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Duolingo practice is becoming increasingly simple, repetitive and monotonous

What's happened to Duolingo? When I use "practice skills," I get numerous iterations of "Mi maleta es amarilla," and very few of the harder, more complex constructions. I don't know if this is a new feature they plan on implementing but I think repeating the same simple sentence literally 3 or 4 times in a row is a waste of time. I hope they'll address this problem soon.

3 years ago

77 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Dcarl1
Dcarl1
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I hope it's a test. It's gotten really simplified to the point of absurdity. Often I'll get the same sentence three times in a 7-8 lesson skill.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
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I wholeheartedly agree. It is a bit sad. Learning a language is really hard work and takes years of dedication before you get to the stage where it is deeply rewarding. Most people drop out after the beginners' honey moon period. I wrote a piece on this a wee while ago, when I was at a particularly vexatious stage with my Spanish:

https://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-messy-morass-of-the-intermediate-language-learner/

DL was a lot more challenging a year ago. I've just started French, and it leaves, quite frankly, a lot to be desired. I still use it, evidently, but I see myself forced to draw heavily on other resources, leaving DL for what I would call "peripheral consolidation", rather than centring my learning around it.

It's a clear case of quantity (of subscribers/retention rates) over quality (of teaching).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EAJames1991

I like that blog post! I'd say I'm moving from intermediate to advanced right now with my Spanish as I can understand much of what is being said (at least enough to follow a conversation) but am incredibly frustrated when I can't formulate a response. Glad to have written proof that others get just as exasperated by this phenomenon.

I've been using Duo alongside other things all along and have kind of assumed that the increased ease of Duo lessons has partly been that I've covered much of the material in other places as I've advanced. However, I definitely have noticed more translations from Spanish to English than the other way around lately, which is not what I really need. I do wish there was a way for Duo to auto-generate new sentences in review lessons as well. Some of them I've just memorized at this point from reviewing them so much, which is essentially useless as far as actual learning goes.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
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Glad you enjoyed it :)

Go find yourself a couple or more native speakers to do intercambios with, it's the only way to break through the plateau. Your conversational skills improve by conversing. Duo can't really help you with that.

Keep at it!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TFTD
TFTD
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My impression is that DL is mainly designed to train people to translate from a learned language into their mother tongue. It is from my experience the easiest thing to teach and learn. And that goes hand in hand with the business model I guess. So in order to get more training with translating from your mother tongue into Spanish I suggest to choose "I speak Spanish" and than learn e.g. English. The voice exercises are kind of useless then but it is better than nothing. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wynrich
wynrichPlus
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TFTD, when I do the reverse tree (Spanish speaker learning English), as you describe above, to avoid getting the voice exercises, before I begin I go to "Settings" and then turn "Sound" to "off". It's kind of a pain because to do my main tree (English speaker learning Spanish), I like the voice exercises so have to go back in and turn the sound setting back to on. But it's worth it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TFTD
TFTD
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What is even more a pain is that if you do the reverse tree dl doesn't offer the input help for the special characters. o_O But it also doesn't complain if you enter "niño" as "nino". And the switching your "mother tongue" is also a pain. Or do you know a faster and easier way then: "Add a new course" --> "I speak Spanish" --> "Select to learn English"? There is quite some room of improvement in the user interface, but I better stop before I start complaining to much. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SusannaEDavis420

Thank you for this blog post! At least I know I'm not alone in this morass.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aiigsh
aiigsh
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I really enjoyed your blog. Thanks for the link. I have been showing friends and family the inverted pyramid ( I thought I made that up!) I'm trying to explain why I haven't 'learned' spanish yet after two years of hard work. Me encanta tu blog.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
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Thanks for reading! Luckily, I'm through that very annoying stage by now and I cannot even tell you how much I'm enjoying being a highly advanced learner and finally able to engage in wordplay, have a normal social life without everyone having to make a special effort for me, read grown-up books etc.

Now it's my low-intermediate Portuguese that's frustrating the hell out of me.

