Duolingo revisited


Duolingo revisited

EDIT 2017: Unfortunately, Duolingo has stopped the translation option and it’s not clear whether it might come back. Duolingo for schools is still an option!

EDIT 2018: Currently there are options to work with stories. It looks promising! Check out the Duolingo Lab where new ideas are being tested, including the stories.

Nearly three years ago I wrote my first blog post about Duolingo and since then it has been going from strength to strength. But I didn’t realise how much it has changed until I attended a webinar to become a certified Duolingo Educator.

Screenshot 2016-07-17 14.06.25One of the things I wasn’t aware of three years ago (probably because I hadn’t done much on Duolingo then) is the ability to translate text. Next time, when you’re bored working your way through the Duolingo tree but want to do some German work, check the “immersion” button (only available on the computer, not on the smartphone apps, and not for all languages yet). On the right hand side are some options for you to chose: levels, topics and whether you want to translate or proofread a text. There is bound to be a topic that you will find interesting. Have a look, even if you don’t want to translate yourself, you might find it quite interesting to see how others have translated sentences!

If you find it still too hard there are more options to practise your German by clicking on “words”. There you’ll see a (hopefully long) list of words you have learned with an indication of how well you know those words. To the right of those words, there is a further button “review flashcards” which gives you another way to practise those words.

If you mainly use your smartphone you can also click on the weights picture top right, which gives you a personalised lesson to improve your skills before you forget them.

In future you will also be able to take a test to show your German proficiency. At the moment Duolingo only offers an English test which is officially recognised by more and more companies. I believe they are working on a French version at the moment, so a German test will hopefully also be here soon.

What I as a teacher find most interesting is the ‘Duolingo for Schools’ option. I can track students progress on Duolingo and as a certified educator I can also give assignments, do lessons with students and let them practise words/ phrases together with me. Soon there will also be games to play.

If a child joins my Duolingo for Schools class, I can make adjustments so that the child only learns words and sentences suitable for children and not for adults.

I still think Duolingo is like Marmite. People from the UK know what I mean by that, for everybody else, Marmite is a food spread that people either love or hate – I, for example, hate it – nobody just says it’s ok, it’s always one or the other. Duolingo is a bit like it. I have spoken to many people who don’t like using it. In that case I would not try to persuade you to use it. If you don’t like it, use other sites to practise your German, there are plenty of other ways. If you do like it, you might already know everything I said today and / or you might be just as excited as I am.

If you have never tried it, give it a go! Apart from any future tests you might do one day, it’s completely free, so you can’t lose. It’s a great tool to use when teaching yourself.

If, on the other hand you would like a little help while using Duolingo, maybe lessons once a month or as and when needed, or if you would like me to set you weekly assignments or need any other help with your German journey on Duolingo, contact me and together we can look at some suitable and cost effective options for you.

Screenshot 2016-07-17 18.36.58



8 thoughts on “Duolingo revisited”

  1. Never tried Duolingo before, so after reading this post I went over and did the test for fluency in German. Hmm, it reckons I am only 55% fluent (after 27 years of speaking it 24/7/365, really?). It also tells me that ‘Buben’ or ‘Knaben’ for boys is ‘wrong’ along with a couple of other of my word choices, choices I know damn well are correct. Also I was taught that using ‘foreign’ words like ‘extern’ instead of ‘ auswärts’ is bad form in German (actually, in that specific question, ‘Fremdlehrer’ would have been my first choice as a trained translator). So colour me somewhat underwhelmed.

    However I can see how it would appeal to beginners and it is very ‘clean’ (with native pronunciation), very ‘modern’. I may give it another go for using out and about on my smart phone.

    • One big problem (whether in a book or app or video…) is that there are mistakes. I’ve yet to find anything that is absolutely perfect. The higher the level the more mistakes sneak in. You can report the faults and if they agree with you they will let you know (a few months later). Some of the vocab is restrictive (even in English. It sometimes wants American answers instead of English). The problem with words like Knaben or Buben is that they are old-fashioned in most of Germany and that’s why they don’t want to teach them. the website says that they teach ‘Hochdeutsch’.
      As for the fluency level, I worked my way through the whole German tree by testing out and then completing the last units. I did it so that I can have access to every unit if somebody needs help. But I haven’t done anything else since then – I think I can safely assume that I don’t need to strengthen my German words. Result: my fluency level is 37%. I won’t put that on my LinkedIn profile ☺

      • I think I can safely assume that I don’t need to strengthen my German words. Result: my fluency level is 37%. I

        LOL! Thank you for saying that. I had been rather disheartened by my test score and your own 37% puts it into perspective and has cheered me up.
        Buben is, I agree, somewhat Old Fashioned although still very common in everyday speech (particularly in Southern Germany) and is listed in Duden as “gehört zum Wortschatz des Zertifikats Deutsch.”
        Duden also says that Bub means ‘Junge’ and ‘Knabe’! Knabe I will also admit is not at all common in daily speech, infact I can’t recall anyone ever having used it in an informal conversation but is still often used in Amtsdeutsch, in courts and even on Birth Certs!
        Both words are certainly still ‘Hochdeutsch’ . I wouldn’t expect Doulingo to teach them , especially not to beginners but in a fluency test they must be accepted as correct. I saw from the comments of others on that particular question that they were informed of this some 3 years ago so it really isn’t good enough.
        I shall probably continue with Doulingo for a bit, it is just disheartening for students to be told their answer was wrong when it wasn’t and when they have worked bloody hard to learn a language.

        • Agreed! And it’s probably not the best tool for somebody who is fairly fluent in a language.Somebody who starts from the beginning wouldn’t know any different, just like any other text book or online resource. So, they would only learn Junge and then, when in Germany or Austria, find out that there are other words too.
          Oh, the joys of learning a foreign language, when you get to the country and find out that people actually use different words/ phrases!!!

  2. Oh, the joys of learning a foreign language, when you get to the country and find out that people actually use different words/ phrases!!!

    or learning a new word or phrase in that country and then using it for years before anyone thinks to kindly inform you that it doesn’t actually mean what you thought it means. For years I described a bad headache (I have a trapped nerve at C2) to doctors and friends as “isch häbb ein Bredd vorm Kopp” [Ich habe ein Brett vorm Kopf]. Oh how I laughed when i was finally told by someone that that means something very different in German….Not!

      • That’s ok, I laugh about it now too. Much worse was at age 17 in HH, I misheard the name of the woman behind the bar. Her name was “Uschi”, a German name i had never encountered before that . Somehow I misheard it and put an ‘M’ sound at the front and then called that out, loudly, across a bar full of people, later in the evening when I wanted a drink…”Oi M…”.
        Now that was ‘Autsch’!
        (PS.if you want to delete this comment or explain the joke to other readers then please please do, I’m not trying to offend, just genuinely think it might make you, and anyone else whose German is good enough to understand it,laugh).


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