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I’m Simone Silvestroni 👋

I design and code accessible websites since 1998, now using Jekyll and WordPress.

Duolingo from Italian to English is not good

Since I’m about to go back to the UK after two years away, I wanted to review and refresh my knowledge of the language. I’ve been using Duolingo to study German (from English) for a while now, so using the same platform seemed natural.

It didn’t occur to me that I would be doing the course starting from Italian. Besides being disoriented from the change of language in both the interface and the settings, what caught me off-guard was the quality and the duration of the course.

I won’t be dwelling too much into everything that was bad in my opinion, however a few things need to be pointed out.

It’s super basic

First and foremost, the course is undisputedly at an elementary level, therefore, even after completing all 47 units, an Italian could be a quasi-decent tourist at best — especially in the United States — or simply be able to better manage non-mothertongue clients speaking English at work, in Italy.

It didn’t serve my goal of reviewing the language. I completed it in a very few days without perceiving any complication as long as I proceeded along the units. Maybe it’s just my perception, because I wasn’t introduced to this level of difficulty.

American English

I mentioned the United States on purpose, because it uses American pronunciation and grammar. There’s no trace of Britishness in there. Italian tourists tend to visit the UK way more than the US, so good luck there.

Who speaks like that in Italy?

The amount of phrases that made zero sense in my native language was astounding. I’m not talking about Duolingo’s use of hyperboles: I do understand why they use phrases such as the owl doesn’t cook well. I’m talking about sentences that were also wrong or extremely ambiguous from a grammar point of view. Most of my mistakes were caused by the confusion arising from this single issue, or from perfectly good answers that they deemed incorrect.

An example:

Duolingo asking to translate the Italian 'Devo fissare una data?' and deeming wrong my reply 'Shall I set a date?'
A false mistake
DeepL confirming I was right before
DeepL confirming I was right

I’m aware that do I need to set a date? isn’t wrong, but I reported the mistake as false because my answer should have been accepted.

Nobody in the UK speaks like that

If the aim of the course is to teach a bunch of words and a few ways to conjugate verbs in various simple scenarios, that’s okay. However, nobody could use this to go to London and properly interact with the local population. Yet, there’s no pathway to progress beyond it, which is disappointing.

Back to my English-to-German course then.