With French, I'm still in the honeymoon period - long may it last ;-)

Keep it up!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SuperDescartes

Completely agreed, this all started with removing the hearts and adding the coach, makes things easier and less punishing and doesn't scare people away when things get tough. Unfortunately, in the real world, things DO get tough and its up to the learner to overcome it and face up to it, but duo is just babying its users and simplifying everything as much as possible because a lot of people do get turned off when the going gets tough, its just human and a fact of life

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066
Frosch0066
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Hi Simone, thanks for the link to your blog - very enjoyable! I can totally relate to that as this is the stage I am currently at in French. Some years ago I found myself in Luxembourg with zero French and while French is not the only official language here, it is almost impossible to conduct your daily life without it. More often than not my "Vous parlez anglais ou allemand?" draws a blank. I can cope in familiar situations with what I call my "Survival French" but beyond that I would never initiate a conversation myself simply because I would not be able to understand anything being said back to me. So the struggle goes on and if your own experience is anything to go by, there is hope...

Back to the original topic: I completed my first French tree (from English) between February and August last year (mostly through the web based version of DL) and I kept a notebook where I took down all the sentences and phrases. Back then it was a good mix of translating both ways and as I progressed down the tree sentences became longer and more complex. Since then I have reset and completed my tree again and I also noticed what is being commented on here. 80-90% translating from French to English, more simple sentence structures and much repetition. Quite a number of the sentences I wrote down the first time I have not come across again this time round.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
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Hi there, and thanks for sharing :) As with all things, you can't ever hope to please everyone, and DL obviously has chosen to please primarily the dabblers by giving them a false sense of achievement (like this totally meaningless fluency % they seem to have introduced?) and leave the serious learners to hunt around elsewhere. Oh well.

Good luck with your French, I'm sure that with enough time and perseverance, you'll get there. Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources out there for French learners :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066
Frosch0066
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Well, they do say "never look a gift horse in the mouth". Considering it's free of charge, DL is still a pretty good tool. I've used other resources from the outset but where DL wins hands down, is the motivational aspect. No other tool/resource has managed to engage me every single day without fail, even if it was only one lesson. I'm not going to learn anything new here but I'll stick with it for another while yet to reinforce vocabulary (the old "Teflon brain" you mentioned).

In an ideal world there would be two Duolingos, as somebody said already. A "light" version for the "dabblers" (and the bored teenagers) and an advanced version for serious learners. But since we are availing or a free service here we can only make suggestions and hope for the best.

Thanks for your encouraging words re French. I'm still hoping for an epiphany, that one day I'll wake up and understand French. ;-) In the absence of this I just have to keep practicing.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Isrianth
Isrianth
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I pretty much use DL to practise the basic vocabulary and sentence structure, but if I need further help with grammar, I go to other resources.

It's a great challenge for me learning German. By the way, I enjoyed reading your article.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
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Thanks :)

German grammar is a nightmare. I admire anyone who sticks with this fiddly stuff and tries to get the endings right. Hats off...

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonathangrant00
Jonathangrant00
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Thank you for this. It describes me pretty well. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bach4ever
Bach4ever
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Thank you very much for your blog post. It describes well the experience of transitioning from blissful beginner to the hard realities of the intermediate learner.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SimoneBa
SimoneBa
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...I think I was in a mid-level crisis when I wrote that ;-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/laostirner

I scored higher on one of the quizzes I took a month ago than the one I took yesterday....

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aquwa
aquwa
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Another issue is that most of your translation (or at least in the Spanish from English course) is from your target language to your known language, when you need to be translating from your known language to your target language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amaybury
amaybury
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It would be so nice if we could translate the other way, I agree. The thing to do is start the English for Spanish speakers course, then you can translate into Spanish.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/baldwinj

It is a consequence of the potentially endless format. Since every typo or actual mistakes adds 1 or 2 more questions or people will quit in disgust. Bad format leads to dumbing down. As the comments below indicate, bring back the old system. More interesting, more challenging and much more fun.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ToddPhillips
ToddPhillips
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Also, the flashcards are not changing for me. I reviewed the 12 or so words and it was revealed to me, I needed to work on cancello (gate). That was great!, but every time I clock on the flashcards, It gives me the same 12 or so words in the SAME order. Why not any new words? How often do they change? I would appreciate it if it gave you words you've seen before, but are lowest strength words.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amaybury
amaybury
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I find, when doing flashcard sessions one after the other, that you have to give Duolingo a few moments after finishing to update the vocab list; if you start another flashcard session straight away, it doesn't update and gives you the same words. Same if you quit straight away, then come back to it I think. The trick is to watch the last 'o' in the Duolingo logo; it spins when it is doing something, so after finishing a flashcard session, wait until it stops spinning, then go again.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bach4ever
Bach4ever
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I am experiencing the same thing. Same words each time.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/L8rgator

