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Duolingo is a Free, Crowdsourced Language Learning App (Video)

Roblimo posted about 3 months ago | from the pick-a-language-any-language dept.

Education 75

This is an interview with Duolingo engineer Franklin Ditzler. He's not a smooth marketing guy getting all rah-rah about the company and what it does, just a coder who enjoys his job and seems to like where he works and what he's doing. Note that Duolingo is a free language teaching tool, and they seem determined to keep it free for language students by selling crowdsourced translation services to companies like CNN and BuzzFeed.

Duolingo founder and CEO Luis von Ahn is an associate professor in the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Department, and was one of the original developers behind reCAPTCHA. Google acquired ReCAPTCHA in 2009 for "an undisclosed sum," a bit of history that led TechCrunch to speculate back in 2011 that Google would buy Duolingo within six months -- which didn't happen. But don't despair. It's still possible that Google (or another big company) might absorb Duolingo. We'll just have to wait and see -- and possibly improve our foreign language skills while we wait. (Alternate Video Link)

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why would we despair? (4, Insightful)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 3 months ago | (#47379791)

Google not buying them is awesome -- they'd probably shut down the service after two years, or remove support for less than popular languages.

why would we despair? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47381705)

Google not buying them is awesome -- they'd probably shut down the service after two years, or remove support for less than popular languages.

Or worse, they'd integrate it with Google+.

why would we despair? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47381711)

Or worse, they'd integrate it with Google+.

Tigerblood. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47379829)

Flash video? Seriously? Slashdot continues its slide into irrelevance.

Wife (2)

robstout (2873439) | about 3 months ago | (#47379831)

My wife loves this app. I have no idea if she's actually learned anything using it, but for a while she was putting in a couple of hours every day with the language lessons.

Re:Wife (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47379845)

My wife loves this app. I have no idea if she's actually learned anything using it, but for a while she was putting in a couple of hours every day with the language lessons.

Are you sure that's all she was doing with the app?

Re:Wife (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47380573)

Give him a break. Duolingo is free and his wife is a lot less exhausted after a couple hours with it than she was after the same time with Frederico.

Re:Wife (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47379881)

He doesn't suspect a thing...but I'm getting worn out.

Re:Wife (4, Informative)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#47380009)

Playing with it now (phrasing, BOOM)...

First impressions: it's cutesy fun, and the site is obviously based on the same system that Codeacademy uses.

Two problems I've noticed thus far: 1, certain parts want you to use a microphone. I HATE websites that want to use my mic, and I'm pretty sure I'm far from alone in feeling that way.

The other, larger issue I have is that, when you answer incorrectly, the system doesn't necessarily specify why you were wrong, which tends to lead to frustration and ultimately, giving up, since not knowing why you were wrong makes it a lot harder to know how to be right.

Still, leaning towards the "this is pretty cool" end of the spectrum, and hopefully it gets better with time.

Example (3, Interesting)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#47380043)

Just came across an example of one of my complaints:

During the German lesson, I was asked to translate "Ein Mann trinkt Wasser." I accidentally wrote "The man" as opposed to "A man" or "One man."

Now, since I already have a basic knowledge of the language, I knew why I was wrong immediately; but would a person who's not already familiar really learn anything from the following "tip?"

You used the definite "The" here, instead of the indefinite "One".

Huh? That's just confusing, especially considering that we're talking about the very first lesson in the German group; someone who is not familiar with words having different modes (i.e., most uni-lingual Americans) would find that extremely difficult to understand.

 

Re:Example (2)

xaxa (988988) | about 3 months ago | (#47380089)

I learnt German and French at school, so I know how to learn a language, particularly European ones. I don't recall being frustrated with not knowing why I was wrong. Screenshot of the app showing the same mistake: http://imgur.com/8YzOYof [imgur.com]

I found the mobile app really useful for learning some Spanish before going on holiday to South America earlier this year. One press turns off the microphone exercises, either permanently or for the next hour.

