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I just don't get it

I just started duolingo, learning French, WHY DOESNT EVERYONE DO THIS??? I have told all my friends with excitement about how awesome this app/website is, and no one is checking it out. I still can't pronounce hardly anything but I can read some, and write some, and it's actually really interesting. 4 days of this app taught me more than 2 years in high school French. This is amazing. Hopefully one day I can actually PRONOUNCE something... any tips out there?

February 24, 2014



Bienvenue et félicitations! Isn't Doulingo awesome! Your excitement is infectious!


  • Do not be afraid of making mistakes - mistakes are how you learn so make PLENTY of them (just remember to correct your mistakes :) Be kind and patient with yourself.

  • Practice, practice, practice, practice - more specifically practice at least four times; practice (hearing), practice (writing), practice (reading), practice (saying) - do it often so it gets embedded into your memory. Language learning requires repetition, consistent commitment and motivation.

  • Make it fun, make it useful or better yet both! Learning words in a subject matter that bores you or words that you'll never use might add to your vocabulary but it isn't going to be very helpful. Make it interesting and make it relevant to your needs and interests.

  • Get out of your comfort zone - Make it fun but don't make it too easy. This means challenging yourself. Frustrations are going to happen but don't let that overwhelm you. Find the courage to start conversations with strangers in your target language. Be daring enough try something that might be difficult.

  • Find someone who knows the language Make sure the person is going to be patient with you but will also correct you when you've made an error. Finding a boyfriend or girlfriend would be awesome (and sometimes frustrating! But that's another story). But finding a mentor, tutor, neighbour, a fellow duolingo member are all good places to start.

  • Learn the basics properly, especially pronunciation & grammar - Even if the language you are learning has the same alphabet it does not mean it will be pronounced the same way. There are tons of websites that can help you with this. Getting familiar with the proper pronunciation early on means less of an accent when you speak and ensures you aren't misunderstood. There are tons of websites that can help you with this. For example in French:




  • Likewise, getting the basic structure of the language, how articles are used, genders, etc. are all important parts of grammar. Be prepared for several exceptions with every grammar rule you learn. Learning the grammar basics properly will help tremendously when you come across an exception to the rule.

  • Have a daily learning goal - . Aim for a specific amount each day. For example, this could mean learning at least 10 new words and 10 new phrases every day. Or finishing at least one lesson every day. Again, try to make it fun, challenging and relevant so that you might be able to use it throughout your day, not just when you're studying.

  • When you learn a new word try and use it right away - Try and insert it into daily conversations. Don't have any one to have a conversation with? Have a mental conversation in your head. Imagine what the other person might say. How would you respond? This allows you to find gaps in your knowledge, because you are having a conversation from both ends. It might be easy for you to ask a question but how good are you at responding to one?

  • "Comment dit-on__?" - Probably the best phrase you'll ever learn. Learn and use this phrase often. By learning to say "How do you say ___?" you can instantly ask a native speaker any word you don't know.

  • Immersion means using all your senses - This means making your learning an experience (preferably one you'll never forget!) Use all sorts of resources -- listen to music, radio, watch movies, TV shows, videos, films (with or without sub-titles), podcasts, read books, comics, dictionaries, newspapers, magazines, visit websites, write a poem or short story, eat foreign foods, explore the culture, go to events, festivals, visit - or better yet - live in the country that speaks the language you want to learn. You may not get every single word or phrase. In fact, if you're just beginning it may be overwhelming or frustrating. But start small and by exposing yourself to the language and culture as much as possible you'll eventually learn slowly but surely. The point is that with each experience you make the language more familiar (as oppose to foreign).

Bonne Chance!


I second the advice of don't be afraid to make mistakes- I think that's why so many people don't do it- they feel foolish, and have unrealistic expectations of what it means to really learn a skill like learning a language or playing a musical instrument. You make a thousand mistakes, and then you start to really get it!


