New Duolingo course

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MrsStarez
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New Duolingo course

Postby MrsStarez » Sat Apr 13, 2019 6:37 pm

One for all you Game of Thrones fans (personally, I can’t stick the programme!)

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radi ... g-duolingo
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby MCK74 » Sat Apr 13, 2019 7:57 pm

It's been out for about a year at least. I did the course a little because I love conlangs, but I didn't continue with it. It is an interesting course if you like conlangs.

Personally, I'm going to stick with Esperanto and Interlingua.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby lavengro » Sat Apr 13, 2019 10:48 pm

MCK74 wrote:It's been out for about a year at least.


What is new I believe is the audio. Just in time for Winter. Which is now here.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby MCK74 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:13 am

OK, thanks for the info. I don't remember if there was audio when I was using the course.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby Lianne » Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:43 am

They recently added the ability for creators of smaller courses to add their own audio; that's my understanding at least. Similarly, the Klingon course has finally been able to start adding audio. Hooray!
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby PfifltriggPi » Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:01 pm

Lianne wrote:They recently added the ability for creators of smaller courses to add their own audio; that's my understanding at least.


Why they would ever release courses as complete without any audio is beyond me.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby Cainntear » Sun Apr 14, 2019 7:22 pm

PfifltriggPi wrote:
Lianne wrote:They recently added the ability for creators of smaller courses to add their own audio; that's my understanding at least.


Why they would ever release courses as complete without any audio is beyond me.

Probably because they were worried about the quality of amateur voice recording reflecting badly on the site. They got kind of burned on the Irish course when they commissioned a professional recording... and used a non-native speaker.

My recollection of the LiveMocha community courses was that the audio was of really dubious quality.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby Cèid Donn » Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:39 pm

PfifltriggPi wrote:Why they would ever release courses as complete without any audio is beyond me.


Because for most of their older courses, Duolingo relied on TTS software for the audio and not recordings. It's only when they started adding volunteer-created courses of languages that didn't have suitable TTS options like Irish and Swahili that they began releasing courses without the audio. Duolingo is in the business of attracting more and more users. Consistency in the quality of content has been something Duolingo has been willing to cut back on more and more over the years, to the point we got a shorten Navajo course with only ten skills,no grammar notes and no audio that was created by a group of high school students as school project so Duolingo could release it for Indigenous Peoples day as a publicity stunt.

Cainntear wrote:Probably because they were worried about the quality of amateur voice recording reflecting badly on the site. They got kind of burned on the Irish course when they commissioned a professional recording... and used a non-native speaker.


Given the Irish course was not given funds to hire a professional Irish presenter for this, they are lucky to have gotten anyone at all. And if you read what I wrote above, you should be able to understand that Duolingo Inc. really doesn't care, and to them, any supposed fallout from the Irish course audio was trivial. If it was a big deal, they would have addressed it by now, but nope. They intended the Irish course to be publicity, and once they got their PR out of it, they stopped caring, although they still trot out the whole "Did you know more people are learning Irish on Duolingo than speak Irish in Ireland?" crap from time to time (more about that at the end of this post) whenever they can.

Brid Mhor is the speaker, and while I have always been under the impression she's native, even if she is not, she is highly fluent and knowledgeable. She has done the majority of Irish recordings on Forvo and has long been active on the ILF. Even if she's not native, the idea that the audio for beginner's Irish has to be a fluent speaker is a bit much, in my opinion, and lends to very unhelpful gatekeeping attitudes about who gets to learn these languages. There are many highly qualified and capable people teaching Irish and Scottish Gaelic out there who are L2 speakers (the person who wrote THE book on Scottish Gaelic phonology, for example, is a L2 speaker from Germany), without whom these languages would be in a much more dire state than they are presently (and Scottish Gaelic in particular would not have been able to make the gains it has in the past 10 years). It's not the obligation of a dwindling native speaker population to step forward and give their time to help people outside their communities learn these languages. Native speakers didn't choose to be born into those communities and languages, they don't exist to be a "wellspring" for learners to learn the languages "authentically" (to take cue from the thoughts of one native Irish speaker), and there just isn't enough of them to met the demand of teaching and creating learning resources to help revive and preserve the languages, especially when the gig doesn't pay, like with Duolingo. This simply is the reality of endangered languages.

