https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Anyone bothered by severe lack of creating text in your target language?

I'm studying Spanish, so I'll use that example, but it applies to all of DuoLingo.

After nearly three months on DL, I just noticed the profound shortage of exercises in which you "generate" Spanish - where you compose / construct / create sentences yourself. There is a whole lot of Spanish-to-English, but precious little English-to-Spanish. In the majority of exercises, you "receive" Spanish - you hear or read the Spanish DL produced.

The Variety of Exercises.

  1. DL speaks in Spanish, and you write it in Spanish. You didn't create a Spanish sentence, you just parroted what you heard.
  2. DL writes in Spanish, and you write in English. You didn't create a Spanish sentence.
  3. Multiple choice sentences. You read the Spanish and decide which one matches the English. You didn't create a Spanish sentence.
  4. Multiple choice conjugation. You choose which form of a word is grammatically correct in a sentence. You didn't create a Spanish sentence.
  5. Introduce new vocabulary. You choose the Spanish word for "apple" from three picture cards. You didn't create a Spanish sentence.
  6. Quiz you on vocabulary. A. Spanish to English. It says la manzana and you reply the apple." B. English to Spanish. It says the apple and you reply la manzana. Hooray! You had to generate a Spanish word on your own! But still, You didn't create a Spanish sentence.
  7. You read a sentence in English and write it in Spanish. Great! One activity in which you create a Spanish sentence.
  8. Did I miss any?

Item 7, in which you generate a Spanish sentence - How often do these come up? Very rarely. I've been doing timed excercises, and only a third to a half of the sets have even a single sentence of this type. That means that you are creating Spanish sentences in less than 3% of exercises!

Is this a problem? Well, if you ever want to speak and write in your language, and not just listen and read, then yes, I think it is a problem. It's extremely unbalanced. It's like going to the gym and only doing weight-lifting, no cardio. Or only working on your biceps and not your triceps.

Worse than that, I believe that your brain requires both modes, in order to learn a language properly. In the 1970's the Department of Defense theorized that they could teach their linguists to comprehend a language without learning to speak it, and the experiment was an abysmal failure.

So am I saying that you should ditch DuoLingo? No. But I am saying that if you are not supplementing DL with exercises in generating your own invented sentences in your target language - not just parroting, not just following a set format, but composing them yourself - if you're not doing that, you're only getting half of a language course.

Okay, I'm ready. Shoot me down. What are the flaws in my assertion? I recognize that you can get the language generation benefits if you do the reverse course, but honestly, aside from us hard-core people who actively use the forums, how many of DL's millions of users will do the reverse course?

April 27, 2015

97 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Selcen_Ozturk

I agree and I think they are getting fewer and fewer. Lately I almost never translate into my target language, or maybe only super short phrases like "the newspaper". I also observe that they almost only use the simplest sentences, so you see them again and again although there are many other sentences for those words. This is especially nonsense when you are repeating for strengthening skills. You will given the same simple sentence over and over again although you translated it correctly in the first attempts. This is also really terrible for incubator contributors ; we try to find logical sentences that can actually teach this word, especially long ones in the advanced skills, yet the users mostly see the shortest ones with low failure rate.

I understand that Duolingo is nowadays testing everything according to the "retention rate", but they have to find a way of testing actual learning if they really want to be the leading language program.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator

As incubator contributors you are in the best position to change this. No matter how much regular users complain about this, Duolingo will still go with the metrics, because:

  1. The vast majority of users are ignorant of what it takes to teach a language course;
  2. Even if they did understand, they don't know the rationale behind duolingo's decisions;
  3. Metrics are generally a better way to evaluate performance rather than any user feedback.

However, no matter how talented Duolingo's researchers and linguists are, they can't possibly understand all intricacies of languages they don't know.

So while they can easily motivate their approach based on their knowledge of English,French, german, italian, and few other languages, they can't possibly apply their approach to languages they don't know without consulting the appropriate language experts.

Anyway, Duolingo aims to eventually personalize the lessons for each individual, according to their announcements. So perhaps this will only be an issue in the short term.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/remoonline

Metrics are generally a better way to evaluate performance rather than any user feedback.

The language effectiveness metric of 34 hrs on Duolingo equated with one full university semester of language education may need to be re-validated. There has been a lot of changes in the way Duolingo teaches the language over the last couple years. Most of the usual metrics considered in AB tests are not apt to include effectiveness of language acquisition.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator

Indeed, although that study was specific to a particular language course, at a particular point in time. New courses are smaller/bigger, have more or less things, so there are too many differences. Duolingo really needs to do a new study.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vicki.kura

The current chapter I am on only has eight "sentences" to answer in each lesson. It repeats those sentences within those eight! Don't know what they are thinking but I'm not going to learn much this way. It's boring to repeat these lessons because I know the sentences, not the new words.

April 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Selcen, you said, "Duolingo is nowadays testing everything according to the "retention rate." Wait a minute! Could that mean that if people retain Spanish to English better than English to Spanish, Duo shifts the lessons in that direction? That can't be the case, can it? That would be like teaching engineering students algebra instead of calculus because they achieve mastery and retain it better.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JeffA2

I think "retention rate" here refers to retention of users. That is, do people come back to the site, and how often, not to retention of knowledge. If people in group "A" of an A/B test come back to Duo less often than members of group "B", then feature "B" wins the test and is implemented.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Wow. I don't want to play reductio ad absurdum, but that arrangement of priorities is disturbing. Maybe I think too much like a teacher and not enough like a web provider.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a

Welcome to a world were site visits, time spent per visit, and other faceless statistics like that is everything...

