Changing the order of lessons
I'm working on the Dutch duolingo - it's been great so far - thank you to those who made it.
My one gripe is with the order of lessons. It would be nice to learn things in the order that they're likely to be useful to you. For instance, questions, numbers, time and places are generally the first things you need to know when you get to a new country, but the lessons for these subjects are well in to the course, after clothing, animals, etc.
I'm almost half way through the course, and have learned a decent vocabulary, but I still have no idea how to say "I was there yesterday" or "I'll be there tomorrow", because past/future tense don't come up until way later. Rather than learning a lot of verbs in the present, then doing past/future, I think it would be more useful to learn the basic verbs in present, then their tenses, and then expand your vocabulary.
It'd be good to hear what others think about this.
To some extent I agree with you, if you go to a different country it can be handy to know times or numbers. However, it generally is also handy if you can use these in a sentence. If you can count to 10 or can say that it is 5 o'clock that is nice but apart from that not very practical.
Yes it may also not be very practical that you know that a sheep is "een schaap" in Dutch. However, learning animals/clothing/food allows you to learn many basic sentences and skills in a language. After all an animal can eat, drink, run, fly, sit, sleep, walk, be something, have something etc.. Then there are all the different adjectives that you can use with them, learn about the basic grammar rules and how to apply these, which is a lot harder if you would replace these lessons by numbers or times.
I get that the animals/clothing are learned as placeholders around which to learn grammar, but the lessons could also be made so as to learn grammar around more practical sentences. e.g. "What time does the train leave?", "I will be there by 20:00", "How much for the stroopwafels?", "My bicycle fell in the canal". "Where can I buy a bicycle?". "I will meet you at the park". "Would you like mayonnaise on your fries?". "Beware of the scooters."
These types of sentences contain more of the vocabulary you find in everyday life (times, places, etc), and I think more practical grammar (basic past/future tense early on), then progressing to less common verbs.
I'm not sure what kind of flexibility duolingo allows, but I think it would be useful to add a parallel set of lessons where you learn practical phrases, without having covered the basic grammar first. People would have the option of first learning these phrases by memory, then understanding the grammar in them over time through the main lessons.