Why not add more exercises such as "conjugate the verb, decline these nouns, correct these sentences, etc"?
This gets at a gripe I have with the entire "learn through context" approach. No one who speaks their native language well learns through context, but instead you spend a great deal of time learning through exercises done in school. These services often bill themselves as allowing you to learn the language like a child learns it, but children often construct awkwardly worded sentences, and adults are there to explain to them why their word-choice was incorrect. Furthermore most people learn their native language in school right through high school and even into college. There is a clear difference in the way a college graduate speaks, and the way a high school dropout speaks, and it isn't just vocabulary, but grammar as well.
"These services often bill themselves as allowing you to learn the language like a child learns it, but children often construct awkwardly worded sentences, and adults are there to explain to them why their word-choice was incorrect. Furthermore most people learn their native language in school right through high school and even into college."
The English speaking folks that struggle the most on Duo seem to have most of their problems because they don't understand the basics of grammar in English.
True, that. I'm firmly in that category, and have to keep reminding myself that I don't understand formal grammar in my native language, never mind German. (I still think the whole grammatical gender thing was invented as an evil trick to play on language students, mind you...) :)
This isn't exactly true. Young children primarily learn language from listening to their environment and from interaction with other children. Even without formal schooling, almost all children will come to learn and use a fairly sophisticated set of linguistic rules. Think of the daily life of a pre-school child. They spend a lot of time asking questions of adults, expressing their desires and making observations. More crucially though, they are constantly hearing language, from parents and other adults, the media, and most importantly, while engaging with their peers. These peers have been doing likewise, so common patterns of language are naturally reinforced from repetition, while individual misunderstandings or quirks tend to fall away from disuse. Certainly once they reach school, it greatly helps to extend vocabulary, solidify concepts and structure language so that children can understand more complicated subjects and then begin to express their own ideas precisely. However, probably only 15-25% of class time is devoted explicitly to the instruction of native language grammar and vocabulary. The rest of the time, children are learning about math, science, technology, history and society. The material in these subjects will tend to follow standard accepted linguistic patterns, so these patterns are further crystallized in the child's mind. I'd say that most of the time, context really is the key because the mastery of language comes more from a diverse multitude of individual refinements that are barely noticed as they are incorporated for later use.
I agree! Conjugation practice may be a pain, but it serves a purpose and helps get the way to form sentences engrained in your head. I fear I may have issues with Spanish if I continue and realize down the road after being spoon-fed the answers in that same lesson, I suddenly need to remember "to write" in its nosotros form (escribimos) and just wasn't drilled in my head enough, so I have to go to the internet for help. It feels like cheating that way. :/
Yeah, there seems to be a lot of vocabulary building, Most of the words I know are nouns, it is a bit overwhelming, but I haven't learned past or future tense yet, which is a great hindrance to actually speaking the language. After this much time, one should be able to have small conversations, instead it is mostly odd phrases, whose context I can only guess.