https://www.duolingo.com/GregHullender

French Grammar Notes

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Last month, I resumed studying French on Duolingo after a 72-day break, and as part of my effort to come back up to speed, I have been working my way down the French tree doing per-skill review lessons to "regild" it. As I did this, I would carefully read the French grammar lessons that are attached to most of the earlier lessons. I enjoyed them a great deal and found them very useful. Much more so than the first time I read them.

I was rather sad when I came to the end of them. I'm not sure if there is any plan to provide grammar notes for the later skills (many are pure vocabulary and hardly need them), but I, at least, really appreciated them.

For anyone who makes a serious effort to do review or who wants to "regild" his/her tree, I strongly advise paying close attention to the grammar notes. The first time you see them, they can seem so overwhelming. But when you do a review, you'll find you already know 80% of it, and you can focus on the bit that you still don't know.

3 years ago

20 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/DXLi
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We're glad you like the Tips and Notes! We're working on the notes gradually and plan on releasing one for every unit that needs one. As Sitesurf elegantly explained, it's a slow process largely because there are just a handful of us that must tackle the Herculean mound of work that needs to be done in the tree. Also, each Tip may refer to and builds off of other tips, so they have to be written in order. Thanks for being patient!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
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They seem to be adding them as the need arises, and the French tree seems to be the only in-house course that provides so many of them.

But I'm unsure of what exactly you expect them to add to the vocabulary-skill notes. Unless a particular vocabulary skill requires some explanation that we'd normally not understand.

The person who seems to be driving the notes in the French tree seems to be DXLI, although the whole team is probably collaborating. So if you see some skills in dire need of notes perhaps you can contact the contributor directly.

P.S. Further down the tree they do still have notes in "random skills", not in sequence.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jrikhal
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It's indeed DXLI that "organize" the process of writing them but it's indeed a team work.
And, yes, they keep creating new TN. For example, they just created today the TN for "imparfait" skill.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GregHullender
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I don't expect them to add anything to the vocabulary-skill lessons. Why did you think otherwise?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
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Well, up to the first check point most (or all) skills include notes. So they could continue that trend, if they so wish.

Besides, they are tips and notes, not necessarily grammar and so they can contain anything of relevance that the course designers feel we should learn. They've even included tips and notes in bonus skills that are optional.

Anyway, according to jrikhal, they recently added a note to a recent skill (although it still hasn't updated on my tree), so it is still an ongoing process.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jrikhal
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although it still hasn't updated on my tree

Indeed, FR<-EN team added it but there is a bug apparently => Duo staff on it.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
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That's interesting, maybe other tips and notes aren't showing because of the bug too?

Anyway, I've always wondered why some courses teaching a common language (e.g. En-FR, Pt -FR) don't simply share tips and notes. Surely translating it can't be as hard as creating it from scratch. Although, it would probably need to get edited to suit each L1 - L2 pair. But considering that there are at least 12 French contributors (across courses) this would be relatively easier to fill up the tree quickly.

Even if there was one contributor, it would take roughly half a year if 2 notes was added per month to 2 skills.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jrikhal
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Mainly, as you said, because you don't explain the same way FR to an anglophone than to a SP etc., IMO.

After that, all team aren't as advanced and "old" as FR-EN team. Then each team prioritize what, ITO, has to be done first:

  • take care of thousands of reports: add accepted answers, correct some, ...
  • try to workaround the grammatical/vocabulary/technical problems in the tree they have inherited (for example, FR courses have all been given the first version of the FR Tree --- the original one from FR-EN, and it contained errors, pbs --- without having the ability to change it during Phase 1...) in order to improve the tree
  • add new sentences (to have even more natural sentences, to have more exercises...)
  • answer questions in fora
  • improve the hints for each lexeme
  • create/improve TN
  • ...

But, for sure teams look one at each other and find inspiration in what other teams do (for TN for example).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
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jrikhal wrote:

Mainly, as you said, because you don't explain the same way FR to an anglophone than to a SP etc., IMO.


True, but there are a lot of sources of grammar for popular languages, e.g. wikibooks, wikisource. Since a lot of the teams probably speak English, they could use a common source of the tips and notes for all French courses link it to particular skills, and adapt it for their own purposes. No need to reinvent the wheel. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jrikhal
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The more you inspire outside, the more you risk to end up (at least partially) just copying/translating it. And Duo wants us to create our own, short, T&N.

And they ask us to not put any link to "outside" website in T&N.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
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jrikhal wrote:

The more you inspire outside, the more you risk to end up (at least partially) just copying/translating it. And Duo wants us to create our own, short, T&N.

And they ask us to not put any link to "outside" website in T&N.


Well, I could be wrong, but the fact that most skills don't have tips and notes results in more questions in discussion forums, and a lot of incorrect error reports.

So it becomes a vicious cycle, people report because they don't understand (e.g. no "T&N"), and contributors don't add notes promptly because there are so many reports to deal with[1].

Considering that some of the fastest courses to graduate from beta seem to have had a lot of notes, it seems that this theory might be correct (excluding courses with technical problems). Personally, I think contributors could spend more time improving the T&N rather than answer repetitive questions in the fora, until they tackle most difficulties.