In the end, Duolingo has no idea how good I am at the languages they are teaching me (for all they know, I could be a robot, or I could just save every single sentence in a spreadsheet and churn them out when needed). Many of us are "learning" languages on here we already knew some of before. So it's kind of hard for them to even make decisions based on how well people learn.

I know they have vast amounts of data about how we learn, but every native speaker, user looking up something elsewhere in the middle of an exercise, and user doing a course between two language neither of which they know very well (ahem...) is skewing that data.

But they do know that I have been here, and completed exercises every single one of the past 475 days. I probably haven't even checked my email every single one of those days, never mind visited another website that diligently. That's pure gold in terms of web stats.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JeffA2

All true. But all that can be accounted for with proper statistical analysis. It just means that any measure of how well users are learning has built-in systematic uncertainty. But this doesn't mean that it could not be estimated.

Simply trying to maximize site visits would make sense if Duo's model were ad based. But it is not, and they say they will not start selling ads. If they hope to make money selling English certifications, as they have suggested, then they will need to develop better measures for just how much people are learning.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/kevinkinsler

Granted, almost the entirety of the internet is going that direction. Quality suffers for the sake of click-baiting

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Selcen_Ozturk

exactly

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JeffA2

I strongly agree. This has been discussed from time to time here, and the usual answer is that Duo has found that if they make the lessons too challenging, some people give up. So it is then recommended that we do the reverse course to get some language production practice.

I understand their point, but think that they go too far. Perhaps the fraction of target-language-production questions should start out smaller, but increase as one gets to a higher level.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

IOW they dumbed it down. I just hate when that happens!! Result: you spend several months (or years) investing time to learn a language, and by making it easier, they keep you from actually reaching your goal. Am I taking crazy pills?

You've put your finger on the other problem I was reluctant to include in the post. It is always easier to translate from Spanish into English than from English into Spanish. It's like the difference between walking down a hill vs. walking up a hill. If you only do the easy part, you'll never improve at the hard part. If it were the other way around, that wouldn't matter. Someone who can run a marathon can run a 10K. But running a 10K doesn't not enable you to run a marathon.

Calm down, Paula, calm down. Again. People have to go outside Duo to find a second resource, so they can learn the other half of Spanish. And continue enjoying Duo for the first half.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Alastair17

I completely agree with your assertion here, that there isn't enough focus on generating sentences in foreign languages, are there any good websites out there where we can get the second half? Maybe even a language where users talk to each other in their target languages?

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vicki.kura

There are but I don't remember the names. On one of the discussion boards someone posted a couple of links but I think there was a fee. If I come across it I will come back here and post it for you.

April 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/necronudist85

I'll give up if I'll find it not enough challenging. I'm here to learn a language, a hard task, not to collect xp and lingots. They will have all the Dumb Joes of this world and a lot of revenues, because quantity is better than quality, but they won't have me. It's up to Duolingo.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Yamese4

I cant do the reverse course because they haven't made the learning English from Swedish but they have Swedish from english

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/ronalddotgl

I just tried the reverse course because I was excited by this suggestion. But, this didn't work out.

Half the questions are transcribing sentences in my own language! What a pointless waste of time.

The other half of the questions? I don't believe they are calibrated to identify my errors in my target language.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JeffA2

By transcribing, you mean transcribing audio, right? You can get rid of them by turning audio off in your settings.

Each course is different, of course, but I think that if you turn the audio off and then stick with the reverse tree you will probably find some value. The vocab is different, and there will be more language production questions in the long run.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a

I agree. Also, you will learn a lot about the structure of the language and learn further synonyms by checking the suggested translations of sentences and reading the sentence discussions (which will of course mostly be in your target language).

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/tsubakigirl

Yes, I just tried this and I'm finding that I am being forced to translate from english to spanish and I don't feel like I am trying to learn english

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Ilmarien

One thing that might be useful if it were implementable (and it probably is) - something like difficulty settings on the program. That way Duolingo could retain the people who would otherwise quit while offering more of a challenge to people who are more serious about learning the language.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Good point. You gave me an idea. Instead of a difficulty setting, it could be another activity. Just like Immersion or flashcards or the progress test. It would be tied to your tree progress, and you'd earn XP or lingots or whatever, for constructing sentences. Of course, the sentences would all be from the sentences already in the system, and from your current tree progress or lower. But that would be pretty easy to implement because the data is already in the system. At the end of every lesson, people could choose to tack on the composition exercise. Just like right now the system prompts you to choose to do immersion. As I say, ti w/b tied to your level.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Ilmarien

I'm not sure. I'm not convinced that coming up with a composition that consists of "La vaca se bebe la leche. Soy mujer. El fontanero tiene un gato" really is going to be of much use to anyone. Duolingo sentences are fun, but they're a bit too weird and lacking in context to be of much help when it comes to teaching writing.

