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The "Artificial Content" Feeling


I'm currently finishing level 8 in Danish - on a 18 day streak!

I love Duolingo's motivation and the exposure that it gives me to whatever target language I am learning, but lately (after levels 5-6) I began to feel like the content/vocabulary is somewhat artificial. This led me to think "Will I actually be able to use the vocabulary I am building here?" I am flying to Denmark in two weeks, I know all about skildpadderne og ænderne, but will I be able to ask where I can find the shopping carts in a supermarket?



June 6, 2015



You would be surprised. When I started learning Danish a few months before going on a trip to (among other places) Copenhagen, I posted to my Facebook friends the silliest sentences that Duolingo offered me. The sentences were often "silly" because they were based on food and animals, two of the first categories you learn (in pretty much any language - I think that's because they are concrete and easy to understand).

One of them was about a tortoise eating a strawberry. "I'll never use that", I thought.

And yet, during my 5 days in Copenhagen, I spotted a shop that had "skildpadde" in its name, and when I went to a restaurant that had Sunday brunch, one of the juice containers had a sign on it saying "jordbær". Being able to grab a glass and know, all on my own, that I was about to drink strawberry juice was honestly a highlight of the trip!

I don't think at level 6 (which is where I was as well) you will be in a position to construct a lot of complete sentences. But, as other people have said on this thread, you probably won't have to. Most Danes will readily switch to English. What you WILL get, though, is little bursts of excitement when you recognise words in unexpected places, and can piece together enough of things like menus or signs to make an educated guess at what you're reading.

And real life context will help you out a lot. Want to know the Danish for hot dog? Going to one of the hot dog stands in the city centre will certainly help. They LOOK like hot dog stands. You will work out words related to tickets within a minute of walking into a place you would expect ticket machines, like the metro station connected to the airport. The material you've picked up in Duolingo might not be word-for-word what you'll find in real life, but it will certainly help you understand what you're seeing in real life. Even trivial things like recognising that something is singular/plural, or definite/indefinite, will give you clues.


Thanks a lot. I am leaving next Saturday, and I am definitely going to let you know how it goes!


Best of luck!

By the way, I just remembered, there is even a location in Copenhagen called "Bag Elefanterne" (Behind the Elephants). It's a perfect illustration of how you might get completely unexpected use of what you learn!


I am in Denmark right now. I was in the supermarket today and all the food words from Duolingo finally made sense. I even bought SVINEKØD! You were right! Duolingo I love you!


If I recall correctly, Danes tend to prefer if you speak English with them anyways - they recognize that their language is rather difficult for foreigners to wrap their tongues around, and would rather you not trouble yourself struggling to get it out. And unfortunately, with the way the course is set up, I'm not sure two more weeks of Duolingo Danish will get you to a conversational level. If you really badly want to speak Danish while you're there, I'd suggest tracking down a "survival phrasebook" like this one: http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/danish.php


I understand your point of view - and I mostly agree with you. My main point though is as follows: is the content on Duolingo appropriate for an actual use of the language? For example, it is surprising that I still have no idea how to say words like: "entrance/exit/ticket office/cashier/atm/hot dog". I can see you are far down in the tree (level 14), does it get more 'realistic' down there?

Thanks, Alessio


Hi Synapseit,

I just wanted to chime in to say that it does get more realistic as you go on. There is a period where some of the sentences will seem downright silly, but then those words that you learn usually end up getting incorporated into more complex, more natural sentences at some point down the road. Also, to be honest, in my case the unnatural sentences actually help me remember the vocab. All those bears raising baby ducks and ducks riding on motorcycles paints mental images for me that really work. Who knows!?! Regardless, it does get to feel more real-world applicable as you go on.



It does indeed; entrance, exit, emergency, these all show up. I see you've just done the People unit. So you've already got some of that realistic stuff, like airport and hotel. Soon you'll be getting things like bus and train, which you can use with "station" (recently learned from the places unit) to get necessary words like train station.

Unfortunately, I'm having trouble remembering off the top of my head which unit has entrance and exit, so I can't tell you how close you are. But they are coming! Just not necessarily before you get to Denmark, depending on how quickly you're moving.


"Entrance" and "exit" are both in Abstract Objects 2 :)


I am just finishing' Danish food'. Very boring and unimaginative and limited. E.G. No mention of Smorrebrod or other ways of having eggs beside fried

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