Re:Example (-1, Offtopic)

SiapanPeteEllis (3731105) | about 3 months ago | (#47380267)

I found that this WEB site is great for meeting Japanese girls that are coming to Guam for Vacation. It has really helped my social life! I can't say I learned anything here but oh man the girls I met have been outstanding!

Re:Example (1)

HairyNevus (992803) | about 3 months ago | (#47380091)

I found this app randomly about a month back, and I would echo the same criticisms. Whenever I see a sentence that needs translating the includes The/A/One (using for French, btw) I pretty much shrug and give it a crap shoot. The andriod app does allow skipping the microphone sections, though. So I don't have to call attention to myself while using it on the job by saying "I am a girl who likes apples" and getting cockeyed looks.

All that said, the fact that this is free and I haven't hit a wall where it says "to continue you must pay X amount" is very, very cool. For that reason, I'd actually be more inclined to donate at least $5 (wait, you sure this guy isn't a marketing strategist?).

Re:Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47380477)

Distinguishing articles should be one of the easiest parts, compared to things like conjugation (where the verb suffix depends on both the subject form and the tense of the verb, and there are six subject forms and something like 20 tenses) which require a lot of memorization. By comparison, for articles you only have to remember a few forms. Le/La/Les is "the", un/une/des is "a/some", ce/cela/ceci/ces is "this/these".

Duolingo's examples, at least in the early lessons (I didn't stick with it), tend to randomly give examples with both an article and a noun, like "le chat", "une pomme", which might explain your confusion.

Re:Example (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 3 months ago | (#47385521)

Duolingo's examples, at least in the early lessons (I didn't stick with it), tend to randomly give examples with both an article and a noun, like "le chat", "une pomme", which might explain your confusion.

Right. Probably best to add in an adjective on the definate article phrases to nudge the user towards thinking of a specific thing rather than a generic thing.

(Not that indefinate things can't have adjectives, it's a subtle nudge rather than a foolproof method.)

Re:Example (2)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 3 months ago | (#47382159)

someone who is not familiar with words having different modes

The problem is, that if you don't know these basic constructs in your native language then you're not really fluent in it. You might think you can speak it fluently - but you're not well enough educated if you lack the basic rules.

Sadly this is very common: just look at all the internet content that confuses they're, their and there. Or mistakes "have" for "of" in written form.

Perhaps Duolingo should have a qualification test to screen out people who weren't paying attention at school (as all these topics are taught, in every english-speaking school) and it could sign them up for a remedial english class, instead.

Re:Example (1)

sdhankin (213671) | about 3 months ago | (#47383195)

That's a very of odd definition of fluency. I could be unfamiliar with the concept of intransitive verbs or genitive case and still be considered fluent in my native language. Not knowing whether to use 'there', 'their' or 'they're' in a given sentence has little to do with your knowledge of grammar and basic linguistics. If you have to analyze a sentence grammatically to correctly use 'their' in "She went to their house", you almost certainly are not a native speaker of English.

I suspect that many people develop a greater understanding of their own language, and languages in general, by studying a second language. I still remember the "Ah ha!" moment I had in junior high school when it dawned upon me the doing word for word translation of English to French was almost never going to produce the correct result. My world grew much larger that day.

But my fluency in English was unchanged.

Re:Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47385187)

I am to metaphor cheese as metaphor cheese is to transitive verb crackers!

Re:Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47382195)

While I think the "average" American would have trouble with that phrasing, I think they would have trouble with ANY phrasing.

Meanwhile, the average American who is interested in learning another language could easily figure out what it means. They would learn also learn what "definite" and "indefinite" mean just from context, if they didn't know already. It's extremely clear, and it gives an example in plain English. There is literally no difference in this case between how German works and how English works.

Re:Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47383347)

I claimed I was Japanese and am learning English. (It's the other way around; they did not have any other option.)

