Language Learning is a Long Process

Hello All,

I would like to give my honest results so far with learning Duolingo Spanish. Below you will find my story thus far.


My soon to be parents-in-law do not speak any English. My motivation is to one day hold a conversation with them in their native Spanish language. Suffice it to say I am very motivated but have little time to study. Three months ago to the day I embarked on my Spanish learning journey. I have studied for approximately 45 minutes a day 4 or 5 days a week.


Learning Materials -

  1. I started with the first installment of Pimsler Spanish which I thought was very slow and argues to get through. It was defiantly not worth the money I spent. I learned much more with the latter materials.

  2. I then moved on to Assimil. I got half way through the book and was unable to intuitively figure out what was happening, so I switched to another book course.

  3. After Assimil, I studied Teach Yourself Latin American Spanish. This was much better and I finished the book. After finishing the book though which states you will be at B2, I felt as though I could not read a news article, have a conversation or listen to anyone or anything to the point where I could comprehend what was happening.

  4. At this point I tried Anki flash cards because I thought this would give me a better vocabulary. I imported precisely what I though was needed, but after two weeks, I felt as though the flashcards we a jumble in my head without any context.

  5. I then thought to myself this is never going to happen. I told myself that I am not going to spend anymore money on learning. That is when I downloaded Duolingo. At this point, I have completed the Spanish Tree and am at a Gold level for more than half of the phases. I can confidently say that Duolingo covers almost everything and in a better fashion than all of my previous mentions. There really is no need to purchase beginner material because if you go through Duolingo, it will all be there.

My Current Abilities:

I cannot hold a conversation, but with enough hand motions and slowed speech, I can communicate with a native speaker. It is not pretty, but I feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel because of Duolingo.

I cannot watch a soap opera or even a kid's show and understand the audio.

I can however in a very limited fashion read beginner books and know most of the words except maybe 5 per page.

I can also write OK if I have enough time to think about the sentence structure.

Past tense for me is very difficult at this point, so telling a story is rough.

Future Plans:

Continue to attain Gold Status throughout the Tree. Listen and Read every day. Start to have a five minute conversation once a week with a native speaker.

Hopefully this will help people understand how the language learning process is actually accomplished by a regular Joe.

June 14, 2016


Wow. I am so happy for you. Have you considered going through the books you bought now that you have finished the tree? Perhaps they will be easier to follow now that you have better skills and more confidence. Plus, would not want to throw money away. :) Just a suggestion. Not certain if it will work. Good luck with your studies! :)

June 14, 2016

I have considered going back to the books. I leafed through them recently and have found there are only a few words and phrases I don't know. Duolingo seems to cover most all beginner material that one would see up to what they say is comparable to a B1 - B2 level.

At this point I am going to press on with reading and listening. I find that reading a story helps solidify new and old vocabulary. I am going to take Steve Kaufman's approach during my next three month learning phase.

I appreciate the comment.

June 14, 2016

Yes, it is absolutely a long process. It takes time, and practice. But it is so worth it.

Keep at it, keep using Duo, keep your tree gold. Try immersion. Go for level 25.

I agree with you that Duo is one of the best resources out there. I do like Pimsleur for one reason- the listen and repeat format is very good at helping you perfect your accent.

Keep practicing live conversation. Consider listening to Latin music, and reading as much as you can.

Listening comprehension is the last thing to come, in my experience. It requires the fastest comprehension. You can read at whatever pace your skill is at, but listening requires comprehension at whatever speed the speaker is using.

In any case, congrats on your progress so far. You seem to be on the right path. All you need now is time. :)

June 14, 2016

Thank you for the comment. I have set my Pandora to Latin music. I can catch a few words here and there. I do like that if you are listening on the PC, Pandora sometime shows the lyrics.

June 14, 2016

Spotify has lyrics as well on the PC.

June 14, 2016

If you haven't tried Memrise, it's worth a look. They just launched some new official courses. The first one is here

It covers a lot of the same words from Duolingo, so you'll be able to make progress pretty quickly. They cover practical sentences and give you sentence building phrases.

There are also a few 5000 words courses if you just want to build your vocabulary. I'm almost 4000 words into this course, and it has greatly helped my ability to understand spoken Spanish

I'd say try both courses and see which one clicks for you.

June 15, 2016

Thanks for the links. I am always looking for new tools!

