Hi folks! I'm learning Italian for fun - yay! A few of my students are using duolingo for a 30 day challenge project, and they are enjoying it too. Another yay!

What I found in my Italian lessons here, though was sometimes things are a bit sexist. For example, I got the sentence "We believe in the men" - got that twice. I also got "We believe in the children". I have no issue with either of these sentences. What I found a little shaky though was that I didn't get "We believe in the women." That seems sexist to me and would undermine the self esteem of my women students if it is common on the English side of things.

I don't want to assign this to my students if it is a common thing. I'm bringing up this question to find out if there are any checks in place to make sure this kind of sexism is not happening and my experience was just a one off.


And thanks! Pamila Jo

April 4, 2015


The sentences are fairly randomly assembled: the next person to do that unit might not get either of those sentences at all. (Edit to clarify: I think that the sentences are mostly human-created, but there is a large pool to choose from and one shouldn't read too much into the fact that sentence B and D were chosen but not A and C.)

Have you seen the sites devoted to the weird stuff Duo spits out? (Warning: link names contains mild cursing but the content rarely does.) reddit, twitter, tumblr

I don't want to diminish your concern. Aiming for (non)bias and fairness in educational materials is important, and I'm glad this is something that you're noticing.

PS: to anyone poo-pooing the idea of material having a negative effect on performance, it's called stereotype threat, and it is indeed very real. But it's fixable, though linguistic tweaks like these.

Howdy superdaisy, could you please remove the profanity from your post? I know it's a popular twitter, but because of the language, it needs to be discovered in the wild. Thanks! :)

@pamilajo, Thanks for bringing up your concern. This kind of feedback is very important. Similar feedback has already had a positive impact on the new courses that are just starting to come out of the incubator. I'm not as familiar with how the older courses work, but I'm betting that feedback can still make an impact. So thank you. :)

Oh, I forgot about that, sorry. I'll retain the link but refer to it more obliquely and give a warning.

Perhaps you know: are the sentences generated or just the order of the sentences? That is, do the course moderators come up with every single sentence that is shown, or do they give some structures (like mad libs) and the algorithm generates the content?

All sentences are created by people [1]. They do have shortcuts to create a lot of alternatives, but the main idea is created by them.

That's a pity though because they could have a lot of variety if they simply thought outside the box, and added some simple but smart algorithms.

P.S. Some of these sentences were likely obtained/copied from a public domain repository like tatoeba[2].

Interesting, thank you for explaining (with citations)!

That's a really good question. I think a course moderator would be the best person to answer since I've never worked in the Incubator. I know that at least with the new courses, the builders write a lot of the sentences themselves. Whether all of the content is generated that way or not, I don't know.

I definitely know that some of the sentences are intentionally chosen ("it's raining men" in the Swedish tree) but some of the others are so strange and awkward.

I have seen quite a few comments about this being a problem in the French course too and my personal feeling is that there is a sexist bias across the total set of sentences. Thanks for raising this point Pamila.

Oska, scroll down to my comment at the bottom. :)

[deactivated user]

    I’m going through the Portuguese course, and it does have problems with with gender stereotypes. E.g. I've got sentences 'O menino beija a menina' or 'O marido beija a esposa', but never got vice versa. The whole flirting skill never suggests that you might be flirting with a man. This is unfortunate.

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