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we need somewhere within duolingo that explicitly explains grammar

We need somewhere within duolingo that will explicitly explain grammar rules.

It would help so much to be able to read over a basic explanation of the conventions of the language we are learning

September 22, 2013



Duo seems to be a long way away from having an interest in this, appearing to favor the inductive 'learn from your mistakes' method and relying on fellow learners to explain things in the discussion forum. One reason I say this is because, rather than than answer a very basic question about Spanish that has been posted in the general forum, a moderator will just announce that 'it is being moved to the Spanish forum.' I would think they could both answer the question and move it, right?

The current emphasis on scores, awards, streaks, and other 'game' aspects suggests to me that people that want to 'study' a language are not being regarded as highly as those that want 'game their way through.' My two cents, reflective of my learning g style. I'd prefer to know how to do something and be successful as I attempt it rather than 'learn from my mistakes.' ;)

IMO, if a person wants more grammar than Duo offers, one needs to be self-reliant and get a good dictionary and grammar, online or on paper, and pick up a used college textbook, and use them. There are good free sites that will explain the grammar, andI expect they are as readily available on French as in Spanish.


I'm sort of on the fence about this one. I, like you appear to also, really like to understand the grammatical rules behind a language. I started learning Spanish in high school with the standard approach of rote vocabulary and studying grammar. Even though I took 3 years of it and passed all three with near perfect scores, I still was completely unable to do anything useful with Spanish such as listen to and understand podcasts, music, or television. I was also largely unable to read native materials without great difficulty (including children's books).

A couple of years later, I ended up befriending, and later dating, a wonderful lady from Mexico who spoke English about as well [poorly] as I spoke Spanish. During this period, I paid zero attention to grammar and simply learned through immersion. I really started to get a feel for what just sounds right and what doesn't. This is exactly what we do in our native language. We don't always know why, but we just know when something isn't right.

Later, I decided I really wanted to improve my fluency beyond the intermediate level, so I started to dig into various grammar books. What I found when going through the "rules" is that they are almost always more like guidelines rather than actual rules as there are almost always exceptions. I definitely don't want to discount the usefulness of this exercise, as it was most certainly useful, but I recall thinking about exceptions I had naturally picked up while reading the so-called "rules". In many cases, I ended up questioning things that I knew "sounded right", versus what the rules said they should be which actually led to me making more mistakes than I was making before studying the grammar.

This happens in English all the time too. For example, one of the first rules that is taught to English learners is that to make a noun plural, you add s or es and change y to ies. Then shortly thereafter one encounters words that don't follow the pattern like woman and women, tooth and teeth, and foot and feet. After a little more time, they likely run across half and halves, fungus and fungi, crisis and crises, etc. Just when they think they have seen most of the patterns of the irregularities, along come the ones that don't change from singular to plural like fish, aircraft, and species.

So, my point is that while I see the benefit of learning the grammar, and I won't discount it completely, I contend that you learn far more from simply immersing yourself into the language and getting a feel for what sounds right versus what rules (that aren't really rules) say.


...a moderator will just announce that 'it is being moved to the Spanish forum.

Just to clarify, not a moderator's doing. Moderators don't have that capability.

IMO, if a person wants more grammar than Duo offers, one needs to be self-reliant and get a good dictionary and grammar, online or on paper, and pick up a used college textbook, and use them.

Seconded. That's the only way to successfully grasp the language you're studying with Duo. Duo is just an exercise book. I have 20-30 bookmarked German dictionary and grammar links, and I use them quite frequently.


>Duo is just an exercise book.

It would help to have a notice somewhere making that clear, and maybe some suggested links for each language to get people started.


Duo is just an exercise book

That's just my opinion, not something officially mentioned by Duo somewhere. As for links, I posted some German ones below, but I fully agree with you, there should be a list somewhere obvious, or Duo should improve their grammar and dictionary.


I like that comparison (exercise book). I think it fits very well!


Just to clarify, not a moderator's doing. Moderator's don't have that capability.

I think moderators should approach staff and request a way to merge discussions. Its ridiculous to have 20 topics on the exact same thing. Basically, what could be done, is that the main or original topic remains, and a link to the new one is added as a comment, and also hiding the previous one from the main list of discussions.

Or the new topic is deleted and all its comments are moved into the old topic as a new entry, with the poster as the "commenter", and the other people replying to the person who started the thread.


