1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. Duolingo's inaugural hackatho…


Duolingo's inaugural hackathon! What we came up with...

A huge thanks to everyone who suggested ideas for the hackathon in this thread: http://www.duolingo.com/comment/774419. Lots of the comments also gave us some great product feedback that we'll take into account as we make updates.

What did we do at this hackathon? We spent 27 hours straight in small teams of up to 3 people working on whatever we wanted as long as it related to our mission of bringing free language education to the world.

Here's what we came up with:


Let us know which projects you'd like to see added to Duolingo!

September 30, 2013



Definitely the error review! That would be immensely useful.


You should add some tool for MARKING DIFFICULT WORDS ourselfs so that they could appear more frequently until we finally learn them. If could happen with a button "Difficult word" during the lessons. I suggest it because it had happened to me many times that I find some very difficult new word and from the moment I see it I think "Oh, damn! Such a difficult word I'll never remember it!" and the word doesn't appear again in the lesson (or it appear just once) so I don't really learn it... If these words go to a "Difficult words" list practising them would be much more easier! Or at least they could appear in the "word strenght" system like "Overdue" - that would improve the "word strenght" algorithms a lot!


I second this suggestion. I could definitely use something like that.


Agree. Some lessons will introduce 6 or 7 new words and will then only use 1 word a few more times before it lets me progress. I try to go back to the vocabulary page but need to be more aggressive with repeating the lessons.


That would be AMAZING!


I'm new and clicked on Vocabulary this morning and it said practice weakest words, so wouldn't that be the answer to your suggestion? Or am I missing something?


Yes but the words in this list are the words only considered weak by the algorithm. And the algorithm often considers some words that I know that I don't know very well as strong words so they don't come up as often as I would like them to.


It's similar but my idea will improve the Duolingo algorithms which counts which are my "weakest words" because Duolingo don't always know which are my weakest words. Expecially when you have met a word recently BUT you haven't managed to learn it and Duolingo thinks is it "Still strong" when it is actually "Not learned yet".


Ah, now I see! That would be brilliant if they would implement a button like that.


It's like reading the discussion is half the fun on duolingo! xD Like.. every 2 to 3 days there is an anouncement of somethin awesome o.O And october 9th is yet to come xD


I can't wait to see what happens with the "by the people" thing! I'm so excited :D


1. Practice listening and writing through watching movie trailers on YouTube.

Only movie trailers will be available ?


I imagine this is because of the (increasingly onerous) restrictions of copyright. Just translating a trailer would be allowed under the Fair Use provision, I think, as it constitutes brief sections from a larger work.


But I am not a copyright lawyer (nor would I want to be), so just speculation on my part.


+1 AND you can use the translations to provide youtube videos with free subtitles :)


I can select Portuguese videos and translate them to english


WOW WOW WOW!!!!! You guys are doing so much! Yay, the "Challenge Your Friends" is there! :) I agree with comments from previous discussions that coloring the words for different genders would be really great. You guys are awesome. Just awesome.


It's here? I can't see it?


Error review is brilliant and desperately needed.

I think I miss seeing what I did wrong at least 10% of the time I make a mistake, and sometimes I make the same mistake three or four times before I stop myself from pressing Enter too fast.


Enter key remorse. We've all felt it :{


Yes, yes we have lol


You guys are the absolute best!

Thanks for making the world (and Duo) a better place.

Flashcards and the YouTube translation segment appeal to me the most, but it all is fantastic.

When and where will the changes appear?

  • 3 (error review)
  • 1 (youtube subtitles)
  • 2 (flashcards)
  • 5 (Chatbot)
  • 4 (compete with a friend)

I would probably rank #5 (ChatBot) even higher if there was a bit more information about it.


Agreed, except chatbot before flashcards.


Wait... I just noticed something... you guys did all that and more?!?!? :O


1, 3, 2, 5, 4 in order for me. I think that the video translation will be awesome. It already looks really nice too! Also, would the duobot act similarly to Cleverbot? But really all these things are amazing and I can't believe you got all that done with so little time.


