I don't know if this is the right place to put this, but I'm on my second time doing this module. The first time, it opened by asking me for the translations of "student," "job," and "team," none of which I'd seen or heard before. And then it asked a whole pile of dictation questions, for unfamiliar vocabulary. It was so discouraging and demoralizing that I decided to redo the module just so that I could say something in the comments, because it struck me as very bad design. But when I did it over again, the questions were entirely different: they introduced vocabulary before testing me on it. If these were the questions I'd done the first time, it would have been fine. I would have had a much more positive experience. I know that Duolingo USUALLY lets us see a word before it makes us use it or spell it. If there was a way to make it ALWAYS do that in the lessons (with gloves off for practices), it would be really cool.
That design is very much intentional. Duolingo’s philosophy is to have people learn languages inductively rather than deductively; vocabulary and grammar are learned through exposure rather than through instruction. Thus, the luck of the random number generator caused you to receive translation exercises for words that you hadn’t previously been exposed to. There’s no reason to be discouraged or demoralized by this approach; when presented with unfamiliar words or grammar, the intent is that you’ll learn such items by repeated exposure to them.
Testing me on something before I've had any exposure, though, guarantees that I'm going to fail, and lesson design that sets a learner up to fail on the first try isn't really good pedagogy--let alone lesson design that sets a learner up to fail on the first five tries, like happened here. 99.9% of the time, modules are set up to teach the vocabulary first, either with pictures or with hints, and I think that's an excellent system. But in terms of both enjoyment and educational value, the other 0.1% is somewhere between licking a cactus and slamming my thumb repeatedly in a car door.
Again, that is intentional — just as young children aren’t discouraged or demoralized by not recognizing a new word upon first hearing it, but learn that new word through repeated exposure to it. Lack of initial recognition ≠ failure.
The skill tree design here only ensures that words in an earlier skill will tend to be introduced before words in a later skill. A random number generator determines which exercises are presented in which order for any particular skill, and I still see discussions on exercises which I’ve never received. If the course presents a particular exercise and an incorrect answer is given for that exercise, the system will tend to present that exercise again, which provides the repeated exposure that an inductional learning system relies upon. If you find that as enjoyable as licking a cactus or slamming your thumb repeatedly in a car door, then perhaps you’d find a deductive learning system to be more to your taste than an inductive learning system; unfortunately, Duolingo does not offer a deductive option.
I don't mind getting things wrong, and I don't mind repetition. If I did, I wouldn't have gotten very far. But beginning a lesson with the kind of translation questions I got is like handing out the syllabus on the first day of classes and then delivering a pop quiz. It's not fair, it's poor design, and it sets a learner up for failure after failure, and those things I mind very much.
When a pop quiz on unknown material in a class affects your grade, it’s unfair. However, there are no grades in the courses here, just as there’s no grade for a young child learning a language; “fairness” is not an issue. There is no failure in a class without grades, unless class participation is required and not provided; the same applies to the courses here. Lack of initial recognition is not failure; lack of initial recognition is solved in an inductive course by repeated exposure to the material. Getting things wrong initially is part of the learning process in an inductive course; it does not signify failure in any way.
I'm not sure that I understand your point. You say "they introduced vocabulary before testing me on it", but the only option Duolingo has for introducing you to vocabulary is to "test" you on it. (Duolingo exercises aren't "tests")
If your complaint is that you got "Type what you hear" questions with words that you hadn't encountered yet, even in written form, then, yes, it's pretty hard to get the exercise right, given that there are no hints on "Type what you hear" exercises, but it's really just the luck of the draw, as scilling points out, but the teaching method of Duolingo relies on repetition - it is expected that you will get things wrong the first time that you encounter them.
Remember also that in real life, you usually don't have the opportunity to look something up when you first encounter it in speech, whereas looking up a word when you encounter it in writing is usually at least an option.
In real life, though, there's almost always context to help out, and other people to ask if one gets absolutely stuck.
The "type what you hear" questions for introducing vocabulary are annoying, and I've objected to them before (I don't think they ever happened in Norwegian until they redesigned the tree, and I don't ever remember them in French), but the first time I did this module the first three questions were "Translate: student," "Translate: job," and "Translate: team." Straight up vocabulary questions, no context, no hints, and no prior exposure to the words they were asking for. These are questions that usually appear at the end of a module, or as random questions in a practice (and I have trouble thinking of them as exercises rather than tests because the goal of this kind of question is not to use or develop what one knows, but purely to measure it for credit). This time they were at the beginning of the module, and every iota of my experience as both a teacher and a learner says that they have no place there.
When I did the module over again, it introduced the words in the usual multiple choice format, with picture hints. That's the way a lot of vocabulary is introduced, and it's a good way to introduce it; and it can't be completely random, because it never shows up later in a module, or in the practices.
"Translate:" questions all come with hints - just hover your mouse over the word. The strength of the word won't increase as much as it would if you answer it without asking for a hint, but the only exercises with no hint at all are "Type what you hear" exercises, which reflects the real world - it may be more convenient to listen to podcasts in Irish than to watch videos, but podcasts don't have subtitles, so you'll probably learn more by watching videos when you first start out.
These aren't the window-to-window translations that come with the mouse-over hints. I love those, those are fine. These are a rarer kind of question that just say, "Translate: [English word, perhaps with an article]" above, with a long window underneath. In the languages where nouns have genders, there'll be radio buttons that let you pick which version of "the" or "a" to use with it, but in Irish it's just the long window.
A friend has suggested that what happened was a coding error. If it was an error, that's okay. Frustrating, but okay.
A superscript /ˠ/ represents velarization of the preceding consonant. If you’re North American, compare the English L sound of “la la la” (non-velarized, or “clear”) with the L sound in “full” (velarized, or “dark”) — note the position of your tongue when you pronounce both types of L.
A superscript /ʲ/ represents palatalization of the preceding consonant. Compare the usual sound of N with Spanish Ñ; that hint of an English Y sound in Ñ is the palatalization.
Thanks for the replies. I can feel the velarization of the letter L, but it'll take some practice to apply that to other consonants. From the audio here and on focloir.ie, it sounds like the velarization comes out sounding a little bit like a w-glide that is actually velar. Is that the result for other velarized consonants as well?