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!
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:)
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.
Congratulations. I'm particularly impressed with your diligence towards all those trees simultaneously; I've tried studying three, and sometimes more, simultaneously, but when I reach the last third I tend to have to drop my other trees temporarily (instead just visiting them briefly for revision) so I can continue making progress with just one tree to complete it.
It's a tremendous achievement; very well done.
I started Duolingo only intending to learn German but kept trying other languages and liking it. Within a month of starting I was working on all the languages together and decided to finish them at the same time. I had to do some tweaking of my schedule especially when the German team updated the tree and added a huge number of skills but it worked out fairly well overall.
Wow (again)! That's dedication!
(I wouldn't be able to commit to such an ambitious strategy, and certainly not to 200 XP a day. I'm always learning something here, but I thought I was being systematic when committing to dragging myself through the Russian course in 10 1/2 months, 30 XP a day...)
Looking forward to congratulating you on your next set of trees!! :-)
Оф, тоя курс май няма да го дочакаме. Все си мисля, че човек с добри познания по двата езика, и да не е филолог, може да направи курса (ако не се лъжа, в Инкубатора има и такива с по един доброволец). Мисля, че или повечето подготвени хора се хвърлят на български за англоговорящи, а не обратното; или може би не са достатъчно убедителни кандидатурите. То си трябва и да е сериозен човек, че то се вижда някои курсове от колко време си висят и няма напредък (виж отбор Galés много ме изкефиха, даже преди други отбори се придвижиха на 2-ра фаза).
Може, обаче гледах някой от модераторите в една тема говореше, че не зависи от това дали хората по форумите искат даден език. Ето за латинския постоянно се мрънка, а и е основата за друг езици, макар и да е "мъртъв". Аз го разглеждам така: има много българи (включително и от македонска страна), които ще се абонират за курса. За нас той е необходимост, за разлика от германците, да речем, от които доста хора говорят английски, тоест тази основа не е необходима за много хора (ето например гуарани е вече в Инкубатора, което е много готино, а не е от най-популярните езици). Трябва да се убеди екипа, и то от подготвени хора, които искат и да бъдат модератори, че подхождат сериозно. Мисля си обаче, че следващият език май няма да е европейски. Всъщност ще се радвам, ако е някой застрашен език, но едва ли.
Duolingo is my main resource. If I needed additional help, I'd turn to Wikipedia or a basic Google search. Over time, as more courses have added notes, I've had to resort to external resources less and less.
On the other hand, I'm not new to learning languages - I was fluent in 2 and proficient in a third before starting Duolingo so I had a fair idea what I was getting into.
If there's one bit of advice that has been useful it's practice, practice, practice, and finish up by practicing some more - if you really want to learn a language, racing to the bottom of the tree will just give you a mountain of words to forget in the weeks after you stop working :)
What about Memrise? I use both Duolingo and Memrise but it is not enough to develop conversational skills. There is always this problem. I am reading articles in English all the time; learning some words in the process and my passive knowledge is greater then the active knowlege.
It would be very interesting and helpfull if you start a blog in Bulgarian for language learning and your experience with Duolingo in particular.
I haven't really looked into Memrise. Duolingo's level of polish really helps me stay focused. A big problem I ran into with other courses is that I very quickly ran out of exercises - after a certain point it felt like I was always looking at something I had just seen minutes before. While Duolingo also has a limited number of sentences, there is a large number of them and the randomized exercises help keep things fresh.
I agree - without speaking to other people in the language you're learning, you'll never really learn conversation. However, that passive knowledge on its own is important. And your English is good - you got your point across no problem.
I really wonder how anybody should be able to master a language just by using Duolingo. Throughout the trees you have either single words or single sentences to practise on. There are no dialogues, no interviews, no other communicative structures, no stories, no articles, no essays, no songs, no poems i.e. NO CONTEXT. Just words or sentences which are presented randomly, although the human mind tends to add knowledge to already existing pieces of knowledge (and context) in the brain. For example, the use of "scripts" is usually very helpful for language learners to retain words and phrases (and sometimes also grammatical structures). Script is an expression used in cognitive linguistics for describing an event consisting of many standard subevents. An example: Presenting a bunch of new verbs in a certain order so that language learners can connect them to the script "daily routine" (wake up, get up, take a shower...). In Duolingo, unfortunately, you can find nothing of the kind. Actually, Duolingo is a kind of quizz, and quizzes often keep people motivated and curious. That's really positive about it.
However, congratulations to vvkrastev! Didn't you start to read other texts (in books, magazines and on the internet) early on while studying the different languages in Duolingo? Didn't you watch videos and listen to podcasts to get more linguistic input?
Absolutely agree. Duolingo does not give you context in the language, it doesn't make you practice conversation, and it makes it can easily give you a sense of accomplishment by emphasizing cramming skills in a race to the bottom of the tree instead of working on reinforcing basic knowledge.
On the flip side, the fact that Duolingo is unscripted makes it much more scalable. It makes it easy to build a lot of content for the program which also makes it reasonable to offer that content for free.
The fact that it's based on quizzes means you can work as little or as much as you'd like. That's what seals the deal for me - I work long hours and I have kids at home. I have very limited time I can spend focused on a task without interruption. I can plug Duolingo into my 5 minute chunks of free time throughout the day and actually accomplish something meaningful.
Language is learned best in an immersion environment but even then getting past that initial threshold of basic comprehension is very challenging - the first few steps in learning a language are the hardest. Duolingo get you past that first hurdle. From this point, if I ever wanted to or had quickly increase my skill level in any of these languages, I could.
Congratulations !! And thank you for your testimonial, honestly it helps me a lot. A few days ago I deleted all my languages, because I found myself spending a lot of time with Duolingo. Your "strategy" will help me to find a better way to work with my tendency to accumulate XP's on only one or two languages. As I read somewhere else, everyone has its own way to learn languages, and its own motivation. Thank you !
PS : Welsh is really wonderful ;-)