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Changes to Translation Section Made Duolingo Irrelevant to Me

I joined Duolingo a few months ago, in order to learn German. I have, in fact, already studied German in Germany in the past, and mostly just wanted to keep my German alive and improving.

Because of this situation, I adopted the following usage pattern: I used the site mainly for the translation option, attempted to reach at least 100 points in translation every day, (i.e. I used the point system as a basis for self-motivation) while occasionally taking the lessons, which I found less helpful than the actual real-world German.

This worked very well for a couple of months, I enjoyed translating the articles, as well as reading the contents of some of them, and recommended Duolingo to all my friends.

Then came the changes. At first, I found that I wasn't able to translate an entire article anymore, as many of the sentences in it were "100% complete". This made translation of entire articles very annoying, because reading the sentences I wasn't able to translate and trying to fit them in the text I am translating seemed like a fruitless waste of time.

Then, came the grade report system, which denied me of the instant points granted by translating, an effectively disabled my self-motivation system. After trying to adapt to this for a couple of days, I stopped using Duolingo altogether.

I believe my first use pattern should be very beneficial for Duolingo's cause, and I find it very odd that it should be discouraged as much as it was. As a replacement I suggest a "veteran" or "graduate" mode, that people who have completed their entire learning course, or a lot of it, would be able to choose, in which all the changes I mentioned above are undone - specifically:

  • graduates will be able to translate entire texts, even sentences that are "100% complete" (and maybe their translations should be weighed as more reliable)

  • graduates will receive points immediately after translating sentences correctly (checked by the previous matching system or whatever method)

  • graduates should perhaps have new options, such as pick and translate their own pages from the web or review and assist beginners in some way.

I really hope this issue is addressed in some way, since I really enjoyed using Duolingo before the changes, and I would like to continue helping to translate the web.

November 14, 2012



very sorry to hear this. As far as I can tell, the underlying problem is that we currently do not have enough German content to translate. If we had more you would be able to translate entire documents. This is definitely something where you should see progress in the mid-term.

Also, we're considering a "leveling" system where certain qualified users have special rights, similar to what you suggested. Please take into account that Duolingo is work in progress and as a small company with limited (human) resources we can only do so much in every week.

I hope you will give us another chance and that we will see you here again!


guys, it's changed. please try out the new system.


I too feel the same frustration about the new translation system. There are many times now that I find a page to translate that is only 2 hours old, and yet already there are no sentences under "100%" available to translate.

And just like alfonsofernan says, when you only get to translate 1 sentence out of say 5, you lose the cohesiveness of the article and thus the interest in it as well.

martend also has a point that I hadn't thought of, about the teams self-promoting each other. I hadn't noticed that, but I've definitely noticed "best translation" and the final translation being something that is clearly incorrect. It may be word for word with the German, but with the idioms and colloquialisms, it's just not proper English and therefore not a good translation. Sometimes I find the final result almost impossible to make sense of they're so bad.

Again, adding to what martend said, as the site grows not only will there be more instance of groups coming in and trying to 'game' the system, but it will mean that it will become harder and harder to find sentences to translate as there are more people competing to get there first. If at the moment there are perhaps 200 people translating and it's hard to find something available two hours after it goes up, can you imagine what it would be like if there are 200,000 people using the site?


You make some excellent points here. On a related note, I've noticed that the grading system in German is being abused by at least one person (who either has several accounts, or the problem could stem from a group of three or more people working as a 'team' giving each other 'perfect' and 'some mistake' scores), where the translation is clearly incorrect in more than one respect. This type of thing is detrimental to the whole idea of Duolingo, so the staff ought to have a long hard think about this to see what they can do to prevent it. I think that as the site grows, this type of abuse may become more widespread, and it would be good to invent 'checks and balances' against it, perhaps by using a 'senior'/'veteran'/'graduate' system like the one suggested by alfonsofernan above.


