https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Suggestion: Bonus lessons that are essentially stories.

Studies show that the way to more easily learn new vocabulary in whatever language is...?

  1. Lists of similar words, such as verbs, objects, professions, as duolingo does it.
  2. Random lists of words.
  3. Words that follow a theme, such as frog, pond, wet, green, lily pad. These are essentially stories.

Which do you think the answer is? It turns out that people learn by type 1 about 10% slower than random. But they learn by type 3 about 40% faster than random. (So we assign the time to learn words from a random list as our norm.) So why not take advantage of this boost in the way the human brain works and have bonus lessons that are essentially short stories? They don't have to be elaborate. It's just that the story is sort of the fundamental unit of human understanding, and our brains are hardwired to remember all the features of narratives very well.

So for duolingo, it could work just the way it does now, except that the sentences would together form a short connected narrative. They don't have to be in any particular order, even, as the human mind is very good at making the connections there (as shown by the movie Pulp Fiction, for instance).

Lola goes out to eat dinner with friends. They settle on Chinese after much discussion. She's vegetarian so ends up having tofu, which is not her favorite. Turns out, though, that this place has a phenomenal chef. Her tofu is wonderful, not at all rubbery and tasteless like she has had before. The conversation was great, too. Her friend Andre was telling them about his programming project, and his workplace sounded like a super fun place to work. He had them laughing so hard they almost fell into the aisles, and the waiters were dashing around looking alarmed, which only made it that much funnier. Lola dropped her fork from laughing so hard, and had to use chopsticks. She managed okay but it gave her writers' cramp.

Here we've covered a lot of vocab and several tenses, and it's all very memorable. What do you think of this suggestion?

February 15, 2015

51 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Louiswu15

I think it's a good idea, Tatiana. The only thing I would add is that perhaps an audio narration could be added to practice listening skills.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Audio narration would be a very good touch. I agree!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joaopimentel

I think this would be great to improve our listening skills. Give us a small audio narration followed by a set of questions with multiple-choice answers. This could be bought in the lingot store of course :)

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

My vision is that the duolingo lessons would be sentences just as they are now, only taken together, the sentences of a single lesson, or maybe a whole module, would constitute a narrative. Then the new words in the lesson, highlighted in the same fashion as they are now, would all occur within the mental context of a storyline. I think science shows that it would be tremendously easier to learn things that way than in disconnected sentences, no matter how clever or fun. So fine, keep "I am a penguin" but add to it in the same lesson other sentences with perhaps fanciful episodes about my life at the Madrid Zoo or in the arctic, or wherever I live out my penguin life. And the sentences can be chosen to highlight whatever grammatical or lexical structures need to be taught. Can you picture duolingo like that?

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joaopimentel

Yes I can and it's a great idea actually, but it's not easy to tell a story with very limited vocabulary. For this to work the courses couldn't be organized in themes, like Food, Animals, Future or Pronouns. How can you tell a story using only the subjunctive? ^^

If they ever create advanced courses then they should definitely use narrative like you suggest.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

I think it means that the additional modules could not be structured as they are now, by type of word or a particular verb tense or whatever. Instead, all the same lessons could spring up naturally from the narratives.

Mr. Baggins sat down in the passage and wiped his brow with his lovely red silk handkerchief. "I don't know, if he let out one shriek like that at a dicey moment, the dragon would find us and toast us like marshmallows" Balin said. "He looks more like a grocer than a burglar."

So in this short passage here we have simple past tense, subjunctive future tense, two professions, an idiom or two, seven verbs, four or five objects and an abstract noun or two all mixed together. We cover a lot in a short time and it's lots more memorable.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joaopimentel

Not only is it more memorable, but also much more exciting. Instead of telling random stories you could also tell the history and culture of the countries that speak the language.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Deliciae

I don't think it's fair to compare what Duolingo does to a vocabulary list, because even if there is no narrative in the sense that you're looking for, there is a context. You're not just handed a list of 10 similar words to memorize.

However, I agree that adding an overarching narrative to the the Duolingo skills would be beneficial, and I'd love to see that implemented to a larger degree (some courses actually have elements of it already). Great suggestion!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

It's true that there is more context given in duolingo than just a list. But really, it isn't a whole lot of context, much of the time. A good many of the questions are simply translate this word or definite article + a noun. And many of the sentences are quite short, those that are actual sentences and not just phrases or sentence fragments. So on the scale of random list to coherent story (even a very short one), duolingo falls rather more toward the random list end, as it stands now. I am trying to suggest that the latest research would indicate that we would do better to bump it over toward the coherent story end, even if the story in a single lesson or skill would necessarily be a short vignette rather than a short-story length piece of fiction. Those are still able to be compelling and memorable, and gain us that HUGE 50% improvement over the themed lists. It seems to be worth trying, anyway. Let's have an A-B test of the idea!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pratyush.

