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  5. Am I a slow learner?


Am I a slow learner?

I'be been doing the Russian tree for a while now, but I'm only on the third skill, which is 'Phrases'. Is this normal? Should I pick up my pace? Thanks guys. :D

December 20, 2015


[deactivated user]

    Go as fast as you need to. If you finish the entire tree but don't remember any of it, it was useless. Review frequently.


    I think this is a great question. I'll go against many of the people in this thread and say that yes, you're probably going too slow, and you'd benefit from picking up your pace.

    Of course, if you derive a lot of pleasure from repeating the same three skills over and over, who am I or anyone else to say that you're doing it "wrong"? I'm going to guess that it's probably not the case though. More likely you're doing the lessons with some sort of goal in mind, instead of doing the lessons for the sake of doing the lessons. An obvious long-term goal could be attaining a native-like proficiency in Russian. It can be divided into smaller, more easily attainable subgoals. Examples could be finishing the Duolingo tree, reading a news article, listening to radio, watching a movie without subtitles, having a conversation with a native Russian speaker, etc. I believe you can reach such subgoals at a faster rate than your current pace allows.

    Learning is a skill in itself, and it's a skill that you can practice and get better at. Certainly, not all learning strategies and methods are equally good. I don't know how old you are, what your background is or really anything about you, so I'll draw from my own experience instead. I've spent a lot of time learning stuff at various levels from very trivial stuff to very advanced stuff that's only available in academic literature and research articles. I'm not saying this to brag or to claim that I'm some sort of learning master. I have experienced failing and going about learning in an inefficient or even wrong way. I've also been a TA (teaching assistant) at university, so I've also seen other people do the same.

    This has been a lot of rambling so far, but I'd like to make a few points concerning learning:

    1. You need to apply the skills you're learning. In school (at whatever level) you'll have experienced this. Maybe you were given a math problem and you were asked to produce an answer. From a test taking standpoint, the answer is of course very important. People use your test scores to evaluate you when applying for a job or applying for admission to another school. However, from a learning point of view, it's the process of obtaining the answer that is important, and that is what you were training. The Duolingo skill tree is connected, and the individual skills/lessons are related. By moving forward you'll mix up applying the old stuff with learning the new stuff. While working on new skills, you'll also contextualize and nuance the old lessons in a way you won't by staying with the old lessons exclusively.

    2. Making mistakes is not a failure. Making mistakes is a central component of any learning process. One would have to be unusually gifted to never make mistakes while learning. Making mistakes allows you to pinpoint what is really the core of what you're currently learning. It also allows you to better prioritize your efforts. If you make a lot of mistakes in one area and few in another, you should prioritize the former to improve. You shouldn't overwhelm yourself, but you also don't need to be perfect before moving on.

    3. You need to have fun! You probably remember from school that some subjects where more interesting, and thus more enjoyable, than others. You probably did better in the courses you found interesting, or at least you did it with less mental effort. Sometimes you can be forced to just suck it up, because it may be forced upon you by others. When learning something on your own time and initiative, you'll probably burn out if you don't have fun. It would suck having to abandon your goals because the learning process is not enjoyable. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't find it very enjoyable not progressing. If you move on, you'll get to see new things, which will probably be interesting, and you'll get the satisfaction of seeing progress and improvement.

    My conjecture is that you'll improve at those three points by picking up your pace. That's not to say that you should work as fast as possible, but you should work as efficiently as possible. For some people, this may actually mean they should slow down. To make an analogy, your car is not fuel efficient (i.e. using the least amount of fuel per unit of distance travelled) neither when you're pushing the engine to its limits nor when you're going very slowly. Learning is the same. Finding the sweet spot may take some trial and error, but improving your efficiency will be worth it.