I agree. I practice spanish daily and am shocked by the sudden change just recently on my android app. What happened??? This version is horrible - like for little kids. You don't even get kudos for a perfect score round. Argh! I'm so upset i logged in online just to find someplace to complain.!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/L8rgator

If they want to dumb it down, than make two versions and let us pick. Or have a 'normal'and' challenging' option like some computer games. I don't give a crap about comparing my progess to others. I just want to learn efficiently.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Brave_Heart

Actually the main problem for me is not necessarily the repetition, cause sometimes we are short in time and want to finish it soon, or the repetition is useful for fixing the words in our head. The point is the large quantity of relatively simple sentences instead of fewer, more developed ones. Having more and harder sentences to choose between would allow duolingo database to repeat less - and possibly let us learn more with the same or less time used.

I've saw someone mentioning the substitution of the old hearts for the current bar system - it was determining for my return, it improved a lot with a relatively small change! We can and should give some time to admins to improve the lesson system a bit more, again. It's a free, and now, much better site.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Naasuk

My advice is to try and focus on the immersion section. I abandoned the actual tree after finishing it, and while it was good, I felt like my learning stagnated. I feel like I've learned far more just from translating things in the immersion section, and it helps you learn things that duo doesn't teach all too well.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/YYismyLanguage

Once, the entire practice lession(for me) on the Christmas add-on was just two sentences back and forth, not cross translating, just each into Spanish. I just copied them into my clipboard and pasted because I just did't want to still through and see if I could translate the same sentence for the 10th time. Might of been a bug now that I look back, but still!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/002-nichole

I had it happen to me like a week ago with the flirting lesson in spanish. I was able to copy and paste the answer for the entire lesson. I was pretty disappointed.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dexterinthedark

people, people, you have to repeat individual lessons if you want to make the most of duolingo.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amaybury
amaybury
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I think what they find upsetting is when a lesson uses the same two phrases repeatedly.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SummerSnow4

absolutely; I've been repeating individual lessons for some time now, and with the latest update I got the same phrase to hear and write down in Spanish five(!!) times in one lesson. There were plenty of others I did more than once too. Where did the variety go?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/yetanothername

This. I came back recently after not using this site for about 6 months and naturally it had degraded my skills in old lessons. That's fair enough but I've been blowing through most of the lessons easily.

This morning I revisited one in particular and missed 2 vocabulary words (cinturon and gafas) and I'm sure I probably missed those the first time around as well. Instead of repeating those words I am repeatedly tested on calcetines and falda) which I know so well I actually remember learning them in elementary school 40 years ago.

I just looked at the Words tab and it shows my strength for all 4 words to be at its maximum. I don't think that I'm equally strong in them. I missed 2 of those words in the lesson and wasn't tested on them again. How can I be at maximum strength?

Looking further down the list I see plenty of words that I know perfectly well that I am at the minimum strength. My Spanish has not deteriorated so much that I've forgotten words like imposible or hoy or escribir. And escribir was used a few times in the work I've done today.

I'm coming to the conclusion though that duolingo will only do so much. I'm starting to watch Spanish language TV with subtitles in Spanish and pausing if I need to look anything up (or just letting it go in some cases).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Cyril.Plisko

Same here. With this new practice in effect DL rapidly losing its attraction.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SmokeyIX
SmokeyIX
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I recently had the same sentence all 20 times during a timed session. Sometimes it was from Spanish to English and sometimes it was from English to Spanish, but it was the same sentence every time.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bcturner59

You are so right. Seems I get the same 10 exercises every time! Always same words. I have to do individual lessons to practice older words. Wish they would work on Spanish Duolingo. The last update was a waste. Also the errors are always the same.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/peggie13

I agree. I am at Level 21 and just got a whole dose of "Por que no vamos a un sitio mas tranquilo? all day. Is there a glitch in the program?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SmokeyIX
SmokeyIX
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When you become level 23, you'll get to do "¿Eres modelo?" all twenty times in a timed exercise! I'm expecting level 24 to be 4000 points worth of "el gato."