Nice suggestion.
It's incredible that someone from other corner of world posted exactly same time a topic which is similar in many ways. I just posted this discussion and was surprised to see your discussion with along with mine in new discussion tab.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Great minds think alike. Or maybe we were both just responding to the zeitgeist. =D

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dobie42

Great suggestion. I completely agree with this approach.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

I'm glad you agree.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TCAC2

Excellent suggestion. While studying Spanish, I have found that the fastest method of learning vocabulary for me is to read short stories and comics, looking up every word or phrase I don't understand as I go, and then read it again a few days later. Context really helps in memorizing.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

This is true for me too! That's what gave me the idea. That plus watching a Tim Ferriss video about learning langauge quickly where he cites this research. I thought about that and realized that duolingo essentially does things the hardest way, harder than random lists, even, though it seems like an intuitive way to approach a language and cover everything, by grouping objects, verbs, people, professions, etc. into sets of like words. Duolingo is awesome but it can and will be much better in time. Hooray for Science! =D

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ash.jain

this is great suggestion...and i think this is somewhat duolingo has already covered in the immersion section where one can translate write ups in the language they are learning.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PonyH.

I thought that, too. But maybe there should be a step inbetween, like immersion with the vocabulary you already know (or at least most of them known) in form of theses short-stories that everyone gets. And you can only see others translation, when you finished yours.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

I really like the idea that they be actual lessons similar to the lessons we have now, and not just translation exercises. But any movement at all towards more narrative structure and less collections of similar words of various sorts would be an improvement, I think.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

I think you're right that we are completely free to upload short stories or vignettes to our heart's content and translate them, as things stand now. And that may be a good way to test the theory on actual duolingo learners to be sure it holds here. But real lessons in skill bubbles seem to me to be so much more powerful as tools for learning. What do you think?

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

It may be a copyright violation, but some of the short tales like those in The Stinky Cheese Man might be perfect. Having them be so funny and clever would make them all the more memorable.

Example: Once upon a time there was a mother duck and a father duck who had seven baby ducklings. Six of them were regular looking ducklings. The seventh was a really ugly duckling. Everyone used to say, "What a nice looking bunch of ducklings -- all except that one. Boy, he's really ugly." The really ugly duckling heard these people but he didn't care. He knew that one day he would probably grow up to be a swan, and be bigger and look better than anything in the pond. Well, as it turned out, he was just a really ugly duckling. And he grew up to be just a really ugly duck. The End.

(This story is by Lane Smith and John Czeska, and only used as an example, but doesn't this sound like something Luis might appreciate?)

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/miacomet

This would be great! The Danish tree actually has something kind of like this in one of the lessons. The last lesson in the tree is about the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, and they introduce vocabulary using sentences that tell the stories.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Oh that is very cool! I wasn't aware of that at all. Thanks for telling us about it!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lizsue

I took a look at the Danish for English speakers tree to see what units it has that the Spanish for English speakers and English for Spanish speakers trees don't have.

It has units named Politeness, DK Food (separate from the Food unit), Com. Nouns, Kitchen, Events, DK Culture, and Once Upon.

Likewise, the Irish for English speakers tree has units named Irish 1, The World, Character, Ireland 2. The Dutch for English speakers tree has units named NL 1 and NL 2 at the end.

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

It might be that adding these lessons at the end would be the best way to start this. And since it seems like duolingo is already doing something similar in a few languages, maybe it will expand to other courses.

February 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

http://fluent-forever.com/efficient-way-to-learn-vocabulary/ I'm looking for more information about the science behind this idea, and found this. I thought I would post it here for reference.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CricketTaistelja

Hi, new here have a strong opinion on this subject, being a VERY right brained person! Whenever I start a new language, I scour the internet looking for childrens books in that language (generally failing miserably). While you all may not want to read stories about a bear eating honey in his jammies, I find for myself that with the stories I- 1. learn faster than any other method 2. Stay interested longer. Now, it is not just the stories that do this for me. It is the PICTURES. They help with WHOLE brain learning, and the colors keep my brain a lot more interested than black white words on a page. Good illustrations (not spindly clip art cartoons) also appeal to my artistic senses, so my eyes will want to spend more time looking at that page. That is why I love Duolingo. I like the colors, the hills mountains in the background, wherever my brain sees a cute pic it says "oh neat! Let's stay here a while." When I was in Switzerland, my Swiss aunt had a book called 'Do in den Roten Stiefeln'. Do went on all these adventures, there were pictures for EVERYTHING that she did, 20 yrs later, I STILL have that book practically memorized. The rest of my German is pretty awful! I really don't comprehend why there aren't more 'Dick and Jane' style texts for learning languages out there.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Great story! Thanks for telling us. Sounds like this idea resonates with a lot of people.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ProinsiasOFoghlu

I like this idea a lot.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

I do too!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/flootzavut

I think this would be brilliant!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Thanks!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdfromdublin

Brilliant idea. Have a lingot.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Thank you!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jdfromdublin

If Duo goes ahead with this, it may be a good idea for Duo to invite native and/or fluent speakers. These volunteers would write short stories (fictional or real) for learners of the language to translate. Just an idea.