The first sentence I got was

The women read a newspaper

What on earth does that mean? (The audio that accompanied hinted that 'read' was present tense rather than past. I assumed it was an error since it was a synthesised voice.)

I'd understand if the sentence said 'are reading a newspaper', but it doesn't.

I tried to answer that with 'onna no hito-tati ha sinbun wo yonda' which would roughly mean 'women have read the newspaper'
It then claims it was wrong, and I should have answered either

  • 'onna no hito-tati ha sinbun wo yomu' which would mean 'Women read newspapers (habitually)' or 'Women will read a newspaper'
  • 'sono onna no hito-tati ha sinbun wo yomimasu' which means 'Those women read newspapers' (polite language)

There's quite a bit of translationese expected rather than actual Japanese. 'We have beer' must be translated as 'watasi-tati ha bi-ru wo motte imasu' which would be the literal translation ('we own/are carrying beer') rather than the much more natural 'bi-ru ga arimasu' ('There's beer')

Re:Example (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 3 months ago | (#47384011)

I haven't tried to german option but for spanish if the hint/tip doesn't clear it up for you there is a button for discussion about the answer. Usually the top question and answer is what you need.

Re:Wife (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47380073)

Two problems I've noticed thus far: 1, certain parts want you to use a microphone. I HATE websites that want to use my mic, and I'm pretty sure I'm far from alone in feeling that way.

The other, larger issue I have is that, when you answer incorrectly, the system doesn't necessarily specify why you were wrong, which tends to lead to frustration and ultimately, giving up, since not knowing why you were wrong makes it a lot harder to know how to be right.

Still, leaning towards the "this is pretty cool" end of the spectrum, and hopefully it gets better with time.

You can change a setting to turn the parts that require the mic off.

I agree with wanting to know why something is wrong, but the discussion on each of the questions can sometimes answer that.

Re:Wife (0)

mjwx (966435) | about 3 months ago | (#47381005)

Two problems I've noticed thus far: 1, certain parts want you to use a microphone. I HATE websites that want to use my mic, and I'm pretty sure I'm far from alone in feeling that way.

1. You're not alone. I dont have a mic hooked up to my PC because I dont want websites to have access to it.

2. Duolingo has an app for Android (I suppose they have one for that other OS that is nothing more than a minor footnote in the glorious history of Android, but who cares about them) which is the one I've used.

Personally I dont like the gamification of it, but I'm fairly certain I'd be alone in that. I just dont like the "do shit and get enough shit to progress" thing. It holds me back as I can learn some things faster than the average person (some things I'm slower at, all swings and roundabouts) so sometimes I end up grinding just to move on (and I hate grinding).

Like most electronic language learning aids, it can teach you vocabulary, but not how to communicate.

Re:Wife (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 3 months ago | (#47385551)

I just dont like the "do shit and get enough shit to progress" thing.

The point is that if you know the material in question you progress quickly through it. If you do't know it you won't. If the gamification is holding you back that's because you don't know the earlier stuff as well as you think you do. You only grind when you're on a lesson with material you don't yet know.

Like most electronic language learning aids, it can teach you vocabulary, but not how to communicate./quote>

There's no substitute for immersion. But you have to start somewhere if you're not in a position to get immersion.

Other problems (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47381419)

Other problems with Duolingo is that because it is somewhat random sometimes it asks you things it hasn't told you about. For German at least it told me the answer was wrong but it had never told me the rule involved (when to use ihm or something like that). I reset the apps with a different account to be sure I hadn't just missed it, and not even in the ? extra help had it said what the rule was.

There's nothing more frustrating than getting a question wrong because you'd never been told what the right answer was before being quizzed on it. It's a nice app, but it needs some more work on the intro levels of grammar and basic rules of the language.

Re:Wife (3, Insightful)

u38cg (607297) | about 3 months ago | (#47382229)

The theory is that you are being taught as a child learns - we don't go round telling toddlers, no, Johhny, that's the dative case, not the genitive case, you silly little sausage. We just correct them by example.

