Finnish now available on Duolingo

In case somebody had missed it, there is now at last a Finnish course over at Duolingo. It is still in beta, it has a lot of rough edges, it is very basic, but it definitely fills a purpose.

Whatever one may say of Duolingo, having to input full sentences is a challenge that forces one to think of the whole and not just on single words.

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I like how Duolingo makes you formulate whole sentences.

I was really into Duolingo around 5 years ago, and I thought it was an excellent learning tool back then. But the team running the site made a lot of choices and changes that I don’t like, and I no longer use it at all.

Overall, I got the sense that the powers-that-be were designing the site to be more addictive and more accessible, thus increasing their “numbers”, but while making it less useful as a learning tool.

Whenever I use a tool, whether Clozemaster, Duolingo, or anything, I constantly test myself to see how much progress I am making in terms of real-world language ability. I listen to news broadcasts, I have conversations with people when possible, I read material online and engage on social media in the language.

I found that the degree to which Duolingo was helping me improve in a language decreased dramatically, following their changes. And I posted again and again complaining about it, on the site’s forum, send them messages, posted in a subreddit, even posted a YouTube video about it which has become quite popular, posted answers on Quora. Never got a satisfactory reply. I even had a surreal exchange with Luis von Ahn on reddit, and I came away feeling like I was talking to a man who had been brainwashed. He was so caught up in his own way of thinking that he couldn’t even begin to wrap his mind around why I was so frustrated with the changes that had been happening to Duolingo. Outright delusional, and absolutely not the sort of person I would ever want as CEO or director of anything.

I got the sense that the people who run the site are not catering to users like me, users who actually care about learning a language and want to use their time as efficiently as possible. Rather, they’re catering to casual users who are bored or idle, and they want to draw in as many of these users as possible, for as much time as possible.

So yeah, I’m long past getting excited about new Duolingo courses any more. The site is dead to me.

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Hi Cazort. As a long-term Duo person who has now crossed over, I can’t help but agree with many of your comments. I’m fairly new here but I’m already nicely addicted and my Italian has already improved. Cloze makes me think more, I like its pace, I also appreciate the very “grown-up” sentences which Duo Mods would quickly delete;-) Happy learning!

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I can see the merit in that… up to a point. For me the first problem is that it’s always native language <-> target language as I discussed previously. However once you move beyond the most basic of sentences, I see a second problem; one which is harder to overcome. Specifically, there can be differences in the way that different languages - even closely related languages - can see the world and the things in it. A classic example in Italian is a sentence like “I like the cake”. In English, I am performing the action of liking. In Italian, however, the equivalent but not equal expression is “Mi piace la torta” or “a me piace la torta”. It gives me the screaming irrits when I see a textbook say “This is how you say ‘I like something’”, because it actually isn’t; it means, literally, that the cake is pleasing to me. This isn’t mere pedantry; in English I’m the one doing the action (liking) while in Italian the cake is the one doing the action (pleasing). The effect is similar, but the way of seeing the world is different. Because the textbook writers balk at explaining that difference, the poor newbie student is left thinking that “I like” is some weird eccentric verb pattern that is nothing like any of the other verbs they’ve come across. That is, until they come across a verb like mancare, and here we go again.

The problem with whole sentences like that is… how do you do the translation? If the question is “Translate ‘I like the cake’” and the translation is “Mi piace la torta” then the vibe is right, but the essence of seeing the language from the point of view of native speakers is missing.

The ideal would be to be able to have questions where you can hear something or see something and write a sentence describing what it is. However since there are usually many ways of saying the same thing, I think AI in general would need to be massively improved before we could see something like that. I’d certainly like to see something like that, though.

He was one of the driving forces behind the development of Captchas, one of the most infuriating, useless, anti-human “features” of the internet. Apparently Duo was part of his way of “paying back” society for all the money he made on Captcha licencing, since for a time almost every website seemed to have one. Now they’re restricted to companies which really, REALLY hate their customers and want to drive them away, in no small part because they don’t actually work. (Or more precisely the worst ones work by making it impossible for a human to read them while allowing spammer 'bots to carve through them like a hot knife through butter. I know this from a web site that I run where we dabbled, against my better judgement, with the use of them several years ago.)

I see some of the same mindset in the design of Duo, such as its ridiculous obsession with A-B testing. In the forums I heard about a feature which allowed you to translate large blocks of text. I thought it may be more useful than the 20th rendition of “The ant ate the sugar”, but I couldn’t find the feature anywhere. I found out it was because it was part of A-B testing and I was apparently by random chance on the side that didn’t get it. So, Luis, do you REALLY want to know what happens when you stiff people on access to features solely because they fell on the wrong side of your little A-B test? You alienate and annoy them. Do it enough, and you start to infuriate them. Just like that stupid little owl that pops up to give you a cute little cheer every few questions and which you have to waste your time clicking through, regardless of how many people have asked you to get that thing out of their faces. Then there was the change to the “crowns” system the effect of which, as far as I can tell, is to have you typing in “the ant ate the sugar” about 50 times rather than 20.

I think you’re spot on about that; the goal seems to be to turn it into Candy Crush Soda, but with words. And an owl that just won’t get out of your face.

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Duo has its merits but now seems to be predominantly designed for children. Their forum, particularly, has suffered greatly and their shadow-ban system needs a fairer and complete overhaul. So Viva ClozeM!

