New Duolingo course

General discussion about learning languages
Cainntear
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby Cainntear » Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:39 pm

Cèid Donn wrote: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.

While I certainly agree with the second part (native speakers don't owe learners anything -- even if you feel your "heritage" was "stolen", it wasn't stolen by the people who still speak it!), the first is more problematic.

Why should showing deference to speakers from an unbroken line of intergenerational transmission ever be wrong? They are the ones with access to an accurate model of the language, after all, and that model is surely what all learners should aspire to, right...?

I've met far too many learners who are so invested in Gaelic being "their" language that they've closed themselves off to being wrong -- dismissing errors as "my dialect"... even in learning situations!

When people talk about "language change" and "new dialects" in the context of learners (including, but not limited to, learners taught by learners) I say:
Fine. You're welcome to your own new language (let's call it "Gallick", because that's how its speakers pronounce it)... but you shouldn't be taking resources away from speakers of Gàidhlig. Rapid, sudden language change marginalises the speakers of unbroken-line Gaelic, and that's not on.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby lavengro » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:59 pm

With respect to all the Duolingo bashing that is now so prevalent across an increasing number of threads on this forum, perhaps Luis von Ahn is a man that you don't fully understand.

A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a scoundrel bandit, Luis von Ahn. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away. Why steal them, you may ask? Well, because von Ahn thought it was good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efHCdKb5UWc

In other words, just like Alfred in The Dark Knight, I think you have finally figured out the evil nature of one of Duolingo's founders. The other guy, Severin Hacker, is also probably pure evil as well....
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Cainntear
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby Cainntear » Thu Apr 18, 2019 1:15 pm

lavengro wrote:..

That’s a bit extreme, and no-one’s saying that (other than you). For what it’s worth, Von Ahn seems like a genuinely nice guy who genuinely wants to make the world a better place... it’s just that free language teaching isn’t quite as easy as he thought it would be, and he’s so personally invested in the idea that he can’t recognise the problems in front of him.

This latest thing is from a PR department, and there’s no way for us to know if he personally approves PR releases or not.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby lavengro » Thu Apr 18, 2019 2:03 pm

Cainntear wrote:
lavengro wrote:..

That’s a bit extreme, and no-one’s saying that (other than you). For what it’s worth, Von Ahn seems like a genuinely nice guy who genuinely wants to make the world a better place... it’s just that free language teaching isn’t quite as easy as he thought it would be, and he’s so personally invested in the idea that he can’t recognise the problems in front of him.

This latest thing is from a PR department, and there’s no way for us to know if he personally approves PR releases or not.


Thank Cainntear,

I am a big fan of Duolingo and I do not think either it or its founders are evil (pure evil or otherwise).

My post was an intentionally over-the-top response to all the (from my perspective) unwarranted Duolingo bashing that I see on a variety of forums including Duolingo's own forums, some of which seems contradictory in nature: Duolingo is evil, or if not evil then at least really awful, because they use unpaid volunteers - no wait, they are truly unpleasant because they eschew volunteers in favour of paid employees; Duolingo smells to high heaven because they switched me to the new French tree v. there is a special place in hell for Duolingo because they have not yet switched me to the new French tree.

Regarding PR departments, yep, they (both Duolingo's and every other PR department) are evil. Pretty much in the job description....
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby golyplot » Thu Apr 18, 2019 2:10 pm

Those complaints aren't necessarily contradictory though. For example, the main issue with the French tree update wasn't the new tree itself, but the fact that they wiped out everyone's progress when they released it, forcing everyone to tediously go through all the skills again. I'd have loved the tree update if it weren't for the progress reset.

