SSiW is Rubbish, let's do better!

And that title, good forum folks, is what is commonly called “clickbait” :slight_smile:

SSiW is, of course, not in the least bit rubbish, which is why I’m posting this thread. I’ve been, quite consistently, a nuisance to Aran over the last couple of years in pushing for investigating whether there are things we can take from the ‘gamified’ learning that’s popular today (see DuoLingo, Memrise, and friends) and apply to SSi, which of course there isn’t a lot of time for anyone to do. To this end I have, incredibly stupidly, suggested I mock up some alternative delivery mechanisms based on Ifan’s glorious SSiBorg course design work.

This is where you come in, dear reader. If you use alternative mechanisms for learning languages - either to support your SSiW learning of Welsh, or because you’re learning languages SSi doesn’t cover yet, would you please be willing to share what about those other systems particularly works well for you, and what doesn’t work well for you. I’m especially interested in Memrise/Duolingo, but the question’s for any non-SSi mechanisms. I’m mostly thinking of things that ‘feel good’ about other systems and draw people in and keep them coming back (e.g. “I don’t always have 30mins for an SSi lesson, but X lets me do something for 10mins on the bus”), rather than necessarily what works from a language learning point of view, on the basis that we (but not I) have considerable expertise in the latter.

Thanks :slight_smile:


I’ve been using Duolingo for some time now - not for Welsh as I find that incredibly frustrating - but to revise other languages that I once learnt but have mostly forgotten. I don’t think it’s useful for actually learning a new language - apart from Esperanto for various, mostly irrelevant here, reasons - but it does have some attractive points.

This is what I like:

  • the visual layout is appealing. I can see the tree structure with orange lessons that I’ve done, green lessons that are available to me, and greyed out lessons further down and it gives me incentive to keep going. As I get near the end of a tree I want to keep going until I get there, and then I get a cute little Duolingo owl standing on a podium to celebrate.

  • It counts how many days I’ve done consecutively - my streak. That WAS an incentive to do it every day (or to at least go online and buy a free day using lingots which you are awarded as you progress. Unfortunately bootcamp tends to disrupt my streak, and seeing myself go from over 360 days back to 0 when I missed a day was a rather large disincentive. I might get enthusiastic about the streak again once I build up a few more weeks.

  • It uses something akin to spaced repetition in that it reopens lessons you’re already done after a certain period of time. You can elect to practise material you’ve already covered or go on to new material. If you elect a practice, Duolingo sometimes combines material from 2 or 3 different lessons so you revise it all together.

  • It has a comment button on each page where people can ask questions about a particular sentence or word, and others will respond. There seem to be a reasonable number of native speakers on there willing to help out, at least I find that in the German and French lessons.

  • The app version is slightly different to the desktop. There is more selecting of answers instead of typing things, which can make it easier when the keyboard requires special characters, and the cute, little Duolingo owl pops out from the side of the screen every now and then and says encouraging things on how well you’re doing :slight_smile:

That’s all I can think of for now, but if I think of anything else when I’m doing my Duolingo practice later on I’ll pop back.

And one big negative with Duolingo - at least for me - it forces you to write! I did SSi Dutch and wanted to keep going with my Dutch learning. I successfully spoke Dutch in the Netherlands without a clue what the words looked like, but when I tried to use Duolingo for Dutch I kept making spelling mistakes and it wouldn’t let me progress because of them. I gave up in frustration!


Well, “clickbait” worked. :wink: I tried out Duolingo and Memrise, but for me, these “gamified” learning tools don’t work at all. It’s way too much distraction…cute pictures, ranking list, explanations etc. SSiW, on the other hand, concentrates on the language only, it cuts to the chase and very efficiently teaches me to communicate with other people. No frills. Love it. :dart::sparkles:


The clickbait worked for me too. I started with Duolingo, learning Italian, because I knew a few words already and thought it might be good for the failing memory to learn more. I soon lost interest, but discovered that there was Welsh on Duolingo. I had a look out of curiosity and was hooked. After all, it was the language of my grandparents.

