Blindfold Translating Part 2
First, I would like to state that I am not stealing TimothyGeek's idea in his discussion, just expounding on it, because I like the idea so much. :) I actually had a very similar idea previously, but not identical. (First you should read his discussion then come back to mine.)
More listening. This is very key. I was thinking that in stead of just listening to a random sentence now and then and translating it, that it would be a really great idea to listen to a whole conversation, for if you ever travelled to another country, you would have to translate whole paragraphs and stories, which is more difficult. So here is what you would do: You would listen to a conversation or short story, then afterwards would have to multiple choices of what the excerpt was about, and you would check the box for what you thought had the correct explanation. For example was this story about:
*A woman asking where the apples in a store were located
*A woman asking the price of a bag of apples
*A woman commenting on how delicious the apples were
This could be a question you were given. I would call this Listening Comprehension. The more you get exposed to listening to native speakers and comprehending, the better. This could be part of the lessons, or be a separate tab of learning. I understand that this would take a while to be added, especially since there will have to be different levels of comprehension, but I think it would be worth it. This should be something DL considers adding for the future. :)
This would be the best exercise ever IMO. When I listen to something in Spanish, I try to understand the sentence rather than translate the sentence. When I hear something in English I don't translate to some other language before being able to comprehend it, so why should I in Spanish? That's why I think this idea is so great. But I also think it would be cool to have TimothyGeek's version implemented as well.
This addresses a problem that I had. If you ask people just to write down in English what they hear in the other language, you'll get a huge variety of answers and a lot of complaints that "my answer should be accepted." If you give multiple choices for the answer you avoid this problem.
I agree with the idea, and I think it is more comfortable to analyse whole conversations rather than the random disparate sentences that duolingo provides, and it would be cool to have to answer in the original language rather than translate.
However, I don't really see translation as a crutch for understanding. In order to translate something, it is pretty much a given that you have to comprehend it first. In this sense, you could say that the act of translation is only a hindrance because it is a difficult skill in its own right and not really related to the language you are trying to learn. However, the fact that it enforces comprehension and is relatively simple to test for is too much of an initial advantage to dismiss.
You could also say 'training wheels are a hindrance to learning how to properly ride a bike', but it doesn't stop anyone using them, and you may have fallen and hit yourself in the face after you took them off at least a couple of times, but at least you had an idea of what you were supposed to be doing :) So yeah, you should start trying to think natively as soon as you feel able, but only you can be the judge of when that is. It would be great if DL did this, but I think they have their hands full, and I don't think that DL really has a duty to do this sort of thing yet, because you can always test yourself in the real world.
My apologies if I seem to be responding to a completely different subject, I've lost track of where your thread begins and the other one ends :)
Larsen, http://www.germanpod101.com/ is not a free service but is very reasonably priced if you just use the basic course. I use it for Korean and my wife uses it for English. Try it for a week for free, then wait for a special sale and you should be able to get it for about $50 for a year. it is excellent for listening and conversing. They also offer Spanish and about 30 other languages.