Re:Wife (1)

Panoptes (1041206) | about 3 months ago | (#47382649)

"The theory is that you are being taught as a child learns" Bad theory. Childhood language acquisition is different from adult acquisition.

Re:Wife (1)

radio4fan (304271) | about 3 months ago | (#47382685)

The thing is that that's not the most effective way to learn the basics of a second or third language.

Second-language acquisition is a well-studied field, and at least some teaching in the learner's own language (or a language that they know well) is more effective than immersion.

As an example, I can quickly teach you that almost all words that end in 'tion' in English are the same in French (pronunciation differs, of course), and they are all feminine, with the notable exception of 'translation'. And now you have hundreds of French words. Similarly for Spanish, except the endings are spelt 'ción' and there are a few more exceptions. Repeat with the suffix 'able'. It's the power of language transfer.

information -> information -> información
administration -> administration -> administración
education -> éducation -> educación
masturbation -> masturbation -> masturbación
etc.

The reason language schools promote teaching solely in the target language is because it's easier for them: they can teach students with many native languages in the same class.

Re:Wife (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 3 months ago | (#47382799)

You're probably right. They're moving in this direction a bit with the introduction comments, which I have found invaluable at times. Duolingo is also effective because it gamifies learning, producing tiny chunks and repeating them over and over.

Re:Wife (1)

chilvence (1210312) | about 2 months ago | (#47389925)

Well if you'll excuse me being blunt, but that is pretty bloody obvious to the extent that you don't even really need it explained to you. Languages that are in close contact with each other share some words, what a fucking surprise. Surprise is from French by the way, and fucking is from Dutch.

Re: Wife (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 3 months ago | (#47382537)

I'm a Duikingi user myself. The mic is optional. There is also an iOS app for maintaining practice on the road.

Re:Wife (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47382581)

You can turn off the speaking exercises so you don't use the microphone. You have the option of doing so for an hour at a time, or indefinitely.

I've been learning German on and off on duolingo for a couple of months. It's going well enough. I find I can recall most of the vocabulary after some time out of use and do feel like I'm learning at my own pace, with a system of teaching I like ...and I don't have to pay for it.

Re:Wife (1)

Eevee (535658) | about 3 months ago | (#47382917)

1, certain parts want you to use a microphone.

Hover over your name at the top of the page, select settings, and turn Microphone off.

Re:Wife (1)

aeschinesthesocratic (1359449) | about 3 months ago | (#47384755)

The microphone parts are pretty bad. There's no obvious way to configure your mic either...

Not a marketing guy (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 3 months ago | (#47379941)

He's not a marketing guy.......he just has a slick website and an intro video and is doing interviews.

Re:Not a marketing guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47380131)

"I'm not here to sell you anything... I'm just showing you the insanely great things i do. For money."

It's good to see the developers behind our apps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47379949)

This was a great experience for me. I've never actually gotten a chance to really see who makes the mobile apps I use on a daily basis.

Well, I have seen some of the people who've worked on some of the desktop and web apps that I use, and they're fucking monsters. They're either slobbering neckbeards or assface hipsters wearing dumb-looking fedoras.

But this guy is none of those. He's just an average Joe. He apparently comprehends the idea of basic hygiene, and at least his glasses have lenses. Those alone put him head and shoulders above so many other software devs.

We need more devs like this guy. I feel proud using an app he's worked on, while I feel shame using apps written by filthy neckbeard and smug shitbag hipsters.

Slashvertisement (0, Offtopic)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 3 months ago | (#47379953)

Holy Slashvertisement Batman!

I wanted to like it.... (1)

Berkyjay (1225604) | about 3 months ago | (#47379955)

But after a few weeks using trying to pick up some German, I become increasingly frustrated with the app. Granted, German isn't the easiest of languages. But the app just went far too fast and failed to reinforce before moving forward. I think it's a fixable problem, but for now I'm looking elsewhere for lessons.