My experience of Duolingo is very similar to Dee’s, except that I have never used the app, only a computer. I am currently doing at least the minimum every day because I can’t bear to lose my streak. I do buy a free day when I need to be away. That is a good feature.

Practice sessions are good, though there comes a point where you need to do so much practice to keep the icons gold that there is no time to go on to anything new.

A good point - there can be more than one correct answer. We learned “Dw i eisiau…”, I put in “Dw i’n moyn…” and it was marked as correct. The creators seem very open to adding additional correct answers if they are suggested.

I have mixed feelings about the writing. It is the most difficult, but I think that it does help to fix words in my mind - eventually. Letters with accents are provided for clicking, so there is no need to look up alt-key codes. That would be a killer. (Tried installing Microsoft’s Welsh keyboard but it doesn’t do anything.) There is an allowance for “typos” which I find valuable, though it does let me get away with mutation errors as well as genuine typos.

I have some reservations about the things we learn. I don’t feel that learning Welsh names for English cities has a high priority for me.

I have found the grammatical notes useful.

It was through the Duolingo forum that I found Memrise and then SSiW.

As far as I can see, anyone can put anything on Memrise, so there are lots of courses, some better than others. I find it quite useful for vocabulary practice. Words come back for revision after intervals. If you really don’t want to learn a word then you can ignore it. This is useful if you go mad trying to spell administrative officer. You don’t have to go through step by step as you do with Duolingo. You can get an overview of all the levels and see what words they contain, and learn them out of order if you want.

A problem with Memrise is a lack of flexibility in the answer it accepts. It is frustrating to be marked wrong yet again for something you think is just as correct. There is also a problem if you hop about and dip into several courses. The right answer in one can be the wrong answer in another. There seems to be no allowance for typos. I translated “I work in Tesco”, made a typo in Tesco, and had that sentence coming back for ages. Another time there had been a lot of weather-related words. “Fine” came up for translation. I put “Braf”. This was wrong. They wanted “Iawn”. I could have done with a clue that we were no longer talking about the weather.

Finally, I also had a look at Cwrs Mynediad, but the vocabulary lists put me right off.


Quizlet for vocab

I like…

The variety of methods like the asteroids game, matching etc.

The flashcards where it automatically gives you words you got wrong more often than words you got right ( it’s used using soaced repetition)

The percentages - you can see exactly which words you grt right/wrong more often and I find it motivational watching that improve.

I also find it disproportionately motiving watching the little animation you get as your correct answer ‘pings’ into the “Correct Answers!” box.

The wyay in learn mode it makes y actually type out the answer rather than jsut showing it to you - I’m sure that helps it stick for me anyway.

The way that if you answer with a close misspelling it corrects it there on the screen with a little animation


All these features you’ve described are very helpful, I’m sure. I think Duolingo and Memrise are created with a lot of love and dedication. Strange that for me, these feature are a distraction, since most learner seem to really appreciate and enjoy working with them. Maybe it’s like a friend of mine put it, that I’m Mrs Spock, and, as we say in Swiss German, “troche wien es Laubchäferfüdli” (dry as the bum of a leaf beetle) :vulcan:


:laughing: :star: :star2:

That must be only in iDevices app version. In Android I in my life didn’t see cute Duolingo owl to pop up and say something encouraging. As for the matter in fact I’ve experienced the only encouraging “friend” is you by yourself and the will to keep going (at least it’s what appears in Android). However I don’t use Duolingo much these days and my streak is 0 but when you come back there’s not even a Welcome what something else …

Keeping the streak to grow it rather puts me off as I feel this like a kind of obligation to pop in even when I’m not in the mood for learning for some reason.

Yes, but not because of the title for me, but that “O my God! What’s wrong now if @wondersheep says something like this!” point. You’ve got me there…

Well, as SSiW (and SSi∞ for that matter) aims to speaking and not writing the courses which teach writing along with all the rest are not (from my point of view) comparable with SSi.


Nothing compares with SSi, but I do play with other apps from time to time.
I like apps that let you add your own material. I’m particularly enjoying tiny cards at the moment. I like that it has a button ‘I got that right’ which allows you to mark a card as correct even if it didn’t exactly match what was expected (eg for typo or contractions -I’d instead of I would etc). That said, I don’t think flash cards are a particularly good way to learn a language.
I like that I can practise for just a few minutes when waiting for the kettle to boil.
I like the bright colours and general ‘friendliness’ of the interface.