It'd be nice if we had a system like lang-8 and LiveMocha do - another option like Immersion where people could upload their own compositions and then a native speaker could correct them. There are threads in the forums where people encourage composition, but it's really not the same. I don't know how many people would use something like that, though. I know you can just go to lang-8 if you want that, but it's nice to not have to go to a dozen sites.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gelaarsd_Schaap

I had thought of this myself. It seemed like a good idea at first, but now I think there is no One Way for doing this (which is problematic because one implementation would exclude other possibly equally good implementations): maybe things that I do not consider important are thought to be 'difficult' by Duolingo and therefore promoted.

Some possible solutions:

  1. Not (only) difficulty, but (also) types of exercises are toggleable. One can choose to have (possibly Easy/Normal/Hard) Listen/Speak/Write/(...) exercises, or even choose to not have some of them.

  2. Duolingo takes into account succes rates (per user) on specific kinds of exercises. Exercises with high succes rates are given less often; exercises with low succes scores are given more often.

  3. ...

  4. A combination of all or some of the above.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Ilmarien

There may be no one way to decide difficulty, but several "one size fits all" possibilities are still better than just one!

I do agree on toggling different types of exercises, though. We can already toggle speaking and listening, so I'm not sure why we can't choose the direction of translation as well. You get to a point where always being forced to translate from your target language into English cripples you and hinders the end goal of not needing to translate, so being able to turn that off would be nice.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/olyglotED

I want to add to the chorus of agreement. The creation of organic sentences, thought, maintaining an internal monologue (or at least being able to REACT) as well as soaking in the cadence of unbroken language music are not well-represented on this site. Duolingo does, however, blow away all similar experiences at mass acquisition of vocab and internalization of grammar rules. Perhaps we just need a sister site targeting the 51% we're missing here.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

WOW!! You summed it all up into three perfect sentences (the intro doesn't count). This is precisely what I've been trying to tell people, but I've never been able to express it so clearly. This should be required reading.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/olyglotED

gracias... I'm starting a language learning blog-site soon. so perhaps I can help people with some of my insights.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/DenDag

I am not bothered at all. Duo, with its all pros and cons, gave me a solid start for learning French. I do not think I am fooled by its deficiencies. Everyone sees it has benefits as well as shortages. And, we find ways to make up for it up if we are genuine in our aim to learn languages. There will always be people that will stop short of it, and be satisfied with what is given, but I most of the time I find myself, for example in multiple choice sentences, actually not directly looking at the multiple answers but trying to construct the sentence myself in the target language. I am sure many of us are finding similar methods to cover such deficiencies of DL. It is not a problem to do so. In real life, a real teacher may also not be so exhaustive. Language can only be learned well through your own learning inventions. That's the beauty of it. OK, now that I have opposed to this idea, I know now you will give me downvote for opposing this whole suggestion. OK, go ahead..

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Nah. I don't downvote well-reasoned arguments. If I disagree, I dispute your conclusions, not your right to express them.

Everyone sees it has benefits as well as shortages. Call me cynical, but I fear some significant percentage of users don't recognize the deficiencies, so they don't go looking for supplements to fill the gap.

I am sure many of us are finding similar methods to cover such deficiencies of DL. Your sentence made me realize something. And maybe it's a very important key to this whole discussion. This thread includes ideas for what Duo should do about the gap. But the truth is, the users will self-sort:

  • The A-Ship is the people who have a passion for learning language; they will use Duo as a springboard and dive into more in-depth language studies.
  • The C-Ship knows they need a language to make a better life; they will step from Duo to another resource or method, and another, until they reach their goal.
  • The B-Ship is the people who will find the easiest ways to gain lingots and XP; they would quit if the lessons were too hard. They'll sail through and get a good introduction to a language, and that's good too - it's much more than most Americans learn, anyway.

Duo doesn't need to fill the gap. Motivated learners will fill it themselves, and unmotivated learners would miss out if the lessons were harder. From a pragmatic perspective, the system works well.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a

I agree with DenDag and this post of yours.

If you think about it, a "classic" language course covers topics by first introducing them, then testing understanding of the new concepts, then doing some simple translation exercises from the target language, and only after all this doing translation exercises towards the target language.

Duolingo muddles up all these steps, and that's why you will get also simple exercises at the stage where you would expect to the challenged. Sometimes these (seemingly) simple ones, such as picking one or more correct translations from three possible ones, also serve to show that one language doesn't make a difference between the gender of a person doing something, whereas the other one does, and so on. At the same time, they can introduce a new word. At least I find that I often learn an important lesson from a seemingly simple exercise.

Because teaching and testing occurs at the same time here, I think it might be a little bit misleading to only look at the number of sentences to be translated.

Many people will, like you, find these simple exercises and their number annoying. Some others, like myself, mostly find them a welcome break (and lifeline, under the hearts system) from the more difficult ones, certainly towards the end of the tree and when practicing already covered material. And many, many new users write here on the discussion page about how unfair it is that "they are being tested on material they haven't been taught" (ie. missing the fact that they are being taught). I guess the current system is an attempt at pleasing all these groups.

I also have to add that I have disabled the speaking exercises and (I think) the pure listening exercises, so my Duolingo experience is probably pretty different from yours. I am also doing reverse courses and laddering courses, so basically any type of translating exercise feels like a challenge sometimes... :-)

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/BenRea

Hmm, interesting and it challenges my thoughts below. But what if we had an OPTION to make it more difficult and/or more all encompassing?

