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https://www.duolingo.com/kelmit

Articles about hobby polyglots?

kelmit
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Hi! Have there been any write-ups about Duolingo power users? I'd love to learn more about those of you learning several languages at high levels.

What was your first language? What is your native language? (For me those are different.)

What motivates you?

Were you already multilingual before starting on Duolingo?

How did you get started?

How do you choose which languages to learn?

How do you practice what you learn? How do you practice actually speaking?

What do you do with the languages you learn after you hit Level 25?

Do you use your language prowess in any other capacity?

What do you do for a living?

Do you have any related hobbies?

How do you make/find the time to study? (I remember Olja saying she uses Duolingo while stuck in traffic on her regular commute!)

What was the hardest language for you? Why?

What was the easiest language for you? Why?

Do you have any advice for other language learners?

1 year ago

22 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/jdberry300
jdberry300
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I just like learning new languages and I'm fascinated by all of them. It's a purely intellectual pursuit and fun like a puzzle.

I started French in middle school and continued into high school. It was merely exposure to the language and I was terrible. I took it again in college, and again I was terrible. A few years ago I picked up Fluenz French, did all 150 lessons and became decent. I found Duolingo and became reasonably knowledgeable. I've done the Barron's workbook and used Gabriel Wyner's YouTube pronunciation guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hI2Pso1dDjM

I've been to France a few times, but knowing French hasn't been all that useful to me as a casual traveler--nearly everyone you have to deal with speaks English and they will switch to it before you have a chance to practice. If English is your native language, it's difficult to speak anything else with anyone unless you're forced into immersion.

Vietnamese is by far the hardest for me, but I haven't focused enough on it to get over the hump. I've definitely overextended myself here.

I learned some Korean 10 years ago because I liked the alphabet and also was doing Tae Kwon Do.

I take time to study when I'm not busy -- the iPad is quite useful to carry around.

My usual advice for learning any language is not to question any particular grammar rule while you're leaning. It might be inconsistent or difficult to memorize, but it is what it is.

Don't be afraid to return to a language, even if it's been years. It's always easier the next time.

Good luck!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmareloTiago
AmareloTiago
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There was a series of interviews of Duo users but I don't think those picked for the interviews would be what you are thinking of as power users, mostly just familiar faces around the Duo fora.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kelmit
kelmit
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Well, you certainly fit the criteria. How about you? :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmareloTiago
AmareloTiago
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I was already filling out the survey but I did not want to be presumptive. ;)

I would definitely not have the levels I do without Immersion. The site really changed quite a bit when they retired Immersion.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kelmit
kelmit
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Oh, where did Immersion kick in?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmareloTiago
AmareloTiago
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Pretty much anything over a 12 was Immersion.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
Jack.Elliot
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Motivation to learn is difficult so ther is what I do ... http://jackelliot.over-blog.com/2017/02/a-method-for-language-acquisition.html

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmareloTiago
AmareloTiago
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Forgive my presumption, but I think I might qualify as one such power user that you have solicited to fill out your survey.

What was your first language? What is your native language? (For me those are different.)

English, all around. I have been a Spanish speaker for 20+ years as well but I am not a native Spanish speaker.

What motivates you?

Intellectual curiosity? A desire to gain insight into (particularly Indo-European) languages? I describe my intellectual interest/hobby as "differential linguistics".

Were you already multilingual before starting on Duolingo?

Yes. I had taken classes in several languages throughout high school and college in Spanish, French, German, Russian, New Testament Greek and Japanese. I had also studied Old English rather informally. I would not say I am fluent in these languages (other than Spanish) and can barely remember basic greetings in Japanese.

How did you get started?

I have always been interested in foreign languages and have studied them whenever and wherever the opportunity has presented itself. I got started on Duo trying to prove a point to my wife. She had downloaded the app to learn Spanish and I was encouraging her to study daily. To prove my point, I started studying a new language on Duo 911 days ago. The choice was Portuguese or Italian and I picked Portuguese and never looked back.

How do you choose which languages to learn?