Re:I wanted to like it.... (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 3 months ago | (#47380001)

Let me know when you find a solution. I've just moved to Switzerland and would love a good app to learn a little German. I doubt I'll be learning Swiss German from an app, though...

Re:I wanted to like it.... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 3 months ago | (#47380731)

I doubt I'll be learning Swiss German from an app, though...

Any German will be better than what you already know.......

Re:I wanted to like it.... (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#47380005)

But after a few weeks using trying to pick up some German, I become increasingly frustrated

Been there. Sounds like you to need to try picking up a different German.

Re:I wanted to like it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47380013)

So, uhhhh, what stopped you from going back and redoing lessons if you didn't feel that you had acquired the material sufficiently the first time through?

Re:I wanted to like it.... (1)

Berkyjay (1225604) | about 3 months ago | (#47380629)

I did try that. But when I said that it moves too fast, I meant that it doesn't cover some important fundamentals and just moves on to more advanced stuff fairly quickly. Stuff like gender type (which is huge in German) was glossed over and not given proper attention. But then when you move onto the advanced stuff, it kind of assumes that you are knowledgeable about gender type.

Re:I wanted to like it.... (1)

Panoptes (1041206) | about 3 months ago | (#47381811)

I just signed up and had a crack at the French lessons. My reaction? It's interesting, but limited. On the positive side there's some very nifty use of regular expressions in parsing the input answers - but on the negative, quite a few of the recordings are fuzzy and unclear. One example: the word 'diner' was completely unrecognizable. Its main limitation is that it's not communicative; everything is chunked into simple expressions without context. It's mechanical learning. I could see a use for it in my own teaching as a remedial/diagnostic tool, but I wouldn't recommend it as a primary means of learning French.

Re:I wanted to like it.... (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 3 months ago | (#47385591)

What makes you think there are regular expressions? I get the impression they just have a list of possible ways of phrasing the translation of a phrase. And when someone complains about a missing way, if it gets past the social networking checks, it gets added to the list.

Re:I wanted to like it.... (1)

Panoptes (1041206) | about 3 months ago | (#47386207)

" I get the impression they just have a list of possible ways of phrasing the translation of a phrase." Yes, that's one way of doing it - but long-winded and slow to develop.

I write tests and quizzes using Moodle. Regular expressions are an economical and elegant way to parse short answers and award part-marks until an acceptable threshold of correctness is reached. And very simple to edit when exceptions need to be added.

Re:I wanted to like it.... (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 2 months ago | (#47388627)

That's interesting. Thanks for the pointer to Moodle, I hadn't heard of it.

This issue interests me as I'm planning to create a language teaching app. I never really considered using REs for the answers because:
1) It seems like working out generic rules for a language is difficult.
2) Programmer expertise and language domain expertise is usually not the same person. And a language teacher is going to find REs hard, especially given point 1.

If it were just a few REs, then it would be less of a problem. But we're talking about a different RE for every question. (I assume). That's going to be hundreds of them.

How I'm learning German (4, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 3 months ago | (#47380151)

FWIW, I'm also learning German. It's the fifth language I'm learning as an adult and it's definitely the toughest. I've never found any good software or edu-websites, I just use the old methods. I watch a lot of German telly:

* http://mediathek.daserste.de/s... [daserste.de]
* http://www.zdf.de/Sendungen-vo... [www.zdf.de]

Series are the easiest because you can get to know the characters and then they're kinda predictable so you can't get completely lost. The News is easy enough because there's lots of pictures and you'll know the context of most stories, but it doesn't teach you conversational German. Comedy can be the toughest. On Das Erste, there's a crime drama most Friday and Sunday nights called Tatort which is good because there's also a version for blind people ("hÃrfassung" - o-umlaut between h and r, if that doesn't display right), which has everything of the normal version plus one extra voice describing the visuals, so you hear a lot more words.