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/westaaron
westaaron
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Duolingo is hitting on you!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AureliaUK
AureliaUK
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Is that in the flirting lesson? ;)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SmokeyIX
SmokeyIX
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Now that it blocks me from doing timed exercises since it says I studied all of the words, I have to do lessons instead. I'm surprised at how far my Spanish has degraded since I was at level 20 and started doing timed lessons due to the lessons giving only 3 points.

Between levels 1 and 20, Duolingo is the best website on the internet for learning Spanish. After level 20, it's among the worst.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wynrich
wynrichPlus
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Oh dear. I'm at level 22 and still have the timed practice option. I wonder if they are testing for this and you are in the group being testing. I'd sure hate for timed practice to go away.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SmokeyIX
SmokeyIX
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I still have the option, but I was only able to do it once tonight before I was shut down with the message: "Heads up! You have practiced all of your words. Try doing some lessons or translations."

I'm glad it pushed me back into lessons. Otherwise, I wouldn't have noticed how much my Spanish has deteriorated since level 20. Duolingo really should mix up the sentences on the timed exercises. This website is quickly becoming increasingly detrimental to my Spanish language education. I'm only still using Duolingo since I had a goal of reaching level 25, so I want to finish that goal. I'll come back and study Russian up to around level 20 after it comes out in beta, since I do feel like Duolingo is an amazing website for a beginner of a language. But after level 20....man, what a waste.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/knos15
knos15
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Try to practice the individual lessons instead of doing the general practice skills

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/selenahost

I like the repeating sentences if they focus on a word I'm struggling with. It really helps me get a sense of how it is used and the word certainly gets stuck in my brain! But yes, if the sentence that gets repeated is really easy, I can see how that gets annoying.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Z4CH3B99

I think I was just given the same sentence to translate for the entire practice!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SmokeyIX
SmokeyIX
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Was it ¿Eres modelo?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Z4CH3B99

No, it was not.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aspendog

I agree. I get the same thing. Boring.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/txbunny1908

I've only been on a short time, but I'm finding the same thing. Yes, I get that repetition will help with learning but at least change up the sentences. I have found that I will sometimes get the same thing 3-4 times in row, or it almost seems that a session is really only 2-3 questions repeated multiple times. I've seen others comment that the vocab base is only approx 1000 words? That seems incredibly small. I realize it is a free site and I don't expect to be fluent using this alone (despite what the "fluency" meter says) . It would be great to see the vocab base expanded, maybe creating an additional "advanced" tree?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/youngbloodrl

I think the most powerful aspect of DL is the translation. I thought the practice was just to get you started. but the translations/immersion are were you get your meat. Right?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sasa769896

Yes, but what will you make of your meat if you don't know how? I've just "successfully" finished imperatives without a clue how they are made and consequently without ability to recognize them when I read/hear one.

No falta nada tener una explicacion simple de la gramatica.

Edit: you know, this is not to undermine the good effort which people at DL are putting into it, I just feel that I'm advancing way to slow and getting tired of typing...

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amaybury
amaybury
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I feel like people may be missing this, but on each lesson, there is a button, top left, in rather hard-to-see grey writing, that says Tips & Notes. The grammar aspects of each lesson are actually explained really well in these things I think, so do make use of them.

If you did use it, and didn't find it useful, then ignore me. Maybe that was a dud one.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sasa769896

What? Where? Amaybury, could you post your screen-shot, please? Because, I can't find it anywhere. Take a look at what I see:

http://i.imgur.com/nox0WBZ.png

http://i.imgur.com/QDFKAQv.png

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amaybury
amaybury
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I'm told that the T&N's are added only after the courses have been fully incubated, and then only as much as the incubators can bring themselves to do, so they may not be on every lesson. My advice would be to turn to other websites, such as about.com for Spanish, for your grammatical explanations. If you've got any questions, feel free to ask me; my Spanish is rather rusty, but I think I can explain most things.