Within the framework of Duo, I had a plan mapped out and decided which language to study next based on that plan. I started with Portuguese and German and started doing trees two at a time and tried to stagger my progress so I would not be in roughly the same parts of the tree at the same time. At first I was focusing on doing one Romantic and one Germanic language and that served me for a little while, through Portuguese, German, Italian and Dutch. I decided to try the French for Spanish Speakers tree and following Dutch, the plan was to get into one of the Nordic languages but I could not decide which of the three to tackle first and ended up studying Ukrainian (which is culturally related to the Scandinavian countries, anyway) and ended up getting lost. I don't really remember what I was doing around then, I think I was focusing on Immersion, particularly translating from English into Portuguese, Italian and Dutch? What got me back on track to tackling trees was Catalán for Spanish Speakers. I started that tree the day it came out and it took me a few months to finish it, which I did before it became available for the app. When I finished Catalán, I felt reinvigorated and started after my unfinished trees with a vengeance. I finished Ukrainian fairly quickly (really short tree) and in pretty quick succession I ran through Spanish for Portuguese Speakers, Portuguese for Spanish Speakers, the reverse Italian and Dutch trees (I already had done reverse Spanish and Portuguese trees) and the German for English Speakers 2.0 before taking back up with French for Spanish Speakers. Then I started feeling the siren call of Welsh and Polish. I did the Welsh tree and decided to try the Irish tree again (which I should finish next week) and just on a lark started Norwegian. I finished Norwegian last week and started Danish. After Irish I will start back up with Romanian.

I have a plan for the future. After I finish Danish, I will start Swedish. After Romanian, I will go with... Polish or Greek (Probably Polish, so I can do a chain of Slavic languages)? After Swedish, then probably Greek? I am running out of languages available on Duo that interest me. I am interested in learning Czech eventually and probably Klingon and maybe even Haitian Creole and maybe Esperanto. I want to stagger those Slavic languages so I am not studying two at once - Polish, ideally Czech and then Russian? Maybe by then there would be some more languages available that interest me. On the top of the list are definitely Lithuanian, Old English and Maltese but I would like the chance to study some of the other minority Romance languages, particularly Occitan, Galician and Asturian/Mirandese, and some Medieval languages especially from the Germanic languages like Gothic and Old Norse but also Old Occitan, Vulgar Latin, Tocharian, Middle or Old Welsh and even classical Latin. While I am dreaming, Afrikaans or Plaatduutsch would be useful languages around here.

How do you practice what you learn? How do you practice actually speaking?

I really don't practice speaking most of these languages but I have stuck with Portuguese and Welsh and to a lesser extent Norwegian. Of these three, I do the most with Portuguese. I participate in the Portuguese language Duo fora, mostly answering questions about English. I have an interlinear Portuguese/English Bible that I read and several times a week I will read Wikipedia articles in at least two of those languages. I was pretty active in Immersion when that was available and played around a little bit with lang-8 but have not done much over there lately.

I have had precious few chances to speak any of these languages that I have studied. Maybe 3 times have I had the chance to speak Portuguese? Maybe as many times have I actually had a conversation in Dutch? I have met some Dutchmen at my work and friends tell me that there are a few Brazilians but I have yet to meet them. I do deal with Afrikaaners pretty often and I can understand a few words they say and they catch the gist of what I say in Dutch but I can't actually speak Afrikaans with them.

Except for Spanish. I speak Spanish almost daily. To the point that I get tired of it. I want to speak something else, dang it!

What do you do with the languages you learn after you hit Level 25?

Immersion? Not anymore.

Do you use your language prowess in any other capacity?

What do you mean?

What do you do for a living?

Firearm salesman in a hardware store.

Do you have any related hobbies?

I also have an interest in Medievalism and that plays into my language studies. I have also been learning Braille this last month or so.

How do you make/find the time to study? (I remember Olja saying she uses Duolingo while stuck in traffic on her regular commute!)

I have to make time. I have a flip phone and mostly do Duo on my PC. We do have an iPad that I will use from time to time and I do shift from preferring the App to the website but right now I am in website mode.

What was the hardest language for you? Why?

Irish, by far. I started the tree the day it came out and got discouraged and quit about three months later. I circled back around after the Welsh tree and am doing much better this time around but the spelling vexes me and really keeps me from being able to do much with Irish. After that would be Hungarian, mostly for the particularly free word order, even though I am somewhat used to dealing with languages that have a freer word order.

What was the easiest language for you? Why?

Portuguese, mostly because I speak Spanish already and Portuguese picks up so easily from there.

Do you have any advice for other language learners?

Practice, practice, practice.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kelmit
kelmit
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Wow, thank you! So... did your wife end up learning Spanish?

