At what point are you able to hold a conversation?
Hi all, I practice regularly and am nearly through my tree. I'm 9 months in and I can't speak much. It is easy for me to translate text but speech is another story. When I try to speak in Irish I can barely get anything out. I feel like I'm just learning to speak for the first time all over again. To those of you who are further along than I am, at what point did speaking the language become easy or easier for you? Does anyone have any tips for learning it faster?
I'm nowhere near finished with my tree, but thanks to learning Irish off and on for many years, my verbal fluency is (slightly) above what Duo alone would give me. I got as far as I have by seeking out local Irish speakers in my ex-pat community and talking with them whenever I could - speaking is really the only way to get verbal fluency. Since I don't live close to where most of my local ex-pat community is (it's about 45 minutes away), I don't get there as often as I'd like, so I spend the rest of the time speaking to myself (and my pets) out loud in Irish, watching Irish TV/listening to Irish radio and repeating phrases, and sometimes writing myself little 'scripts' to practice reciting out loud. Irish language prose and poetry is good for that, too. If you can't find Irish texts locally, you can get them through Oideas Gael's An Siopa Gaeilge.
There's no shortcut to speaking when it comes to language... you're literally training your muscles to form different combinations (and sometimes entirely different phonemes), so you have to practice speaking to get good at speaking.
My dogs never really took a shine to Irish - to be fair, they were both service dogs, so they'd been drilled in English commands before I ever laid eyes on them. They eventually learned to obey Irish commands, but neither of them liked it much! Oddly enough, my current fuzzy companions - a pair of Siamese siblings - can't get enough of it, and obey as well as dogs do, provided all commands are as Gaeilge. My mother is similarly unimpressed by this development... although she does approve of my decision to name the boy Malarkey.
Reading, listening, writing and speaking are four separate skills. General language learning will improve all of them, but only to a limited extent.
If you want to be good at any one of them in particular, you need to specifically practice that one. Duolingo helps most with reading and least with speaking.
Unfortunately, you can't just keep practicing with reading and expect your speaking ability to catch up to any appreciable degree. You'll just have to start speaking.
For me, it took several conversations with a native speaker before I could get any 'flow' going. It really is a matter of getting better with practise.
If you live in Ireland, look for a ciorcal comhrá or have a look on Facebook (e.g. Gaeilge Amháin). If you're in foreign parts meetup.com may be of use.
There are a handful of teachers/informal tutors on italki. You might want to check that out.