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Rob2042

This is a key problem but if you consider duolingo simply another basic course then, in my mind, it is acceptable. However, if you truly want to go beyond being a beginner you will have to do plenty of translation to your target language. I waited until I had finished the tree and reached level 25 before going on to do some serious translating. I tried the reverse tree but found it too easy so I stopped after level 9. I now translate articles from English to Spanish and use SpanishDict to check.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Or better yet, voice conversation (in contrast to typing). The spontaneity and turnaround speed of voice conversation really pulls all the strands together, IMHO. And for most of us, our goal is to speak with people. So it makes sense that our studies should include speaking to people.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Rob2042

Agreed, but voice conversation is the hardest and I would suggest a good foundation in written translation before progressing to conversation. Once you can translate properly to your target language conversation should come rather rapidly.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/rspreng

Duo needs to decide if this is a cost-effective idea.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

No, Duo shouldn't be expected to provide voice chat. It's not their mission. But people need to be aware of the it and take steps to fill the gap with other resources.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JoeVitko21

I really agree with this. I started Duolingo a few months ago in hope of learning Danish. I was really happy with the way my progress was going. Suddely though, a new update came along that DESTROYED the app by doing exactly what your saying. Since then me and all of my friends have ditched the app. I really hope they can fix it because I can't and haven't been learning anything since the most recent update.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Are you saying that there used to be a lot more generating sentences in your target language? I've only been on for 85 days. And maybe I was here for the change but unaware (I'm unaware a lot of the time).

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JoeVitko21

Oh yeah, just as common as translating from target language

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vicki.kura

I don't think it's the update that did it. I've been on here for over a year. It gradually got dumbed down as I went up the tree.

April 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/eagersnap

There's an A/B test going on. Not all users experience it the same way. Some may not experience the reduction in translations at all.

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

The Other 51%: Filling In What Duolingo Is Missing.

Many of us agree that if you're serious about learning a language, you need to go beyond what Duo offers. So where do we go? What do we do? How do we get the complete package? I just created a new thread https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8352230 .

Spanish has a dicho, Te traigo el remedio y el trapito. I give you the solution (double meaning), and the rag to apply it. So let's give each other los trapitos.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vytah
  • 1380

I think the main reason for that is that there is too much new vocabulary crammed into a single lesson with 17 exercises, so they spend all that time teaching you new words instead of testing if you know them.

But this can't be an excuse when doing a review – percentage of #7 should be higher there.

However, I'd prefer more #7 even on the first time too. In fact, let's have fewer #3 and #4, they're useless IMHO.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SethFriday

I never see it mentioned in these discussions that the goal behind Duolingo was to translate the Internet. I know they used to sell translated materials to websites like Buzzfeed and CNN, which was their only way to turn a profit (I'm not certain they've stopped this practice). All of our immersion is translating from our target language. The goal, whether intentional or not, was never to teach us to produce sentences in our target language, but to produce sentences from the target language.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a

Generally, translation should always be done into the language one knows better, for the sake of the quality of the final product. Of course, in this case it might be in the interest of the student to do it the other way around by enrolling in the reverse course.

Personally, I haven't found translation rewarding at the level of knowledge you get to on Duolingo (neither from my target language nor into it) -- I want to be better at a language before I start translating. But of course, many other people find Immersion very useful and productive.

I've understood that Duolingo is moving away from the original business model of translating the web, although they still do it. I can't find a source for this at the moment, though.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SethFriday

I remember reading something about Duolingo moving away from it as well, maybe a post linking to an AMA with Luis. I couldn't remember correctly when i posted. My own experience with the German reverse course was positive and I prefer it much more than immersion. That said, I agree with OP that the focus of learning a language should be learning how to form sentences in that language, not translate from it.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a

I agree that eventually, the aim is to be able to form sentences in the other languages.

However, I hate those kinds of (classroom) courses where you are made to have dialogues from the very beginning, as I see no benefit in asking another learner something I barely understand and which is very likely to be wrong in terms of both grammar and pronunciation, and him responding to my question in a probably equally bad way. I prefer to first learn a bit, and then try to produce something. In another post in this thread, I outlined the difference in order of doing things between a classic language course and Duolingo.

Everybody has a different learning style, of course, and the end result is what counts. People might also have different goals for their learning. For French, I am not particularly interested in learning to speak and write, whereas I will probably be listening to and speaking more Spanish than I will be writing it (and maybe even more than reading it).

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SethFriday

I agree. In my "perfect Duo-universe" the latter parts of the tree would have more sentence creating, I feel it's very easy to get frustrated with incorrect answers jumping right into translating into a language one doesn't understand.

Maybe I'm coming off as sounding really hung up about translating into target languages, but I'm not very critical of Duo. In the end I'm more concerned about my progress and it's the best tool I've found for learning a language. I tried learning German on my own ten years ago and it didn't go very well. Duolingo really kickstarted my learning, but that doesn't mean I should (or do) expect it to take me all the way to fluency on its own.

Our individual goals and learning styles are what "separates" us as learners and I agree there will never be a one-size fits all solution to language learning. What's most important to me is for those who want to learn a language to be able to find the methods that work best for them.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/BenRea

Hi everyone, I don't usually post in here but I read the forums every day.