It would be kind of awesome if Duobot was similar to Cleverbot. I used to use Cleverbot to practice German, but it would switch languages on me a little too often.


Wow! I love the YouTube video thing and think that will really help everyone with immersing yourself in the language. Error review is also brilliant! And I also really like the idea of the flashcards! Thank you so much Duolingo!


I would love the youtube exercise! And, the error reviewing bit must go in at all costs!


I find flash cards with spaced repetition (I'm currently using Anki for this) to be quite helpful. Hope you can implement something similar.


2, 3, 1, 5, 4.

In that order.


I really like the chat bot this would help people remember their new vocabulary. It would enable us to put our new words to use as soon as were done with the new lesson.


Maybe the duobot could base the conversation on what you recently learned? Either way, I'll stick with a real chatroom, but still a pretty good idea.


I think the problem with a real chatroom in the context of Duolingo is that you'd be chatting with other language learners, not natives. Or rarely natives at least. Everyone would be making mistakes and many wouldn't realize that mistakes were being made. I'd go as far as to say that I think it would be counterproductive.


No, you misunderstood me, I didn't mean I was against the idea of duobot and wanted a real chatroom on duolingo, I meant I would stick with my chatroom, where I speak with natives! And if there are other Spanish learners there, I know, because I always ask.


I disagree with the person who said practicing with other beginners would be counter productive. When my mom and I started learning Spanish we spoke to each other (out loud as opposed to through a computer chat) and it helped me learn to think and put thoughts together in Spanish. It's not always about speaking with perfect grammar. Sometimes it's just about getting used to the language. When five-year-olds speak with other five-year-olds they are still getting language practice.

A real advantage to practicing with my mom (a fellow beginner) when we first started learning was that we weren't speaking over each other's head. When I spoke with natives in the beginning I would often get confused and they would switch to English. Now that's counter productive! :/

I realize the person who said that isn't here anymore, but it's something to think about.


I agree with you. It's great to practice with other beginners, but practicing with natives is usually better (as long as they take it easy on you haha).


I agree that practicing with natives is better (if they're willing to work with you at least), but people shouldn't discount the benefits of practicing with someone "closer to their own age" in the language.

When you were five it was probably easier (even if it wasn't always better) to talk to other five-year-olds than to talk to adults. It wasn't necessarily teaching you a lot (unless that other five-year-old was a genius), but you were practicing speaking and thinking in the language which is vital in language development.


I don't mean to rain on your parade or seem sarcastic. But if there's anything you should learn is that people lie, especially on the internet, and sometimes for no good reason other than for the sake of lying.

In addition, being a native speaker doesn't necessarily mean you can speak a language very well. Learn as much as you can but just keep that in mind.


Well, there are linguists who would argue that the definition of good/acceptable language is that the construction is possible for a native speaker. As long as we are all aiming for communication rather than literary excellence, I think picking up the language as used by native speakers is worth aiming for.

Going back to Zach's point, don't we have loads of native speakers of different languages here already, and as it develops, there will be more - I would gladly help out those who want to learn my language in return for the same help with my learning theirs.


That is all good, natives are the best to learn with over conversation, but for a beginner that is trying to use their new vocabulary it can be difficult to squeeze them in a conversation without being really random or awkward causing the person to not want to speak with you. With the duobot you could have the randomest conversation using as many word as you like. The duobot will also not get tired of correcting you on the same mistakes.


Yep, it should be nice. I wasn't suggesting real chatrooms for beginners :P You should try http://www.cleverbot.com/ Just start talking to it in any language. If you haven't used the site yet, maybe you should try it in English first. It's pretty awesome. Not really helpful, but kinda fun and interesting.


Real chat-rooms aren't a bad idea for beginners who don't mind "jumping into the deep water" as a means of learning how to swim. And there are always sites like Espanglish-chat.com (I think it's called) which are specifically designed for language practice.