The real issue with the audio isn't a question of her being native or not. I completed the Irish course on Duolingo at least 3 times over, and helped answer questions from a number of other user who were struggling with the audio, so I'm quite familiar with what the real problems were. For starters, the audio was very limited and only covered a fraction of the course, leaving learners to fend for themselves with many more difficult words and phrases. Second, it seems the speaker was encouraged to speak naturally, and consequentially a number of recordings are spoken in fast speech and are difficult for beginners to understand. Third, Brid has a very distinct idiolect (one reason I believe she's native, or very near-native) that doesn't conform to the textbook divisions of the three main Irish dialects. That's a very typical of native speakers in any language but not helpful for easily confused learners. Ideally, for a beginner's course, you should get audio with speakers speaking clearly, at a slower pace and with conscious attention to being consistent with diction and enunciation. That's not what the Irish team ended up with, due to a lack support, planning and foresight, and I feel Brid has gotten for far more blame for this than she deserves. Her spoken Irish is fine and a good taste for what advanced learners can expect from speakers who use Irish in their daily lives. It's just that these recordings aren't what the Duolingo course needed, and the blame for that is shared between Duolingo, who really doesn't care, and the original Irish team, who didn't get the support and guidance they needed to do that course better.


TL;DR: creating learner-appropriate recordings for Duolingo courses isn't as easy as telling a volunteer course team to get some random native speaker in front of a good-quality mic, especially when Duolingo themselves aren't invested in making sure these courses are consistent in quality, so let's stop blaming the one person who stepped up to do the Irish course recordings for free, out of her own dedication to the Irish language.


As for the article itself, I see Duolingo is keeping to their shtick:

Nearly 100,000 people in the UK have signed up to learn the Game of Thrones language High Valyrian on Duolingo, the language learning app – more than the number who understand Scottish Gaelic, which stands at 87,056, according to the last census.


Even if the article doesn't credit Duolingo as a source for that, this is almost verbatim of the crap Duolingo regurgitates with its Irish course in their PR. They love selling their product on the number of users who have signed up, but the idea that a user signing up on an app carries the same weight as someone who are functionally fluent in terms of teaching the language is wildly specious. (Not to mention, why do they have to drag Scottish Gaelic, an endangered language that has slowly been making gains despite the odds, into this? Why???)

Before Duolingo changed their user totals per course from all users who had ever signed up to "active users" (which was still pretty generous, as that includes anyone who's earned 10 XP in that course in the past six months), Duolingo loved to trot out how 1 million!, 2 million!!, even 3 million!!! people had signed up for the Irish course (before the "active user" change, the Irish course got close to 4 million--after the change it went back down to around 1 million). Eventually, after much griping among users who wanted to know what those stats really represented, and how many of those millions had made any progress with the Irish course, Duolingo very uncharacteristically released some data on the number of people who had completed courses compared to the number who had signed up. I think this was sometime in 2016, if anyone wants to dig around to see if that data is still available. And the results for the Irish course were...really very embarrassing. Across the board the ratios for all the courses weren't impressive, as one would expect, but for the Irish course it confirmed what many more committed users suspected--that the idea that these millions of users who had signed up for the course translated into Irish being revived on a scale beyond what could ever be seen in tiny, little Ireland alone because Duolingo has such massive, global reach was a joke and a scam. Apparently people like the idea of learning Irish far more than actually learning it. Not surprisingly, Duolingo has yet to release more data like that, to my knowledge.

So, yeah, always take Duolingo's marketing tactics with a grain of salt, if not an entire salt lick. It's lovely that GOT fans can learn some High Valyrian via an app--I just wish Duolingo wasn't such depressingly cynical tech company that rarely has any vision for minority languages and conlangs beyond opportune PR blitzes that always fail to create much in the way of genuine, lasting passion for learning the language. Le sigh.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby galaxyrocker » Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:37 pm

Cèid Donn wrote:
Brid Mhor is the speaker, and while I have always been under the impression she's native, even if she is not, she is highly fluent and knowledgeable. She has done the majority of Irish recordings on Forvo and has long been active on the ILF. Even if she's not native, the idea that the audio for beginner's Irish has to be a fluent speaker is a bit much, in my opinion, and lends to very unhelpful gatekeeping attitudes about who gets to learn these languages. There are many highly qualified and capable people teaching Irish and Scottish Gaelic out there who are L2 speakers (the person who wrote THE book on Scottish Gaelic phonology, for example, is a L2 speaker from Germany), without whom these languages would be in a much more dire state than they are presently (and Scottish Gaelic in particular would not have been able to make the gains it has in the past 10 years). It's not the obligation of a dwindling native speaker population to step forward and give their time to help people outside their communities learn these languages. Native speakers didn't choose to be born into those communities and languages, they don't exist to be a "wellspring" for learners to learn the languages "authentically" (to take cue from the thoughts of one native Irish speaker), and there just isn't enough of them to met the demand of teaching and creating learning resources to help revive and preserve the languages, especially when the gig doesn't pay, like with Duolingo. This simply is the reality of endangered languages.



