offer all grammatical/translation info up front before using in lessons
I am noticing as I go along, the tendency to introduce more vocabulary and grammar usage in lessons prior to giving any explanation of such. The only option then, is to hover and find out what it is, but at this point that is just a blurb, not an explanation as to various contexts, etc. This hover seems more useful to use just when I do not remember... but to have it be the only introductory info for new stuff seems extremely misleading and generally an extremely poor strategy for learning a language, especially given some of the poor quality sentences offered for skill training. (we eat fish IN our lunch, for example) For me, this is resulting in a lot of wasted time looking around for the information i need to actually learn, whilst making mistakes that could have been averted, resulting in my having to start the lesson over a number of times. I am not very patient with mistakes made, work having to be done over because of a lack of proper information and preparation for the task.
It's just a different, more natural, way of learning: you learn from your mistakes. Most language books use the formula you suggested, each new chapter starts with a vocab list which is followed by grammar explanations, examples and maybe some cultural context, and only once you reach the end of the chapter do you get to test yourself to see if you soaked up all of the information. Duolingo is trying something different and I like it, it feels more efficient. Don't get me wrong, I get really frustrated sometimes too, I hate losing hearts and when I see the owl cry I want to cry along with it but I'm learning, in fact I wouldn't even call it learning; I'm absorbing the language.
I was taught a few languages the traditional textbook way at school, could I explain some weird grammar points? sure! Could I still recite the conjugation tables of certain verbs ten years later? yep! but could I actually say anything beyond what you'd find on the first page of a phrase book? hell no!
I grew up speaking two languages but if you ask me to explain the grammar of either I wouldn't even know where to start because "that's just how you say it" and "it just sounds right"do I need to know why to be able to speak? nope. And amongst all the frustration and confusion of Duolingo, once in a while there will be a moment when I realise that I've developed that feeling for an aspect of one of my new languages and suddenly all the wrong answers and frustration are validated: it's working!
I'd recommend trying to persevere for a little bit longer to see if it works for you too :)
I appreciate what you are saying and I actually agree, for the most part. I've done the books and classes as well, have lots of them unused on my shelf. (I was also in immersion school for 6 weeks and frustration was high, but I definitely appreciated the approach and felt I was, as you put it, absorbing the language rather than trying to memorize it. If I could afford to do that and get truly fluent in 6-8 months, I would be all over that!) I'm not talking about that degree of dogmatic info presentation used in regular classes...just the basics that you get when you hover within the lesson, at the beginning of the lesson where it is first introduced. For example, 'sobre' is introduced in the lesson prior to where that simple "hover-over" info is offered in the beginning. That's all i am talking about. I can glance through the basic info quickly before beginning and rarely have to waste time hovering, but rather just pausing to think, to remember and place it in context in my own mind. For me, the hovering as a first introduction within the lesson, is kind of a cheat because it has now, for me, wasted an opportunity to just use it, know it.
I really dislike the extra mousing that it requires, if it had been offered in the beginning i wouldn't be hovering... makes the process inefficient for me, and i already suffer from massive typos from impatience of time-consuming typing and mousing! :-)
This style is more "natural", as you say, than typical classes , but hardly natural. If you were in a spanish-speaking home/country and having to learn through natural immersion, that would be natural learning. There is a more natural inclusion of the four elements (speak, listen, read, write) in these lessons, however other features such as the gaming context, lack of diversity in alternative/common translations, and lack of speaker variation, may or may not be at all useful for a whole lot of learners. Those are all significant differences from "natural" language learning. Yes, of course we learn from our mistakes... honest mistakes,... however this system sets us up to require a particular process that is clearly (according to other responses) interfering with some learning style processes. It seems an easy fix to me, to simply put the same info available with hovering, at the beginning of that lesson. If others' styles are interfered with by looking at that info, they can easily move into the lesson without even a glance at the bottom of the page where this info always is. But I do not have the option of the more efficient and enjoyable process for me, which would be to have a quick look, then go at the lesson without relying on the hover function at all.
And I would add, that this entire tree is nearly all review material for me. I have not used Spanish for several years, but nothing here is totally mysterious to me, which may actually be a big part of the problem. Some of the vocabulary choices and "way of phrasing" choices are not common usage. (I still have trouble remembering their word for sandwich because I have NEVER once heard a spanish speaker/teacher use it! But the common use word is treated as a mistake) A variety of speakers throughout the lessons, instead of just the one very formal woman speaker, would be more realistic for listening skills. Personally, i don't care at all about the gaming aspect. The hearts and owls become super annoying when it is a matter of a typo, or a quick hit on the return key, and suddenly this stupid owl appears and I have to start the whole lesson over. I would rather make the mistake, discover why it is a mistake, take a few more stabs at it and move on. But no.......... That is definitely not fun for me. And if I am this annoyed now, at the beginning of the tree..... hmmmm, not sure how the later stages with less familiar material will go.... might flip my lid--LOL!
All that said, I think duo is a great site for beginners to just get going and try to have some fun learning, get casual travelers speaking and understanding well enough to communicate and really enjoy more, and for reviewing. Do I think it is the road to fluency? No. Do I think there are glaring problems with teaching the language in ways that are not used commonly, tho they be 'correct'? Yes. Do I think it is well worth one's time, especially when one is lacking in funds for a more thorough program? Yes. Do I believe that this program could develop into a more thorough one and be fabulous? Yes.... I guess that's why we all comment!