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Validity of pull down menus

When I check the pull down menu for word translations I assume they are an option, if not necessarily the best or only choice. But on a number of occasions an option is declared wrong and I lose a heart and eventually have to repeat the lesson. What use are the options if you are going to judge them wrong. And to make things worse there is not reason given for declaring them wrong. Makes me mad.

November 14, 2012



The "best translation" depends on the sentence (and in real language use, on the context), so there is no way the "best translation" could be indicated on the list.

That having been said, I agree that if the site is requiring a certain word in the translation, that word should certainly be among the possible translations listed. Also, there is a problem that many sentences in the exercises are unnatural-- both the sentences in Spanish, and the "right" translations in English-- which is a very bad feature in a learning system which is designed for learning mainly by immersion.


It is frustrating! All acceptable translations from the pull down menu should be correct. If there's a best translation, that could be noted.


This has been frustrating to me as well and I, too, have learned to choose the first item. But sometimes even the first item is not accepted, which can be the case for an idiom. Spanish Duolingo seems oblivious to this problem but German Duolingo has occasionally fixed it when one still thinks he is correct. It is fixable.


SamFen, You are absolutely right that incorrect translations should not be allowed, but how is one to understand why something is incorrect? Some of the studious people who have passed through the Duolingo course very quickly have noted that outside study sources are necessary. We can always take the time to look at a dictionary to study the nuanced differences in translations of words and their applications, but one of the attractions of the Duolingo course is that it presents itself as self-contained. (There is a Carnegie Mellon on-line French course that usually tells you WHY an answer is incorrect.) And when one is starting out in this Duolingo course, it is initially unsettling to be marked wrong for a word translation that was offered in the pull down menu and seemed to make the most sense. For myself. I've just learned to accept that I'll get stuff wrong, have to repeat lessons in which I will simply memorize for the moment what is considered the acceptable translation. The learning is in the quiz itself. Still, I think this frustrating phenomenon is fixable. Isn't this a new program? We could be the guinea pigs helping to get out the bugs, if anyone is paying attention. Duolingo is a great idea.


I think Duolingo must have developed the pull down menu and the lessons sentences at different times and by different people. They were never seamlessly glued together. No one at Duolingo ran all the possible permutations for the pull down menu and the lesson sentences together. So the grading computer only knows a few original answers before the pull down menu was added and a few updated answers that are manually entered by Duolingo staff when people point out the deficiencies. My experience is you can not get creative and look down that menu list you pretty much have to stick with the first item on the list most of the time.


I agree it is frustrating as I can never be sure if it is my understanding or Duolingo that is at fault and there is no explanation as to why the option I chose is incorrect. For example the correct answer to one of the questions was something like "I must defend the children" but as the second option on the dropdown was "protect" for "defender" I chose that instead as it sounded more natural and more likely to be said. I lost a heart but am unsure why exactly.

Even worse once if I remember correctly the Spanish was a single word "Bastante!". There were only three options. I chose the top one, got it wrong and the correct answer wasn't even one of the options!


In Politics, the drop down for ayuntamiento included town/city council and town/city hall. I lost one heart when I used town council and the "correct" answers were city council or city hall. I lost a second heart when I used city council and the "correct" answer was city hall. There was no context in the sentences that made the "correct" answers fit better than my choices.

ETA: Feedback just sent a message that this would be fixed soon.


I think the real problem is that people aren't seeing that telling you you're incorrect and then telling you the correct answer is part of the learning.

I can see that it would be frustrating for someone to see a word for the very first time, use the list of options, and find that their translation is marked wrong and that a totally different word is expected. They then lose a heart and get annoyed, saying "well how was I supposed to know?"

My answer is that you weren't supposed to know, but now you do. Who cares that you lost a heart? None of us are getting paid based on the number of hearts we have left, we're all just trying to learn something. If anything, the shock of "oh wait, there's yet another meaning to that word??" may actually be even better learning. "Damn it, I said 'my woman' like the pulldown said, but it actually meant 'my wife' -- I'll have to remember that in the future!"

In any case, most real language learning isn't done with pull-downs of words, it's done by you trying to say something and it comes out wrong and then someone corrects you and you all laugh about it. In the end, even after you leave Duolingo you're going to encounter words you haven't heard before. The best skill to learn is to try and work it out from context, and, failing that, to try and stab a guess at it and be told you're wrong.


@pjreads: "It is frustrating! All acceptable translations from the pull down menu should be correct. If there's a best translation, that could be noted."

I don't think that this is correct for homonyms. Two homonym might share the exact same spelling, but mean different things, so just substituting one translation for another would give you a completely different sentence. Words have different meanings in different contexts, and one of Duolingo's jobs is to teach you those different meanings. It would be doing a poor job if it always allowed you to substitute in an incorrect translation just because a certain word could mean different things.

Off the top of my head, the only thing I can think of right now in Spanish in "mujer." If the sentence was "mi mujer," the pulldown menu for mujer might show "woman" and "wife." But translating that as "my woman" would be wrong -- it's almost always going to be "my wife" in English.

I agree with the general point that it's frustrating when the correct translation isn't <i>anywhere</i> in the pulldown. But we have to remember that the point of this is to translate sentences, not words.


Amen to the real-life corrections and laughter. In French, "un baiser" means a kiss, but the verb "baiser" means something entirely different! In Italian, there is a huge difference between pronouncing "anno" with a double "n" and "ano". I have made these mistakes (entirely on my own, without a misleading pull down menu) and been corrected, which was much more disconcerting than losing a heart. So, pjreads, I'm glad the city hall thing got fixed, and I have enjoyed this thread, caithness.


I spent over three decades as an educator, and never once did I give multiple choice questions with the correct answer omitted with the idea that a student would remember the correct answer better after they got the question wrong. IMO, positive reinforcement is a much better teaching tool.


many perfectly good sentences are called wrong... was this written by a spanish speaker? was it checked by a human? I am thinking of giving up on this because it does not translate properly and some of the words and verbs it uses are not ones that are often used ...


I would not give up qajax. I think we are merely pointing out some of the limitations of learning a language with a computer program. The fact you can detect inconsistencies with duolingo means you are learning. It does seem bone headed that some common translation are not graded correct but for duolingo to have them all would mean a bilingual expert would have to go through a lot permutations. And astronomical number in fact. Really no approach to learning a language without a real human to help you constantly is going to be any better.

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