You learn way more from a mistake than from a success.


who downvoted you? you just were more specific. you just meant that successes make us cocky and neglecting to analyze what we went through, while failure makes us humble and realize where exactly was the issue. just how we learn more of ourselves through enemies than friends, for they don't fear to show us our flaws, so we can become someone better later to their surprise.

anyway, I can go far and dare say that mistake is a "blessing" and the success is a "doom", in the matter of progress. better to achieve success after enduring resiliently a numerous amount of educative, profound mistakes than achieve it in just few first shallow runs ( by chance, help of others, cheating etc).

"Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one." ~Bruce Lee


I see you ask about a down vote and am not sure what that refers to here -- but I can tell you that I got the HELL down voted out of me on my first immersion translation attempt so I stopped doing it altogether. It was very demoralizing. Now I just study my languages, love doing it every single day and enjoy myself immensely. I'll leave the down voting to others. As payback and thanks to the Duolingo team, I bought two t-shirts.


I was just clarifying a friend's comment who, at the time, was downvoted. nothing big- not meant the immersion system at all. I think you're under affect of a psychological concept called "accessibility and priming", and I feel you.

I see where you came from and getting at now. Captanne, my condolence. on my first tries long ago had just those daunting downvotes, but yours beat mine! it's great that you got toughen up and back in the game now. it's been about two months myself never being active there, so I'll better watch out for some stiff "critics".

here have some lingot and link to a motivational video, learn well my friend: www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-jwWYX7Jlo‎


I don't know what you went through and I don't want to minimize it in any way. But I have a tendency to point out the opposite of side of things to people who express extreme opinions, even if I agree (at least in part) with these opinions, just to help them put everything in perspective and consider for an instant their antithesis (in the hope of making them progress in their views, even if it means simply having better arguments for the same extreme opinion). With this behaviour, I usually get myself a lot of downvotes. It didn't happen yet on Duo, I guess I've been lucky so far. But it helps relativize the meaning of downvotes. It's (usually) not an attack from people voting, but merely that they disagree with what you said. Anytime you express an opinion, there is a possibility that someone will not agree with it and that's OK. Life would be incredibly boring if everyone had the same opinion all the time. I'll admit it could be demoralizing, and some people live better with downvotes than others. Some that we call trolls actually seek them out ;-).


These are wise words my friend, have a lingot.


Actually, you start making huge improvements once you stop being afraid to look foolish. You're the one making the effort to learn someone else's language, nobody in their right mind will blame you for a mistake ! I myself would be flattered if someone took the time to learn 3 words in my native language, knowing they don't need it where they live. Generally, people are way more friendly when they see you made the effort to learn (even a bit of) their language. And when you try and make a mistake, people will generally either ignore it or correct you. But if you refrain from trying from fear of making a mistake, you miss a huge opportunity to practice and you're sure not to learn anything new.


I couldn't agree more. I visit Quebec often as it's close to my home in northern NH. I always try to communicate in French, even when a bilingual Canadian switches to English to try to help me out. People are universally pleased and even more friendly for the effort I make. My husband's French is "worse" than mine, and they seem to love him even more. Good luck to all.


I see other people at level 25 is that the master level? nice streak almost a year for ya!


Yes, for the moment, 25 is the highest level. You continue to get experience, but you stop levelling at 25.


Thank you for saying that. How motivating to hear it said aloud! I want to play the piano very badly but I put a lot of pressure on myself to practice, and then I end up shrinking from doing the very thing that will allow me to improve.


That is really good advice. :) I will have to try immersion once I understand more of the words. I've been trying to learn at least two lessons each day, but it's proving to be difficult so far!


What might be extremely useful for you as well could be the following book: Le petit prince. If you just want to know how to pronounce French, here is a free version of the book and here you can listen to the whole book, starting on page 5 of the .pdf. Have fun =)


Nice web site. I've added it to the wiki of useful resources.


Le petit prince is my "goal book." I bought it a month or two after moving here, when I spoke basically no French and couldn't read the simplest children's book on my own. I read the English translation of Le petit prince. I want to be able to read the original version.


With what I've come to know about you so far, I'd say to go ahead and try to read it now. Just have a dictionary handy in case, but if you take your time, I believe you can read it.


I actually just looked at the link posted above. I read two pages with very little difficulty. I think I had to look up two words. I think I'll take a crack at my copy after I finish reading the book I'm currently reading. ("Qui va trouver le trésor?" I already know who finds the treasure, haha.)


