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Go home, Duolingo, you are drunk.
August 29, 2013 3:28 AM   Subscribe

Weird Duolingo Phrases (SLTumblr).

Also consider following @shitduosays on Twitter.
posted by Elementary Penguin (34 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Je veux une chemise contre une soupe - I never knew that was the going rate!
posted by rongorongo at 3:30 AM on August 29, 2013


In duolingo's defense, I am fairly sure that they are often weird on purpose.
posted by empath at 3:32 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if the idea is they don't want you to be able to guess the meaning of the words from context because the context makes no sense.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:33 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


They also get into some trouble with chienne and chatte.
posted by rongorongo at 3:33 AM on August 29, 2013


I wonder if the idea is they don't want you to be able to guess the meaning of the words from context because the context makes no sense.

Nope, because you can mouse-over words to get meanings.
posted by empath at 3:33 AM on August 29, 2013


Nope, because you can mouse-over words to get meanings.

I thought thats only the first time the word is introduced?
posted by vacapinta at 3:35 AM on August 29, 2013


You can always do it on the website, although I find on the iPad app it is sometimes randomly disabled.

I suppose at this point it is because they have a reputation for their weird sentences, or maybe for the lulz.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:38 AM on August 29, 2013


A long time ago (pre-World Wide Web) I had a roommate attending a language school that would teach up to 11 languages simultaneously. The strategy was to have students reciting silly phrases in all of them in parallel... what I remember from seeing one of his study sheets was endless variations of phrases like "Hello, Mr. Mushroom. Hello, Mushroom children. We are visiting the mushrooms..." in seven languages at a time.

I suspect a few reasons for it: It drills students on vocabulary and basic grammar, and minimizes idiomatic complications regardless of the target language, but principally it helps keep the course designer from getting overwhelmed by having to write what might be tens of thousands of sentences, plus translating each of them a dozen times.
posted by ardgedee at 4:11 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assumed for a long time that the sentences are generated by algorithm, then perhaps given a once-over by a human for grammatical sense. But I keep seeing examples -- like the pink elephant who drinks too much wine -- that are obviously deliberate, so maybe not? Maybe they just decided, correctly in my case, that a certain level of WTF will help sustain our attention?

After going through the French date and time segment last night, I have an alternative hypothesis. It was hammering "we meet at midnight", "tomorrow, at midnight", and "see you at midnight" really hard throughout the entire module, even in the lessons that were ostensibly about seasons and months. The only logical conclusion is that they think I'm a sleeper agent. The sentences that confuse the uninitiated are just coded instructions for those in the know. And tonight at midnight I find out what it's all building to, and what The Owl requires of me.
posted by metaBugs at 4:35 AM on August 29, 2013 [19 favorites]


Code green, Duo.
posted by psoas at 4:37 AM on August 29, 2013


I saw a Ted talk from the guy behind Duolingo who is the same guy behind ReCaptcha.

Essentially Duolingo is the same concept in that it's crowd-sourcing the translating of books. Once you get into a certain phase of competency, people are translating from real material.
posted by Wysawyg at 4:38 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have noted to people recently that Duolingo seems to be obsessed with death. Some phrases I've encountered (in French):

When do the roses die?
When will we die?
We are talking about dead ducks.
The shark (!) is eating the dead elephant.

And my personal favorite: I die alone.

I picture a black and white art film with somber music and curtains blowing in a breeze whenever I get that one.
posted by Kimberly at 5:01 AM on August 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


I saw a Ted talk from the guy behind Duolingo who is the same guy behind ReCaptcha.
Luis von Ahn - the talk is from back in 2011 just as Duolingo was about to be launched. He seems like a guy with a great sense of humor and it would not surprise me if he fully endorsed all the strangeness.
posted by rongorongo at 5:02 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


This makes my favorite Duolingo phrase -- "yo soy un oso muy intelligente -- look less exotic.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:18 AM on August 29, 2013


The only problem I've had with Duolingo thus far is that the mobile app occasionally demands translations that are clumsy English, while the website seems to allow crowd sourced critical feedback on the meaning of their practice sentences, which means that it cares more about you translating the concept behind the words than the app.