Your hypothesis of possible groups abusing the grade system is very plausible for me. I have already seen social sites plagued by groups of users supporting each other. In my opinion you should not see whose is the translation you are grading (maybe you should know later)


I like the ideas; I feel the same frustration.


I would also like to throw my support to alfonsofernan. I had the same '100 points per day' system. I found translating the sentences fun. I was learning about the topic as well as learning a language. It was efficient. One sentence after the next.

I am not enjoying the process anymore. The new system of having others rate the translations for the translator to earn the point can get a bit frustrating. There are people not spending enough time reading the translations to properly rate them. I am also finding that one person's English is not the same as another person's English. Why should my poor grammar mean that someone else does not earn points?

The new system is also inefficient. It takes too long to even find sentences to translate. I also don’t feel like I am enjoying the articles when I am only translating one or two sentences rather than the whole article.

I have pretty much stopped translating sentences. When I am forced to wait for my ‘report’, the motivation is gone. I am now doing vocabulary and practice. It takes longer to earn points, but the main goal is to learn and I am. It seems counterproductive to Duolingo when I am not helping to translate.


It concerns me a lot that this mayor mistake, discouraging a lot of valuable users, after weeks of complaining by so many different users, still not has been undone.

I too stopped translating and I stopped recommending this site to friends. For too many people this new system is not working.


Just checking back in today to see if anything has changed with the translation system. I was doing huge amounts of translation several months ago and really enjoying it, and when the new system was put in place which closed off sentences that were "100% translated", within a few weeks I stopped using DuoLingo. I'm so disappointed to see that this is still the way it is. I'm still checking in every once in a while, but I'm losing hope...


As I have indicated in the past, I have learned Spanish through Duolingo, having tried a number of other methods. As such, I am truly grateful for the efforts of Duolingo.

But, I too set daily translation goals that I now have difficulty in achieving.I am interested in hearing more about your "leveling system.


This sounds like a really major issue for Duolingo. It might be worth putting high on you guys' priority list. I love Duolingo, too! And I'm telling my friends about it. I definitely want it to continue to be viable!

I'm learning French on Duolingo right now and am not really enjoying the translation stuff that much. I'm a new user, and so I didn't experience things before the changes. But I could definitely see how the things mentioned by these users would really help the site. And as someone who already speaks German, I would be far more motivated to help translate if there were articles like the guys said above!

Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in.


I'm glad others have had the similar issue. I already speak French, German, and Spanish, so I had been practicing them by doing translations—but now I come back after a couple months and the whole thing has changed! I think it's more useful to go back to the old system; then there's less of a "need" for people to game the system for their translation points, and the folks like us can continue to help ourselves by translating full articles. One sentence taken out of context doesn't help any measurable language learning because the context is crucial to what the words themselves mean! On top of that, how are you able to determine when something is "100% translated"? Shouldn't that be determined by some algorithm that works in conjunction with the user ratings to find a set of sentences that agree in their translation?


There is a related issue appearing on the Spanish tab addressing incomprehensible translations receiving perfect scores. I think it is related to the larger problem with this new format. Some bad translations are receiving Perfect Ratings, when they should be receiving needs work or too many mistakes. On the other end of the scale, I have rated several translations for the same sentence as "perfect", because they "fit" the context and were perfectly readable, even though my own translation might be slightly different, e.g., I might say "rising tide levels", instead of someone else's "the rise in the level of the tides". Neither is more RIGHT. Both fit the context and are readable.. This issue is magnified when we can only translate "one sentence or two" - I cannot match the style and tone of several different translators using the current method. Therefore, the results on “100% completed final translations” appear "choppy", and I do not often agree with the "Final Translation". It would be better to allow us to continue to translate entire articles, and find a method of merging the best to satisfy Duolingo’s translation requirements. My article and sentence translation numbers have also dropped significantly.


I agree with arethusa. I don't like the new system, either. The whole point of translating articles is that I could compare them to others who have already translated them.