I 100% Agree. The reverse tree needs to be more readily accessible and visible as an option. Many DL'ers will never realize they can do that. I have been learning Russian for a few years now and I am looking forward to the forward tree but for now I've been using the reverse to prepare. As you can see I am also doing the forward tree in Italian. What a huge difference. The reverse is far more challenging and honestly it feels like I gain more from each session even though I am more versed in Russian. Yes with forward you can do more lessons in one sitting but sometimes it feels like 1 lesson reverse = 3 lessons forward. I understand they are two different languages but the difference is clear. It challenges your grammar, word order, vocabulary recall, and general ability to create sentences. Incredibly beneficial. To those of you saying it would be too challenging for some users...you have to challenge yourself to improve at anything. I like the analogy above, how do you expect to master running by only running downhill? Being a runner myself, this would only result in massive injuries and burnout :P

OP is correct in saying that more sentence creation must be integrated but here's a crazy thought: What if the regular tree could be doubled in size (optional), first you do the forward tree and then you automatically start the reverse tree after that (for the languages this is available to)? Essentially building a base with the forward tree and then testing and enhancing it with the reverse tree. That is what many of us are already doing, this would just make it all part of the program. I think the only change that would have to be made is the option to remove questions that only test you in your native language. That's the only flawed part of integrating the reverse tree but I think it could be fixed.

Not to say that is the end all be all solution. That still doesn't allow us to create our own sentences. Immersion is an attempt at moving beyond quizzes and it's still great but there is something even more powerful about generating the words yourself. There are many ways this could be integrated into Duo. Yes you can just do it on your own and take pen to paper or type an esssay but don't you all want to spend more time on here? ;)

Think about this: DuoLingo language exchange! It's a pen-pal system where you can write to someone in your target language which they are fluent in. Of course we can integrate lingots :P It costs X amount of lingots to write a message and you earn X amount of lingots for editing and correcting the messages (or something to that effect). A minimum character count would be required and perhaps other safety features to ensure the system is not cheated or abused. It's a pie in the sky idea but it can be done. I am sure many other users have ideas on how this could work as well.

With the traditional tree learning, immersion, forums, and the language exchange, Duo would nearly be a one stop shop learning platform! We only have to use other learning sites and methods because Duo hasn't integrated their features...YET. :)

This was far longer than I intended. Have a good day.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Oooh! I enticed a lurker to post! Do I get a lingot? No. Just kidding.

Language exchange is excellent because it replicates conversation, the very best exercise for language development. Voice instead of typing, better yet. But I don't think Duo should be the one to provide it. Better for Duo to do one thing well than two things poorly. Fortunately there are several good resources out there for language exchange.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/BenRea

True and true. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see it one day. and yes you get a lingot. two others gave you one too. haha.

You enticed me because this has been on my brain lately. too much structure and memorizing in my learning. I have gotten to the point with Russian where I need to be putting the vocabulary together and using the grammar with my own sentences.

Thanks for starting this thread, it really sparked a lot of interest. As it should.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Well I'm glad you've come out of lurkdom. Conversation is what it's all about. That is where the rubber meets the road. If that is our final goal, shouldn't it be a significant part of how we get there? Welcome.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/rspreng

Duo has done many tests and walks the line between retaining users (not making learning Spanish too hard) and still actually teaching Spanish. They have found that making the program even a little bit more difficult leads to loss of users. Duo is under no obligation to offer what you or I may regard as a "complete" language course. If they are content with "half of a language course" there is not much we can do. Ask for a refund? ;)

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JeffA2

You are of course completely correct that Duo is under no obligation, but I think that they could fine tune this aspect better. Making lessons more challenging for higher level users, who have already shown that they are not likely to quit just because it isn't quite as easy as they hoped, would be something that they really could do.

Getting people to start and stick with it by making it easy and fun is a great idea. But I think that this least common denominator approach is actually less engaging and fun for more advanced learners, because it gets boring.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/mooseloon

As someone who is learning French with zero background (well, I could count to 10, but in a reciting memorized way, not actually being able to tell you what 8 was without counting on my fingers and repeating the words - English is my native language and I studied Russian in school), the decrease in difficult is probably what allowed me to continue with duolingo. I was stuck at one particularly trick bottleneck for probably over a year. I would work hard, and then get stuck, and quit, because I could never pass the lesson. I believe my final success in moving on was a combination of having done the lesson an unknown number of times over the course of the year, and duo possibly getting easier. Arguably i was quitting because of the difficulty, but it was, in fact too hard for me to make any kind of progress along the tree. It would have been less frustrating if duo gave credit for lessons not passed (and the change in format away from "failing" is also helpful), because I could spend an hour working and not even get credit for having done any duolingo that day.

I think one of the major benefits of duolingo is that you can learn a language truly from the ground up. I've tried learning Spanish multiple times, but never could find a good way to get started. Now that I have some handle on French there are many other options that are opening up to me to improve my French. But, when starting with zero knowledge, the options are a lot more limited. While many duo users are strengthening languages they are familiar with, some are starting at the very beginning.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

I'm impressed that you kept on trying. Animo!

