Do you like Duolingo?

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Morgana
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby Morgana » Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:00 pm

CarlyD wrote:
Morgana wrote: Allegedly after crown level 2, Duolingo starts giving you more challenging material.


I've done the German thru all 5 crowns in a number of areas. Exact same sentences all the way through. The only difference is that in the early levels, you can use the Word Bank and just click on what word you want. The higher levels are typing only.
That must be what they mean. I was quoting the app there - after getting a skill in Romanian to crown level 2, the app informed me I'd get more challenging material.
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby Cavesa » Sun Dec 09, 2018 1:20 am

Morgana wrote:
CarlyD wrote:
Morgana wrote: Allegedly after crown level 2, Duolingo starts giving you more challenging material.


I've done the German thru all 5 crowns in a number of areas. Exact same sentences all the way through. The only difference is that in the early levels, you can use the Word Bank and just click on what word you want. The higher levels are typing only.
That must be what they mean. I was quoting the app there - after getting a skill in Romanian to crown level 2, the app informed me I'd get more challenging material.


Well, you can turn the word bank off right away.

Also, you don't need to get to a high level before going on to the next skill, and you can test out of a level now. So, I think the crown system works really well (whether or not it is the best system possible, I can't tell, but now it makes sense and works as well as it can)
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby CarlyD » Sun Dec 09, 2018 4:13 am

If it's something I understand, I generally test out of each level so I get my 5 crowns. If it's something I don't--subordinating conjunctions and datives--I plug through.

But the more I do Duolingo, the more I realize that their explanations--or lack of--are making the subject harder. I'm in a Memrise course that swept me into and out of Datives and I remember thinking--that's easy. Then I hit Datives on Duolingo and wanted to cry.
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby WildGinger10 » Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:49 pm

I did the entire German tree on Duolingo, and I have mixed feelings about it.

It became clear that it really is not a path to fluency. It's just not the right way to really learn and internalize the language. I found it nearly impossible to keep up with the vocabulary (especially towards the end of the tree when you do three or four vocab lessons in a row with a huge number of new vocab words in each lesson - I have pages and pages of handwritten notebooks filled with these vocab words and their definitions and I look back at those notebooks and don't even recognize almost any of them). I also used the mobile app before I realized that there WERE grammar lessons at all, and important things like "What is the dative case?" were completely lost on me until I started doing further research outside of Duolingo on my own time (not something I'm supposed to have to do in order to grasp the basics). Eventually I started using the desktop version and found it MUCH more helpful, but I still had trouble retaining the information. By the time I had completed the entire German tree (one of the longest trees on Duolingo), I found that I still had practically no language skills at all.

All of this aside, now that I've done a ton of other research, found some much better resources, and now feel as though I am ACTUALLY learning German, going back to Duolingo has been useful to clarify grammar rules (desktop version only, of course) as well as to work on my writing abilities and to target certain areas I feel weak in (like adjective declensions in dative case, or something) - in that way, it ends up supplementing and complementing the other work I'm doing really well actually, and I am re-appreciating Duolingo for that reason.

But the vast majority of the people I know who use Duolingo use it as their primary or only language learning source, and not as a supplement. It's hard to encourage them to branch out into some other resources if they truly want to know the language they're studying without sounding discouraging or disparaging, so I tend to highlight its positives when talking with people while gently encouraging other resources.

I'll also echo thoughts about gamification - I don't understand or care about lingots or why they exist. I liked the streak and I liked the achievements but XP? Why?

My biggest concern with Duolingo was my health bar. I could only make 5 mistakes within a few hours or the app would kick me off and make me wait several hours or literally pay them real money to keep using it - and making mistakes is a huge part of language learning. I was trying to work with Russian for a while - but I literally couldn't make any progress at all because it was so challenging that I would make my 5 mistakes almost immediately and be booted off for the rest of the day. I could theoretically "practice" to gain health, but I was so early in my Russian that it would literally tell me "you have nothing you need to practice" and refuse to let me regain health - I either had to pay or wait it out. It appears as though this feature is unique to the American app - it doesn't appear to exist on the desktop version, nor the app versions for any of my English or German friends. And it shouldn't exist anywhere. Making mistakes is a huge part of language learning, and inevitable. It felt like a huge hindrance and was a big source of frustration.