> I would think they could both answer the question and move it, right?

No, they rarely could. The Duo mod who moved your question is not necessarily an expert in the language (they may be an expert on another language). Moreover, even if they do know the answer, in any Internet forums, there are a limited number of mods and they are always very busy with other stuffs; a mods' primary duty is to keep a safe and pleasant environment for everyone, not to answer everyone's questions. On the other hand, there are a larger number of native speakers that frequents their native languages' discussion forum and will happily answers your question.

> IMO, if a person wants more grammar than Duo offers, one needs to be self-reliant and > get a good dictionary and grammar, online or on paper, and pick up a used college textbook, > and use them. There are good free sites that will explain the grammar, andI expect they > are as readily available on French as in Spanish.

That's a very good tip. There are many different ways to explain grammars and IMO finding one that fits your own style of learning are better than having all learners use a single resource.


Agreed, I think sometimes we overestimate the knowledge people have of grammar and rules. Although some may have graduated and even have tertiary degrees in other fields, they may not necessarily have a good understanding of rules or grammar.

Being a native speaker does not make you an expert in the language, in fact there are many cases of non-native speakers possessing greater language proficiency than the native speaker. The same way owning PhD degree does not necessarily make you a teacher or competent researcher. These skills need to be explicitly taught, which is one of the major failings of some or probably most universities.

To summarize, although I can speak English/portuguese fluently, I don't necessarily understand or have the ability to explain all the underlying rules. Although I more or less know what is wrong based on habit or language use, only someone who has truly studied the art of language can probably offer relatively accurate information or advice on language use.

Duolingo should in my opinion offer a bit more info on each skill. That said, teaching is an art as much as it is a science, and duolingo is still a youngling which has yet to master this ability


Hey wow! How do you bold stuff?


If you put two ** in front of and behind the word/sentence. If you put one * it gets cursive.


"Gaming your way through" is now you learned your native language. When you were three years old, you kept saying "I runned". You Mom didn't hand you a chart showing the conjugation of the verb "run". She just correct you "Oh, you ran?" You didn't care about grammer, just abot being understood and praised for understanding.

My English grammar is decent, but it's only in a few areas I can give a proscriptive rule for grammar (and much of that from studying Latin in high school). My knowledge of grammar is more a sense of "that sounds right; that doesn't", which comes from an unconscious statistical analysis of all the English I've heard and read over a lifetime.

Duolingo is trying to give you a corpus (a body of data from which your mind will compute those statistics) for the language you're studying The Duolingo corpus is necessarily much smaller than your native corpus, both in extant and in depth.

I'm working through the German skill tree, and I'm consciously trying not to memorize rules, the genders of works, declensions or conjugations, Because no one does this when talking or writing in their native language; they just "know" it's "die Frau" when she's a subject and "der Frau" when an indirect object because that "sounds right", even if they have no idea of what a "subject" or "indirect object" is. Doing a "table lookup" ("Die, Die, Der...) is at best an intermediate step to compensate for not "internalizing" the word.

For at least the first several years of learning a language, you're going to make mistakes. Even after that, you're going to use constructions that are natural in your native language, but unnatural in the second language (you'll notice this all the time even in good non-native English speakers, for example, the use of "today morning" in false analogy to "yesterday morning" or "tomorrow morning", by native Telegu speakers.) Don't be afraid of this. Once you get to a point of rudimnetary communication in your target language, you'll be able to improve t by practicing it.


Duolingo is great for learning vocabulary and improving one's basic understanding of a new language. Other free or paid resources are necessary if one wants a more detailed guide regarding language rules. For example, I use Spanish Dict (free), Study Spanish (free), and Rocket Spanish (paid) to supplement my Duolingo experience. I find Duolingo the most fun and the best resource for daily Spanish practice and learning new words. I find the other resources more useful for learning specific language rules. While it would be nice if one resource had everything, for now we need to rely on more than just one.


I use Study Spanish as well. it offers lessons that explain some of the basic rules of Spanish grammar, though of course the free information is limited.


I disagree. In my opinion, developing stand-alone grammar sections is one of the last things duolingo should spend its limited budget on.

There are so many resources for learning or looking up grammar for all the languages offered. Many thousands of grammar books have been published on all the main languages of the world and there are also many free online grammar resources available, as others have pointed out.