Don't worry--the best part about learning a language is that once you get through the beginning (the hardest part), the rest becomes relatively easy! The fact that you are struggling right now means that you will feel that much more accomplished when you master the material.


That is so true although I'm learning Spanish it's still the same, some mistakes need to be made to learn. I agree with you completely. i just started to but I'm making pretty good progress.


Listen to every sentence twice, thrice or even more and repeat it aloud every single time! Do it and it will have a very positive effect towards your spelling abilities =)


Yes! I gotta start doing that. Sometimes I have to redo a whole lesson for mistakes that I wouldn't have make if I only heard/read twice


Here is a tip I give which I have never seen anywhere:

When you are new, first master the phonemes to the point where you know the pronunciation just by looking at the word.

Then, and do this when you are alone unless you are the most self-confident person in the world, say the words slowly and in the most exaggerated fashion possible with as thick an accent as possible. Sound like you are doing a Maurice Chevalier impression for the back of the house. Really slowly and very, very exaggeratedly. Purse the lips, jut the jaw, stretch the mouth, inflate the cheeks, open wide.

This does two things:

1) it accustoms you to using your mouth in ways we do not in English, how the back of the throat feels during nasal vowels, the weird glossopharyngeal manipulation for the uvular 'r', the way the bottom lip and jaw jut out for the 'ee' sound, etc. You learn to feel where your breath goes, the strange feeling through the septum and throat. You'll uncover where to breathe and pause also.

2) it helps with words which are hard to say in English. «libéralisation» is tough for me (why, I don't know). But slow and loud wins the race.

You will find when you speak at a normal speed, your Maurice Chevalier impression and intraoral yoga exercises allow you to speak easily with a decent French accent.

I find it is like learning dance steps. One often does the routine slowly a few times until they get the muscle memory. Same here. You feel like an idiot, but it does work.

I even do it during immersion, one paragraph at a time.

Strange thing, I find when speaking French in real-life for periods of 20 minutes or more, my facial muscles hurt. I think this is because French requires a different set.

Bonne chance!


At the very beginning it is boring, but it is very helpful to listen to and repeat "sound pairs" or "sound groups," like "ba" "be" "bu," etc. You can find them at the beginning of the old "Living Language" recordings, for instance. And I'm sure there are some on the WWW . . . this looks good: http://www.media-loop.com/vowel%20system%20french/index.html , and the video here is good: http://www.prononcer.net/french-pronunciation-vowels-i-u-minimal-pairs . This is good, too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhH51nv8k1Y . There are plenty more, I'm sure. Practicing this way is definitely boring, but it pays off.

And if you practice but are still having trouble, find someone who speaks French, and ask him or her to correct your pronunciation of the sounds you're having trouble with. You can probably find someone online to help you this way, if you have, say, skype. Be prepared--have a list ready of the sounds that are toughest for you.

Then, and do this when you are alone unless you are the most self-confident person in the world, say the words slowly and in the most exaggerated fashion possible with as thick an accent as possible. Sound like you are doing a Maurice Chevalier impression for the back of the house.

This is exactly right. It is by far the best way to practice after you've learned the basics. A lingot for you, porkcfish.

With this Duolingo voice recognition, sometimes it seems that after a mistake (perceived or real) the process becomes "stuck" and nothing seems to work for the sentence in question, even the simplest sound. The only way I've been able to get around this, when it happens, is to relax, go slower, and pronounce clearly but not too exaggeratedly. Or push the skip button. :)


The speech in duolingo is know to be not that great (at least in the french course). To learn real pronounciation by a human being who actually explains and points out the do's and don'ts: http://www.youtube.com/user/imagiers


A very interesting site! I've liked so much! A lingot for is your payment. Deserves...

Thank you very much Shazumi


Check out the pimsleur method for learning languages, which is purely audio. I am doing both duolingo and pimsleur at the same. I think duolingo is strong where pimsleur is weak, and vice versa - they complement each other! Duolingo teaches you how to read and to translate, and grammar to some extent, but like you mentioned it does not force you to speak. Pimsleur is purely audio, and is very good at making you use the language in a real context beyond translation. I also kind of find it frustrating with the computerized voice of duolingo. With pimsleur you can hear real French people speak.