I have been using Duolingo to try to learn Japanese. This is nearly impossible - for me anyway! I do like that the app sends me reminders if I haven’t used it that day, and also at the end of the week to try and increase my weekly score. I like the progress bar at the top of the screen that shows how far you are through a session. Something must be working because I keep going back to it.

One thing with these types of apps is that there is something for my fingers to do. I find sitting and just listening with SSi quite difficult. I usually do the lessons whilst cleaning or in the car. So looking at something and jabbing at the screen is quite useful in a way.

Another app I tried had a chat robot where you filled in the missing half of a conversation. It recorded your answers so you could hear the whole thing back. There was another one that used some kind of voice recognition. I have had very mixed results with voice recognition! When it works it’s cool, when it doesn’t it’s just incredibly frustrating.


I tried the asteroid game on quizlet as mentioned by leiafee. It made me panic so that I couldn’t remember anything. Good for some, but not for me.


These are all really helpful views, thank you all, and please keep them coming.

I’d also like to reassure people who don’t want gamification that Aran isn’t anyway near daft enough to let me actually ruin anything important or live, I’m just hoping to have a bit of an experiment and start a discussion.


I’ve used Duolingo and memrise although neither for a while. I completed the Welsh tree for Duolingo. I agree with the comments Dee has made. I think Duolingo assumes a level of knowledge and I don’t think you can learn a language just by using it . It’s completion aim and the owl definitely acted as an incentive but once I had completed and they made changes I lost motivation. I was using both to add vocabulary.

On memrise I used the section that followed my mynediad and sylfaen course in an attempt to fix the words and phrases into my head never intentionally going further than I had in class.


I have in the past been a great, possibly boring, advocate for Memrise. My proviso now is that it is used after getting a grip on the spoken language. It’s one thing to know a list of words or phrases, another thing totally to know how to use them.

As for Duolingo I’ve seen no need to use it for Welsh and my experience of it for Japanese has not been useful. What has been useful is the Michel Thomas style course which is probably the nearest thing there is to the yet to be published SSIJ. Just floundering around, not understanding why something is right, or wrong, in Duolingo has not been, in the end, a positive experience. And when I read that very few people actually ‘succeed’ in the real world with Duolingo that’s when the app was deleted. I am using Memrise for Japanese because there are so many courses available, but MT is the basis on which other stuff is learned. Three weeks and I’ll be in Japan, knowing how to speak quite complicated sentences, but with very limited vocabulary and probably unable to understand any replies. But I will have tried.


I was caught, too, thanks Kevin.

I’ve used Duolingo and Memrise, but not for quite a while, bot for Welsh mainly, and I’m playing around with a Finnish audio/video course ATM. Memrise has been useful for me to enlarge my vocabulary, Duolingo I have found disappointing, not necessarily because of the tool, but because I think I’ve progressed passed it. I am not exactly sure what the definition of ‘gamification’ encompasses, but it seems to include incentives to try and keep reaching new goals, accompanied by colours, movement and sounds - and written text.

I agree with others above that having anything textual is a huge distraction, certainly if text is the basic means of learning - maybe less so if text were optional.

In the context of this discussion, what I am looking for is an audio-based means of increasing vocabulary within a context, perhaps something like very short strings of text, and using the familiar SSi pattern. This could possibly be gamified by randomising, tracking of learners progress, unexpected new words, increasing speed, etc.