Are you certain she's the speaker? It definitely doesn't sound like her Forvo recordings at all, and she has never mentioned anything about doing it. I really don't think she did the audio (either the current, or the original) for Duolingo. She is a native speaker, though, from Carraroe, Ireland. I disagree with your claim that the audio doesn't need to be a fluent speaker; in fact, it needs to be at that time, so people don't fossilize and internalize mistakes. Correct (or highly accurate) audio is necessary at the beginning.

Also, pretty sure the founder of Motherfoclóir isn't a native speaker. At least, not a native speaker from the Gaeltacht tradition.

It's just that these recordings aren't what the Duolingo course needed, and the blame for that is shared between Duolingo, who really doesn't care, and the original Irish team, who didn't get the support and guidance they needed to do that course better.


I'm one of those who complained, a lot, about Duo's audio. They've since fixed it, and gotten a new speaker with good Irish. I wouldn't say she's a native, but she's still much better than the original one. Part of the problem is that you can't easily go back and delete old comments (or search them; their forums are trash). I would gladly go back and remove all my comments about the voice, because it's now much better. But, no fault lies on the current speaker for the audio, more on the creators, who picked the original one (though only based off 10 one-word examples, IIRC), and DL for not vetting things.

Also, Bríd's idiolect isn't that far off from


TL;DR: creating learner-appropriate recordings for Duolingo courses isn't as easy as telling a volunteer course team to get some random native speaker in front of a good-quality mic, especially when Duolingo themselves aren't invested in making sure these courses are consistent in quality, so let's stop blaming the one person who stepped up to do the Irish course recordings for free, out of her own dedication to the Irish language.


Again, this misunderstands the entire situation. There were two speakers. The original one has been replaced (and was paid). The one they replaced them with was also paid, as far as I'm aware; this is despite them turning down a native speaking actor (with a mic!) for the course. A lot of the blame goes to the creators who made it their little DCU-clique, turning down actual native speakers willing to record audio for free, with audio recording experience! It's also why there were a lot of weird translations that no natives would ever say, but come directly from English. It also doesn't help you've got moderators (not course contributors) who actively disdain native Irish and seek to promote non-native over it...I do worry what's going to happen to Irish audio now, if the course people themselves can add it. Many don't realize how much of a struggle native speakers find understanding it; that's part of the reason why natives don't like to go out of their way to practice with learners -- they can't understand them!




That said, I agree with your opinion of Duolingo as a company. I also think their business practices are going to get shadier too, since, as far as I'm aware, they've yet to turn profit and are burning through at least $40,000 a day. I think von Ahn's aim to create a for-profit free language learning program was kinda odd, tbh. Seems like it'd be much better suited to being a non-profit.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby Cainntear » Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:56 pm

Cèid Donn wrote:As for the article itself, I see Duolingo is keeping to their shtick:

Nearly 100,000 people in the UK have signed up to learn the Game of Thrones language High Valyrian on Duolingo, the language learning app – more than the number who understand Scottish Gaelic, which stands at 87,056, according to the last census.


Even if the article doesn't credit Duolingo as a source for that, this is almost verbatim of the crap Duolingo regurgitates with its Irish course in their PR. They love selling their product on the number of users who have signed up, but the idea that a user signing up on an app carries the same weight as someone who are functionally fluent in terms of teaching the language is wildly specious. (Not to mention, why do they have to drag Scottish Gaelic, an endangered language that has slowly been making gains despite the odds, into this? Why???)

It comes out pretty much word-for-word in the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Guardian, but the Mail and the Telegraph also note that the global figures are higher than Welsh speakers.

Stuff.co.nz run with 3 comparators: Gaelic, Welsh and Maori, as do some other New Zealand sites.

It's quite definitely the work of DL's PR.

Which is extra insulting given the amount of free publicity they've been getting from a small band of Gaelic enthusiasts recently.
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