I also read German translations of books I've already read. And when I'm cooking I leave on WDR5 talk radio in the background, all to help develop a feel for how the language sounds when used correctly:

* http://www.listenlive.eu/germa... [listenlive.eu]

And I do tandems with a native German:

* http://conversationexchange.co... [conversationexchange.com]

Oh, and of course I'm working my way through a book with grammar and exercises.

Yeh, German's a tough nut to crack alright. Unlike Spanish, you have to do a lot of grammar before you can really start building sentences (the declensions are what frustrate me most) but I think it's a language where your effort won't show at first, but then there's the breakthrough later.

Re:How I'm learning German (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47380215)

Comedy can be the toughest.

Well, it certainly is for the Germans. ZING!

Re:How I'm learning German (2)

Berkyjay (1225604) | about 3 months ago | (#47380637)

Interesting, I'll look more into your links thanks!

Re:How I'm learning German (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47381425)

I enjoyed watching Trashtazmani's Let's Play The Walking Dead on youtube. The dialog is in English with German subtitles and German commentary. You never lose the story and so it's easy to translate most things by context, and you see most words spelled out before hearing them spoken. Plus, Tazmani :)

Re:I wanted to like it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47381967)

But after a few weeks using trying to pick up some German, I become increasingly frustrated with the app

That may not be a fault with the app, but rather with the language. I know - I've been learning German for years now.

Duolingo by itself is not enough to learn any language. It'll teach you the basics and some vocabulary, but other than that it's just a complement to your other efforts.

For me the problem is that the app is really strict on grammar.
In German it's a big issue causing me to have to retry the later levels 2-3 times because I can never remember whether to use dem, den, der, das, die, or whatever other variation Germans like to throw in there to confuse foreigners.

But as I said, as a complement to other forms of education it's great. It'll keep your knowledge fresh and force you to spell correctly from day one.

Re:I wanted to like it.... (1)

praxis (19962) | about 2 months ago | (#47425619)

I found that starting with several overall reviews of prior material per day and only learning a new segment of a lesson if I felt like I had mastered the prior material to be a good pace. That way I only added new words and concepts after having reiterated over the prior ones several times. I found that I had pretty good control over how quickly I added more words and concepts into my pool of learning and could control just how quickly I progressed.

I spent 6 months learning Spanish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47380119)

I spent 6 months learning Spanish. Got to level 15, but then lost interest (well ok, I got very busy too). But I will likely return and move on. Adios Duolingo!

Free as in Google Search is Free? (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about 3 months ago | (#47380273)

So it's free because the product isn't the app but the user who supplies the data for Big Data to crunch.

Re:Free as in Google Search is Free? (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 3 months ago | (#47380345)

Yes. But in this case the data the user supplies is impersonal content (translations of given texts), not personal and private information. So unlike with Google it's not a problem here.

Re:Free as in Google Search is Free? (1)

chilvence (1210312) | about 2 months ago | (#47390005)

Wahhh wahh wahh I want it free and no strings attached and delivered to my door and everything to be done for me me me me me!

Of course it is free, there is no money changing hands, that is what 'free' means in this context. Free at the point of delivery. But there is a classical barter going on here. They do something for you, you in return do something for them. They aren't fucking touching you in special places, they are just encouraging you to translate some poxy sentences from one language to the other. You in return get to use your obviously immensely undervalued brain power to learn something useful. Try to whinge about it when they actually are trying to put one over on you, it makes you look like less of a twat.

still (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47380329)

Still no chinese.

Really nice, but... (4, Insightful)

ianezz (31449) | about 3 months ago | (#47380427)

I'm trying it these days (to refresh and improve my German), and I have to say I've become sort of addicted. I can't really vouch on the quality of their courses, since the only one available for speakers of my mother tongue (English for Italian speakers) isn't that good yet (fine for most lessions, but the more advanced ones have definitively weird italian translations that could throw you off a bit). Hopefully, the courses for English speaking people are better. The web interface for the courses seems to be well-thought (lots of easy keyboard shortcuts) and works surprisingly well, didn't try the mobile applications yet.