I felt so accomplished when I completed that monstrous German tree - and then I realized that I hadn't really retained almost any of it. I basically had to start as a false beginner when I moved to other resources and in half the time my skills have grown tenfold.
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby lavengro » Wed Dec 19, 2018 10:51 pm

I love Duolingo and have used it with a number of languages, although always in conjunction with other learning material. Currently, it is one of six concurrent learning paths I am taking with Italian, but I consider it a very helpful component.

WildGinger10 wrote:I did the entire German tree on Duolingo, and I have mixed feelings about it.

....

I felt so accomplished when I completed that monstrous German tree - and then I realized that I hadn't really retained almost any of it. I basically had to start as a false beginner when I moved to other resources and in half the time my skills have grown tenfold.


Congratulations WildGinger on getting through that tree, it does look like a lengthy beast!

My experience with Duolingo was different before the massive restructure, but with the current system of five levels of Crowns, for Italian sometimes I have run through sections of the tree just once to complete each unit to a 1 Crown level, and other times I have intermittently "cascaded" by going back and bringing earlier units to the 2, 3, 4 or 5 Crown levels as I continue to move through the tree. It is possible to complete a tree just by going through each unit one time, and I am completely certain that for me, at the end I would have little recall of much of the words and sentences I worked through. In the same way that if I had a large Anki deck but just worked through each card once or twice, I would retain little. However, for those units I have completed to the 5th Crown level, even if you were to offer to pay me a hundred Canadian dollars (or ten million Duolingo lingots, for that is the exchange rate I believe), I bet I would be unable to forget much of the Duolingo vocabulary, as there is an absurd amount of repetition required to work through to the 5th Crown level (absent testing out). Honestly, the material is so drilled in by the end of Crown 5 level that I still occasionally dream of Italian horses eating Italian apples, or of hearing that the insetto is in the zucchero again.
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby Cavesa » Wed Dec 19, 2018 11:54 pm

I think the German tree is a perfect example of one of the weaknesses of Duolingo: it is superficial. Or rather, it repeats the easy things just as much as the harder things, without much thinking about the needs of the learner.

The first half of the German tree was very good for me and a great first step towards other resources. I had learnt a lot from it. I was even able to use some stuff actively thanks to it.

But the second half (I can't tell whether it is really 50/50, but there was a clear border for me at some point) is bringing a lot of chaos in my studies, unless it is used just as an exercise after other resources. The pace is suddenly too fast for me, and the amount of examples tiny.

I think that is one of the weaknesses of Duolingo in general. The grammar gets harder and harder after some point and it simply requires many more examples and exercises, to be learnt. But Duolingo often does the opposite in various trees. After having five skills to learn a not too hard bit, there comes a point of introducing four new grammar points in five skills, and two of them rather difficult (these numbers are an illustration, but I think having a look at some of the trees, for example the Spanish one, speaks for itself). And when I asked about it, I was given stupid answers about the difficult things not being that useful anyways. As if anything more than the bare basics to speak neanderthal version of the language was just there to satisfy curiosity and to be joked or complained about, not really learnt.
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby Zegpoddle » Mon Dec 24, 2018 1:04 am

From the December 2018 issue of The Atlantic:

"How to Almost Learn Italian: Language apps are addictive–-but not particularly effective"
by David H. Freeman

Late one chilly evening last September, I excused myself from a small group huddled around a campfire to peck at and mumble into my phone.

No way was a camping trip going to make me miss my Italian lesson.

For most of the preceding year, I had religiously attended to my 15-minute-or-so daily encounters with the language-learning app Duolingo. I used it on trains, while walking across town, during previews at the movie theater. I was planning a trip to Rome in the late spring, and I've always been of the mind that to properly visit a country, you've got to give the language a shot.

But I had another reason for sticking with it: Duolingo is addictive. It pulled me right in, helping me set daily goals and then launching into simple phrases. Sometimes it demanded that I speak an Italian phrase or sentence (which I always did correctly, to hear Duolingo tell it). But more often it asked me to translate Italian phrases and sentences into English, or vice versa, providing multiple-choice responses. No tedious grammar or vocabulary drills—that stuff, apparently, would seep into my consciousness via exposure to increasingly varied, complex, and interesting sentences.

Duolingo praised me constantly: for responding correctly several times in a row, for completing a chunk of the day's lesson, for learning from my sloppy mistakes. Finishing a lesson was a full-out digital celebration featuring treasure chests with flapping lids. The app kept me apprised of my progress via various point schemes, and used email and phone notifications to nudge me to keep my routine going, even betting me points that I wouldn't keep my streak up for another week. Sucker! I became rich in worthless points, and cherished them.