June 16, 2016

Thanks for your story - you have certainly have determination.

I found that speaking one hour twice per week with a native speaker has vastly improved my Spanish. Five minutes once per week is not a lot of time. Also the "Practice Makes Perfect" series of books are pretty cheap and good.

June 14, 2016

I am going to check out the Practice Makes Perfect book series for sure. Thank you for the information. I will also try to up the time for the conversations, but as of right now, I find my self getting four or five words into a sentence and not know the word I need.

Do you have any suggestions for this scenario? Wondering... do you just say the word you want in english and move on from there?

June 16, 2016

I try to reword the sentence to be as simple as possible. If that does not work I ask my interlocutor the word by whispering it in English. They give it to me then I continue with the sentence. Note the the person I am speaking with is fluent in Spanish and we talk to help me learn Spanish. He will correct something sometimes but often will let errors go so that the conversation keeps going. Note that our conversations are normally in English.

June 22, 2016

I have been doing Duo for 18 months. My Spanish and English trees stay gold. I am proud of my two owls. Try using Language Transfer on YouTube. Also watch TV news and listen to Spanish radio. Recently I was on a plane and spoke for three hours with two lovely women in Spanish. They tolerated my halting speech and we had a great time. Don't be afraid of speaking and making mistakes. Look forward to your future conversations with your family and buen suerte.

June 15, 2016

Great job on the tree for sure!! I will check out your suggestion about Youtube.

June 16, 2016

Firstly congratulations with your soon to be marriage and the best of luck with your future studies.

For additional material I would suggest DELE's online material and El Cronómetro. Plus reading Spanish national newspapers, any website, and watching TV, the soap operas from Mexico and great.

June 14, 2016

Thank you. I will definitely check those materials out. Currently I have been trying to read the news on El Nuevo Día. I can at this time understand approximately what they are saying.

June 14, 2016

Thank you for sharing! I am on a similar journey. One thing that has helped me is listening to the podcast "Buenos Dias America" (I am from the USA) each day. The news is difficult, but it is helpful because similar stories are told each day, but said slightly differently. Also, the stories are similar to other global news programs. It makes comprehension easier because you already know what they are going to day. Good luck!

June 14, 2016

Have you also tried "News in slow spanish" ? They have a free app and offer both Latin America spanish and Spain spanish. I started Duolingo this past December and I am going to Spain in July for the whole month. I am still practicing my Duolingo almost every day, but I am definitely at the point where I'm ready for different resources. Conversations and audio. News in slow spanish is great because they go slow enough that you can actually hear some of the words you might know and piece together what they're saying. Also, they do similar stories each day, and they report on US news so I kind of already know what they're talking about. Check it out!

June 15, 2016

Thank you a lot. I have been looking for a good Spanish Language podcast. As a note, I like listening to the I Will Teach You a Language podcast for study tips and interesting stories about language learning. The podcast is in English.

June 14, 2016

good start! congratulations.... I do not know much the english but same you learn

June 14, 2016

I believe your on the right track and I have found with my own experience it is the sum total of everything,I did a Spainish/English exchange at a library this winter,and was the only non-native speaker,it helped my conversation skills greatly,the best word of advice given to me by that group is try to think in Spanish,and speak in Spanish as much as possible.I am always looking for people to speak with,that and using all the resources you mentioned should get you there,for me it's been an on going slow process but I refuse to give up,patience will get you there. Good Luck

June 14, 2016

Don't give up! You can do it. There have been time when I have though about giving up because honestly I have never worked so hard at something with such little return. I refuse to give up because I know at some point the result will be very rewarding.

June 16, 2016

What are the DELE's online material and where can I find them?

June 15, 2016

DELE is basically the Spanish language equivalent of the Cambridge exams

June 15, 2016

Congratulations on your dedication. It sounds like you have made a lot of progress in three months.

June 15, 2016

I do 3 skills a day and it is my 2nd day learning spanish

June 15, 2016

Yay! Welcome to the club! I just started about two weeks ago. As you increase your vocabulary don't be afraid to slow down. There are some days that I don't start any new skills at all, but just practice the sentence structure and words that I'm not 100% on. Good luck!

June 15, 2016

I started using busuu and livemocha, which at the time were much better sites than they are now. Free, of course. I moved to Catalonia, got a stressful job, learned pretty much 0 Spanish for 6 months. Friends here helped me though I did a word a day and watched the odd video.