Re: Do you use your language prowess in any other capacity? Thinking about what makes you good at learning languages-- your ability to focus? or talent?/skill?/dedication?-- is it useful/helpful for anything else?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MasonBrooks_25

I am practicing Spanish for school and it is awesome! I love to draw & my motivation is from all of my Duolingo friends!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/E.T.Gregor
E.T.Gregor
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I'm just going to assume I fit the profile...

What was your first language? What is your native language? Both my first and my native language are German.

What motivates you? Apart from really enjoying to be able to express myself in many languages, I usually have a goal when I start a new language (such as being able to travel to a certain place or reading a certain book etc.) and reaching that goal is my main motivation.

Were you already multilingual before starting on Duolingo? Yes, I was already fluent in four foreign languages before I started duolingo. That hasn't changed much, since duolingo can't really get you to fluency.

How did you get started? How did I get started with languages or with duolingo? I started learning English in third grade, at the age of seven. I started duolingo about two years ago, when a colleague recommended it.

How do you choose which languages to learn? As I said above, I usually have some kind of interest in the language or the place where it is spoken. I started Dutch because I go on many sailing holidays in the Netherlands, Danish because of the Olsengang movies, Portuguese because of Capoeira etc.

How do you practice what you learn? How do you practice actually speaking? Watching movies and TV shows, listening to audio books, or reading books, usually starting with children's media. Duolingo is in all of my high level languages just a way to keep the basics going and to make myself think about these languages for a few minutes every day. As for speaking, I try to speak these languages whenever I have a chance (f.ex. to the staff at a local Italian restaurant), but I really don't get as much speaking exercise as I should.

What do you do with the languages you learn after you hit Level 25? I haven't yet reached level 25 in any language, but I plan to just continue doing a few skill strengthens every day until I find a better way to keep these languages alive in my head.

Do you use your language prowess in any other capacity? On holidays, of course. My job also involves a fair amount of travelling and that gives me opportunities to try my language skills. I also translate a lot for my colleagues when we're on a business trips together.

What do you do for a living? I'm a Physics PhD student.

Do you have any related hobbies? Reading, I guess. One reason to learn languages is to be able to read books in their original language. Travelling, too. I also have hobbies related to just one language (such as Capoeira, sailing or Judo).

How do you make/find the time to study? During meals and short breaks at work. Also, I go to the next big city at least three times a week, giving me 10 minutes each trip for duolingo. Usually that gives me about an hour in total every day, which is all I need. Otherwise, I'll find a bit more time in the evening.

What was the hardest language for you? Why? Japanese, definitely. I learned it for six years and I hardly know the basics (admittedly, it's also some ten years ago, so I forgot a lot). I found it hard because of the writing, the near complete lack of recognisable vocabulary and the heavy reliance on context.

What was the easiest language for you? Why? Either Dutch or Swedish. In many ways, Dutch is easier to a German native speaker because it is so closely related. Yet, because of the huge similarities, I often make mistakes with those things where there are differences, both in vocabulary and grammar. From that point of view, Swedish is a very happy medium. It's quite similar but not to the extent that I start forgetting the differences. Plus, Swedish has easier grammar than Dutch.

Do you have any advice for other language learners? Find a way of learning that suits you. I've realised I learn best by listening and by trying to understand grammar and etymology, so I try to focus on those things.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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Definitely don't think of myself as a polyglot. Not sure I really qualify on the "several at high levels" criterion, but I guess Catalan and Guaraní are getting me closeish; my personal standard for "high level" (on Duolingo) is about 17.

  • native/first language: English

  • motivation: curiosity? usefulness for career? sort of flows together

  • already spoke French, Spanish, Portuguese (more or less), had studied a reasonable amount of Russian

  • started French in 7th grade; started Duolingo to continue on adventure of learning Russian, which I began in college

  • choosing languages: well, I took French in 7th grade only b/c Spanish was full, and I guess it's really been pretty haphazard ever since. Started Russian as best I can remember b/c it's cold in Russia, and I went to college in a hot city so I wanted something different. At that point I suppose I dreamed up the goal to learn the "big international languages": i.e. French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic. A few more have sort of crept onto my radar screen b/c they're closely related to ones I'm pretty familiar with. Now I'm sort of getting curious about non-Indo-European languages, probably more out of intellectual curiosity than anything. Having reached at least advanced learner status in Russian, I'm extremely cognizant of the work involved in attaining proficiency in a language with extremely limited vocab overlap, so I'm very realistic in what sort of expectations I can reasonably have regarding such languages.

