Tourist Tree Option
It would be nice to have an option to choose to do a tree tailored to basics for tourists.
The standard duolingo tree is an excellent option for people who can work toward learning a language over an extended period of time, but not everyone who's traveling has time to be learning the names of animals, words for clothes, and the other vocabulary that is usually taught in the intro levels. It would be great to have an option to do a tree that gives immediate priority to phrases for asking for help, giving directions, exchanging money, and the other necessities to travel safely.
I think you have a valid question. I see it as a way to get the Duolingo brand name "out there" more. Yes, there will be some people that will play with it just before their trip, then promptly forget all about Duolingo. Others may use it for a short time, but may post about it on Facebook or mention it to friends, who may not have heard about Duolingo otherwise (and potentially will become regular users of the program). And some will be inspired by what they've learned and their recent vacation and will switch to the standard tree to continue their studies.
Yes, there are other travel options available. But diversification is always a good thing in a business (provided they perform well in all areas and don't spread too thin), and I think this could be a nice way for Duolingo to reach more people.
I tend to disagree a bit, I don't think there is such a thing as a 'short term' study of a language. You can learn as many token phrases as you want, but you won't be able to understand the vast majority of what is said to you unless you are taking the venture seriously.
The more words you know the better, even if you only remember them when you hear them (ie passively), because it reduces the level of confusion when you have to ask somebody what they mean. What I mean is that even words that seem completely pointless to learn at first are just as valuable, by virtue of you being able discern that they have not been said. Yes, mad logic I know, but It Works Well For Me.
I would turn your request on its head, you should be making yourself a reason to become more than just a tourist. Let's use French for the sake of argument. If I was only going to spend two weeks of my entire life in France, how is that reason enough to study French? There is a lot more about French culture that you can enjoy without actually being there, films, music, books etc. and in the times we are living in, it's effortless to come by, and by enjoying it you also give yourself a connection that you can talk about with people when you are there.
Sorry if I am being a wet blanket, but I think that the idea that there is some sort of 'easy way' is a dangerous idea to propagate in itself...Learning a second language, it's an invariably hard task, and anyone you see doing it well has put a lot of effort in. Just learn to relish it :)
I tremendously value putting lots of effort into learning languages enough to communicate with people beyond tourist-speak; however, this isn't a possibility for everyone who needs to go many places on short notice. The point of this option would not be to take an easy way out, but to prioritize more immediate needs within conversation.
For example, if my boss calls me tomorrow and says he needs to send me to Brazil for a 3-day conference, it would be impossible for me to learn Portuguese properly in time if I've never studied it before. Like you said, learning languages takes lots of effort. The most I would be able to learn with such short notice are the phrases I will be most likely to use upon arrival (greeting people, asking and thanking for help, and ordering food at restaurants, etc.); at the bare minimum, I would like to give people I interact with the common courtesy of saying these things in their native language. After I've mastered these introductory phrases, I would do the standard duolingo tree to continue learning Portuguese properly so that I can have real conversations.
Another note is that "quicker" is not synonymous with "easier." Since you gave traveling to France as an example, I'll go off of that. One of the first verbs learned on the French duolingo tree is "manger"--"to eat." Instead of "manger," perhaps "prendre"--"to have or take"--could be taught. This way, duolingo users would know how to order food at a cafe or restaurant, or buy an item at the store. Teaching "prendre" before "manger" isn't any easier at all--it still requires learning to conjugate the verbs--it just means that duolingo users are learning a verb that they will use more frequently sooner than they learn verbs that they will use less frequently.
This would be no substitution for learning a language fluently, but every option helps.
I don't see a tourist tree as promoting an "easy way". I think it's a good way for someone to learn a few basic necessities before a trip. I don't think people would expect to reach fluency through it. It's simply an introduction to the language that may ignite a passion that will lead them to work towards fluency or may simply serve the intended purpose - to allow someone to say hello, please, thank you, etc to locals in their native language. No, you wouldn't be able to understand much, if anything, that is said to you, but it's a nice way to show you care about their culture.
DuoLingo teaches you a lot, but the stressed vocabulary is not something that would be practical to just a tourist. I've been studying French here for about a month. I had to think for a minute about how to ask someone their name in French and I can't recall how to ask how much something costs. I only know how to count because I learned through another site. However I can easily spout out hundreds of phrases such as "He eats the red apple." or "We love the black cat." While this is fine for learning a language to be fluent (as is my goal in French), this knowledge would be almost useless if I was going on a trip to France next week.
In addition to the short notice trips cr1347 mentioned, someone going on a cruise could also benefit from a tourist tree. On a cruise, you usually visit a new country every day. With most of these countries speaking a different language, it would be impossible to achieve fluency in every language you will encounter. However, you may wish to be able to exchange pleasantries with locals the short time you're there.
You may also wish to do this on a longer, planned trip even. Just because I may take a trip to Japan someday doesn't mean that I wish to be fluent in Japanese. But I would like to learn a little about their culture by learning just a little bit of their language.
People have different goals with language learning. Some favor reading fluency, others speaking fluency. This is just an idea for a way Duolingo could potentially reach more people.
A lot of "tourist-speak" phrases do appear in typical Immersion articles, just as a lot of the current lesson ones do. The current system teaches in a similar style to a child's classroom, which is also a common reason for learning a language. So perhaps what would be helpful is additional freedom in going through the tree, while still retaining a sequence helpful to learning the language as a whole, including the many varieties of article in Immersion.
Most of the topics in Basics and Phrases, whatever the language, are likely to be necessary to everyone regardless of their reason for learning the languages. Some extra topics, linking to appropriate pre-requisite current topics, might help the situation. This is especially true if the language-building tools mooted for new languages could also be used to logically extend currently-existing languages.
For example, set words for navigating an airport or other transportation route might be accessible to anyone who has completed Basics (because you don't need any particular knowledge of grammar to learn them), but questions where one enquires about when planes arrive and leave might require Questions and Prepositions (which come quite a bit later). That way, a user could learn at the level they have actually reached, and only require the phrasebook* for matters too complicated to learn beforehand. There would be no sense in having phrases in the tree before a student had the pre-requisites to learn them, but having tourist and "classroom" things in the same tree, connected by how people learn languages, would be very sensible. It would be adding extra, relevant content in a sequence that makes sense.
- Phrasebooks tend to be either pen-and-paper or in separate apps to learning materials, so are unlikely to be in Duolingo's direct mission.