary, and note the correct answers. I usually do this with a new lesson, and knowing that I just don't expect to get through that lessen eases the pressure. The next pass is always better.


I'm on the go a lot, and after mulling over this thread a lot, I think what I really would like to see, especially for the French section would be mobile vocabulary lists with pronunciation samples of every word, much like the browser version. Of course, we're getting a bit off topic, so I'll see if I can bolster support for vocab lists for mobile apps.

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