    Statistically speaking, you're unlikely to be dumb, so while you might be learning slowly, you're probably not inherently a slow learner. Moving slowly can be alleviated by adjusting your approach to learning, and I'm convinced you won't regret picking up your pace :)


    Thanks! Great answer. I'll try what you said. BTW, I not exactly doing the first three skills over and over. I'm doing other languages too, so... Anyway, it's just that doing one lesson takes me forever since I go through each question carefully, repeating each word aloud, trying to take in every word's meaning. Thanks for the encouragement! :D


    I can recommend following this Memrise course alongside the Duolingo course. I find that it makes remembering vocabulary much easier. I do the Memrise lesson first, and then I finish the corresponding Duolingo lesson. In that way, I'm at least a little familiar with vocabulary that is introduced in that lesson, and I can instead divert my attention to whatever grammatical concept the lesson on Duolingo is trying to teach my. I move on even if I can't remember it all perfectly. I find that with time, I get better at it each time I return to re-gold something. It seems to be working out nicely for me.

    I'd actually like to progress faster, but I need to work on my thesis, so I can't put in more time than I am now. My own goal is to complete the Russian tree in Q2 2016. In the meantime my thesis should have been handed in and defended. That should give me a lot more time and also free up some mental resources, so to speak :)


    No, you're not slow. You're careful and thorough, and want to make sure you know a little bit well before advancing on.


    Thanks! You know me better than I do. :D (though you don't know me in person :P :D)


    You're definitely not slower than me. I have been doing the German tree for almost 2 years now and I am still in the middle of the tree. Lol.

    [deactivated user]

      Language learning is definitely one situation where "Slow and steady wins the race."

      Languages aren't learned over the period of months, but years. It's better to learn 5 word a day for 5 years (10,000 words) than 20 words a day for 6 months (< 4,000 words).

      With the longer study, not only have you learned twice the number of words, you've had a lot more time to practice them, and commit them to long term memory, and you spend 15 minutes on Skype happily chatting in Russian, having had the time to also learn the grammar, learn incrementally, and get experience speaking for 5 years, whereas 6 months guy is spending an hour every day struggling to not forget the words, has to dedicate time on top of that to learn the grammar, and more time on top of that to find actual speaking practice.

      You've enjoyed the process, seeing language learning as something fun to do and it's amazing that you've learned to speak Russian, 6 months guy has burdened himself with a rigorous schedule, burned out, and can't speak the foreign language to make all of his effort worth it.

      Source: I am the 6 months guy.


      Yeah, okay. :D You're totally right. "Slow and steady wins the race". Unless you're doing the 'Beat the Slavic Languages' race thing, then you gotta hurry. :P But I'll take my time. :)


      I've been doing Russian since it came out and I have only made it to V.Pres1. I could go faster but I am still having a lot of trouble with what I have learned. I still do a new lesson every few days to slowly progress through the tree, but I also do four lessons of review first. This has happened before with each new language. I just need to keep studying until it clicks and then I will speed up. That's how I learn- inching ahead until suddenly I sprint a bit, and then back to inching. Patience and consistency will conquer anything!


      Ok, great tips! :)BTW, don't worry, I'm only halfway-ish to V.Pres 1.


      The word "normal" is such a hard word to define. What is normal for one person might be considered "insane" or pretty "basic" to another. A lot of it really depends on how much time you have to devote to learning a language. Someone who only has 5 minutes for language training every day is not going to progress as quickly as someone who can spend 5 hours. The thing to always remember is that learning a language is not a sprint. It is a marathon, and a student should pace himself accordingly.

      I also see that you are learning other languages. I don't know what kind of studies have been done on the topic of learning languages simultaneously, but I have found that it is good to build a base in one language before attempting to tackle another. By building a base, I mean something along the lines of having, at a bare minimum, a vocabulary of 1,000 words and a solid understanding of verb conjugation patterns and grammatical structures. I suspect that retention will be far stronger if you approach your language learning like a carefully planned parfait rather than a Dairy Queen Blizzard. In the beginning, that Dairy Queen Blizzard is going to taste good and be fun to eat, but eventually, it just might seem more like a brain freeze.

      Based off of the numbers I see behind the languages you are learning, it appears that you may already be doing that to some degree. Nevertheless, I hope this was helpful to others who read this thread.