Yes, I use espanglishchat.com frequently. Sometimes people will come on with no experience whatsoever and say something like (his exact words) "I just thought you guys could teach me everything." That's just not how it works.


Rofl, wow. Wouldn't it be nice for them if that was how it worked? I was thinking more along the lines of someone with a basic knowledge (maybe halfway down their Duolingo tree) could go and understand half of what was being said.


I agree. I like the chat bot idea the most.


All ideas in the projects are good in my opinion. I especially like the idea of racing friends, although I'd suggest a little tweak, if no friend is online, it should find the next available user willing to play. Maybe a lobby/queue system should exist for those whose friends are not online.

In terms of high priority and pure learning, I'd say either the lesson review or flash card would be good.


Your tweak is a good idea and would probably lead to making new friends.


I also like Dessamator's idea. Many of my friends are English learners who wouldn't be practicing Spanish anyway. And if the person who wants to play only has six friends they won't be able to play often or at all. It might even encourage friend collecting (going around adding as many friends as one can as fast as one can).


This is so cool! I especially like youtube part. Duolingo's goal is to translate the internet, and videos are just another form of language that one will come across. I think videos should also be uploaded to the "Immersion" tab instead of just articles. What do you think?


These changes sound absolutely amazing! I'd love to see all of them come to Duolingo, but if I had to rank them, I'd say:

  1. Listening with Youtube videos
  2. Chat box
  3. Error review
  4. Race against friends
  5. Flashcards

Is there any timetable for when these additions will be made?


Hello everybody! I support this idea:

"When you make a mistake, you should be forced to correct it Xiuhtecuhtli 1310325

In regular lessons, not timed practice, you should have to type something again if you got it wrong. Memrise uses this, and I find it easier to remember the correct form if I have to type it out rather than just look at the right answer." http://www.duolingo.com/comment/125815


Wow! These all sound/look like amazing ideas/prototypes! I want them all!:) lol

Great work guys!


Impressive work guys and gals. Please keep healthy and sane during the 27 hours :) My favourite three are:
1. #3 The functionality whereby we can review what we have just learned.
2. #5 Chatbot. I can test my grammatically unglamourous sentences filled with spelling mistakes with a bot without fearing judgment (e.g. disgust) from a real person. 3. #1 Practice listening and writing through movie trailers. Trailers are meant to engage, and some of these thrown in with the other existing exercises can really spice up Duolingo's lessons.


I do not think a separate flashcards app is something that Duolingo needs.

The current practice mode already incorporates spaced repetition methods and those should be developed further.

The flashcards app seems especially counterproductive if it just has single words on the cards because learning out of context is not as productive as learning whole sentences (which is again what the Duolingo practice mode is already doing now).

The other ideas are really cool! I can't pick just one so I will pick two:

  • "Practice listening and writing through watching movie trailers"

  • "Review what you just learned." (This would be very useful when using the timed practice mode)


I disagree, any extra tool is helpful, those who dislike flash cards can simply ignore it. It all depends how they implement it, I just hope we can practice the articles with the words. In any event, studies have shown that flash cards help to learn better than some techniques:




Yes, but Duolingo is already like flash cards. I.e. it uses the same technique (spaced repetition) which is how (correctly implemented) flash cards also work. This is the reason why I did not pick the flash card app when kristinemc asked which projects I would like. It seems redundant.


I agree that it is like flash cards. However, currently the model Duolingo uses is either "win all or lose all". If you get one small mistake in that big jumble of words(sentence), then everything is wrong.

A flash card with fewer words would be more forgiving and identify what you are struggling with, and I think it is appropriate since we don't currently have a simple spelling test(duolingo ignores it if you don't put accents). Because of this I've learnt a lot of French words without paying much attention to accents.

A simple spelling test (or flash card with fewer words) would be more effective at helping me practice rather than doing a whole lesson.


