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Incomprehensible sentences

When I'm rating translations (from Spanish to English), I often come across completely incomprehensible sentences - ones that are just a seeming jumble of words, and that nobody would speak in their native English.

I always mark these 'many mistakes', but I frequently find that everyone else has marked them 'some mistakes' or 'perfect'. Even though the sentences don't make any sense. I know it feels bad not to be a bit generous, but how are we supposed to learn, and how are Duolingo supposed to get good translated articles, if people rate nonsense anything other than 'unhappy red face'.

Okay, that's not really a question, just frustration, but surely SOMEONE agrees with me?

November 15, 2012



Go ahead and give them the lowest rating. I don't think anyone sees their personal ratings. You are right. The program needs your honest ratings in order to improve.


It probably hurts those learning English more than us. I guess they should get sentences checked by native speakers of the language as to whether the actual sentence makes sense. You don't even need to be able to translate to do that.


Oh I agree with both. Now that I have finished the skill tree I am already losing interest. I have started working on other elements such as production of sentences...which we do none of here. Now that I don't have to translate sentences about soap operas, movie stars and fashion I'm looking for other things to do. Although I do want to go back over lessons hopefully, with some better understanding.


I wish it were only in the translations section that one sees sentences that make absolutely no sense.^^ There are some in the lesson exercises, too.


Yeah, I just saw one rated perfect and it was nonsense. Clearly other non native english speakers rating it. I don't know exactly how you deal with that though.


To attempt to be a bit more constructive - I wasn't just moaning about this, or asking whether I should be brutally honest. I was wondering what Duolingo can do to stop people rating complete junk as 'perfect' or 'some mistakes', which doesn't seem helpful to anyone...


This is clearly a big experiment for Duolingo. The success of their business model (selling translations) will ultimately depend upon how well the translation process works. I'm certain they are watching this carefully and constantly trying to figure out how to improve the process. The 2nd interesting problem for them will be how to retain the more advanced learners who have completed all the lessons.


Hi DonnaMarie,

I'm only about 1/4 of the way through the skill tree. I'm a bit pedantic and don't like the serious shortage of grammar on Duolingo. I spend about 1/3 of my time here (the interactivity is addictive), another third working through grammar exercise books and the final third using simple readers. It will be fascinating to see how Duolingo evolves.


I had been thinking the same Ben. I now don't feel so bad for giving honest ratings. I also get the 'no-one agreed with you' telling off too.


Duolingo is really going to HAVE TO deal with the nonsense " best translations " they really are annoying when they are missing phrases or just plain bad .


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% translations appear "choppy", and I do not often agree with the the "Final Translation". It would be better to allow us to continue to translate entire articles.


Here is a good (even if from the '80s) video series that I use. Free, 52 episodes. http://www.learner.org/resources/series75.html You get Spanish from Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.


It can get frustrating, especially when you get your grade report and don't get points because people aren't taking much time to rate other's sentences.


I agree with DonnaMarie. Just started Duolingo, and I think being an English teacher makes rating even more frustrating.


Well, actually I am seeing announcements in email of ratings for my translations. But not who rates me. So far, I am not highly rated. I expect this and I am satisfied, because it is one thing to translate, yet another to interpret-- and you might get dinged for being a little too creative or liberal with your interpretations. However, I am here at Duolingo's permission.


Brutal honesty is always the best policy!


Totally agree. Just rate as honestly as you can. The program is in its infancy, so ... eh...


I've just started with Duolingo a couple of days ago. I like the concept - doing translations reinforces language skills, so it's not just payback for the free lessons. I do agree that more thought needs to be given to quality control. I have just rated my first sentence - there were a couple of minor errors that did not affect comprehensibility at all really. I gave it 'some mistakes', but could have used some guidance. I did submit an edit - I think any raters that don't actually point out what is wrong should not be given any weight.


Yes I love using the side by side readers. You don't have to have a dictionary with you and they structure those so you feel like you have made some progress! There are a lot of other free resources. I also started reviewing the lessons I barely stumbled through on Duolingo. Starting to understand a little more with each review, if I take the time to figure out where I was wrong.


So, suggestions on "other free resources" that complement Duolingo? I was using Rosetta Stone and when the CD went kaplooey (Translate that!) I started looking for free programs beyond "Learn in your Car" type programs.


As for resources, here's a link to an article that lists a lot of resources:


Also, this site has older out of coyright material including 1st readers:


These are not quite as nice as the side by side books, but I read them in my e-reader which comes with quite a good Spanish->English (word) translation function. An they're free!

There are many hours of free audio lesson available on this site:


Another important resource for word translation, conjugation and other interesting stuff is:


Hope this helps.


One of my favorite resources for studying Japanese is the language exchange site http://lang-8.com/ . One writes journal entries in a language one is learning there, and native speakers of that language correct them sentence by sentence and make comments. One is expected to do the same for people who are studying one's own language, of course. They support many different languages, including all of the ones here at duolingo.


Thanks for the suggestions! Guess I may have to break down and buy an e-reader.


Translating entire articles worked much better for me!


Thanks for the "Destino" link. It looks like many hours of entertainment!


Just be honest - the program will have to address inaccurate ratings whether awarded inadvertently or through misplaced kindness.


Absolutely! I'm with you on this. What's the point if we aren't helping to make it closer translation into normal English. As I recall, that's what Duolingo is really there for. -silkpjs

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