      Oh. My. Gosh. You're so slow I can't believe it! Joking, joking. You're fine. It matters more that you know what you're learning, not how fast you get through it. Duh. :)


      Whoa! You actually made me worried for a sec right there. :D


      Hi! Just take it slowly, do a couple more excersises a day online, and don't give up! Russian is quite hard so it's probably quite normal. Good luck with your studies! :D


      No, I've been doing Russian for 45 days now. I use duolingo as a supplement and not my main method for learning so I just do a few exercises a day. If you took Russian as a college course it would take longer than finishing up a French course. For English speakers it may take up a minimum 44 weeks to learn. There's a significant cultural and linguistic differences between Russian and English so don't beat yourself up too hard and take your time.


      Would you like to hear a funny story? When I first started using duolingo, I dabbled with some languages I had learned in high school, and one of the first was German. I wasn't really sure how duolingo worked, so, every day, I would sit down and click the button titled, "Strengthen skills." I kept doing this over and over again, day after day. I even got up to level 5 by just doing this, but I was bored out of my mind! I was learning the same half a dozen words and phrases over and over again.

      I was about to give up on duolingo entirely when I realized that you've got to decide to move down (or should I say up?) the tree branches. Duolingo isn't going to identify you've mastered the material, no matter how many times you work on strengthening your skills, and then announce you've "graduated" and then move you to the next level (branch). Once I figured that out, it suddenly got a lot more challenging and a lot more interesting.

      Anyway, that's how it was back in March of 2014 for German. I don't know if that would be true for the other languages or if it's even true for German anymore, but even when a program's interface is in your native tongue, sometimes things get "lost in translation."


      Nice comments - both this one above and yours below also.
      First I raced through from English to Spanish to level 10 (50%) really fast, but after I decided to do the reverse Spanish courses from English and German I had lots of trouble to build up all levels to the same level. Now I had 4 courses: Spanish from English, Englisch from Spanis, Spanish from German, and German from Spanish

      So I also had a phase in which progress slowed down and all I could do was to strengthen my many degrading skills.
      Then I did remember that I once bought that timed speedtest with which you have to race against a clock to strengthen skills.
      I never liked it because it did not seem thorough to me, but recently I thought:
      "Well, before you give up, why not race through the nerve wrecking learned skills and then have your back free to move on again?"

      So I use it and at the moment I do watch Spanish movies (which I hardly understand), and after each scene I race through one skill against the clock. This way I will have refreshed all my skills within a week and then I can move on to do the courses.
      Then I do continue my weakest skills until I am equal in any of them.

      So in a way you could say that I did slow down purposely and therewith took the stress out of learning.
      Ah and another thing - after something like 120 days I lost my streak - what a bliss not to feel compelled to have to learn every day, even when I am away from the computer.
      It is more fun with less pressure.


      Ahhh yes. The streak. I remember thinking once What's the big deal about losing your streak? And then I lost mine and it bothered me a bit more than I thought it would. Still, the pressure was definitely off from that point on. As a New Year's Resolution, I've vowed to strive for a 365-day streak even if I have to tweak the Coach settings a bit from time to time. However, the year is young and I don't know what is in store for me yet. Sometimes the situation dictates that you make other things a priority.


      So far you kept up your streak ;-) Coincidentally I just heard a speech about our intuitive inner will which is aligned with the entire tree we as leaves come from,
      and an intellectual outer will, which suggests to us that we as leaves are individual entities.
      The latter suggests to us that we are separate entities and uses discipline and resolutions to accomplish our goals.
      But if both sides aren't aligned our outer will fights the inner path of our soul, so it is endangered to fail (until we surrender our concepts).

      Hence I do my best to accomplish something, but if it doesn't work I don't beat myself up over it, because apparently my soul had other plans.
      I guess it is a fine line to get both sides tuned into each other.


      Thank you for sharing those words of wisdom with me. They are certainly something to linger over and ponder. I'm going to have to squirrel that away somewhere and chew on it like a nut from time to time.


      Thanks , that was cute ;-)


      What matters more is knowing what you are learning, not the pace you go through it, so do not worry too much about pace


      I'm level 7 in Irish but only just passed the first checkpoint. It's a complex language that requires plenty of practice :/


      I guess it all depends on how long is "for a while now".