Agree with everyone else, (bring back full text translations please). If you need more ratings offer a complimentary rating exercise for the text one day afterwards which THEN also shows the other's sentences (+ your own ones, editable). People will want to take it because: Repetition is learning (new words used & mistakes made), comparison available, provide text field to give each other feedback?, one day after the brain has 'cleared up' on problems, content etc. of the text, more thorough understanding. Also: Make the rating easier & quicker by greying out the matching parts of the sentences and arranging them clearly...


BCEagle, while they still do have the annoying closing off of sentences to be translated after only a few people have tried them (and limiting the number of other's translations you can see is also counterproductive IMHO), they have improved the number of available translations considerably. Now there is a new passage to be translated every hour resulting in lots of choice for what to translate. Take another look and hopefully you'll see the improvement.


Thanks severin, and just to let you know, you guys HAVE been doing a lot. I've seen literally, dozens of my suggestions incorporated into duolingo so I know you guys pay attention. (BTW, I'm assuming that others must have had the same suggestions and I'm just thinking along the same wavelength - I'm sure I'm not that important in the scheme of things).

It's just that the thing about the number of available passages to translate has been going on for a while now and it is a really important one. You don't want to alienate new members because once you lose them, you'll never get them back. So if somebody has joined and then run into this particular wall, you want to try to keep them interested - and giving them things to translate is one of the best and easiest ways to keep them once they've mastered a majority of the lessons.

BTW, one of the newest major changes that I'd suggested is the ability to PM others. Thanks, that was a good improvement.


@severin Thank you for responding; I am definitely going to check once in a while whether the site is relevant for me again, due to more translatable material or any other change, because it was very helpful before. Moreover, I'd be glad to help develop it if possible (I'm rather knowledgeable in algorithms, and I more or less "speak Python as a first language"; however, I understand you're based in Carnegie Mellon and I'm half a world away)

@everyone else: I'm glad to know I'm not the only freak who doesn't like the change, and I agree with virtually all the points others have raised.


Looking in subjects of history, geography and science, I quickly found: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fokker_Dr.I








While I'm not sure what the criteria are for something to be used for translation, or what is entailed in preparing a selection for translation, nor how much staff there is to do such work, there shouldn't be a shortage of material. Some of these articles look quite interesting too.


I completely endorse most of the comments about the recent changes. It is much more interesting to be able to complete a whole page of translation and therefore understand the subject matter better, than to search about for a couple of sentences. It's certainly not a change for the better in my view. Otherwise good though!


This is getting bad. I've now tried a dozen different translation selections, some of them added as recently as just 2 hours ago, and the oldest no more than 2 days, and I haven't found one sentence that hasn't already been completed so isn't available any more.


@ Severin. As far as I'm concerned I don't think it has much to do with the lack of content. Before the changes it didn't matter if someone else had translated a section or not because it could be translated again. Now we're locked out very quickly. I have been thoroughly enjoying learning French and German with Duolingo and I have seen many errors I've pointed out fixed. Also I do understand there are logistical problems but - and it is a big but - the change to the translation system has made it useless as far as I'm concerned. So now, from doing 3-4 translations in both French and German a week, I'm doing almost none. I feel guilty but in both languages when I go to the translation page I'm faced with mostly (and often badly) translated articles. It's frustrating as I think I was gaining a lot from translating. Now I'm simply testing out but this doesn't introduce colloquialisms and current usages which are a vital part of a language


I just started learning German here, and as part of the first lesson, I had to rank some translations. A suggestion I have is to weight the points given for perfect/some mistakes/incorrect translation rankings according to level because at my current level of understanding German, my translation rankings are really more of a tool to see if I'm correctly "guessing" what the real translation is.


I, too, have some of these frustrations with the new system, but from a little different perspective. I started learning Spanish a few months ago but didn't know enough to feel comfortable doing the translations for a while. I had just gotten to the point where I had learned enough to handle the translations better, and had developed the same system of doing a hundred points a day, when the translation system changed. Now I feel much the same as Alfonsofernan.

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