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/tnel1

Yes, and I have been since I started using this site. It was so jarring to go from an immersion environment that was really helping me learn a language by only being in the target language, to this site which was focused on translation which I understood as a really specialized area of language learning and is not something you do almost at all in an immersion environment. Setting aside your native language has been the most effective/fastest language learning method I know. I appreciate that they want to try a new approach to language learning here, somehow simplify things and make it free for all, that is incredible. But if this was my project I think I'd want to do more to increase the possibility of learning the language instead of being about the statistical stuff behind the scenes - the way they measure how we learn. It feels weird at times, like they give us this free thing just to able to experiment on us without a lot of us knowing about it. (What will they do if they get more or less red shiny objects?) Nevertheless, I take it for what it is. For me it offers a language appetizer, an introduction, a one stop shop to test drive and practice various languages. If I had a giant global language learning site I think I'd want to connect it the major system of language learning (the European Framework) and enhance it - and get it in the hands of those who can't afford it and really change the world. The only good thing I see about the gamification side of stuff is that makes it harder for you not to practice than to practice - you stick to it - and that is revolutionary stuff. But what they are "sticking us" to is translation and that isn't the same as learning a language - and it might be the part you need the least unless you want to be a translator.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/DenDag

Duo is definitely not fit in shape for advanced learners. But, advanced learners are already looking for other ways to fill the gaps. Let me give an example, I am a very busy mother: Working to earn a living for my whole family at the same time looking after my 2.5 year old and my 45 year old :). I cannot tell how barely I am able to organize my life. Duo gives me an area to breathe. You do not know how much i liked learning languages before. Now, I have scarce time for that. And French is a huge ocean you will dare dive into; so mind-exhausting and mine is already exhausted. With Duo, i do small exercises everyday, it really keeps me in the loop by simplifying it. OK, I understand simplifying the process does not work for everyone else. I know you ask for more advanced learning options; and I am sure one day they will achieve to cover those as well. But, for now, you Advanced People, enjoy the immersion to work out your skills in target language, it is a very challenging option. Do the reverse tree, look for other options, watch TV in target language. This world is full of choices, if you have time and zeal to do it.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/WackyJack

I believe that Immersion may assist in this matter. Using that tactic, both translation from and to your target language can be accomplished. And yes, the reverse course would probably be very helpful.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Hang on. If I'm learning Spanish, then I'm only reading (receiving) articles in Spanish, and giving translations (generating) in English. I'm still not creating sentences in Spanish, unless I'm doing a reverse tree. Is there something I don't understand?

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/AlexisLinguist

No, you understand perfectly. You won't produce Spanish unless you use reverse Immersion. :)

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/WackyJack

To me, English-to-Spanish immersion is the same thing as number 7 in your list, only more expansive and difficult.

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/yimantuwingyai

I do think they should even out the numbers of sentences where you translate into the target language. I think they do it so its easier but this is one of those things I think they will work out over time.

My suggestion a system where you could actually ask for an increased number of sentences to translate from English to target language etc. Like a scale, where you choose between 1 and 5 and 5 would include the most sentences to translate into your non-native language.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

This is bizarre! I did three timed practices today, 4/29/2015, 20 questions each. Less than 24 hours after I started this thread. Guess what? In the first practice, I got three sentences to translate into Spanish. In the second, two sentences. In the third, one sentence. Just yesterday, my average was ONE English-to-Spanish item in every second or third set. IOW in one day, the exercises went from 2% English-to-Spanish sentences, to 10%. At least in my small sampling. Can anyone confirm? Do you think this thread may have gotten someone's attention???

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/rachael.cr3

Part of my job when I taught English was correcting student essays, sent electronically from all over Russia. For example, you would be given a question or topic, and would have to reply in answers ranging from single words to a full-blown academic essay, depending on age and level of difficulty. I'd be happy to volunteer for something similar if Duo did it.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/MaestroAtticus

Yes but DL makes you remember a bunch of basic words. You may make mistakes forming a senence but you will probably be understood. Then you just go to one of many language exchange websites and practice in real life situations.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/PeacockBlue

Maybe we could have something to work on together as a community? Perhaps, we can start a new thread to add pictures/etc., that we would describe in our study language, where more advanced students and natives could correct. That way would learn to create sentences and be motivated to do that by general community participation. Just an idea. We seem to host a lot of XP competitions ourselves that push us to learn, so we could start something similar. Any ideas anyone?

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

WE'VE BEEN HEARD!!

Before I wrote this post, I observed for three days. Half to two-thirds of exercises (20 questions) had NO translation into a Spanish sentence. In sentences which had a sentence to translate into Spanish, there was never more than one.

Yesterday I noticed more of sentences of this type in the exercises. In the past two days I have done six exercises, and every one of them has had at least one translate-to-Spanish sentence. Some had many as three in one exercise.

I know this is a small sampling, but considering that now 100% of exercises have at least one, I'm convinced. Somebody heard us and did something about it. You should feel proud of yourselves! For reference, I finished my Spanish tree on April 18.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/LucySalamence

You're right, I just did two practice sessions and 30% of what I had to do was translating into spanish. But the worst part is that I had no idea what should I write. Now I feel like duo taught me english all this time.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

But aren't you happy that they heard us and they fixed it? I make mistakes too. The question is, what do I do when someone reveals those mistakes to me?

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/eagersnap

It all varies from person to person, since it is an A/B test. Perhaps you got switched from one group to another either by chance (part of the experiment) or deliberately because of this thread.

