https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StevenJ.Sacco

Duolingo German: A Postscript

I ended my post yesterday with a teaser. I didn't reveal my BYU webCape placement score. I promised a surprise.

On February 7 I took the placement test and placed into the lowest course possible: German 101. Yesterday, March 7 I took the same placement test again. I placed into German 102 after a month of intense study using Duolingo as my course of instruction. But . . .

My score was 376 points--only 8 points from placing into second-year German!

To clarify the significance of this result, Let me share with you the webCape placement test categories. Scoring between 292 to 383 points places you into German 102; German 201 (3rd semester German) ranges from 384 to 493; Above 493 places students in German 202 or in advanced German.

What role did Duolingo play?

Despite poking fun at Duolingo's convoluted lexicon: ducks, cows, fly-eating spiders, bleeding dragons and the like . . . despite criticizing Duolingo's focus at the sentence-level use of the Grammar-Translation Method . . . despite Duolingo's insistence on frequently "strengthening" skills . . . Duolingo did a helluva job!

Duolingo took me from the initial weeks of German 101 to the outskirts of German 201 in 30 days--while remaining in San Diego. I could have replicated these results in a German immersion program whose schedule comprises 6-hours-a day of instruction, 5 days a week for 4 weeks, but many Duolingo users don't have the luxury of immersion study abroad like our undergraduate students in the International Business Program. By the way, a month-long immersion course consisting of 120 total classroom hours is the equivalent of a one-semester language course at my home institution San Diego State University--where I am an emeritus professor of French and Italian.

A month-long immersion program in Germany would have cost me nearly $3,000. Duolingo is free.

Despite my bromance with Duolingo, it incorrectly overstated my skill level. Duolingo pronounced me as "54% fluent," which I am not. (I would still like to know how Duolingo defines "fluency"). Duolingo also evaluated me on my LinkedIn site as "advanced" in my German skills. I am far from that level. I will, however, upgrade my current "elementary" level to "intermediate" German on my LinkedIn site.

Despite Duolingo's exaggerated assessments, I highly recommend German professors and instructors to integrate Duolingo German into existing German 101 to 202 courses. That recommendation also goes for high school German teachers. In fact, since many high school German programs are disappearing, I would recommend that school districts consider using Duolingo German as a way for students to complete the equivalent of high school German.

March 8, 2016

13 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PatrikRosen

I live in Vienna and attend a German course at A2 level. At the same time I have used Duolingo quite a lot. My progress is quite much faster then the other students, especially in developing a vocabulary. But I do also have the advantage of being Swedish - Swedish and German are even more alike then English and German.

I plan to continue taking courses here and then take a test to get an official paper of my knowledge. I agree that some features of Duolingo are quite annoying (Oraaaaaaangensaft...) but the general picture is very good. It has helped me a lot in learning German.

March 10, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StevenJ.Sacco

Totally agree, Patrik! I advised my students years ago (pre-Duolingo) to use Live Mocha and it positively impacted their grammar knowledge. I advice any student to use Duolingo in any class including our International Business majors in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Will be studying Swedish next!

March 10, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KatherineMkoster

I want to ratify this comment (I learned German in middle school, high school, then lived in Germany for 2 years, then didn't touch it for 6. Added to that, I had always been very grammar-lazy).

DuoLingo has been the BEST way for me to (finally) brush up on my "der - die -dass-es" and figuring out if it's "auf/bei/an/für" -- thanks!

March 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StevenJ.Sacco

HS French programs are disappearing too. Plus, HS and college students are tiring of the same old combo of French, Spanish and German. They want Portuguese, Dutch, Turkish and other less-commonly taught languages. Duolingo can fir that nitch.

March 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LoveK1969

Great story, man.

And yes, Duo would do so much good in a classroom. Language teachers should be Duo knowledgeable.

March 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Carolyn250

Very interesting post! Many school districts are, in fact, integrating Duolingo with their high school courses (although I know this only from anecdotal testimony on these forums). But, as a former high school teacher, I would approach such a recommendation with caution. You were a highly motivated learner. Many high school students are not, and it takes a great deal of self motivation to undertake an individual course of study. We long-term users can testify to the amount of nonsense students can indulge in when forced to use a program in which they are not too interested. (Following hundreds of people, copying and pasting in immersion, posting spam, etc. etc.). The program failed to interest either of my grandchildren, in spite of much prodding on my part, and they feel they are really better off with the teacher controlled lessons of their regular classrooms.

March 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StevenJ.Sacco

Great points, Carolyn! I am a former HS French and Spanish teacher so I see your points. However, HS students have been enrolling in online language courses not offered at their schools for years. Florida Virtual School is one example. Good topics for future research.

March 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lahure

Duo is certainly the best language learning resource in the world.

March 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StevenJ.Sacco

Thanks for your comment. What are you comparing Duolingo with, Lahure?

March 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lahure

Babbel, HiNative, lingualeo, englishexperts.com.br and a few other options too.

March 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StevenJ.Sacco

Don't know those but will check them out. I've used Rosetta Stone, Transparent Language, Living Language, Berlitz and Pimsleur.

March 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lahure

I do certainly feel that Duo is the option of choice, however Steven?

March 9, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/StevenJ.Sacco

Yes, the best for learning GRAMMAR.

March 10, 2016
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