What duolingo offers is fairly unique and quite innovative. I would much rather they continue to develop along the lines they have already established and particularly I would like to see more work put into the immersion (translate the web) part of the website. This is what will earn them money and is also a very interesting activity for users. Plus, of course, the community tools for adding more languages.

The contextual grammar advice that duolingo already offers is all I want from the site. If I need more then I look elsewhere and am happy doing so.


I think Duo would easily have enough volunteers to help develop more of a grammar guide. We're not talking about a textbook worth of stuff here. Just a simple guide to por vs. para or imperfect vs. preterite (I'm not sure if French has equivalents but I would assume so).


If you're wanting to take a wiki approach (community developed material), why not build on the attempts already started? Namely wikipedia and wikibooks. These projects already have all the infrastructure necessary and good material already there.

For Spanish:

For French:


Because they aren't written for the language learner that has little to no experience.


Hmm? I did a google search "Spanish for beginners online free" and got over 6 million results. spanishdict.com got me going online with "hola!, muchas gracias" etc. in a well presented easy-to-follow way.


Not everyone here is searching on other sites. They are here to learn, so they primarily search here for answers. I have currently three tabs open where people ask about very basic declination issues. Sure, I can explain it to each of them until they say they understand. Or I can simply link them to other sites hoping they figure it out themselves with it. But wouldn't it be easiest for all if someone only had to write everything once and put it in a place where everyone using this site would find it just as easily as the discussion forum, and if people still have questions they can ask directly on the same site?

It also helps immensely when clearing up misunderstandings when you know where someone got his examples and rules from; I also frequently get questions like "I read somewhere something about... why doesn't this apply here?" and I then spend the first minutes figuring out what the original source was actually saying and meaning.

And last but not least, not everyone here is a native English speaker. I am a German who tries to learn Spanish. Such sites are rarer, and I bet there are even fewer for smaller native languages. A Duolingo grammar wiki could use the same examples for everyone but translate the explanations in many different native languages.


There are lots of good resources within reach of a google search. My favourite, and one often cited in the comments, is spanishdict.com. I find that I study quite a bit of grammar and background material when looking for understanding this way. I don't think that DL can do everything; it would have to change its logo from a wise owl to a sprawling octopus!


Even if they don't have the ressources to write such pages themselves, they could lust make a wiki page where users can write explanations, others can edit them and so on, sort like the immersion translations. I'd rather write down my explanations on a topic on such a page than explaining the same problem over and over.


This is where I am lacking. I can remember nouns easily but have no idea what a subjunctive perfect present article is or how or when to use it. I accept that duo is free and I'm slowly picking things up but I wish there was a way to incorporate more of the underlying theory to assist me.


www.about.com is probably the best for simplified grammar for French. The web pages are full of ads, but it's free and many of the discussion threads here in duo reference that site. The woman that writes about.com/french is very good and easily understood. Beyond that, buy a book. But, still I like and prefer your idea.


Use your search engine! Pop for a grammar workbook on Amazon....< $10 bucks will get you some pretty good grammar practice books. Honestly, explicitly explained grammar rules aren't going to help you learn a language as much as you think they will. I tutor students in English grammar, and yes, at times, I don't remember all of the different types of adjectives and then the exceptions to the adjective rules and I have to look it up! If I'm tutoring a student who's native language is not English, I often find myself explaining a grammar rule, BUT then I tell the student that no one says it like that:) My point being is that you want to try and not sound like a walking book when you are conversing with someone in your target language.

And, in this internet age, let's not forget that your friendly, local public library often has many books and DVD course available for checkout i.e.: FREE!!

If you are lucky enough to have a university in your area that attracts foreign students, you may be able to find someone that you can barter language learning with. That's what I've done. I help him learn ''real English'' and he helps me learn ''real Latin American Spanish''. I'm also fortunate enough to have a friend who lives and works in Madrid who is constantly pointing out to me that, while, yes the grammar rules say you should use this verb tense, nobody here does. Ah! Regional differences!

http://www.wordreference.com/ has an excellent French / English forum (among many others) that explains grammar questions in, at times, excruciating detail....by real French people living in French speaking countries all over the world! I could spend hours just learning on their forums. Here, check out merci:) ..... http://www.wordreference.com/fren/merci

Duo is fine the way it is! It will mature like a fine wine as the forums mature, the information in the forums becomes more useful, learners get past the ''It's a game'!'' language learning phase and develop into self reliant learners who not only want to learn a language or two but the culture and history that surrounds the languages. No one language learning resource can do it all and do it all for free! Yes, let's not forget the free part:)


Failing that, we rely on our fellow users. Some of them offer valuable help, and it would be nice if we were able to access that knowledge somehow. I think a list of helpful online sources for each language would also be helpful. But a Google search often works.