Well, I’ve written this elswhere on and off here but I once used the method of learning which was developed by (I hope I remember correctly the name) Karl-Marx Institute Berlin with the common name “2000”. The method was perfect for me because it teaches you speaking, writing, reading and grammar in one go and I still grief for it as it’s not available anymore. I’ve studied German and Italian that way and after finishing the course I was quite confident speaker (put aside I’ve forgotten huge amount because it was due to not using the languages a lot). The structure was something like this:

  • listening to the short text (dialogue or article) not allowed to read it along with that.
  • listening again and reading along with that
  • Listening and repeating sentences along with that when the gap provided
  • Answering questions which were in relation to text with choosing the right answer - this was aimed to improve understanding and probably to gain vocabulary.
  • writing by dictate. The gap was always long enough (at least for me) to write down what was dictated. There was a strict rule: if you made 5 or more mistakes you should repeat the dictate again. I was fair enough toward myself and the course producers to strictly do this with no exceptions (my English mistakes on here and elswhere are mostly typos).
  • Speaking exercise with questions and answers where you played the role of one person in the dialogue and you were asked to answer the question the tutor gave you (as part of the dialogue) or ask it. This was a bit tricky as the answer was somehow provided afterwards but you could or ignore it or not. It depended of your choice.
  • Repeating some sentences to properly learn how to speak (say words (In German with their R for example))
  • and only at the end there were grammar exercises putting (in German at least) a lot of attention to articles (you know der, die, das …) .

With all written exercises there were answers provided (writen upside down so you couldn’t immediately read them) right under the each exercise and in audio exercises you’ve got the correct answer kind of SSi way after saying your own “version”.

You made the course with exactly those steps written above. You’ve learnt step by step what was super useful to me! And the course also had 3 steps with 24 lessons in each of it.

The downside is maybe that it takes about an hour or even more to do the whole lessons but I’ve got prety confident speaker of German and Italian in just about 3 months. I didn’t do much along with these courses but just reading something in the newspaper (ooo, ja I’ve deliberately bought Stern or Focus for that practice even if it’s hard material to read for the beginner) :slight_smile:

So, apart from SSi now, this method gave me the most of all courses I’ve ever tried and I as person with bad sight was happy with the fact that learning didn’t base on the ground of pictures as many courses aim to do nowdays. With today’s digital technology such course would be even easier to provide (even online) than it was those days of non-digital era. When this course came out it was a real revolution as it was provided on the cassettes (remember there were no CDs DVDs and what’s more to it at that time yet) and it was (at least in our country) the first course provided for learning at home. The up side was also that those courses 2000 were provided through Slovene language but they actually existed through English and German too if I know things correctly.

So, since this method is nowhere to be seen nowdays, you @wondersheep maybe have the ground to play on! :slight_smile: Let me know if you’d be successful in your research in this direction maybe. :slight_smile:


Personally I don’t rate Duolingo very well at all.

The problem with the gaming aspect for me was when I hit a difficult spot (this was with Spanish) I stopped dead. And there was no way I was going to spend hours memorising past tense Spanish verbs just to get past the next 11 rounds of them

I also didn’t like the in game scoring goes completely against what makes SSi so good: Mistakes are part of the learning process and are vital to progress. Duolingo rewards those who make no mistakes and punishes those who do.

Saying that, it was nice to get a visual clue saying how far along you are in the course. SSi requires you to remember.


That’s odd, because I have the app installed on a pretty basic Android tablet and that’s what I get. Little thing, but it makes me smile every time as it’s quite random and unpredictable.


Well, then it’s because you are “good girl”, very hardworking and a little Lingo likes you as you’re hardworker in comparrison with me who hardly comes on these days (oh, and it has nothing to do with holding grudges upon little Lingo :smile:)


I use Memrise for Chinese and Russian. I started with Russian to try to kick-start my memory and drag up what I use to know out of the dark recesses of the mind. It worked quite well actually. Then I was about to head to China and used it to learn a few useful things, but now that I’m learning Chinese (attending lifelong learning classes) I use Memrise to revise characters. Basically, I don’t learn many new ones (as it’s just not a good way for me to learn new characters) but it’s great for going over the ones we’ve learnt in class. It’s fun, it doesn’t take long - so great for when waiting for somebody- and what’s good for me is that you get the pronounciation hammered in by repetition.

I also use ChineseSkills, which is a cute little app with levels. It’s actually better than Memrise as it has thematic levels and it is built on sentences rather than words. By not looking at the phone you can practice understanding spoken language as they say it all out loud too.


Random small rewards are a fairly well known motivation for gamification ‘stuff’