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  5. Yesterday I finished 8 trees


Yesterday I finished 8 trees

Yesterday I finished the trees I'd been working on for 864 days. On the same day I finished English to German, English to Italian, English to Portuguese, English to French, Spanish to German, Spanish to Italian, Spanish to Portuguese, and Spanish to French. Combined with the Spanish to English and English to Spanish trees I had already completed, that brings my total number of trees finished to 10.

It's taken a long time to get this far - I've been going at a very deliberate pace. On average, for every lesson of new material, I've done 3 lessons of review material. I've been doing approximately 200xp per day for the 2.5 years I've been Duolingo.

Why these courses? These were all the languages available on Duolingo when I started. Every one of them has a rich history and are prime tourist territory for when I'm old and rich and have money to travel the world :)

How well do I know these languages? I can read newspapers in Italian, Portuguese, and French. Journalistic writing in German is rather wordy and still largely incomprehensible to me. I can pick up good chunks of dialogue from TV shows in these languages - as long as people don't speak too fast. Since Duolingo places such a focus on written language translation, that's where I feel most comfortable. Overall I'd say at this point, I have a good grasp of Tourist level speech - I can get by if I had to.

Some thoughts on each language:

Portuguese was easiest for me - I have intermediate knowledge of Spanish (after a couple of drinks when I stop feeling self conscious I have no problems holding a conversation in Spanish) so Portuguese was an easy shift.

Italian was similar - still close enough to Spanish that there was very little new grammar to pick up. However, Italian clitic pronouns almost did me in. It took me a long time to wrap my brain around all the different ways 'ci' could be used.

German wasn't too bad. At the beginning it took a bit to learn the present tense verb conjugations and pick up the basics of noun grammatical gender. The declension rules for knowing which form a pronoun and adjective to use depending on grammatical case were surprisingly easy to pick up - they're elaborate but they're regular so that helps a lot. Since Duolingo doesn't emphasize the past tense in German, I was able to dodge the mountain of irregular verbs and just remember their perfect forms.

Amusingly enough, French was by far hardest for me. I hit stumbling blocks in a lot of places. I have no problem with noun grammatical gender in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese but in French I still make a lot of mistakes. At the beginning of the course, it took a surprisingly for my brain to register that I almost always needed an article before a noun in French. The sentence structure when asking questions made me want to pull my hair out and figuring out word order in a sentence with a negative and a few adverbs was very frustrating.

A common frustration in German, Italian, and French was keeping track of which verbs use "to be" and which verbs use "to have" in the perfect tenses. By now it makes sense, but at first it was challenging. The fact that in French and Italian "to be" verbs also had to be modified to match gender and number of the subject added to the confusion.

I mostly worked on the English origin trees, doing all my review sessions there. As a result, my trees right now are not all gold but they're not far from it either.

The only notable challenge in the Spanish origin trees was keeping track of the different ways in which Spanish uses the subjunctive especially compared to the other Romance languages.

What's next? I'm going to continue to do a bit of review in each language - one "strengthen skills" session per day. I want to retain the knowledge I already have.

I'm now going to focus on Swedish, Russian, Turkish, and Welsh.

I want to learn one of the Scandinavian languages and Swedish won out because I like the way it sounds (sorry Danish lovers, I don't always have a potato handy to shove in my mouth to practice proper pronunciation :) ).

Russian has always been near the top of my list of languages I want to learn. My native language - Bulgarian - is the one Slavic language that has significantly different grammar structure. I've heard it described as "Russian with English grammar". Russian to me is almost close enough to understand just because of the similarities and one day I'd love to travel to Russia and be able to read the Russian classics in the original language.

Turkish is the first non-Indo-European language on Duolingo. That alone makes it interesting. The way in which agglutinative languages work is absolutely fascinating and the way in which a single word can relate so much meaning just by adding suffixes is definitely different from what I have experienced so far. The amount of (turbulently) shared history between Bulgaria and Turkey only drives up my interest.

Welsh is fascinating because it's an Indo-European language from branch completely unlike the ones I'm familiar with. There are just enough similarities to make the differences all that more obvious. It honestly sounds more foreign than Turkish to me. You'd expect Turkish to sound very different - the fact that this is a language still spoken 200 miles from London is kind of mind blowing. It's also cool how the language still shows that its speakers were part of the Roman Empire for 400 years - I remember the Welsh names for the days of the week by associating them with Spanish. Finally, it's the Celtic language with the biggest media presence - more resources for me to use.

At my current pace it should take me ~15 months to finish all these courses.

I'm also going to keep going with filling in the reverse and ladder language connections between the languages I already have covered. First up is English for French speakers.

TLDR: 8 trees finished yesterday after 2.5 years of work; Russian, Swedish, Turkish, and Welsh, here I come!

April 30, 2016



Congrats! Your hard work has paid off and you are an inspiration to many I'm sure.


I am amazed by your organisational skills! Huge congratulations. Such symmetry really appeals to me. Brilliantly done!

I like your next selection of languages too. I actually just gave in to temptation yesterday and ordered grammar books for Welsh, Turkish and Swedish and am going to finish the Russian tree today. I finished the Swedish and Turkish trees last year but now want to take them further. Welsh I am yet to tackle properly but as it is the geographically closest other language I feel I ought to learn it.

I look forward to the day you complete the next four trees:)


Amazing! I enjoyed reading your detailed reviews of each language/course. Did you ever feel yourself getting burnt out by setting such an aggressive pace over a long period?


The fact I was constantly switching things up and working on so many languages in parallel made it doable. I work in 5 minute chunks throughout the day - it adds up pretty quickly over time. I also almost always switch languages after each session. I'd be bored to death if I had to just work on one language.


WOW!!!! Congrats!!! I'm so proud of you, even if I have no clue who you are!!! It must feel great to have done this!! I hope to do this too!!


2.5 years!! Now that's what I call dedicated!!


Nice job! It's amazing to see people like this with amazing success stories; it really is inspiring!


Wow!! ;D Amazing! you're great!

-good job! Congratulations!

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