Yeah, sometimes it sucks when I make only one small mistake in a long sentence and the whole sentence fails and I will lose a heart. However Duolingo does not mark the whole sentence wrong. In other words it does not seem to be a "win all or lose all" situtation. Duolingo seems to recognize how many words in a sentence I get correct and how many incorrect and the underlying spaced repetition algorithm takes all this into account. If I miss just one word only that word is marked with red color. Others are still green and marked as right. This can also be seen at the end of the review session when Duolingo presents you with the summary of the words that got strengthened.

I also wish that Duolingo would be more strict with accent mistakes. An optional hard mode would be nice :) I almost never type the accents (nor punctuation) because I mainly use the timed practice and I don't have time to type all the details.

  • 2948

I like # 3 and 1 (in that order). I would also love to have:

1) a feature you used to have but removed and that is being able to hear the pronunciation of the sentence I am translating in a document (i.e. in "Immersion" or "Real World Practice").

2) the ability to stop the timer in "timed practice" when I get something wrong or something I haven't seen before and want to read the discussion on it.



They all look great!! Number 5 is my favorite though, I learn best when actually using the language in chat so it would definitely be a +++


hmm... I think suggestion 5 is quite useful... maybe there will be the possibility to have real "conversations" (via microphone) with Duo in order to improve your language skills. While you are speaking, the words that you say (which the software recognizes) appear on the screen. If the software doesn't recognize the word/sentence , it will be shown on the display, in order to let you see your faults in pronounciation. ... It just came to my mind , when i read the paragraph about the chat :)


Error review and challenge seem the best to me, but I would probably be using all of them if they were implemented, all of them are good ideas (although I'm not sure about how well flashcards work, I've never tried to learn vocabuary that way yet).


I LOVE every single idea! Every single one! Can't WAIT till they're implemented! Oh and can you bring some translations back please? There are lots of times I don't get a translation after I've spoken a sentence, I have to click to "COMMENTS" & frequently there's no translation there either. Thx!


All of those things are awesome !


The error review would be awesome! I like the other ideas too.


1,2,3,4,&5 are AWESOME!!!!! Thanks Duo :D


All neat ideas, but the error review is my favorite. I think it will improve the site in more ways than one -- sometimes in a timed practice, I might think my translation should be accepted, but I skip past it because I'm in a hurry.


the error review would be the best, in my opinion


My favourite: The review!! I also love the chatbot and the flashcards! Have some difficulty in learning vocabulary now :) Great how much work you put into duolingo and how great it already has become!!


They all sound like great ideas, but I have to say the error review should have the highest priority.


More points for the translations!!! much more!


Love the duochat idea!


Great. I like all the five ideas. In addition, i found it is hard to review the answer in timing practice, when I read the disscusion, the timer is still going.


I love everything except for the flashcards - they just don't work for me, at least not online. I especially like the youtube bit and the chat! you are awesome guys! :)


Come vote in this poll guys! It was created by the user Zach 1337 and asks which project you would like to be implemented most. http://strawpoll.me/492455


I really want #5, but you'd probably be able to get the other 4 working perfectly for significantly less work than getting #5 to be good enough... Other than that though, 2 and 3 are ones that I have already decided I wanted long before seeing this post, and 4 would be something I would love except that I don't have any friends on Duolingo (I'm working on it!). Maybe if it were expanded so that you could have a head-to-head race with whoever's online? Number 1 doesn't really appeal to me at all, but I probably would use it if it was there.


I like all 5 - 2 and 3 are the most awesome and I really like 5 as well


Wait, did you actually complete these things at the hackathon, or are these ideas that will be implemented in the future? Also, are you considering revamping the microphone? (see http://www.duolingo.com/comment/886931)


My order of preference is 3 > 1 > 5 > 2 > 4.


Lots of great ideas, not sure about the flash cards. I just used a chatbot to practice a bit of my Spanish, I think it's a great idea, but it's probably possible to find them stand alone on the web, so it probably can wait, for me:

1-Youtube translation win, because it introduce listening to a more realistic situation, noise, unknown voice, different accents, so it is both a great complement to and seem to integrate very well with the existing features (And it can be used to translate any videos, the web is not just text)

3-Then the review, particularly useful for timed practice(which I have not used too much recently as I cannot review my mistake) 4-Then the new race, as it integrates well with the existing gamification, but yes, why just limit to friends, maybe a way to make new ones...