There's also the issue that some of the new lessons are poorly vetted - I've noticed at least three questions where the expected English answer is grammatically incorrect. And some of the new lessons are pretty bad about rejecting synonyms or slight variations of the expected answers. But I suppose such problems always arise when they add new content. They also appear to have added word bank exercises that can't be a completed without a mouse, which is pretty annoying.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby IronMike » Thu Apr 18, 2019 2:24 pm

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

My thoughts exactly when they raved about the release of Navajo. I'm gonna need some audio for those words with all those vowels and accents and such... :o
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Cainntear
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby Cainntear » Thu Apr 18, 2019 4:17 pm

lavengro wrote:My post was an intentionally over-the-top response to all the (from my perspective) unwarranted Duolingo bashing

Then you're not being very nice, comparing a mix of reasoned opinions and valid gut reactions as uninformed whinging.

that I see on a variety of forums including Duolingo's own forums, some of which seems contradictory in nature:

If I park my car in the middle of the road, any claims that I'm blocking the northbound lane are not contradictory to the claims that I'm blocking the southbound lane, as I'm blocking both.

Claims come from personal perspective and their effects on you, and the fact that complaints are superficially different doesn't mean they don't have the same root cause.
Duolingo is evil, or if not evil then at least really awful, because they use unpaid volunteers - no wait, they are truly unpleasant because they eschew volunteers in favour of paid employees;

Not contradictory.

The problem with using unpaid volunteers is that this is considered exploitative and hence illegal in large parts of the world. That some people disagree with this doesn't contradict it. I don't believe I would legally be allowed to do the same thing in the EU (and I can't think of any commercial company that does).

The other side of this coin is that they make a whole lot of noise about the users being "the community" and trying to create a sense of ownership (which is not ownership in a legal sense). To people who genuinely buy into the whole "community" thing, going to professionals for a course is a big slap in the face, because it's taking "their" course out of community hands.

Different issues, not contradictory.
Duolingo smells to high heaven because they switched me to the new French tree v. there is a special place in hell for Duolingo because they have not yet switched me to the new French tree.

See golyplot's response.
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lavengro
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby lavengro » Thu Apr 18, 2019 4:47 pm

Cainntear wrote:
lavengro wrote:My post was an intentionally over-the-top response to all the (from my perspective) unwarranted Duolingo bashing

Then you're not being very nice, comparing a mix of reasoned opinions and valid gut reactions as uninformed whinging. ....

Fair enough, you got me. As was said of Don John in Much Ado About Nothing, "it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain."

Cainntear wrote:The problem with using unpaid volunteers is that this is considered exploitative and hence illegal in large parts of the world. That some people disagree with this doesn't contradict it. I don't believe I would legally be allowed to do the same thing in the EU (and I can't think of any commercial company that does).

I don't propose to engage further concerning Duolingo, but I was surprised to learn that it is illegal to use unpaid volunteers in the EU. I am not challenging you on that suggestion (I know little about matters in the EU), but I am pretty solid that it is not illegal in Canada, and strongly suspect it is not illegal in the States.

EDIT to add: Hmmn, the volunteer v. employee issue for commercial enterprises even in Canada may be a bit more nuanced than I had assumed. Presumably the owl and its lawyers have looked into this carefully.
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Re: New Duolingo course

Postby Cainntear » Thu Apr 18, 2019 6:18 pm

lavengro wrote:I don't propose to engage further concerning Duolingo, but I was surprised to learn that it is illegal to use unpaid volunteers in the EU. I am not challenging you on that suggestion (I know little about matters in the EU), but I am pretty solid that it is not illegal in Canada, and strongly suspect it is not illegal in the States.

EDIT to add: Hmmn, the volunteer v. employee issue for commercial enterprises even in Canada may be a bit more nuanced than I had assumed. Presumably the owl and its lawyers have looked into this carefully.

They're treading a tricky line. Their argument is that it's not labour because volunteer translators retain copyright over their translations, and only give Duolingo a free license to use it.

The problem is that while the translators can use individual sentences however they see fit, they don't have the right to use the English original sentences (Duolingo retain copyright on those) or to use all their sentences together (because Duolingo retain copyright on "the course").

Thus volunteers technically retain copyright on work that is valueless outside of the Duolingo system, so they're arguing volunteers aren't employees on a very thin technicality. It's not far off the arguments about whether Uber/Lyft drivers and "gig-economy" couriers are truly self-employed or really just employees in disguise.
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