Megan's friend and Duolingo

I’ve just had to leave my short (20 hour) membership of Duolingo because of two frustrations and would be glad to hear if it’s just me or them.

I translated their sentence “Gwelais hi ffrind megan echnos” as “I saw a friend of Megan the night before last” which was indicated as being wrong. Their “correct” answer was “I saw Megan’s friend the night …” I had thought of that, but ruled it out because Megan’s friend is someone definite and should, therefore, be translated as “y ffrind Megan”. At any rate, “a friend of Megan” is surely not wrong. I made a comment to that effect on their discussion page,

The reason I left, however, was not due to my difference of opinion (I’m not that confident in my Welsh) but due to the fact that they kept repeating the question and kept rejecting my answer. It felt as though they were saying “Say it, say it, SAY IT” - which I don’t respond to well. I tried to move on to the next lessons but found them locked. :rage:
Be my friend - tell me I’m right and they’re wrong. :laughing:

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No, ‘a friend of Megan’ is certainly not wrong - I’d suspect that’s the kind of variation Duolingo doesn’t find it easy to deal with…

After having agreed with you vs Duolingo, I’m afraid I’ve got to pull on the reins here - no such thing as ‘y ffrind Megan’ - Megan’s friend in Welsh is indeed, also, ‘ffrind Megan’… :slight_smile:


Diolch “ffrind”. I feel half vindicated which is more than I hoped for. :smile:

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I was using Duolingo the other day when it didn’t like a response I gave. Duolingo produced the sentence “Dych chi’n gwisgo gwisg ysgol?”, to which I replied “Are you wearing schoolwear?”. In this instacnce, where it came back wrong and gave the ‘correct’ answer as “Are you wearing school clothes?” I just reported it and suggested my answer was correct. Usually when I do this I get an email back from the course admin telling me my answer had been approved and changes made.

Funnily enough, the next question was “Dych chi’n gwisgo dillad ysgol?”, to which I answered correctly!

There was another one I reported where Duolingo missed out a “the” in the ‘select the correct word’ type of questions they do. I think they realise that there are still errors and refinements needed, hence the report option. They can suggest other possible answers to each sentence when you answer one correctly also, which covers the bases for different dialects. Seems they need us users to verify them still though!

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Thanks, Gavin. I did the “right thing” like you by reporting my comment but this, as I said, was not why I left. It was just because it was impossible for me to progress - “wal bric” :disappointed:


I think with me, it was to just put in what they suggested in order to progress, then await their response by email. Then, once you come to do the ‘strenghtening’ practices, your correct response then works (assuming the question pops up again, that is!)

It is otherwise a great practice tool - even if you are correcting them at times! It shows that you’ve learned the language to a degree where you’re able to do that. It’s unfortunate that they repeat the question which was wrong in order to progress. I think personally, if a question is reported, it should be suspended until it is moderated.

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I had a problem with one in Greek: the official version of the sentence was “My house is the next building after the hotel that is high on the mountain.” I queried it because mine was marked wrong for ending in “…which is high on the mountain.” The initial response was from a courteous American who told me that it was marked wrong because my answer was “not correct in English”! We had some back and forth about the fact that some late nineteenth- and very early twentieth-century prose stylists (Fowler, Strunk and White, etc.) had recommended that it would be a good idea if English were to use ‘which’ and ‘that’ differently (in defining and non-defining relative clauses, if you want the details), and that this advice has been mostly adopted in American English (but not British, where it remains at about a 50:50 mix), but that it is a point of style rather than grammar… and then two sentences later I came upon an example which did the opposite of what I had been told was the ‘right’ answer :slight_smile:

However, when I mentioned the latter example, it turned out that there are two tiers of translation sentences for any language pair on Duolingo – the ones written originally when the course is first complete enough to be released, and others added subsequently by trusted volunteers. I think the situation is that the original pairs can’t be subtracted from or altered without it being quite a big deal, so the volunteer who firmly believed that ‘that’ was the only right answer wasn’t able to change the one that I had found where ‘which’ was accepted; however, if my (polite and reasoned) arguments that they should accept ‘which’ in defining relative clauses from British speakers won the day, they could recommend that that be added as an alternative correct translation.

In the end I just had to translate it the way they wanted so that I could progress to the next level – but I remained (and remain) convinced that I was right all along :slight_smile:

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Thanks, everyone for your helpful and interesting responses.