For really technical issues with pronounciation, check out the YouTube channel FrenchSounds. The woman who runs it is a PhD linguist, bi-lingual in English and French, and she really knows what she's talking about!


Me too! I am doing both pimsleur and duolingo and they really complement one another very well!


Does Pimsleur have an app or podcast?


I'm not sure, maybe. I was able to find them online, and I have all the lessons on my iPod. Very easy to use, in the car for example.


Pimsleur audio files are certainly available in iTunes. There is also an interactive version http://www.pimsleur.com/Learn-French/Pimsleur-French-Unlimited-1/9781442348646 Your local public library might have some of these for loan


This is my advice - Don't try to go too fast! I got carried away my first time on Duo. I went through the lessons like wildfire, and though I learned enough to get to the next lessons, I didn't REALLY learn the content. I got to the end of the tree, but I had not mastered most of it. When I tried to go back and start to really learn the material, the sentences contained material from the whole tree. I needed to be able to just do the beginning. Notice my name is Pangaea2 :D I had to start over. But lesson learned, I am going slowly enough to get a bit of mastery before I proceed to new lessons. The best part is that I'm starting to feel like I'm really learning languages. I love it!

Good luck! :)


Same here, I have invited dozens of my friends to duolingo (using invites and in real life) and still a lot say that they would not find language learning fun in their spare time even though they study French Spanish or German in school.

Duolingo is fun and useful and social. I can't believe I can now chat with Spanish speakers and talk to French speakers! Even managing Italian now and throwing around a few phrases of German to impress.

Many of my friends and teachers seem to be under the impression that I am some sort of multilingual genius (despite the fact I am not even truly fluent in any of these languages) and I just keep on saying...

"No, language learning is cool and fun now thanks to Duolingo. It's more of a hobby really :)“


I did the same. Started last week and was hooked after about 3½ seconds. But people have to try it to love it. I myself heard about it a few months back and didn't think too much of it (but for a note to myself to try it out someday). Now I haven't skipped a day since I registered and already made about 10 friends all around the world. What will I have done in a year ?


Me either. Everyone I tell hates being monolingual, but nobody signs up. Je ne comprends pas!

Bonne chance!


I gave you a lingot, cuz they are useful when you're starting out! Enjoy and have fun.


i just started it and it is amaaazing. I wish I found this app earlier!


Totally massively agree, definitely one of the best things that happened to me! Here we come, Français!


Oh I know how you feel. I have tried so many times to get some of my friends to try Duolingo out... I have had exactly zero success so far–even among those who are already studying one or more of the languages this site offers.


ps...learning a second language is like Tennis...you always have a 2nd service...and if you can, go to your local library and ask for Michele Thomas..."learning French 1to 8"..mega...


Listen to French TV channels and radio....


Put an accent on the end of the word: instead of EN-fant make is en-FANT. Truly helps. Sources: Many french courses and teachers but Duolingo proves the best!


Je te suggère d'écouter a des podcast fréquemment. Cela m'aide beaucoup à apprendre parler et prononcer proprement des choses en español. De plus ils sont librement disponible sur Itunes.

Bonne chance.


What podcasts specifically would you suggest? I tried this one called coffee break French, or something close to that, and they have Scottish accents so it's still hard for me to understand hahaa




The best language learning for speaking is Pimsleur. It is espensive but worth every penny because you have the courses for ever. If you have i pad it is a lot cheeper then the cd's. it is 30 minute lessons a day, no grammer is taught. You learn like you do as a child. They have samples on the web. I have many only French speaking friends and I can talk to them. Pairing Duolingo with Pimsleur.com has been the best experience. I now speak travel Italian and a little Czech.


Or borrow it from the library. Pimsleur is good, but their prices are shocking.


This! The libary is a good place to look for material. You can lend whole language courses there and books or sometimes even audio books in the target language.


try this to enhance your French learning. Follow every week for new topics!!!