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8763883

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amaybury
amaybury
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Ummm, well I can take a screenshot but haven't the foggiest clue how to post it. I may have overstepped the boundaries of certainty when I said it was on every lesson; upon investigation on my German tree, it seems to be in a lot of lessons, but not all; those that don't introduce any new aspect of grammar, those that are just for vocab on a certain topic, such as Animals, or Family. That said, there isn't one on my lesson on modal verbs either, and I can see your picture is on the past imperfect, which ought to have one. On your picture, it should be on the same level as the 'Quit' option, in the same writing, but on the left side. I don't know why it is on some and not others, perhaps there is a reason; I will endeavour to find out. In any case, it ought to be there on some of your lessons (it is there if you go back and strengthen them too), so perhaps it will help you wherever it is to be found.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sasa769896

Gracias muchisimo, Amaybury! :) I browsed back and saw some notes and tips although they don't seem to be represented with a button but as additions to topics. Wish they made more of them. Perhaps, it is still a work in progress. http://i.imgur.com/oqWEOk7.png

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amaybury
amaybury
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De nada :D

You're quite right that the T&N's appear as add-ons as well, but if (on your screenshot for instance) you then click the strengthen skills button, it should show up as a button on the left as well. Still, either works. I wish they made more of them too; p'raps one day when I have less on my plate, I will apply to be an incubator and dedicate some time to it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sasa769896

Thank you very much, Amaybury! :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/The_100th_Dog

I agree, I have a lot of skills that aren't golden and yet when I practice I just do the same things about being on top of or blaming. I don't kno why ' -.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/cms258
cms258
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I had the same issue, I must have answered 6 questions in a row that used the word sofa

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/espofleet

I agree.No new words when changing level. Translations help but we need to learn more vocabulary.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/gaourylonge

Sounds like a programming design flaw. Computers don't do truly random numbers, and if a programmer isn't careful, his "random" selection will be biased toward a certain selection or group of selections. Ask the staff to double check their algorithms for better randomness.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AureliaUK
AureliaUK
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As I said before (several times, I think), I suspect this dumbing down is for the benefit of school kids and to position DL as the go-to method for schools. My memory of my earliest years of learning French is of it being excrutiatingly slow, at least for the first few years.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Varsha1729

But if you are right, are we to infer that they are trying to chase non-school users away? Because a little more of this excruciating repetition and that is just what they will achieve.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AureliaUK
AureliaUK
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I doubt they are actively seeking to drive non-school users away, but I suspect we will see the product increasingly developed in directions that don't serve the needs of independent adult learners. My guess is that over time it will become less and less attractive to users such as us as in the greater scheme of things we just won't matter. The persistent failure of TPTB to effectively deal with outbreaks of teenage brattishness is evidence of that to me.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sasa769896

Hmm, interesting thinking... Maybe, school users are the reason why "el sitio" was mostly unavailable to me in the past two days.

Anyways, he completado el árbol de DL. Gracias, adiós! :D

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda
Luscinda
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I hope not, because it isn't really suitable for schools in so many ways.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SusannaEDavis420

I always get "el polvo" every single time I do the practice skills exercise. It's not giving me repetitions of any errors I've made in the past. I just keep getting the same sentences over and over or brand new ones.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Talca
Talca
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Buggy system. Too busy with Klingon to fix their most used module--Spanish?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SusannaEDavis420

Talca, I was thinking today that if some of us volunteered, we could each create some associated exercises to go along with each lesson. We could each choose a different lesson, and then think up practices that might help us to learn. For example, I've put some lessons on Quizlet.com, so that I can see the English sentences first, and then try to translate them into Spanish. If I could figure out how to share these, I would be happy to do it. I also want to try creating a sort of story out of the sentences in one duolingo lesson and then answer questions about it. This won't be easy because they don't have a central theme at all! I'm trying to think of how we learned in college by using one Spanish lesson in a variety of different activities to learn broadly. It really helped me. I don't know what the copyright laws are on duo, though. I need to think more about this.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Squeemolini

YES. I'm about to give up on it entirely. It's become a joke with my husband that the first and last translation (Italian) will always be "the hats." They also seem to love talking about elephants drinking milk, and saying "he has his own cats." And if I ever need to say "which whale?" I'm set. What in the world is going on, Duolingo??

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sasa769896

Though I agree, what worries me even more is that I have not seen much grammar explained so far.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vmvoris1230

I was alarmed by that, too. It's been about 4 years since I took Spanish, and upon starting DL today, I found myself taking a lot of time trying to remember conjugations. It seems like the program is telling you it is one particular conjugation "just because."

3 years ago