Offer "emergency travel crash courses"
I think Duolingo could attract even more people by offering a vacation/holiday/travel survival crash course track, maybe as an alternative entry route in parallel to the current beginner lessons. Tagline: Visiting a foreign country soon? Don't know the language? We'll help you out.
I recently went to a conference in France and noticed that i had forgotten nearly everything i learned in school. I jumped into Duolingo frantically learning ... about black cats, dogs and apples.
I turned to Duolingo cause I somehow had expected to learn the "most useful 10 %" first, which to me are less about cats and dogs, but more about travelling: directions, stations, airport, train, bus, taxi, hotel, shop, food, drinks, restaurant, emergencies...
I know it's maybe not the traditional way to learn a language, but definitely highly rewarding. Most of this important stuff is currently only covered in the later lessons after the 2nd shortcut. Way too late for me. I got the emergency vocabulary list somewhere online and read through the about 300 key sentences/phrases a couple of times before and during the flight, done.
Still, Duolingo has caught me and I love it, which is why i opened this discussion. I think a few simple lessons and rearrangements as the above would have huge effects for the immediate practicality of Duolingo. Also i think it would have an overall positive effect on translation throughput for Duolingo.
I have a feeling duolingo is also trying to teach you the things you would teach a baby first, eg animals at the zoo, phrases like thank you and saying please etc.. Then they teach you a lot about sentence structure (all the small words like: and, the, some, of, etc) and once your brain becomes accustomed to the language then you can get some more useful things. (notice the concepts at the end of the tree not really things small children know) - This is how I see it, not sure if its right, but that's how it seems to me :)
I think a big issue is that fact that Duo's purpose is to make money by selling translations for the web, not creating capable tourists, not emphasizing listening/speaking. And there is no shortage of cheap/free stuff out there aimed directly at the tourist market, loaded with stuff about directions, stations, airport, train, bus, taxi, hotel, shop, food, drinks, restaurant, emergencies...
We're interested in building the best language learning site and app in the world. Right now, we're working on some new ways to practice listening/speaking. We'll keep you posted.
It's been a year, any word on this?
Loyalty wise I used to use Duolingo a lot, but need other tools when just wanting to learn the basics: 1-5, salutations, thank you's, time reference, and "where is xx" etc.
Having to go through an entire lesson plan on animals I will never say is not useful in those situations.
I love Duolingo (and even wrote a blog last year about how great of a product is was.) So when I realized I was getting my language help elsewhere I figured it was time for a comment to the product team. I really wish I could continue being a daily/weekly Duolingo user for all the inbetween languages.