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Mundaring

I think it's a great idea, I went to a French lesson last week where the teacher went off on a tangent speaking about the french royal family and the events of the day. I found it facinating, although all in French I followed it all and got a different, and for me a quite new learning experience out of following this historical story than doing the normal exercises.

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

That's neat that the teacher did that! I'm finding, too that the context of the story is helping me learn words much more easily while reading El Hobbit than I have been able to by using flashcards, or while I traverse the trees. It seems like your experience, like mine, bears out the truth of the research findings that Tim Ferriss cited in the video I watched. It's just all so vivid and memorable this way!

February 15, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

Which do you think the answer is? It turns out that people learn by type 1 about 10% slower than random. But they learn 3. 40% faster than random.

It took me a minute to see that this wasn't 3.40% Maybe "Number three 40% faster than random"

As changes tend to take a while on Duolingo, if you want narrative learning now, I encourage the you to check out the Immersion feature. (While folks in Europe cannot submit articles and translate, you can still use it as a reader. Also, I recommend the browser extension ReadLang to help you navigate news websites, fanfiction.net, etc. ^_^

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Thanks, usagi! Bad wording there on 3. 40%. I fixed it now.

I'm getting my narrative learning by reading right now! But you're right that immersion already incorporates that function. I need to keep trying to figure out how to make immersion work for me. For some reason I find it unduly tedious and haven't been able to keep it going so far. I think it may be because I am conscious of stepping on the toes of other translators by having my particular opinions about what makes a sentence sound right in English and what a good translation actually sounds like, meaning not so literal that it sounds like something that's been translated, but more fluid and organic so that it sounds as though it may have been written in English to begin with. I feel like the culture that has grown up around Duolingo's immersion section is more geared toward very literate translations that are perhaps a bit awkward in English, and I don't ever want to get in an edit war with another translator over something like that. I just want to feel free to produce my version that is as good as I personally can make it, and not feel I have to convince others of the superiority of my philosophy, or be trampling on something they feel is right in order to generate my translation.

I realized also when I was reviewing the information to look up the studies on this subject that I just need to force myself to write and speak more Spanish, and make all the errors I'm going to make so I can get past them. That's for my personal learning, anyway.

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/colonel_bipper

My teacher said that when doing immersion you should look for long articles that have just been posted, and work on those; do not edit other writer's submissions but translate only new work. That way you won't be stepping on any toes. There are plenty of good, conscientious translators who will see what you are doing and upvote your work. As for the poor literal beginners, when they edit your work either revert it or edit it with a good explanation in the comments box, or just ignore them and let them mangle it. Let it be like water drops falling off a duck's feathers. :)

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jairapetyan

Yeah Hana! Have some lingots; you can buy yourself a streak freeze for those excursions without internet access.

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Thank you for the help! I will try what you say!

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/colonel_bipper

You're welcome! I love your idea of creating bonus lessons with a narrative feel.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

If you don't want to work with a team, post the article, then remove or delete it (?) I can't recall how it works. Contact Luyematsu and see if they know how since they are part of mar plateado. If they don't know, try wazzie And maybe get back to me so I'll know again.

I find that Immersion worked best for me when I picked one genre and stuck to it. So, only working on sports, cooking, or painting, giraffes etc. That way, you maximize your repeat exposure to vocabulary that is relevant to you. Once you feel solid, move to the next category while reviewing the other stuff again from time to time. :)

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_luso_

I wholeheartedly agree. Immersion gives you the chance to translate actual stories and profit from seeing sentences in the context of a complete text.

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_luso_

It sounds like a good project for a separate site.

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Oh but I don't want to see my beloved duolingo made obsolete!

February 16, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CricketTaistelja

Well, that's very dry reading ;), but I think it has been my experience that thematic is better than the related items. That may be why I have so much trouble when I try to learn all the names of body parts in other languages. Or foods, or kitchen items, etc. I tend to forget them easily.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Totally dry reading, but has information and authority because it's Science. =D

It seems like many of us have that same experience that bears this idea out. I'll never forget "nariz" because of when the wolf stood outside the straw house of the first little pig and told me "Empezo a picar la nariz" before he had to sneeze (tenia un resfriado terrible). None of it was his fault!

But long lists of body parts I have reviewed many times and forgotten most of them right away.

February 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/-Feodor-

support

February 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

Thank you!

February 18, 2015
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