  • I've been lazy in practicing the non-reading/non-writing parts of Russian, but it's been mostly b/c when I listened I knew I just didn't know the words so needed more vocab. I spent a good deal of time in Russian Immersion, and the problem is much ameliorated, as well as vastly increasing my ease of reading. So now I'm trying to focus on listening more since I'm getting to the point I can acquire vocab from context, etc. Was working more with translation into Portuguese when they killed Immersion. My struggle there has been to smooth over the rough edges from Portuñol. Conversational abilities in Portuguese are rustier than they were soon after I learned it in college, but having been there before I know it's a much smaller task to get it back than getting to a similar level in Russian.

  • after level 25: before - just more Immersion :) now, just use 'em I guess; still sort of figuring it out; lang-8 is an okish substitute for translating into target language

  • hardest language: Russian; Hungarian is equivalently hard if not a bit more; I use it for "brain exercise" :) Even early lessons in the tree can be more mind bending than Russian ever has been, but the common alphabet is a major leg up.

  • easiest: Portuguese (I already spoke Spanish); Catalan would be equivalently easy if I had a class taught as well as Portuguese was for me

  • advice: learn one foreign language to fluency before diving your attention to others; there's a big mental leap your brain needs to make to speak fluently in a language learned as an "adult" (i.e. after the age of probably 10), but in my experience it's at least somewhat transferable to other languages. I never seemed to have much trouble saying what I knew in Russian. I just didn't know much. On the other hand, I knew years' worth of French that I really struggled to speak. I should qualify this advice that my years of French in school weren't so great. We never really spoke any, nor did the teachers for the most part. Maybe my advice should be speak and listen a lot :) Talking to yourself definitely counts!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
Lorel90
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What is a Duolingo power user?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kelmit
kelmit
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I'm just thinking of power users as those who learn several languages to high levels, like you :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
Lorel90
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Thanks for your answer. I have one more question, why are you collecting this info, is it academic research or just curiosity.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kelmit
kelmit
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Curiosity! I might write an article for others, but I don't write professionally, so it's unlikely to go anywhere. My friends and I were just marveling at these power users and someone asked if anyone has profiled them/you yet!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
Lorel90
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Thanks Kelmit for sharing the information. I do not consider myself a power user based on your description. I am only learning German, I already know the other languages, 2 are reverse trees.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kelmit
kelmit
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Reverse trees are awesome!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Caversham
Caversham
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I think there is a third category: best language which may not necessarily be a first or native tongue (unless you equate best with first.) I'd say best language means being dumped in a linguistic no-man's land.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kelmit
kelmit
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Ok, I'll bite. What are your first, native, and best languages?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yxzzy03
Yxzzy03
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Japanese was the hardest one i have ever done but as that is not on Duolingo i would say Hungarian it is the 4th hardest language in the world and also Russian and Polish are hard as well. The easy ones for me are Turkish as my mum is turkish so i learnt it from a young language but from starting secondary school i would say Spanish, French, Italian or German are the easiest and USEFUL :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/VinayakMalhotra.

My answers to your questions -

What was your first language? What is your native language? - English.

What motivates you? - My passion for my dream job.

Were you already multilingual before starting on Duolingo? - Yes, coz I'm fluent in french, which I learned when I was in high school.

How did you get started? - Well, I decided to sign up for Duolingo, which I had heard a lot about.

How do you choose which languages to learn? - I didn't, to be honest, I hate it but they tell me that I need Russian, if I want to have an awesome life..

How do you practice what you learn? How do you practice actually speaking? - I pretend to have conversations with my amazing role models and Hollywood actors.

What do you do with the languages you learn after you hit Level 25? - I'm still on level 10.

Do you use your language prowess in any other capacity? Yes, I do. I flirt with french women a lot.

What do you do for a living? - I'm a PFC in USMC.

Do you have any related hobbies? - Not that I'd say.

How do you make/find the time to study? - I have a lot of free time.

What was the hardest language for you? Why? - Probably Russian.

What was the easiest language for you? Why? - English, coz it's my first language, plus it's really simple and the people also find it very easy.

Do you have any advice for other language learners? - I dunno what to say.

1 year ago