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A Suggestion for Dialects

I've noticed a lot of controversy about languages and their many dialects so I wanted to suggest something. Perhaps there should be a tree that starts with the basics or standard language. After completing that, new branches would be unlocked, one for each dialect, and they can decide which one they want to learn which will take them to that dialect's separate learning set. For instance, if someone wants to learn Italian, they would start by taking the basic/standard Italian course (which shouldn't be too long) and then after completing that they have to opportunity to branch off into the Neapolitan or Romanesque dialects or continue with standard Italian. I think that this will eliminate the issue of not having a flag for every dialect of every language and this may clear up controversy between topics like the difference between UK English and American English. Plus, this way we can add lots of fun things like Spanglish and New Orleans' Creole. The possibilities are endless!

October 12, 2013



Thats a great idea!


Good point and I like the idea. The only thing I am concerned about: Wouldn't it be better to expand the language trees up to at least a B2 level and then implement dialects? It will be immeasurable fun of course, but I think other things are more important now. On the other hand, I think it's quite important differing between the UK English and the American English. How important are different dialects in Italian? In Germany, a native German speaker can almost understand every German dialect (more or less and only people from the very north may have understanding problems with people from the very south).


Dialects are pretty important in Italian, especially if you want to be able to enjoy every aspect of the language and its country. But yes, I agree that the new courses that are being created should expand the standard language first and foremost and later, if there are enough people willing to contribute, implement dialects. I was mainly suggesting a way to further improve courses that have already been created or are in an advanced stage in the creation process =)


Absolutely agreed on this. Although I think maybe it would be better to approach it as having a normal tree for the standardised language (or a generalised intermediate if there is no standardised variant), as fleshed out as any we have now, and then smaller trees for some of the more notable dialects describing some of the primary differences.

I really want to learn Ulster Irish (which I hope to see on this site one day!) which is distinct in some notable ways, including grammar differences and many more archaic words/spellings - with words more common to Scottish Gaelic than the other two big dialects of Irish in some cases. However, if we don't have any provisions for dialect, Duolingo probably won't be among my choice tools for learning the language. The way I see it, this will be true of many of the world's languages, and I'm sure there are plenty where the dialect differences are even more striking.

Having a site that actively deals with various dialects up-front, and in such a user-friendly manner, would put it leaps and bounds beyond any other learning resource that I've experienced so far.


I was actually thinking of the same thing earlier -- though more as an "April Fool's Day" special as these probably do not belong in the standard set of lessons. The lessons would be structured as translations from "standard language" to "regional dialect" (NOT from "foreign language" to "regional dialect" -- that would be too much!):

  • Translate "I want chocolate sprinkles on my ice cream." from Standard English into Boston English: "I want jimmies on my ice cream."
  • Translate "The bubbla is to the right." from Boston English to Standard English: "The drinking fountain is to the right."
  • Translate "You need to make a U-turn at the next light." from Standard English to Boston English: "You need to bang a U-ey at the next light."

Of course the lessons should still be kept family-friendly. But this would be an interesting way to learn things like regional dialects, Cockney rhyming slangs, verlan, etc.


Yes exactly! By the way, I love your examples =D


Your idea would be wonderful for Arabic, where speakers from the Maghreb (ie, Morocco) can be almost unintelligible to those from Khaleej (the Gulf), but they all understand Fushaa (classical) if they watch news programs, read classical literature, etc.

With at least a basic underpinning of Fushaa, users could choose to diverge into branch(es) from countries they are most interested, and/or explore the richness of Fushaa that is essential to translating classical texts. The tree might be wide as heck, but would then organize all the dialects under one tree.


Well the way I pictured it was that you weren't required to take a Dialect unless you wanted to. I feel hat there should be a category you can click on early in the tree that will reveal a smaller tree to the side (or just take you to another page for a smaller tree) for the Dialect you want to learn. I don't want the tree to appear cluttered, but I don't want different dialects to have to be their own course with their own flag. That would be very confusing! Anyways my point for all this is that everyone is happy. People who don't think dialects are necessary don't have to take them at all and can just continue and even complete the standard tree without being forced to bother with accents. People who want to learn dialects as well as the standard language have that option available to them from an early point of the tree and can choose to branch off into it whenever they please. I think everyone should have the option available to them, but it not be necessary for them to complete the main tree. I hope this makes sense, it's kinda hard to explain. I wish I could make a diagram or something =T


i agree. personally, i feel fushaa for example is so rich i would never need any of the dialects. fushaa is pure arabic, unadulterated with zero dialect. Modern Standard Arabic is basically watered down Fushaa, falling short of the richness found in poetry, for example, or in classical texts -- which the Arabs often wrote in verse simply for the joy of the language (and in many cases to show off). :)

so the Duolingo tree should have its main trunk as Fushaa. at some level, people should be able to unlock .ammiyyah branches -- 'ammiyyah is practically the arabic equivalent of the latin vulgares, the common or vulgar tongues that make up four of the six current duolingo languages. going up an 'ammiyyah branch should be parallel to the fushaa trunk, but if a person opens a branch he or she could be allowed to continue up both the main trunk and the branch (or branches) as far as they are able.