May 3, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/BenRea

I hope this is true paulaha, if so, great work :)

April 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vicki.kura

No reason to shoot you down. You are 100% right. I have complained to Luis and one of his workers about this already. I do not retain as well as I did at the beginning of the course for this very reason.

Louis's worker suggested I do the Spanish to English which I had already started to do. BUT if you try to do this before the "lo, le, se" section it will be way too hard to do. Also, I don't understand Spanish so I am unable to use the discussion boards in that section which is a huge part of my learning.

Thank you for stating this so well. I hope they take note of your post (plus all of us that are agreeing with it) and fix this.

Here are a few lingos, even though I doubt if you need them. :)

April 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Thank you, Vicki. Did you see my post above? I believe they have increased the percentage of English to Spanish sentences in just the past few days, as a result of this thread. At least for those with a completed tree. I have no experience for sub-tree users.

April 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vicki.kura

As of yesterday morning it didn't change for me. I am half way through the tree. I hope you are right! :)

And no, I had not read the above. I was trying to read this whole page and ended up being late for work because I was so immersed in it. Unfortunately that only put me half way through the page!

May 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/RRR-ENGLISH

That's why many people recommend doing the reverse tree.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Dr.Manhattan95

You make some very solid points. This is the main reason why I quit using duolingo (I still check the forums and incubator). Once you reach a certain point, duolingo doesn't do much for language learning. I hope they will make changes to help suit us more advanced learners as well as beginners, but I realize they have other priorities.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

For Spanish learners, to give everyone a chance to practice writing in Spanish, I created a thread for Spanish learners and English learners to write and correct each others' writing. A sentence ping-pong. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8359370 . I hope it's just the kind of practice people are looking for.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/vicki.kura

Looks like this is taking off well. Nice work Paula!

May 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

Thanks, Vicki. We're all in this together.

May 1, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/jorgeclavellina

I don't agree with your assertion, because of the following

1.- Usually, people use the new acquire language in the forums and also in the whole internet, therefore, generating new-invented phrases in their target language (my native language is spanish, and I've seen latin american people do the same on other forums)

2.- When the people are translating, they are generating new-invented phrases for resolving the issue of the translation, as many of you know, they are lots of ways of getting right one translation, and some of them just change between the context and the deep meaning of the article, that is that you can get a translation right, and another right+

May 7, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Gymnastical

that's not a problem with Dutch and Swedish

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/nj_2013

I think you have unrealistic expectations. Duolingo's courses are introductory courses. To master a language, you need to spend a lot of time trying to talk with native speakers. Duolingo gets you to the point where you can attempt that.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/ngarrang

I am new to DuoLingo, with Spanish as my primary goal -- though I am dipping my toes into a few other languages purely out of curiosity. Though the lessons are simplistic at times, it is matching up with my learning goals. I am spending 15 minutes a day learning to read and write Spanish, with speaking as a secondary goal. When my curiosity gets me, I head over to the Spanish edition of the BBC News, or experiment with writing with simple poetry in Spanish -- I am a poet -- and use SpanishDict.com as an aid for the words that DL has not yet taught me.

I have read through this entire thread and it seems that an ADVANCED Spanish course is needed, or a Complexity scale setting chosen by the user, for those that are truly dedicated and really want deeper learning. That way, DL is appealing to the language hobbyist and the serious alike.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/EugeneTiffany

Another student and I have discussed this matter a number of times. The only way to get good and "own" a new language is by leaving off doing translations in one’s head and be thinking in the new language. And one can only do that by being fully familiar with the process. And one can only be familiar with something through vast exposure.

That other student and I have bemoaned the lack of having to write out sentences in Spanish as a serious short coming of Duolingo. The lack is greatly limiting our abilities to think in Spanish. We are being given little opportunity to so. And the way it is looking, once we complete the tree we should be able to read and maybe understand what someone says in Spanish, but we won't be able to write a letter in Spanish, or be able to very well reply when someone says something to us with a response beyond the level of an apparent idiot.

I seriously hope Duo will read through this thread and get it in their head that the limitation of forcing students to begin thinking in Spanish could not be more wrong. Duo needs to correct this absolutely serious matter.

Paul, you explained it well.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/tgmg8289

I completely agree with you, paulaha88, and thank you for raising this point. It has been on my mind for quite some time and calls for unbiased, peer-reviewed research on this topic. I would like to contribute to your discussion, assuming you may read this response three years after the original post.

As a graduate student in speech-language pathology with degrees in psychology and linguistics, I have noticed the disappointing mismatch between receptive language (i.e., reading and listening) and expressive language (i.e., writing and speaking) on Duolingo. Even with the listening exercises, the text should not be visible to the language learners because the purpose is to develop one's ear, not simply to read along with the monotone narrator (since how often do we read captions while interacting with a native speaker? If only it were that simple!). I also find the text to be an all-too-tempting crutch and thus force myself not to peek.