"Is is it that that girl?" was the one that annoyed me.
posted by Phalene at 5:44 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got "they're coming to kill us" the other day, which I guess is fine because that's the sort of phrase you won't want to forget how to say if you ever need it
posted by theodolite at 5:48 AM on August 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Phalene, I find the clumsy English translations as well--while the website allows feedback, it doesn't seem to actually effect anything, as there are many awkward translations with "Hey, WTF?" from over a year ago.

I also find it perplexing that sometimes they seem to be looking for a specific translation--in German, I recently got dinged for translating "Sie trinken wasser" as "they drink water" and not the desired "you drink water"--but both (to my admittedly limited knowledge) are correct.

In conclusion, why do you not touch those turtles?
posted by MeghanC at 6:00 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only problem I've had with Duolingo thus far is that the mobile app occasionally demands translations that are clumsy English, while the website seems to allow crowd sourced critical feedback on the meaning of their practice sentences, which means that it cares more about you translating the concept behind the words than the app.

You run into the same problem on the website (which is super irritating when you're trying to bypass a level and you end up failing due to a typos and Duolingo idiocy). There's just an obvious option to complain about it. Some time after you complain (days to weeks) it sends you an email saying so-and-so has added your translation as an answer; it's not instant.
posted by hoyland at 6:02 AM on August 29, 2013


Huh, I didn't know that Duolingo had gotten to be such a big deal. I've read about it locally because von Ahn is a bit of a tech celebrity around here; cool to see it be successful.
posted by octothorpe at 6:20 AM on August 29, 2013


"Il cache un enfant" is my favourite. At least stick an exclamation mark on that or something, Duo...
posted by Catseye at 6:30 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I have this French book and it's entirely of the Duolingo school of wtf-was-that? translation phrases. Examples:

"If the cop is a bastard, will we be able to do something?"
"My bathing suit is as sexy as my cousin's."
"We aren't planning to cheat on our wives any more."
"If I had to choose a husband, would I take yours?"
"She got married again. I wonder if she remembers all her husbands."
"If you don't get undressed, I'll beat you."

It's like one long translation exercise based on anonymous AskMes.
posted by Catseye at 6:44 AM on August 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


I recently listened to Michel Thomas Spanish discs to bone up on Spanish. His approach was to not teach rote frequent phrases but learn how the language works in terms of grammar. Once you understand the structure and then the vocab. I think duo lingo is doing a little of that along with being a little weird. Memorizing phrases you might use in a restaurant is great if the waiter follows the same script but in real life it doesn't work.

When I was first learning Spanish is junior high the book had a unit on these guys going on holiday in panama in their Jeep. I still remember phrases from the lesions that have no real utility in my life. But a whacky way to remember which tense to use comes in handy
posted by birdherder at 6:55 AM on August 29, 2013


Also, I have this French book and it's entirely of the Duolingo school of wtf-was-that? translation phrases. Examples:

"We aren't planning to cheat on our wives any more."
"If I had to choose a husband, would I take yours?"
"She got married again. I wonder if she remembers all her husbands."

Hey, that's handy if you'd like to see French cinema.
posted by ersatz at 7:07 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


From my own Duolingo experience: "What do you have under that shirt?" and "I have a knife".

I also have a problem with Duolingo giving me questions that are impossible to get right. Does anyone else ever have that happen?
posted by alby at 7:08 AM on August 29, 2013


Hey Kimberly! I just got "I die alone." moments ago. It was really... dark.
posted by jph at 7:41 AM on August 29, 2013


I must say, the last time I looked at Duolingo it was still in Beta and I fear I judged it too quickly. I think it is a really excellent way to study. And now that LiveMocha abandoned their older model (which I loved) this is a really good substitution. It's a shame that LiveMocha went for something flashier at the sacrifice of a system that was pedagogically sound.