On the other side, for what I could see, the translations you are kindly asked to do "to repay" them are usually poorly-written descriptions of commercial articles/ads, nothing really interesting, and the related web interface has some rough spots (just some quirks, but they get distracting).

That being said, I believe it's still the best online resource I've seen yet to get your feet wet with a foreign language (provided you know English)

Re: Really nice, but... (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 3 months ago | (#47382573)

In Duolingo, I keep fixing those poorly written translations and then being overruled by the originL crappy writer. It's like editing Wikipedia in Spanish.

I use android app (2)

gabrieltss (64078) | about 3 months ago | (#47380977)

I like Duolingo. I have been using it to learn Spanish (since the U.S. Government REFUSES to stop the influx of illegals!) and I LOVE how it helps you learn to learn to read, write and speak the language. I think it's a fantastic app.

Re:I use android app (1)

aeschinesthesocratic (1359449) | about 3 months ago | (#47384599)

Why should you learn Spanish? They should learn English if they come here, just like all of my ancestors did.

Re:I use android app (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 3 months ago | (#47385603)

Learning an extra language expands the mind and brings new opportunities. Why would you want other people to get those benefits and not yourself?

Doesn't have all languages, but I like it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47381193)

I've studied German using it and it's quite good. It's not going to be a one-tool-for-all-needs solution, but as a part of a well-rounded study system, I think it's very handy. However, I'm waiting til they add Russian before I really start using it regularly... which might be a while.

Could anyone look at my lang-edu startup? (1)

Taylor Dondich (3731275) | about 3 months ago | (#47381521)

So, I actually started a language education startup called Nihongo Master, which is a startup currently aimed at teaching Japanese. I certainly looked at duolingo when I was attempting to learn Japanese on my own and it fell short similar to my thoughts on Rosetta Stone. The lack of really in-depth grammar explanation killed it for me and at the time there was little to no real social interaction and reward system; however, this has been improved with Duolingo from what I last saw. My thoughts are usually when you follow a set pattern for translation (word A means word B, and vice-versa) as a language learning device, you lose the ability to learn a lot of the edge case rules of the language. Japanese has it's fair share of them.

So when I wanted to build a language edu tech platform, I wanted to build something that incorporated all the the positive things I saw in the tools I used. Traditional classroom style lessons delivered electronically, a reward system through points and achievements, ranking against other learners and teaming up with others and more social interaction to practice, practice, practice. Tools like real-time text/voice chat (with text translation), community questions (think stackoverflow style), forums, etc. Plus some nice interesting tech sprinkled in such as spaced repetition style drills for rapid memorization, a solid quizzing system, custom drills, writing sheets, etc.

I really have a tough time understanding Duolingo's business model and it would be interesting to see how far away they are from being profitable with the recent CNN and BuzzFeed deals. I took no outside money and have bootstrapped this idea all on my own and it's been a struggle but it's really close to breaking even. It uses a freemium model so that there's plenty to learn and use as a free user to help promote Japanese as a language. The "paywall" is for advanced lessons and more robust tools (usually meant for advanced learners as well). I've struggled to try and find a proper balance of giving enough to everyone while finding ways to build revenue. Plus it's expensive to have an actual Japanese teacher help to make the content.

So, if anyone would like to look, please take the time to look up Nihongo Master and share me your thoughts. I'd love to know what you think and how it compares with DuoLingo and if I'm on the right track. What is it about DuoLingo that you like/dislike? Did I just simply suck at building my own platform? I'd **really** appreciate honest feedback.

DuoLingo supports so many languages. I build the tech stack so I can approach teaching any language on there as well but I simply don't have the pockets like DuoLingo. I think I made the wrong choice in language after hearing him state Spanish English was their biggest userbase. What are languages YOU want to learn?