On a related note, language is theorized by several leading linguists to be an inherently SOCIAL process. Children are at an advantage over adults for acquiring language because they are showered with age-appropriate vocabulary on a regular basis at home or school, receive instant feedback on their accuracy from caretakers (whether at the phoneme, syllable, word, phrase, or sentence level), can influence their listeners and environment by their verbal attempts, are less afraid of making mistakes, and often depend on language for their survival. In other words, their pragmatics (i.e., social functions of language) is thriving because they are truly experiencing the world, learning new ideas, and making friendships through language. Computer software like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo strives to offer natural language acquisition to its best ability in the comfort of your home, where you are likely the only person learning the target language, but these companies are far from reaching that reality since they cannot help you to THINK in the target language, only to translate.

I highly doubt anyone who claims he or she has achieved true fluency with only computer software, especially in expressive language. Even receptive language is called into question because the level of complexity of the sentences and vocabulary on Duolingo and Rosetta Stone is, at most, late elementary or early middle school -- to my knowledge. I would like to measure how well these language learners spontaneously tell engaging stories, defend their perspectives, participate in debates, ask intelligent questions, describe a scene, interact with strangers in a variety of settings, label their surroundings without hesitation, define words and concepts, offer synonyms and antonyms, give several examples of selected categories, persuade listeners, explain research findings to an audience, understand poetry and other figurative language, appreciate the new culture, and tell jokes in the target language. Even a well-worded (and timed) paragraph or an essay would speak volumes about their writing abilities. For these reasons, I use Duolingo as merely a supplement and view it as a small stepping stone. Besides, language mastery, including those pesky intricacies, tends to require seven or more years of structured dedication that builds with complexity -- all within your "zone of proximal development", unless you are satisfied with a superficial understanding of verbal communication. This is why TRULY learning a new language is a long but worthwhile journey and an impressive achievement.

As a native English speaker who has learned Spanish in the United States through years of education, consistent practice, and immersion as an adolescent and young adult, my strategy to acquiring French (and ASL, Mandarin Chinese, and German in later chapters of my life) is not only to take structured university courses, but also, and more importantly, to immerse myself in the target language with a variety of conversational partners who are knowledgeable about their language and comfortable enough to correct my mistakes politely (whether in person, on the phone, through Skype/Zoom, etc.), and with radio, songs, TV shows, online interviews, movies, children's and young adult books, audiobooks, news articles, TED talks, documentaries, and college lectures. The more ACTIVE or less PASSIVE I can make my third (or fourth) language, the stronger my retention and confidence with the material will be. In ideal circumstances, I would live in the country (e.g. France, Germany, China, etc.) for a year or longer, where the expectation is that I communicate not in English but rather in the official language.

If you can learn a new topic or concept (e.g., The Revolutionary War, the Krebs Cycle, Abraham Maslow's Hierachy of Human Needs, etc.), develop a new skill (e.g., cooking lessons in French only), or make friends who speak to you primarily in the target language, you are one step closer to mastery.

Thanks again for your post. I wish you all the success on your language journey!

Sincerely, Thomas GM Gonzalez

December 25, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/tolunayo

Hi Tomas,

You have revived a 3 year old thread. What a well-thought article!

Duolingo has changed in the last 3 years. They have added some more content so the situation is a bit better (more units, podcast, stories) but you are right, main Duolingo content is mostly comprised of single sentences and still geared towards translation.

One thing that went away is the social aspect of learning where you could have 1-1 interaction directly on Duolingo through activity stream messaging. I guess, another loss is the so-called immersion which was really group translation of complex texts. I think these hurt the usefulness of Duolingo, as the site took steps backwards to accommodate even larger volumes of users.

Someone serious about learning languages has to do a lot of external work (which I have done in Spanish). They have to consume a lot of more textual (newspapers, books) and audiovisual materials (podcasts, radio and TV programs and other video content) and really work on producing more than short phrases and single sentences (incidentally most of those sentences does not even have subordinate sentences that people tend to construct in normal daily speech or writing)

December 26, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Random7878

I agree. I noticed this and I think I would learn so much more if I was given the chance to make my own sentences oftener. The words are less likely to go out of my head if I reguarly made them into sentences on Duolingo. This much-needed post deserves a lingot.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/tolunayo

I agree with you. There is too little encouragement to produce complete sentences in the target language.

A couple suggestions: If you do the reverse tree it may remedy the situation somewhat. Also, Immersion (translation) section could help greatly if you get involved in translations to the target language.

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/danielsa22

I've done a few timed practices today, and some things on my phone, and I've had quite a few translate English to French sentences. And I think that's consistent with how I've always had it. But I totally agree that for composition and speaking the site is very lacking. I don't think I could maintain a French conversation despite finishing the tree. My reading however, is reasonably good, and I'm reading the French Harry Potter now, and I get the gist of things even without looking up words.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/parapluie41

DuoLingo ought to offer to match up penpals! That could help this problem. ^-^

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/HebrewLearner

Since I do not use Duolingo for languages(still waiting for Hebrew and Polish....) and just for sharing my experiences, I am not upset. I can use the vocabulary I learn on other websites in sentences that I just create. Like so: (אני אכלתי עוף (צנדוץ) לארוחת (צהרים or I ate a chicken sandwich for lunch(which is true). Also, the words in parentheses are spelled wrong. Someone who knows Hebrew, may you please correct those words and/or the other mistakes I may have made. The words are Sandwich(Sandvich) and Afternoon(SoHoRayim).

April 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/paulaha88

See this link for a related discussion about AB testing, and Duolingo's assignment to different ratios of generating the target lanugage. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8432779

May 10, 2015
Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.