I'm not a serious polyglot, but I've tackled a handful of languages in just about every way a language can be learned: classroom, tutor, textbook, audio recordings, flash cards, software, and more. Learning languages was always a chore—until Duolingo. I looked forward to my lessons. And I was learning Italian! I walked through my home confidently talking about hiding a knife in my boot, when my master's thesis was due, and how important it was to pay attention to the will of the people. Okay, so Duolingo's sentences covered some strange ground. But surely, I figured, that would work to my advantage when I was faced with more mundane language demands as a tourist.

A week before we were to leave for Rome, my wife, Laurie, put me to the test. You're at the airport outside Rome, she said, and you want to get downtown; how would you ask? I gaped like a fish. Words and phrases swam through my mind, but they didn't add up to anything useful. Laurie switched to a restaurant scenario: "Do you have a table for four?" "I'd like two glasses of red wine." I knew I had seen all the pieces in Duolingo's sentences. But I was utterly unable to recall them and pull them together.

Panicking, I fired up Duolingo and almost instantly saw the problem. The app had made me a master of multiple-choice Italian. Given a bunch of words to choose from, I could correctly assemble impressive communiqués. But without a prompt, I was as speechless in even the most basic situations as any boorish American tourist. And this in spite of 70-plus hours of study.

But I still had a week. I got my hands on a self-study book, a travel phrase book, and a pocket dictionary, and started cramming. A funny thing happened: I started easily picking up what I hadn't been able to get from Duolingo—grammar, vocabulary, and, most important, an ability to engage in simple conversations in typical situations. It seemed I had been getting something useful from my hours with Duolingo. The app had exposed me to a considerable vocabulary; I needed only minimal drilling with books to remember the words. Learning the verb conjugations was a breeze, too.

In the end, I did pretty well in Rome, engaging in simple, fractured semi-conversation in most of my encounters. Was that how the app was supposed to work?

I recently got in touch with Luis von Ahn, a co-founder and the CEO of Duolingo, to ask whether my experience was typical. I expected some defensiveness from him about my need to use books to get the conversational skills I had hoped to get from Duolingo. But instead he laughed and told me the app had done exactly what it was built to do. "The biggest problem that people trying to learn a language by themselves face is the motivation to stay with it," he told me. "That's why we spend a lot of our energy just trying to keep people hooked."

Duolingo is essentially a product of crowdsourcing; volunteers build much of the teaching content, and the in-app behavior of its 27.5 million active monthly users is continuously analyzed to determine which exercises, sentences, and techniques lead to better adherence and faster learning. The challenge, von Ahn told me, is that the two metrics tend to be at odds: Making the lessons more difficult reliably speeds up learning—but also increases dropout rates. "We prefer to be more on the addictive side than the fast-learning side," he explained. "If someone drops out, their rate of learning is zero."

This emphasis on user retention helps explain why Duolingo is by far the most popular language app in the U.S. In other countries, von Ahn notes, learning a language is often crucial to communicating with partners and their families, and for work; learning English, in particular, can be a ticket out of poverty. "In the U.S., about half of our users aren't even really motivated to learn a language; they just want to pass the time on something besides Candy Crush," he said.

Joey J. Lee, the director of the Games Research Lab at Columbia University, who did a study of 50 language apps in 2016, told me that he suspects the addictiveness of tools like Duolingo has more to do with business models than with language learning. Where most apps really fall short, he said, is in language "pragmatics." "That's the learning that's based on real-world settings—you're in a restaurant, in an interview, waiting for a bus," he explained. "It's usually lost in apps."

That sounded right to me. And the claim was echoed by Geoff Stead, the chief product officer for Babbel, a rival language app. "What most helps someone learn a language is when they're immersed in a situation and they're struggling to speak," he told me. "Our approach is to help you have the confidence to speak in those situations, and to get you there as rapidly as possible."

Judging by the fact that Babbel's user base is about one-15th the size of Duolingo's, that struggle is apparently less addictive than multiple-choice sentence translation. (Also, Babbel doesn't offer a free version of its app, as Duolingo does.) But the approach has real rewards, Stead insists. Most of Babbel's lessons, he says, are focused on giving users the ability to get by in social settings (meeting people, traveling, ordering food and drinks)—which tends to fire up interest in learning more. "Once we get the ball rolling, we bring in more classic, cognitive learning techniques," he said, such as more vocabulary and grammar.