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There are so many things I dislike about Duolingo, but I still find it useful for practicing grammar and syntax. Even though grammar and syntax can be studied using Clozemaster, its one-word-at-a-time focus is not ideally suited for actually learning things beyond isolated words.

Exposing oneself to many kinds of sentences is helpful, of course, but it is only by formulating whole sentences or phrases that I can learn to actually use a foreign language.

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I take your point, but I think it depends on how people use Clozemaster. With new words it’s certainly one word at a time. For me, with early reviews I generally listen to the sentence and see whether I can understand it without looking at the sentence, and only then look at the sentence and pound in whatever the missing word is. (On the web app I have translation turned off and only hit Alt+T when I absolutely need to; I don’t think that option exists on the Android app where the translation seems to show regardless of my settings.) For later reviews I try to read the sentence and see whether I can remember / guess the cloze word from context, then listen to the playback so that I’m getting a “wall of sound” effect.

So while it’s true that the system is built around just one missing word… it’s still flexible enough and possible to use it to study complete sentences.

The main weak spot on Clozemaster for me is Cloze Reading. I’d love to have a variation on that called “Cloze Listening” because I think having several related paragraphs is useful; but I’m more of an auditory learner in that respect.

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I agree. I’ve played over 100,000 sentences in French here, many repeatedly, but even so it’s not often that I can complete a Level 4 lesson on Duolingo without any mistakes. There’s no substitute I know of for having to produce complete sentences.

That would be good. It would be nice to have a bridge between the one sentence you usually get here, and the huge blocks of dialogue you run into when you turn to native source materials. (I love the Listening function here - it’s been the single most helpful resource to me for understanding spoken French.)

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Blockquote Duo has its merits but now seems to be predominantly designed for children. Their forum, particularly, has suffered greatly and their shadow-ban system needs a fairer and complete overhaul.

The Duolingo forum has always been horrible and it all boils down to how they have chosen to moderate it, including its voting system. I joined Duo a few months after their launch and stayed around for 6 years with 2 lengthy breaks, one that was due to some very bad, offensive stuff that happened in the forum. It was about 4-5 years ago and it’s so inflammatory that I won’t go into the details, and being someone who tends to say exactly what’s on my mind, I feel that says a lot about what happened. I’ll only say that it didn’t need to get as bad as it did–it was 100% the fault of the mods who didn’t want to (or weren’t allowed to) acknowledge that Duolingo’s approach to suckering in as many users as they can means they also attract people with really cancerous motives for being there (and can game the comment voting system with sockpuppet accounts). Moderation of the forum really should be more exact and socially aware than it was at least while I was a user but Duolingo Inc. is unwilling to invest in anything that would actually require them to tell a specific type of user they aren’t welcomed. At the end of the day Duolingo is just a tech company looking to push its product, and creating a healthy community has never been a priority for them.

The shadow banning is the weird issue and all I can say is over the time I spent there I had 3 different Duo “friends” who claimed to have been shadowed banned, plus another person who I’ll just describe as an persistant annoyance on the Irish course’s forum who also made the claim. And having been paying attention to each of these situations, I will say in all 4 cases, they were using the forum to very obviously harass other users and their ban was warranted. Does that mean unfair shadow bans don’t happen? No, but in my experience, claims of being shadow banned from the Duo forum probably shouldn’t be taken at face value.

I quit Duo about 2 years ago, not because I found it not useful (although I think I had long outgrown it by that point) but because I really disliked a number of changes they had made since implementing the crown system, like with the scoring and the leaderboards, as well as more ethical issues with course and format changes and direction of Duolingo since they partnered with Pearson. So my leaving there isn’t really a comment on what I think of it has a learning resource. I continue to tell people that several courses there are worth their time, like the Welsh, Swedish and Indonesian courses, and if people find it engaging and helpful, then great. I did think the Stories feature that was implemented not long before I left was very good and has great potential–I was sad to learn that since deleting my account, they haven’t added this feature for more languages beyond the versions for Chinese speakers.

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Ciao @ceid. Interesting post. After 1485 consecutive Duo days, I felt the vindictive might of a mega-Mod for referring to her as “she” instead of “they”. Four to six bans ensued and good, loyal people disappeared. BUT I have to thank “her” as I found Clozemaster, and mamma mia, it’s a breath of fresh aria, and I love it! So, when one door closes… My best to you!

Ps. There is an excellent Italian book club at Duo; perhaps one day there’ll be something similar here.

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There seems to be a lot of inconsistency with the language courses. I have only focused on one course, but it offers real human voices in the listening portions, yet the course itself is so small and has so many key things missing from it. It’s also not updated and the language discussions are not noticed by any contributors.

I envy those who have learned courses that offer more material, but wish they had the benefit of listening to actual human voices perform the audio portions.

As someone here mentioned, the idea is to log in each day to ‘keep a streak’ which is a marketing gimmick, nothing more. The streak is a method to show potential advertisers that users do log in, and do so consistently every day… “here’s proof!”. :slight_smile: Personally, I like the idea of a streak if for nothing else, it keeps track of when I began learning, and keeps me doing at least one thing that contributes to my language-learning.

The forums there leave something to be desired. There is lot of childish and bullying behaviour that I was tolerating for way too long. I’m happy to find another forum that is meant for adults who enjoy a good language discussion, know how to have a laugh, and can give and provide good information about language and culture. :slight_smile:

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