So I really want to learn Spanish or just become a little more comfortable with it for my Spanish class. As of now, I can get by understanding about 90 percent of what my teacher and his assignments say. My problem comes to speaking. I found that when it comes time for me to speak I just can't. I even have a hard time writing unless I have time to really think about what I want to write. I was just wondering what you all have experienced with learning Spanish and your success with this site. Does this site increase fluency or is it mainly a tool to understand most of the basics?
If speaking is an issue, I would suggest you start repeating everything DL says, and read the spanish text phrases aloud. Use the "tortuga" button to slow the spoken spanish down, so you can clearly hear and repeat what you are listening to. This is how you learned your native language afterall, right? By listening, repetition, and practice. I assume you are alone when you practice on DL? If so, don't be shy! I have the exact opposite problem, I speak and pronounce very well, and if I say something in spanish to someone, they tend to think I am a fluent spanish speaker, and they hit me back with a slew of spanish, half of which I won't understand, lol. Also, if you find some spanish music you like (I am a big fan of Ricardo Arjona) print the spanish lyrics to the song/s and practice by singing along. Remember, its not about the singing, its about the pronunciation and clarity. Buena suerte mi amigo!
In spanish we have a saying: "La práctica hace al maestro", which means that you can be awesome at something if you try really hard. Now, about how useful Duolingo is, I'd say it mostly depends on how much you use it. It has been really helpful for me to read the discussions here, and I know it'd be useful to use the "Immersion" section to improve the languages I'm interested in. But also, I have friends who used Duolingo only once. It's all about constancy. You can watch some videos on Youtube as well, I'm sure there must be many of them explaining things about spanish.
I'm a spanish native speaker, if you need some help, let me know :)
For me the site has increased fluency but that has been combined with getting to use my spanish almost daily and I use outside references. But I look forward to working on lessons on Duolingo each day and have found it very helpful. I struggled with speaking as well until I realize that I may never feel fully confident in this language as it's not my first so I just have to go for it. For me, it was a fear thing not necessarily an inability to speak. I would suggest taking advantage of every opportunity you get to speak it as you are learning it.
I think we all have/had problems writing/speaking unless we spent time thinking about it first. :) Be persistent, keep at it, and you'll get better. Finding people to talk to can help a great deal.
If, as you say, you understand 90% of the Spanish in your class then that's because you practiced listening and reading and you know more Spanish than many of us here.
You haven't, however, practiced speaking and writing. So why do you expect to be proficient at it? Perhaps you don't like making mistakes, nobody does, but if you expect to make progress you had better accept that making mistakes comes with the territory.
CattleRustler is a regular poster here and you ought to read all his threads. He not only makes mistakes talking to strangers, he posts it here, often incorrectly, and is given advice by his linguistic betters. Don't tell him but I suspect he is a role model for many of us.