Starting to flounder
I've made it fairly far in german, I'm all the way to modal verbs. I'm new to german and I've never had a professor and probably never will. There hasn't been a lesson explaining what's going in awhile. And they just went and threw past tense on me without a warning! I'm starting to really struggle with how the meaning of the words and sentences change with just an adverb or the dative case thrown in. This site could potentially benefit from more explanations over the topics.
I completely agree with you. Duolingo's teaching method is unusual in that they throw material at you with little or no explanation, with the hope that you'll be able to pick out the patterns once you've seen enough examples (I guess). I don't know if this method actually works or not. I wonder if this is the way Rosetta Stone works?
Anyway, my introduction to German was more traditional, with a strong emphasis on grammar rules. I've been through all the Duolingo lessons, and I think they would have been very difficult and confusing to me if I hadn't been previously exposed to the grammar. I would recommend getting a good German grammar book as a supplement to the Duolingo lessons. Older editions of many college level introductory German course books are available on Amazon for very little money (several months ago, when I was looking, I found several older editions of Deutsch Heute available for four bucks... and that included shipping!). Alternatively, look around for grammar resources online. One place to start might be german.about.com. I am sure there are others. I think once you understand a little more of the underlying grammar, the Duolingo lessons will be easier for you.
Good luck, and happy translating!
I think the idea is that if you learn/discover something for yourself you remember it a lot better than if you read or are told an explanation. That's how Rosetta Stone and other courses work. But if you need some help - http://www.travlang.com/languages/german/ihgg/ is one site with explanations (there are loads, find one that explains it a way you understand). Find or make tables of grammar rules (adjective endings, pronouns, prepositions that take dative/accusative etc.) and stick them up on your wall so you can easily check every time you need to.
Yep, more explanations would be good. However, there are many sources available. There are other sites with plenty of grammar explained; Duolingo is the one that keeps me engaged and creates the urgency of finding those sources and suck them up. I do not want to make the owl cry!