I finished the Catalan tree - my honest opinion.
I just finished the Catalan from Spanish tree. I had no prior knowledge about Catalan before starting the course, and I had only started learning Spanish about two years ago using Duolingo as well (since that, I also used other resources).
So first of all, let me thank all the contributors to the Catalan course. You created a good course and you are SO helpful, almost all of my questions in the discussions were answered within 24 hours.
Now I want to give my opinion about some particular points:
The audio recordings are awesome. Without any doubt I can say that they are the best on Duolingo. All sentences have a real speaker recorded at 'normal' and slow speed. Great.
Coming from the Spanish from English course, one cannot fail to notice the differences in the Spanish used, which are due to the Latin Spanish vs. European Spanish differences. At first I was a bit annoyed by that, but than I realized that this a great chance to expand my Spanish knowledge as well. This is also true for the differences in the vocabulary taught.
The course also teaches the local differences of Catalan at some points - and I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I feel a beginner should only have to worry about one 'dialect' of Catalan, on the other hand, if this is how the Catalan reality looks like, you have to reflect it in the course.
I finally I have to make one critical remark: Almost all the sentences have the identical word order and sentence structure in Catalan and Spanish. That means that you only have to translate each sentence word by word, almost as if Catalan would be Spanish with other words. Maybe this is the case and remark is pointless, but if it is not, I would like to have more sentences which show the differences between Spanish and Catalan.
For now I'll be busy strengthening all my skills because I almost rushed through the tree. Maybe someday a Catalan course from French or English will be released, I would certainly take it. Or maybe a course from Catalan. If somebody had the audacity to create a Japanese from Catalan course, I would try it for sure ;D
Thanks Martin, hope you keep enjoying the language :D
As you say the grammar is very similar, when we study it in the school we don't do it twice, we study the pronouns in Catalan because they are (put a word here) difficult and in Spanish we learn the order of the words, which is the same in catalan normally :D
In my opinion this course should be an easy one (from Spanish) because what you have to learn are the small differencies in vocabulary and ,very important, the pronounciation of the words.
If one day you need to go to a catalan speaking region (Catalunya, València, Illes Balears...) it's also good to practise the Castillian Spanish because you will hear it as well. But we try to accept as many solutions as possible of course from the other Spanish dialects.
About the catalan dialect we used: the central Catalan is talked in Barcelona and Girona regions and it's the most spreaded on the internet and media in general (radio,tv, newspapers...). We are sorry but we can't teach dialectal forms in order to not confuse people. If they are interested in learning an other dialect they should make an effort and try to answer the correct word which will not be always accepted, then they can report it if not.(we will need time to add all the possible words to the answers)
If you are interested in more challenging sentences you can check the songs' lyrics or poems. This course shows how catalan can be easy for Spanish speakers, I think we shouldn't overcomplicate it ;)
Re your critical remark.Your remark about Catalan being Spanish with other words could apply equally to Portuguese. I have been studying Portuguese through English (and Spanish) (in addition to Catalan through Spanish). One of the things I noticed doing the Portuguese course through English was how similar the word order was to Spanish. Indeed, in Portuguese, the vocabulary is extremely similar, with most of the differences being VERY regular phonetic changes (ion endings becoming ão endings for instance) There are a few minor differences, but not many. I don't think this was an artifact of the course creators trying to make the language easier, after all, English and Portuguese use pretty different sentence structures. It really is a case of grammar being almost identical, with small differences that can trip you up (or enlighten your understanding of the other language.) Actually, I'm finding more differences between Catalá and Spanish than between Portuguese and Spanish, both in sound and in structure.
I'm enjoying the Catalan course as well, but the voice is terrible, like in the Portuguese course (for English speakers), it's robotic. Hopefully when it emerges from Beta they will add a words section as well as conjugations for verbs.
Catalan is very similar to Spanish but some words are closer to Italian, French and Portuguese, which is very fascinating.
Congrats. I am enjoying Catalan a lot. Only one mayor remark from me: If you can improve the voice, the course would be very nice. The voice is... terrible(!). I have done Spanish, Italian, French switching between English and all these as base language, and found grammatically very alike. Also I found 'tortuga' repeated so many times. The course could have even more words. Thank you Duolingo team.
Thank you too for your opinion :D To change the words now sems not easy, but I hope we can do some changes for the second tree. The voice is not the best :D, but from catalan there are no good options, if Duolingo was not free then we would probably use the best voice available, but it costs money so we decided that this one was a better option. If we find a better one we will gladly try to change it! Is there any programmer who would like to help catalan get a free TTS or similar? :D
In comparison with all the other courses I tried, I found the voice of the Catalan course to be among the best. Compare it for example to French, where the slow voice regularly pronounces consonants which are mute. Some phrases are very hard to understand, but this is mainly because that is just the way Catalan is. I've heard native Catalan speakers (I am now taking a class in real life), and I have to say that they are much harder to understand than the voice in the course.