There are a lot of silent letters. And when French speakers roll their "R"s, they put their tongue on top of the roof of their mouth and say "ruh". That's why "repas" sounds like "Hepa" (silent s). That's how people are supposed to roll their "R"s, it was a bit hard for me at first.


Every time you need to translate something from French to English, read it over out loud once or twice before you begin translating. It seems to work for me


Keep working, and get involved...Become and incubator!


I've seen that before, what is an "incubator"?


The language incubator is a tool to create new language courses for Duolingo. More info here in the number 4 of the post.


get your friends to start duolingo with you and have conversations together


lol...same for me and I live in Brittany and I'm OLD!!!!


Nobody is old!!!!


Yes that's right. Need to speak and practise !


I'd even go as far as saying it's a sin NOT to use duolingo when you know it. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?


I know I shouldn't be advertising another product, but Pimsleur has been really helpful for helping me with the conversation and speed piece. Although it can be a little pricey...


Parlez chaque jour et amiéliorer !


Hi, I also started Dualingo yesterday :) I find that listening a few times to a sentence and then repeating it together while you listen to match the tempo and the sounds helps a lot. I never had ANY French lessons before but I passed all speaking activities in one go :P


Yes!!!! Continue French!!! You'll enjoy it more with Immersion!!! Good luck with pronounciation.


same here i'm doing french too and it truly is better than school it just seems to get my attention more keep it up doe! and a tip i can give you is write the words and there meanings down on a composition book as you go along


I agree Vannerbeth, I love this site. I wish I had found it sooner!


I'm not going to type a huge thing that no one is going to read like EBAGARES but i was doing French for school. Iv'e not taken my eyes of this screen since 2:30! (there goes my life)


listen to the french radio, you'll get used to the pronounciations


D'accord. ('Agreed', as you'll learn soon) As for pronunciation, I'd find someone who speaks French fluently once your confident you understand French enough to survive, you'll pick up quite a lot in that department.


lol....mad! love it1


So many great tips :)) The podcasts have helped and I like the youtube videos!! Havent tried the other app suggested though! thanks guys <3


I speak along with the girl on the computer or repeat after her. I'm sure the computer doesn't pronounce everything perfectly but I think I helps. And makes me feel more comfortable!


find someone that knows french and only speak that language when you are with them! (Go to France, lots of French people there!)


Make index cards and write down the words you learn.


Better yet, use Anki instead.


As many have said, Pimsleur. It's great. Also, watch movies in French as much as possible. Work on your "R's" a lot as that is usually the hardest part for us English speakers. I'm awful at "r's"but my friend from Brussels and a few others I've met have said it's better than most, so, maybe I'll get there eventually. Youtube has all manner of stuff, too, of course. This girl has some nice basic lessons and you can try to imitate her accent. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-7Pt0FZZYo Some nice person put all 52 of these up along with corresponding workbook exercises. I don't know if you're familiar with the course but it's an interesting immersion course. It's based around the TV episodes, so, you really have to listen. Repeat what you hear trying to mimic the actors and the Professor. A great thing about the program is that you will hear regional accents, thus, expanding your ear. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcQaqcR-KatXa4XMk0JOnWv4fmdrIbGIM

The terrific thing about French movies is that you get entertainment and an education at the same time. I have found that there is "music" in languages. If you can get into the rhythm and melodies, it becomes easier to understand and of course to be understood.

Many of us find it fairly easy to understand foreigners mangle English. I know I do. But, it seems that in many other languages there is very little variance in the way something sounds or the natives will have no idea. What you're saying. About a year ago, I was speaking with a Frenchman about Serge Gainsbourg. He had no idea who I was talking about until I wrote it down. He then said, "Oh, Serge Gainsbourg, why didn't you say so?" I said I did twenty times with the best French accent I could. I honestly couldn't hear the difference in how he pronounced it and the way I did, but...that goes back to the music of the language, I guess. ;)




I know right - it's such an amazing website :D


I have reported this difficulty several times: from time to time I am asked to select the "missing word." e.g., Tu _ a Paris. However, there is no way to type in the correct answer ( in this case habites), which means I cannot advance to the next lesson. Several other people have reported the same problem. Please FIX THE PROGRAM!


i think that you just need to listening to french people then practise

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