I bought a bunch of grammar books called Aprende. Levels A2 - B2. They were good, and I love grammar, they had vocab in the back. I did a chapter a day.

I got an add on for my computer that allowed you to translate words by clicking them and started to read news articles in Spanish.

Then came the summer holidays. I read Camus The Stranger in Spanish and English side by side. I also read El Zahir by Paulo Coelho, or half of it, till I got bored.

After the summer holidays I started taking Spanish classes, they put me in intermediate and it seemed too difficult. Two hours a day 5 days a week, EOI. I got to know the GBE, which is the best Spanish Grammar book in the world. About half way through this course is when I got comfortable having normal conversations in Spanish, though I still made a lot of mistakes. By the end of the course it was all too easy because I had studied very hard for hours every day.

I did one term of that, there was no level 4, I continued to study by myself, reading books and doing grammar and using the resources listed here.

More summer holidays, more study. Memrise was in beta now and I started my Advanced Spanish flashcard course which now has 60k users (woo!)

Applied to study Psychology at UNED Spanish Distance learning University, took on Social Psychology and Motivation, all in Spanish, of course, lots of dictionary use.

Back to school, level 4 finally open, too easy, teacher quite surprised I was studying at UNED heh. Did a language exchange once a week with a cool lady.

After Chirstmas level 5, finally a challenge again, EOI B2.2 (equivalent to DELE) exam, passed. UNED social Psych exam 10/10. Motivation 7/10.

Spanish has kind of rotted since because I don't live in Spain and while I read a lot I almost never talk. I'm preparing to do the DELE now but I don't know whether to do C1 or C2. I'll probably do C1 because I can be sure of passing it, where as I would be taking a risk with C2 and who needs to pay 200 euro and risk failing.

So that's my story. A1 - B2 in 2 years. But there were people in my class who did it in 1.

My advice is

  1. Study like crazy
  2. A change is as good as a rest - use a lot of different methods and resources at a time, if you are bored you do not learn.
June 15, 2016

Great story and excellent narrative. It helps to be motivated!

June 15, 2016

That is a great story of success. I am studying every day. Hopefully one day I will be able to take the C1, but I would be happy now for just an A2.

June 16, 2016

If you live in an area of the US that gets Spanish channels, some of the programs have both English and Spanish closed captioning, so it's worth checking your CC1 and CC2 settings. Some programs are a little jibberish with the CC, but some have great captioning and you can watch in English or Spanish (or toggle back and forth) to get what's being said.

June 15, 2016

You mention that your future in-laws do not speak English. Does the person you are marrying speak Spanish? Are you getting foreign language assistance from that individual?

June 15, 2016

She does speak Spanish. It is her native laguage. I have not sat down with her for a lesson or even asked her a quesiton about sentence structure. Early on I tried to see what it would be like to have a Spanish conversation and it was frustrating because I only knew a few words. So... no I have not asked for much if any real assistance.

Also, I have many Latin friend and they all speak English when I am around to be nice I am sure. During my next three month phase, I will be trying to speak more Spanish. Since this post I have tried to have several conversations, but it is difficult. Throughout the day I sometimes try and rattle off a sentence or two, but I am not quite there yet.

June 16, 2016

What you describe is not uncommon. Since their English is better than your Spanish, they prefer to speak English. It would take a lot of effort on your part to get them to slow down and speak Spanish with you.

I was more fortunate when I first started learning Spanish, because I became friendly with a family in Mexico, and they did not speak English at all. Thus I was "forced" to speak Spanish, and they were very patient with me when I was trying to explain something or tell stories (I still have difficulty speaking in the past tense, but I'm working on it).

You'll find that there are so many cognates and other tools & tricks you can use to increase your Spanish vocabulary and communicate, that once you start, you will improve.

Finally, you might ask your fiancee and Latino friends if they would indulge you for 10-15 minutes once in a while and just let you try to speak Spanish. I wish you the best of luck!

June 17, 2016


June 16, 2016

I learned how to speak in past, present, future, etc. by constantly referring to the little conjugation tables on the Spanish Dictionary app. Grammar books tell you the rules for -er or -ar verbs and all that but I never really got it until I just learned the patterns through repetition and memorized the irregular stuff.

June 17, 2016

It doesn't always have to be such a long process

June 15, 2016
Learn Spanish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.