'ammiyyah branches could be optional for users like me, who hope to get good enough at fushaa to tackle Malik's Alfayn, one of the most advanced Arabic texts on grammar, written entirely in verse.


I also find this a brilliant idea. I wonder why (according to the comments here) duolingo is so reluctant to solve the issue of the taught dialects, which is coming up every week in the discussion forum. Of course, many of the critics only originate in pure chauvinism, but to allow us to learn and understand all the dialects of a given language would be quite rational.

Language learners have different priorities, so why deny them the possibility to get to know the dialect they are more likely to use? For example, as a European, I will naturally come across the Spanish of Spain, the Portuguese of Portugal and the English of England, and mostly these are taught at school too. At the same time, I find it very useful to understand the general American accent too. It would also be great to hear everyday British accents too, such as Estuary.

Therefore, I would suggest that you turn the main course into a mix of the major dialects regarding spelling and pronunciation, and add further lessons that teach us to distinguish between the dialects, because it is better to use only one. In such extra lessons you could teach the grammar that is characteristic of only one accent, e.g. "you write me".

If there are enough volunteers from the UK, Spain, Portugal etc., then they should be given the opportunity to do this.


Agreed! In school, I'm learning Latin American Spanish, so learning the dialect of Spanish from Spain at the same time here on Duolingo can be a bit confusing and conflicting. This would be a great help.

  • 3148

Actually, Duolingo doesn't teach Spanish as it's spoken in Spain. What Duolingo teaches could probably be described as a sort of neutral Latin American Spanish. There have been multiple discussions about this. Here's one in which Luis, head honcho of Duolingo, weighed in:



Huh. Makes sense. But regardless, the pronunciation and vocabulary are sometimes different from what I'm learning in school, so that's why it's confusing.


Yes, and there are a lot of important differences between Latin Spanish and Spanish from Spain, such as the use of the "Vosotros" form and the different pronunciation of "c" and "z" in certain cases. But as of now, those who need to learn a certain Spanish are out of luck =(


Yeah, I'm not sure I can agree with Luis' point in that post. I mean, he says it himself - he is a native speaker. These dialect differences aren't as significant as a native speaker. As a Scot, I'm a native speaker of English, and I can understand almost every dialect of English without having studied it or anything. However, I also have a friend who lives here who learned American English through TV - as a result, he can struggle with our Scottish dialects of English, which feature notable pronunciation differences as well as plenty of their own words and occasionally altered sentence construction. A native speaker of English can generally piece together the meaning or intention via many context clues, but this can be a much harder ask for many foreign-learners. They (and we, as those who want to learn dialects of other languages) would benefit greatly from having an actual method of studying the differences.


Agreed, while I'm not learning Spanish at school, I have many Latino friends, and Duolingo only offers the Spain dialect, which can be rather confusing on both sides.


I agree on pointing out differences on official variants of a language (i.e., the differences among British, English, US English, Canadian English, etc. or among the differences in Spain in different Spanish-speaking countries). By the way, I would found crazy to insert non-official languages, like Italian dialects, or subdialects in Spain, or other languages that are not officially recognized. That is also because, even within a dialect, there could be differences even among two towns few miles away each other.

I think that teaching official languages is the best thing. If you learn to speak German perfectly or almost perfectly, in your next trip to Germany you could find people who speak a dialect, which is different from the German they were supposed to learn in school; I don't think you should feel that as your fault; it's up to them to make things easy to communicate with you, if they really want and if they are really able to.

On the other hand, it's a different thing if you go to Argentina after learning Spanish from Spain. Argentinian have learned their own Spanish in school, which probably has its own rules, so even if you guys make your best to understand each other, you could not be able to. In this case, I think it could be useful to have differences.

I think that Duolingo should at least try to point out the learner which version of English (pr Spanish, or Portuguese) it's teaching; if the user/student is available to study that language, even knowing it could be the specific language of the country he needs, that's ok, but I think that difference it should be highlighted. Actually, I see that Duolingo use the US flag for English and the Brazilian flag for Portuguese, so I assume that Duolingo teaches mainly American English and Brazilian Portuguese; but why does Duolingo use the Spanish flag, if it actually teaches Mexican Spanish?


I thought that Duolingo teaches the Spainish dialect of Spanish. I mean, I have a lot of Mexican friends, and they speak completely differently from how Duolingo teaches.

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