It seems much more efficient that way, and good answers don't get lost in sentence discussions.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sitesurf
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Since I am the "oldest" contributor in the FR-EN team, I can tell you that:

  • we have been aware of the need for T&N from day one, so the only reason why you don't see T&N down to the bottom of the tree is lack of time. We share tasks, but we are a tiny group of people who can have a family, a full time job and already a lot on our plates (re. what Jrikal has described, which still misses a few lines like producing the Version 3 of the FR-EN tree, that took months of work).
  • we still have not finished correcting the in-house course we have inherited (hints in particular, and for mechanical reasons: fixing hints for one word can take up to 20 exhausting minutes).
  • the number of non-English speakers learning French from English is huge, and growing in proportion; we have to explain English & French grammar at the same time; just an example: a big chunk of the soon-to-come Imperfect T&N is a 'lesson' about English stative verbs.
  • you cannot dedicate only one contributor to writing down T&N. You need at least one native from each language, and not any native. Explaining grammar (syntax, conjugations, time sequences, etc.) is not just about paraphrasing existing literature, that may or may not fit Duo's learning plan (skill sequence). It needs people with exceptional mastery of their mother tongue, as well as excellent understanding of the opposite language. Such people are just rare. DXLi is one of a kind in this respect, considering he started learning French just over one year ago.
  • if you ask learners, their favorite source of information is in the forums.
  • repetitive questions demonstrate that a lot of learners not only disregard previous posts on forums, but also never take a look at T&N (some can't if they only use their phone, anyway). This is why, with or without T&N, I can see at least one question or report about the translation of like vs love every single day, while the T&N of Skill Basics2 fully explains it.
  • learning a language is a 360° process. Lazy people who don't care to use other sources of information will never get to any significant level in any language. Still, we are giving much of our time and energy to those as well as to people patiently waiting for the excellent work we want to offer.
3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jrikhal
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From what I heard from Duo, the proportions of users actually reading T&N (among those who can) is low. ;)

So not sure it'd have an hug impact on reports/graduation.

Also, 80% of the users use Duo from app which don't have T&N, so one may find a bigger priority into improving things that impact 100% of the users.

But, don't get myself wrong, as far as I know we all work on T&N (like everything else), just not all at the same speed.

About courses graduating the fastest from beta, I'm not sure T&N are a direct statistical effect or just a result (like the fast graduation) of something else.

I mean, for example:

  • reverse courses are fastest to graduate (in general): a huge amount of sentences are already translated, correcting things (according to report) in one tree does correct it in the reverse etc. so consequently more time for T&N, but the reverse course were already less buggy, so not sure T&N were a main factor.
  • It also seems that the fastest to graduate from beta stay a lot longer in Phase 1, resulting in time to reach Phase 3 being longer(*). So maybe quitting fast beta is not so good overall. ;)

(*) If you look at the five quickest course that came out of beta (among "non-staff" courses), they all took at least 238 days to reach Phase 3 (from scratch) when, among the 5 next ones, 4 did it in less than 201 days (they reached beta very (too?) quickly then spend more time crowd-sourcing in beta but at the end reached more quickly Phase 3). Of courses my little stat is more than probably influenced by a lot of other factors.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Elizabeth261736

Good point. I often don't look at the notes, especially during a review, but it would be worthwhile. I would very much like to see notes and tips for the Subjunctive and Past Subjunctive. There are other resources (grammar books), but it would be nice.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/anthgrl
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I'm doing the exact same thing Greg. I finished my French tree on my 365th day, and since then I've been slowly working my way through each skill again, partly to regild and partly because the tips & notes weren't there yet when I started the tree originally. I'm keeping my own grammar notebook this time through, to write down all of the grammar rules that still trip me up, and the tips & notes have been incredibly helpful with that. I'm just past the last checkpoint again, so I've just come to the end of the notes, and I was also disappointed to see them stop - especially because they ended just as I was getting to some of the more difficult skills, like passé composé.

jrikhal, thanks for the heads up about "imparfait". It isn't showing on my tree yet, but I'll keep an eye out for it, since that was one of the skills I struggled with both times through. I'm glad to hear the tips & notes are still being added. :-)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
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@Sitesurf wrote:

the only reason why you don't see T down to the bottom of the tree is lack of time.

As GregHullender says, and I agree most of us are grateful for all the time contributors dedicate.

you cannot dedicate only one contributor to writing down T

Generally speaking I think the task could probably be shared by all contributors (from all courses) teaching a particular language.

repetitive questions demonstrate that a lot of learners not only disregard previous posts on forums, but also never take a look at T

Well, they don't look at it primarily because they expect it to be answered by someone else. It is a cultural problem that Duolingo reinforces even in the general discussion forums. One simple drawback is that if a sentence is disabled the discussion related to it automatically becomes unavailable, meaning that the answers also disappear.

Perhaps the best approach would be a sort of FAQ database for each course, because the tips and notes will never possibly cover most frequent questions asked by learners.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jrikhal
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Generally speaking I think the task could probably be shared by all contributors (from all courses) teaching a particular language.

TaN has to be specific to the learners. You need to explain it in a natural way for them and making comparison with their own language.

One simple drawback is that if a sentence is disabled the discussion related to it automatically becomes unavailable

From my own tests it's not the case. The discussion is still here in the forum (except if we delete it manually).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dessamator
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The discussion remains, but it is no longer accessible through the normal means. That means that much of the effort made to answer something there ends up being wasted.

[it] has to be specific to the learners. You need to explain it in a natural way for them and making comparison with their own language.

That may be true in some cases. But the fact of the matter is that many people are learning their L2 using an L3. I'm an advanced English speaker, yet it is my L2. I'm fairly certain this applies to a considerable portion of the learners. But again, the collaboration could mainly be deciding what the skill should contain and laying out the framework for it. It doesn't need to contain everything.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Chartreux

Good discussion Greg, welcome back!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/susanholland1

I agree.

2 years ago
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