You don't seem to be doing German, but for any interested, there are some useful German links here (skip to the bottom of my post for the list): http://www.duolingo.com/comment/370405

For French, the only 2 I really ever link to or use are:

If you can get your hands on any Beschrelle (http://www.bescherelle.com/catalogue2.php?idcoledi=000000016190) you'll use it often. I haven't found an online version and I don't think they have one.

Edit: A few more French links:


Hohenems, your links are exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. They should be easier for everyone to find. And you probably should be awarded a few lingots or whatever.

As for French, the two you mention are the ones I use, as well as


For Spanish, I use

http://dictionary.reverso.net/spanish-english/ (Larousse seems better for French)


There are also other online dictionaries for various languages listed at http://www.lexilogos.com/english/index.htm

I forgot to mention I've also used the language materials at http://fsi-language-courses.org/ They're old (but free). I've only used the Spanish, but it explains quite a bit of grammar.


cntrl.fr looks really good, thanks for that. I bookmarked it for future use.


i find there are many easy grammar sources on-line. so easy to access that searches as simple as "German possessive pronouns" retrieve a host of useful tables and explanations.

i just open a tab and search away. home runs every time. but there is a way that Duolingo could compile such a database, if it really interests users unlike me, and be of great interest or benefit. have grammar wikis in Duolingo: user-built, user-rated entries, and citable in immersion entries, etc. A grammar wiki would read a bit like a people's Academie publication, if the Academie were about empowering people.

since the internet is so full of excellent pages describing grammar, and these pages are so-well-crawled by search engines like Google that search results are meaningful and full of all the authoritative opinions one could need while learning a language, i do not think the Duolingo team would find it profitable or useful to explain grammar beyond the tips given in new lessons.


I kind of feel like if you're on duo, you have the internet, and you can look up anything you need, They are focusing on their method, and it isn't the only resource you should use especially if you want to understand a language in depth.


I think Duo could not replace a real class. It is just a game in which you can practice, expand or improve your knowledge in a certain language. In my personal experience, right after I discovered this page I started looking for a teacher or something to really learn Italian, because Duo wouldn't be enough to fully comprehend a language.


Duolingo is a tool to use to help your learning. It should be used along with other books and websites


As usual, it has already been suggested:

Why not have a Grammar section alongside the Vocabulary section that shows you the grammar rules covered (implicitly) by the lessons so far?http://www.duolingo.com/comment/74774


For lots of grammar exercises, there is always www.studyspanish.com


There are plenty of basic Spanish grammar lessons available on the web. No need to reinvent that wheel.


The grammars of all languages are so complicated that you need to find a good grammar book of the language you're interested in and study it from that. Duolingo's method is you must pick it up as you go along from the examples it gives you.This would probably work if you were living in a country where the language is spoken, but on the web, I am not sure.


we need something like verbs tests orvsomething


There are lots of free tests online, for Spanish at least. Just google for them. I did a really simple one just now & got 3 out of 10 wrong....all typos. That's normal for me :)


If I had a nickel for every time I type 'you' instead of 'yo', I'd be rich.


What would be nice if Duolingo provided a separate grammar course. Outside of the language you are learning, something that can be picked up in your mother tongue.


I wonder if DuoLingo would benefit from a voluntary 'style guide' format for commenters who are listing rules and examples in response to questions from people within the individual discussion boards for a question.

This could eliminate confusing run on sentences, vague references, double negatives, [and unexplained linguistic jargon] or other problems that learners might see as they parse the examples provided by the community.

If necessary, other comments within the thread could then improve the example/explanation until that example was most clear and consistent with other examples offered throughout the boards.

I would also think that we could make it a very gentle and positive system, as people could say, 'that's great (random person) and thank you, i have put your explanation into the voluntary style guide format to make it more clear for other learners'.

This may be a reasonable and community based solution to the need for grammar, guides, etc. It would also have the advantage of responding to the most common language confusions. At the same time it would be directly connected to the specific question that caused confusion in the first place.


I agree. Collins Italian Grammer (available in Kindle book) is an excellent source and it only costs about $6.00.

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