So now Duolingo needs to roll out more languages! (I won't hold my breath for Serbo-Croatian.)
posted by jph at 7:52 AM on August 29, 2013


"Je vis avec mes chats."

"Je meurs seul."

Et la prochaine Duolingo ?!?!

Naturellement...

"Les chats me mangent."
posted by jph at 7:57 AM on August 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Also, I have this French book and it's entirely of the Duolingo school of wtf-was-that? translation phrases.

Someone shared a similar dubious phrasebook on Livejournal once - that one was Arabic-to-English.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


My personal fave so far has been "Ich danke einer Katze." (I thank a cat).

I'm happy to know that the Tumblr and Twitter accts exist, so I can share my awesome findings with more than just the BF.

I haven't been on LiveMocha since the update, but even then I think I've learned way more (grammar wise) on Duolingo.
posted by xena at 8:20 AM on August 29, 2013


So now Duolingo needs to roll out more languages! (I won't hold my breath for Serbo-Croatian.)

The problem is that, if you're going from the existing languages, others would (a) either have very few speakers and/or very few non-English-speaking speakers, making them niche concerns, or (b) necessitate learning a different script before getting any sort of payback of the “My name is ---” sort, which is a more challenging proposition. (Of that, slightly different alphabets like Greek or Cyrillic would be the least-high-hanging fruit; Chinese would be massively lucrative, though the ideographic writing system would present not so much a learning curve as a learning cliff).

If I were to guess on the next language to be added to Duolingo, I'd say Polish. Same writing system, lots of native speakers, no automatic assumption of them speaking workable English (as with, say, Dutch or Swedish).
posted by acb at 8:21 AM on August 29, 2013


So y'all are saying this service *does* work well? Because the French I'm seeing is just terrible, practically not actually French.
posted by Mooseli at 2:44 PM on August 29, 2013


So y'all are saying this service *does* work well? Because the French I'm seeing is just terrible, practically not actually French.

I think Duolingo have taken the approach of "get it out there first then improve it" for both their software and educational content. Floating beneath the web version is a discussion group which seems to have a number of advanced and native speakers who are pointing out flaws. Students using the web/tablet version can also flag answers as being wrong or instructions as not clear. Having done this myself a few times I have received emails back telling me whether or not my suggestion has led to a modification of the material. So things might not be as bad now as you found them if you checked a few months ago.

Personally, what I find Duolingo far and away the best system I have found for tackling grammar: without annoying other classmates or teachers, I can storm ahead on topics I find easy and dawdle behind on those that baffle me. The whole thing is structured like a computer game and that seems to work as a motivator. The application remembers what I got right and what I got wrong - occasionally it flags material that it is time for me to go back and re-do before I forget it. As a bonus to the grammar it has taught me added a few hundred words to my vocabulary.

So personally I am not too bothered whether I have been learning with some bizarre sentences. The pay-off, at my level, comes at the point where a find I can compose or decode real world sentences that would have baffled me before.

I have quite enjoyed playing about with the translation tasks (which are not available on the smartphone version) as well. If I find some text that nobody else has had a go at yet then I will get follow up emails as others attempt (usually successfully) to improve on it. It does seem that there are parts of various documents that everybody wants to translate - and some (such as lengthy bibliographies) which interest almost nobody.

Finally - they were cool enough to customize the content of Flavio Esposito's girlfriend's Italian lesson so that the system would ask her it she wanted to marry him. It seems like that worked too.
posted by rongorongo at 4:00 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having studied German with Duolingo for half a year, I have encountered a lot of weird sentences -- but the strangest thing is when the exact same sentence occurs multiple times in a lesson. After translating/transcribing/saying "Da ist eine Ente im Garten" four times in a row, I was convinced that when I looked out the window a duck would be staring back at me.
posted by jeudi at 4:04 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


After translating/transcribing/saying "Da ist eine Ente im Garten" four times in a row, I was convinced that when I looked out the window a duck would be staring back at me.

If you were anatidaephobic, I imagine that would really suck.
posted by acb at 2:18 AM on August 30, 2013


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