My problem, then, is that I'm a pragmatics kind of guy living in a Candy Crush world. But if I had swapped the crowd-sourced appeal of Duolingo for the when's-the-bus-getting-here practicality of Babbel, would I have put enough time into the app to get what I got out of my 70-plus hours with Duolingo?

In the future, I may not have to choose. Duolingo has been rolling out new features—including podcasts, social interaction among users, and character-driven narratives—that aim to raise its language pragmatics as well as its addictiveness. Lee predicts that language apps will eventually also incorporate AI-based chatbots that will engage and guide users through realistic conversations. (Microsoft offers one called Microsoft Learn Chinese, but I tried it, and it seemed buggy.)

But I also take heed of the caution offered by Tom Roeper, a linguistics professor at the University of Massachusetts who studies language acquisition. Roeper told me that apps aren't likely to soon overcome the two essential advantages of a human teacher: the ability to hold a student's attention, and to continually tailor a lesson to the individual's progress, difficulties, and interests. "There are all kinds of contextual factors in language learning," he said. "It would be hard for an app to take them all into account."

Then again, teachers aren't around when you have a little spare time sitting by the campfire.

David H. Freedman is a contributing editor at The Atlantic.
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby Djedida » Mon Dec 24, 2018 7:54 am

I like the app. I personally think that Duolingo is a great place to try out new languages, especially seeing how many languages are offered there. Without fiddling around on the app, I probably would never have tried Italian, Russian, German, etc and instead still be learning Spanish and French. I also think the app can be a versatile tool; with crowns, timed practice, and overall levels, there's many ways to attack a tree.

That said, it shouldn't be used as a sole or primary resource. Duolingo for me is a hobby and a lot of my own goals are Duolingo-related and less language-related. There's some that'll bash Duolingo for not being able to make anyone fluent, but that's (un)common sense. The best way to learn a language is to have a variety of resources, and Duolingo itself, is but one resource.
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby SGP » Mon Dec 24, 2018 9:12 am

Djedida wrote:I like the app. I personally think that Duolingo is a great place to try out new languages, especially seeing how many languages are offered there. Without fiddling around on the app, I probably would never have tried Italian, Russian, German, etc and instead still be learning Spanish and French. I also think the app can be a versatile tool; with crowns, timed practice, and overall levels, there's many ways to attack a tree.


After having read your post, I wonder if you would know the answer to a really old (but still relevant) question. Or maybe someone else would know it as well.

The main "issue" that prevents me from using Duolingo is the following. "Having to remember what typed answers are recognized by DL". In many situations, there are more correct answers than DL knows. And in that "type in your answer" quiz, DL makes the following equation "I don't know that it would be true = it is false" :roll:.

So how to deal with that, well, non-feature of Duolingo? Because not everyone would want to start the very same quiz over and over just because of not remembering what particular (correct) answers DL accepts.

Having said that, I do know very well how much time and efforts a project like Duolingo takes.
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Re: Do you like Duolingo?

Postby Djedida » Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:52 am

SGP wrote:
Djedida wrote:I like the app. I personally think that Duolingo is a great place to try out new languages, especially seeing how many languages are offered there. Without fiddling around on the app, I probably would never have tried Italian, Russian, German, etc and instead still be learning Spanish and French. I also think the app can be a versatile tool; with crowns, timed practice, and overall levels, there's many ways to attack a tree.


After having read your post, I wonder if you would know the answer to a really old (but still relevant) question. Or maybe someone else would know it as well.

The main "issue" that prevents me from using Duolingo is the following. "Having to remember what typed answers are recognized by DL". In many situations, there are more correct answers than DL knows. And in that "type in your answer" quiz, DL makes the following equation "I don't know that it would be true = it is false" :roll:.

So how to deal with that, well, non-feature of Duolingo? Because not everyone would want to start the very same quiz over and over just because of not remembering what particular (correct) answers DL accepts.

Having said that, I do know very well how much time and efforts a project like Duolingo takes.


The app assumes that you have little to know experience with the language and you should answer the way the app teaches. That said, there is a feature where you can report a sentence and flag "My answer should be considered correct". How quickly the answer becomes accepted depends on the course creators; some courses are better at adding corrections and alternative answers than others.
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