Re:Could anyone look at my lang-edu startup? (1)

aiht (1017790) | about 3 months ago | (#47382053)

... What are languages YOU want to learn?

Japanese, actually.
Don't read too much into that, though: I'm a self -selected sample.
Thanks for the work you've put in. I'll have a look at Nihongo Master.

Nice and all (2)

pieisgood (841871) | about 3 months ago | (#47381833)

I'd like if they supported more popular languages. Personally I'd like to learn Mandarin, but they only server European languages. I'm unsure why they don't support it. My mother speaks mandarin but I've never had the time to go out and take a college course on it, duolingo would be a great resource. Plus, Slashvertisment and what not.

Maybe I'll try it when Eastern languages are supported.

Duoling is my lingua franca! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47382007)

Duolingo is a great way to start learning a language and also contribute something back. I've been using it for the past year and have become much fluent - thanks to them! Its weak point is that while you will learn words, grammar and pronunciation, it doesn't help much at all in verbal conversation - for that I think you still need to take a course with other people. For which, I think Duolingo would go perfectly with as a secondary tool - especially the forums, which tend to provide a lot of insight to a particular lesson.

I haven't completely finished the language tree (about 3/4s finished and have around 7200xp). I especially like the game concept with lingots, day streaks, competing with friends, etc. Wonder if they ever thought about putting it on a console/handheld.

Perhaps Duolingo could introduce more social functionality to the lessons to address the aforementioned weakness - so that you can learn to converse while you learn the other aspects of the language. Maybe a live/recorded chat feature? For example, one person speaks the question and the other has to translate it as per normal - -but also- has to respond to the original person = who then has to translate what you've said. Just a thought.

Choice of languages - useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47382683)

I see only half a dozen of Germanic and Romanic languages. These are exactly the ones an English speaker doesn't need a course to learn, because they're close enough to English to pick up the vocab and grammar as you go. Also, these are exactly the languages where a shitload of free learning resources are already available.

Ugh, another walled garden (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47382777)

From the terms and conditions:

Proprietary Rights in Service Content and Activity Materials

All content available through the Service, including designs, text, graphics, images, information, software, audio and other files, and their selection and arrangement (the "Service Content"), are the proprietary property of Duolingo or its licensors. ... By using the Service, you hereby assign to Duolingo any and all rights, title and interest, including any intellectual property rights or proprietary rights, in the Activity Materials. All rights of Duolingo or its licensors that are not expressly granted in these Terms and Conditions are reserved to Duolingo and its licensors.

So it's free as in beer but not as in speech. Companies can have proprietary content if they want, but crowdsourcing content from your users and then keeping the copyright to yourself sounds like a pretty one-sided deal to me. Another one like MemRise...

Re:Ugh, another walled garden (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 3 months ago | (#47385635)

One sided deal? Users get language learning, at no monetary cost. At a quality that matches or exceeds courses costing rather a lot of money.
And duolingo have obviously put in a lot of work on the design, coding and initial language materials.

Want a completely open source alternative? No one is stopping you from putting in years of work for no reward to create one.

Crowdsourced, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47382903)

I'll just add all my learnings from the "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook".

"My hovercraft is full of eels!!!"

I have used it to learn Spanish (2)

realkiwi (23584) | about 3 months ago | (#47383353)

Working nights in a hotel (read "lots of spare time") I decided to learn Spanish. I live 11km from Spain so it is kind of usefull... Last night a Spanish guy said I spoke real good Spanish for someone who learnt from an internet site on his own.

I guess that is an endorsement of the quality of Duolongo lessons.

Trying to reach Duolingo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47384349)

Hi,

I would like to make Duolingo accessible to the blind at no cost to Duolingo itself. I have not been able to reach Prof. Luis von Ahn or anybody else in the team despite multiple, frequent, and multi-month attempts.

Can anybody help me get in touch with Franklin or someone else on the team?

I can be reached at fernando@f123.org

Thanks,

Fernando

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