Welsh Government accused of ‘breaking’ Welsh Duolingo course
The Welsh Government has been accused of “breaking” Welsh Duolingo after an update which introduced scores of errors to the course was added by a government funded agency.
In October last year, the language learning app Duolingo announced it would mothball its Welsh course – meaning it could no longer be edited or updated.
Just before the course was frozen in time, it received a minor update which developers say initiated errors and inconsistencies that can no longer be corrected.
Mistakes include the misspelling of Welsh words, marking answers as wrong when they are correct, marking the north Wales version of some words as incorrect and correct mutations being ignored.
At the time the errors were introduced, Nation.Cymru reached out to Duolingo to inform them of the mistakes and request a statement but we received no response.
A group of volunteers wrote and maintained the course from its launch in 2016 to 2021. After that, the Welsh Government funded National Centre for Learning Welsh took over the responsibility up until the course was mothballed in 2023.
The admins of the volunteer run Facebook support group, Duolingo Welsh Learners, put together a list of the errors and sent them to eduction minister Jeremy Miles asking that he assist in initiating a repair to the course.
They say that they received a response stating the errors were not a matter for the Welsh Government and should be raised directly with Duolingo instead.
This was despite the Welsh Government previously saying: “Duolingo has indicated that they are willing to have a regular dialogue with the Welsh Government and the National Centre for Learning Welsh, which will allow us to review if future updates or corrections to the Welsh course are needed.”
Developers say the response they received ignores the fact the National Centre for Learning Welsh is responsible for writing the error filled topics which have undermined the course.
Nation.Cymru has seen several records of conversation between the Centre’s employees and admins of the Duolingo Welsh Learners support group which indicates an update “to repair important things” was being made to the course just before it was mothballed.
The update was introduced to only a few users at first and within days support group admins say they began receiving confused and angry messages from learners about errors.
Former experienced Duolingo Welsh course contributors say they have offered to correct the errors at no cost to the Welsh Government.
Richard Morse, a former contributor and one of the support group admins said: “It is so disheartening to see nine years of developing the Duolingo Welsh course being thrown away by disinterested politicians.
“The work to fix this problem can be completed in a short time by experienced Duolingo contributors. We have offered to do it at no cost to the Welsh Government. We hope they will take up our offer and have the necessary discussions with Duolingo.”
Duolingo Welsh Learners support admin, Gisella Albertini said: “The situation is simple. The Welsh Government has broken the Duolingo Welsh course. They shouldn’t deny responsibility. They need to fix these errors for the sake of Welsh learners of all ages everywhere.”
Christopher Short, another of the Duolingo Welsh support group admins, and a former course contributor, said: “Every day Welsh learners are expressing their frustration and confusion with all these new errors. Patterns they have learned in the previous 108 units are now being rejected because of the errors in the update.”
We contacted the Welsh Government and the Nation Centre for Learning Welsh and both indicated the course can be updated via the Centre if corrections are needed.
Duolingo also told us they are now “actively working on correcting any errors” to the Welsh course.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Duolingo is an excellent resource that can help learners on their journey to become Welsh speakers. If anybody notices an error, or wants to discuss the style used in the Welsh content, we would encourage them to get in touch with the National Centre for Learning Welsh in order for them to discuss with Duolingo.”
A spokesperson for the National Centre for Learning Welsh said: “Duolingo decided to pause development of its Welsh course at the end of November 2023, in order to focus on its other language courses.
“New units were added around this time, developed by the National Centre for Learning Welsh, and are being successfully used by thousands of learners. Duolingo is directly employing a Welsh tutor to respond to any issues arising with the new units, including adding many alternative translations.
“The Duolingo Welsh course continues to be available free of charge and remains a valuable learning resource for those wishing to start learning the language or to improve their skills.”
A Duolingo spokesperson said: “We continuously work towards improving the quality of all courses on Duolingo and are actively working on correcting any errors that may be present in the Welsh course.”
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