YouTube subtitling would be excellent, Love the sound of chat bot though not really sure how it would be used just yet Error correct is essential And flash carding is definitely essential for rote learns or just people you like to keep some of the best phrases on this website! "Ce couteau m'a bien servi" and of course once I have a truly dedicated linguist friend such as myself here on duolingo I will look forward to challenging them.

Merci beaucoup duolingo, tes idées sont excellentes!


1,3 and 5 would be great!


I would like to see an option to translate the target language learned/mastered i.e. someone learns and masters Duolingo lessons in German then starts learning French from the German mastery instead of starting from English again. Then the French master would learn Italian from French and so on and so forth.

Building on skills learned is why math is such a fun subject. I think languages can be just as entertaining.


I've heard laddering is a good way to keep all those languages straight in your head!


These are all great ideas! I don't think I'll be racing anyone anytime soon but I'd be into the youtube translations and Duobot as soon as they came available.


Very creative ideas! Hopefully it was fun for you guys to develop. My order of preferences would be 3, 2, 1, 5, 4


The estimate and link to an immersion exercise was added a couple of months ago, and a few weeks earlier for those in the test group.


I love the idea of translating 6 seconds of movie trailers on YouTube. I don't like the flash card idea at all. We can learn better by practicing words in sentences.


I love the new "translate on the fly" questions! Where you give us a sentence in English & then we translate it in "speech only" to the target language. Great exercise - it is so much like real speaking. Mil gracias a todos a Duolingo.


Hello, congratulations on your hard work! I'll vote for projects number 01, 04 and 05!


A section where translators could communicate to reach a consensus instead of repeatedly correcting something only to have the same error rewritten again and again. The edit box is not enough and only works for one instance this idea would make the correct suggestion (with documentation etc) more widely known.


1,3,5,4 in order for me!


I have to say they all look like fantastic features. My personal favourites are the Duochat and the video translation. Using the chat to learn a selection of words in a conversation style would be really helpful, especially relating to travel and business sections. I would also say the chat idea could also then be developed with the inclusion of microphone responses. As always Duo you are the best!!!


Woww super awesome work!!! 2, 1, 3, in that order. 4 and 5 are cool but I would appreciate 2 and 1 more!


Time spent in duolingo would be awesome too


Every Single Day I wish I had error review on timed practice.

The Chatbot is a great idea, too. I like that it's monolingual, not a translation bot.

Hey, Duolingo, thank you all for listening to us when we asked you for stuff. And your implementations look better than our conceptions.


Though they would all be great, I think #5, the chatbot, would be most helpful.


I saw Russian alphabet in there very excited for the the flash cards and videos! Keep up the great work!


I thought the same things, but this is just a translation. Like "Russian alphabet", in french it's "Alphabet russe". And so you need to select or type "alphabet russe" (if you're learning french).


I don't see a date, when are you going to do this Hackathon ?


They did it last week. The OP by kristinemc and the blog entry she links to are informing us of the results.


"What DID we do at this hackathon?"

Exactly, thank you. (I'm also learning english.)


As someone who has problems talking with real natives (I have Social Anxiety Disorder,) I would definitely love to have the chatbot.


I would love to be able to see which of my Facebook friends and gmail/ yahoo contacts are already users without having to search for their email individually.


Sooo... Is this just beta, or does everybody already have it? Because I sure don't!


I don't think it's even beta yet. At the site linked from the message above, it says that they developed prototypes during the hackathon. On this page, they're asking for feedback about which ones we'd like to see be actually developed.


i want send hearts as gifts


Oh my God! I might just join TUMBLR only for the sake of liking that blog post! Amazed I only read it today!

Thank you!

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.