Do you know Duolingo? It is a method to learn a language online for free.
Using Duolingo in French, you can improve your English, your Spanish, your German and your Italian.
Then again, you can also learn Arabic, Gaelic, Esperanto, Welsh, and many other languages. However, for this you will have to put Duolingo in English.
For a few months on, I have been improving my Arabic thanks to Duolingo, so, I can assure you that this app is a good method to get better at languages, that it is very efficient for acquiring vocabulary. Nonetheless, the lexicon is what matters most when it comes to improving your knowledge of a language.
On the other hand, to make progress, you need to learn and have fun! Well, the sentences offered by Duolingo are sometimes very funny…
While working on my Arabic, here are some of the weirdest sentences I have found:
|Arabic sentences||Transliteration / transcription||Translation into English|
|هل كلبك كريم؟||Hal kalbuka karrîm ?||Is your dog generous?|
|هو زوجك وهو غريب جدّاً||Huwa zawjuki wa-huwa rarrîb jiddan.||He is your husband and he is very weird.|
|ابنك غريب||‘Ibnuka rarrîb.||Your son is weird.|
|بوب عنده تنّورة||Bob cindahu tannurra.||Bob has a skirt.|
|غرفة القطّ جميلة||Rurrfatu-l-qiṯṯ jamîla.||The cat’s room is pretty.|
|هل أنا كرسيّ القطّ؟||Hal ‘anâ kursîyy el-qiṯṯ?||Am I the cat’s chair?|
|قهوة سيث بيضاء لكن طيّبة||Qahwa Seth beïḏâ’ lâkin ṯayyiba.||Seth’s coffee is white but good.|
|لا أُحِبُّ السَّفَر إلى بَيتي||Lâ ‘uhhibbu-s-safarr ‘ilâ beïtî.||I do not like traveling to my house.|
|قطّتك ملكة يا سام||Qiṯṯatak malika yâ Sam.||Your cat is a queen, Sam.|
|كراج جميل||Karrâj jamîl.||A pretty garage|
|تِلفازي في أسَدي||Tilfâzî fî ‘assadî.||My television is in my lion.|
|لَيْسَ عِنْدُها كَلْب أزْرَق لٰكِن عِنْدُها كَلْب أبْيَض||Laysa cinduhâ kalb ‘azrraq lâkin cinduhâ kalb ‘abyaḏ.||She does not have a blue dog but she has a white dog.|
|أعْمَل في شَرِكة قِطَّتي وَأنا مَشْغولة دائما||‘Acmal fî sharrika qiṯṯatî wa-‘anâ mashrûla dâ’iman.||I work in my cat’s company and I am always busy.|
|كَري لا تُحِبّ النَّوم بَعْد الظُّهْر، ما مُشْكِلَتُها؟||Karrrrî lâ tuhhibbu-n-nawm bacd eż-żuhrr, mâ mushkilatuha?||Carrie does not like to sleep in the afternoon, what is her problem?|
|مَن لَيْسَ عِندُهُ قَريب غَريب؟||Man laysa cinduhu qarrîb rarrîb ?||Who does not have a weird relative?|
|أُمّي لا تَشْرَبُ مَاء||‘Ummî lâ tashrrabu mâ’.||My mother does not drink water.|
|يُحِبّ النَّوم لٰكِن يُحِبّ دُروسَهُ أيضْاً||Yuhhibb en-nawm lâkin yuhhibb durrûsahu ‘ayḏan.||He likes to sleep but he likes his lessons, too.|
|ٲنْتِ صَديقَتي لِٲنَّكِ تُحِبّينَ ٱلٲكْل يا سارۃ||‘Anti sadîqatî li’annaki tuhhibbîna-l-‘akl yâ Sâra.||You are my friend because you like to eat, Sarah.|
|.لا، لا يُريد عَصيراً ساخِناً||Lâ, lâ yurrîd casîrran sâhrinan.||No, he does not want warm juice.|
|لا تُحِبِّينَ الكَباب لٰكِن اليَوْم تُريدينَ كَباباً، صَحيح؟||Lâ tuhhibbîna-l-kabâb lâkin al-yawm turrîdîna kabâban, sahhîhh?||You do not like kebab but today, you want kebab, correct?|
|خالَتي غَريبة لٰكِن لا نَكْرَهُها||Hrâlatî rarrîba lâkin lâ nukrrahuhâ.||My maternal aunt is weird but we do not hate her.|
|أفَرِّش أسْنان كَلْبي كُلّ صَباح||‘Afarrrrish ‘asnân kalbî kull sabahh.||I brush by dog’s teeth every morning.|
|لِماذا لا تُفَرِّشون أسْنانَكُم؟||Limâza lâ tufarrrrishûn ‘asnânkum?||Why do you all not brush your teeth?|
Though Duolingo enables you to learn a language for free, it is not the perfect method. Indeed, some people tell me that the pace does not fit them and that they wish they could go faster in their learning. I, myself, have experienced this while learning Arabic. During the first two months, everything seemed very easy and I got bored.
Duolingo enables you to get better at languages, but what is the other side of the coin? Who is behind this app? Where does your data go?
In Eco-Translation, Michael Cronin notices that, while using Duolingo, you help translate the Web for free.
“Von Ahn wants to harness this collective computing power for translation by encouraging users to learn a second language through Duolingo. As learners progress, they will be invited to translate simple sentences at first before eventually being asked to translate sentences from live web pages. The harnessing of this collective translational power through advanced technology is Von Ahn’s answer to his initial question: ‘How can we get 100 million people translating the Web into every major language for free?’ (Von Ahn 2011)”
I don’t know if it is true. These words on Duolingo are only Von Ahn’s opinion and I have no evidence that he tells the truth. If he is right, when you reach an advanced level, Duolingo uses your data to destroy the jobs of professional translators.
You got it: Duolingo is an interesting way to learn a language. Sometimes, it offers you weird sentences, which enables you to make progress while having fun. However, as a language teacher and as a translator, I have some doubts about Duolingo’s effectiveness and ethics. Will you use this method? If you do, how will you use it? It’s up to you!
I am not the only one that have noticed some weird sentences on Duolingo. Indeed, the Langfocus channel has published a video on YouTube about it:
Other articles (in French) about languages