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Incidentally, you can distinguish Megan’s friend (= the friend of Megan - definite indeed) from a friend of Megan('s) :

ffrind Megan - the friend of Megan
ffrind i Megan - a friend of Megan

Just like: He’s a friend of mine - Mae’n ffrind i mi


Diolch yn fawr, fel arfer. / many thanks as ever. :smile:


I’ve had similar frustrations with Duolingo - and I’m not even as far along with it as you are, @hewrop, because it hasn’t given me gwelais or ffrind yet.

For anyone else using Duolingo: never forget that Duolingo isn’t a human teacher, and isn’t capable of saying “You know, come to think of it, you’re right! I hadn’t thought of that way of saying it!” when you give it a different answer from what it was expecting.

It’s a computer program, comparing each response you provide to a fixed set of responses that it has stored in its database - and whoever compiled that set of responses hasn’t necessarily thought of every possible way of saying it. Even if the set has been added to over time by other people, there’s no guarantee you couldn’t think of still more variations.

The right/wrong test is very binary. If your response exactly matches one of the responses in its set (ignoring case, and ignoring punctuation marks external to words), then it assesses you as correct.

If not, it drops through to the next test: is your response only one letter different, or maybe two? (I haven’t tested it to see what the limit is.) If so, then you’re correct, but it will warn you that you made a typo. Sometimes I really have forgotten the Welsh word, but because my misremembered guess is only one letter different, Duolingo treats it as a typo. Its algorithm can’t tell the difference between a typo and genuinely not knowing the answer.

But if your response doesn’t fall into either of those categories, then Duolingo will say you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter how right you are in real life - as in the “a friend of Megan” example. Duolingo is a computer program with a fairly simple algorithm, and is just not capable of assessing the rightness of an answer beyond that algorithm. It requires a human to make that judgement call, and that’s why Duolingo has the reporting mechanism.

I agree it’s immensely frustrating to be forced to retype an answer when you are sure that what you provided was correct. But until they act on your report and add your suggested response to their database of correct responses, that’s all you can do. Personally, I just swear a bit, then shrug, type whatever Duolingo wants, and move on.

Your post does illustrate the value of finding a human conversational partner! The most sophisticated automated program will have some way to go before it can match a real, live, fluent Welsh speaker.


It occurred to me that another way of saying “Megan’s friend” is “Mr Lloyd” … (at least on Rownd a Rownd" …)


(sori…in-joke for the RaR criw yma… )


This sort of thing used to annoy me on Duolingo and Memrise. Duolingo has a better reporting process. Memrise is built by users. Unfortunately, that comes with the inherent in-built risk factor of mistakes.

I find anything that stipulates near perfection before continuing too annoying to carry-on with. I’m not a perfectionist (as my partner will atest to :joy:).


Thanks for your thoughtful response @Matilda

As I said, the reason that I left Duolingo is that I couldn’t actually proceed either in that lesson or any subsequent one. As a long time user and erstwhile designer of (ad hoc) software, I feel that this block is simply poor design which could be easily rectified.

Being a learner, I thought I’d check with this forum to see if my response was actually wrong, and am now reassured that it wasn’t. Even if it were, it is demotivating (to say the least) to the user to stop them completely in their tracks. As for gritting my teeth and writing what D/L want me to write - that just isn’t going to happen. :laughing:

Just imagine a human teacher telling their pupil that they weren’t going to have any more lessons till they accepted that 2 + 2 = 5 :slight_smile:

I’m sure that Duolingo does a good job in every other respect, and I agree wholeheartedly that there is nothing better (or as good as) a living, breathing conversational partner. :slight_smile:


I have just now reached gwelais and ffrind in Duolingo, so it appears I was just a smidgen behind you. I’m sure Megan’s friend will be popping up any minute now. :wink:

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Please give him/her my regards. :smile:


But punctuation can completely change meaning in English, if not in Welsh, although I suspect in both! Don’t ask for examples! I am sure I’ll think of a lot as soon as I leave this topic! :wink:

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Absolutely. I’ve come across several examples, some probably much too rude for this forum.

One of the cleaner examples is:
“Look, on the road ahead!”
“Look, on the road! A head!”


No, it’s no good! A mere single ‘like’ is not enough!! It deserves :laughing: :grinning: :heart: and more besides!

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One I came across on Twitter that made my 6 year old laugh:

"Capitalization can completely change the meaning of a sentence.


  • I like eating candy.
  • I like eating capitalization."