Duolingo Chat Rooms
It would be really cool if there was a chat room for each language, that way people can use what they learn in Duolingo :) Also, if there were private chat rooms between two people so that we can communicate better with each other ;D Just as a step further towards making Duolingo the ultimate language learning software (which i already think you are ;) )
Also, if there was a dictionary for each language. That would be really neat too.
An idea that occurred to me reading this, is a specialized chat room. You know how when your at some website either selling something or say a credit card company, if you linger for too long a pop up appears to ask if you want help and you get answers answered through a chat. Well I was thinking if you wanted to you can sign up to help people (I would) and then you could be that pop up person that help, but instead of you popping up to them they can popup to you!!!
So for example you can sign up to help others and since you don't want to be bothered too much you could set it so you only get asked once an hour, or three times an hour, or once a day, unlimited, etc. and then say any lesson you've passed, or maybe you choose which you feel comfortable helping, you can help others in if they have a question in that lesson. Then Duolingo can give informants coins when the inquirer presses say a "question answered" button.
The same restrictions should be placed on the one who needs help. They should only be allowed to ask questions once an hour or day, that way your encouraging them to still ask questions through the discussions board and/or Google it and you save the chat questions for things that aren't getting answered. This can change if and when Duolingo sees more people want to answer questions than there are questions being asked. And maybe you punish the inquirer, by taking away coins if they don't summarize what they learned in that sentences discussion board, for others to benefit.
So heres how I see it. Each question of each lesson has a button you press if you want to chat. If you have a question and your within your allotted question quota you press the button and randomly someone is picked among those who haven't already answered all the questions they want to answer and are knowledgeable in that lesson and then wherever they are in Duolingo, translating article, doing a lesson, reviewing vocab, on the discussion boards, etc., will get a popup with the question.
I know I don't necessarily want to roam aimlessly through discussion board entries trying to find questions I can help with, but I don't mind being bothered randomly at a frequency I choose to help others. I also know, just today, while reviewing an old lesson that went from gold to green because my "strength" went down, I wanted to ask a question and found my question was already in there, asked by ME and it still had not been answered and it'd been two weeks!!! So it would have been nice to be able to ask that question through chat.
Interesting idea! It would need to be modified and tested out I'm sure, but the only part I can see being a bad component straight away is the one about punishing users for not spreading the knowledge they get. It would place too much of an onus on them. For one, the help they get might turn out not to be very helpful (either because the informant didn't do very well or because the inquirer realized they didn't really need much help). It also might be that they aren't fluent enough in any of the languages widely used on the discussion boards, or don't feel comfortable explaining things in even their native tongue(for example, there ought to be fairly young Duolingo users). This would make users anxious about asking for help and probably make the interaction less enjoyable.
I feel unsure about the informants gaining coins. Some users might sign up to be informants just for the coins and not really care about helping the inquirers, so maybe it's best for Duolingo to not give out any rewards, relying instead on the natural reward of the satisfaction that informants gain from helping. Alternatively, some kind of inquirer rating system could be established. However, I think that would make the whole thing too convoluted and detract from the effective and beautiful simplicity in Duolingo. It also greatly increases the risks of user disputes and dissatisfaction on the informants' side.
Like I said though those were the only two things I could identify as problematic, your post is very good food for thought :)
I don't think chat rooms would take away from, Immersion time, because if your learning a new language you're no where near being able to chat. Chatting is fast paced, you really need to know a language to be able to chat. Now if you could chat you would still go to the Immersion section because thats were learning new words takes place and is easy and accessible. It somewhere you can go to calmly review sentences, hover over unknown words, make sense of the words and the sentence, and in the end make a difference. The chat rooms would only be a solidification of words you know, not a learning experience for new ones and thats what we are all here to do. Plus chat rooms would bring in people who already know the language and while their here they can do some translations.
Personally, I think that the best way to learn a foreign language is to speak it as much as you can (preferably with native speakers). As I experienced, a lot of people learn grammar well and have a pretty decent vocabulary, but still when engaged in a real conversation they can understand much more than they can say. This is why I think that the chat rooms are actually a necessity. You need to be able to practice the knowledge that you have. Obviously, beginners and basic users don't need them but for intermediate and advanced users chat rooms are a natural next step in the learning process. Speaking allows users to get more comfortable and confident in communication and it is also a great way to practice pronunciation.