      That said, the others are right. Just go as fast or as slow as you feel you need to.

      I myself had a pretty good pace going, covering the first 7 skills in 15 days, while doing each skill about three times on average. That was until yesterday, though, when my streak came to a screeching end because I couldn't get online at night to finish the last two skills of the five daily skills I had set my pace for. I did three in the morning but the site killed my streak anyway, so I'm back to zero I guess. Oh well, no biggy.

      Anyway, the lessons learned thus far is what really matter. I normally try to cover two or three new skills each day while practicing the previous days' skills again. Once I feel I remember the previous skills I stop practicing those and only repeat the ones I feel I need to practice more. That way I maintain a good pace going forward while making sure I get plenty of practice with the skills I had already covered. It's what works best for me.

      I also like to make a lot of mental comparisons of the Russian words I learn to words in both English and Spanish, which are the two languages I speak and write fluently. For example Russian "eto" sounds a lot to Spanish "esto", and they both mean "this". That's a freebie for me, though. There are many other similarities that can help make sense of a new language.

      Also, I have decided not to worry about learning the cyrillic alphabet just yet because it will slow me down and could kill my motivation. I rather concentrate on pronunciation instead, verb forms and vocabulary... and on steadily moving forward with new content. That works wonders in confidence. I can learn cyrillic later on.

      One more thing I do is to write everything in a Google doc that I can easily access from work or from anywhere for later review. I type in all the words and examples, including the synonyms and other words in the drop-downs.

      Just some tips of things to do. Good luck!


      Whoa! Great answer. And I've been doing the tree since it came out, so that's what I meant in 'for a while now'. Also, about your streak, just buy a Streak Freeze and you won't lose your streak. (Good luck getting it up again!) I actually already knew the alphabet beforehand, so that wasn't a trouble. Great tips and good luck with learning Russian! :D


      Yeah I thought of that but my pride I guess got in the way. Lol... I was hoping to find the time to finish that Saturday night but kind of got delayed with some friends and then sort of forgot about it. It wasn't until after midnight that I remembered. By then it was too late. Shame too though cuz I had four days already out of my most recent seven day streak for which I spent five precious golden lingots. So I lost that little streak too and with it the five lingots that I paid plus the extra five I could have received for doubling up in three more days. These streaks do make people ADDICTIVE ! I have to admit it is a good way for staying on pace though. Next time I'll be more careful and won't hesitate about buying a one day break.


      If I don't have a goal, then I never consider myself slow with any language. Any learning done is learning achieved; even if you can't perfectly recall it, you still got part of the learning done and later it will be familiar to you.

      Also, IMO if you already know Cyrillic, then you are ahead of the game. I'm glad I learned it years ago, and I cling to it so I don't enable myself to not read Russian in native context. However, when I commit more to thoroughly studying this language, I think I also may be a bit "slow" because of it involving that script. Still, I will force myself to learn the patterns through Cyrillic itself so that gets burned into my brain in the first round.

      In general, if I take breaks in a language (as I've done with many I've been learning piecemeal), I just consider that as time my brain has to marinate the material.

      By you learning all those languages at once, you are possibly risking not making "fast" progress in any particular one. Like you, I aspire to learn many languages. But if I wanted to be literate and/or conversational in one in a limited time frame I'd focus on that (or two) and do it more systematically than I do now.


      Thanks for the encouragement! I already know Cyrillic, so I guess I'm okay. :D


      Well, if you need time to master alphabet, grammar etc. that's completely fine. But if you want to finish it you'll need to speed up a little bit :)


      It's okay, Russian is hard to learn............ (in my opinion. no offense)


      if you've been doing this course since the day it came out and are only at level 3 that means you're only doing one lesson a week, so yes, you need to pick up the pace. you need to do one a day, not one a week. even if it's just a review lesson, one a day is the absolute minimum.


      I don't always do one lesson a day, yes you're right, but I always do timed practice on it, so I'm still practicing it every day.

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