Finished the French Tree!
If it should serve as some encouragement, I have finished the French tree and had a good time doing so.
I've included a few high-level observations below:
1) First off, kudos to the Duolingo team for make a language-learning app that is so user friendly, helpful, and thoughtful
2) You're wondering how effective Duolingo has been for me, I'd say, I'm probably at Advanced-Beginner level now, in that I can order a meal, understand the headlines of news articles, and communicate around a few basic topics, such as clothing, the aforementioned food, and weather, but fluency seems a FAR way off
3) My commitment to Duolingo was shaky at first, in that I rolled through the daily 50 xp, which they comically label as insane, but I'd do it in about 3 - 5 minutes. As one might imagine, I didn't progress very far when devoting so little time, and this happened here and there throughout my learning, as my interest waxed or waned
4) In general, I picked up the pace and became more motivated when I saw some improvement. For instance, at first I would not progress to a new skill tree until I was perfect for a set number of lessons. I later ditched that method, as learning new topics in themselves (e.g., politics, industry, spiritual...so interesting!) were motivating in themselves.
In addition, I gained in motivation as I noticed my French improve, un peu. For instance, I found I could communicate with Uber drivers, when they noticed I was using Duolingo, and a lot of drivers in cities such as Miami are francophone.
5) Around 2/3rds of the way through, I started supplementing Duolingo with Rosetta Stone Mobile. Rosetta Stone is laughably archaic on the desktop, but their mobile app is much improved. It still runs at a slow pace, but there is a silver lining to that, in that you have to sit longer through the lessons. I find Rosetta Stone is good for some concepts, but Duolingo is superior for writing and is more fun.
Around two weeks ago, I started using Verbling on the recommendation of these forums, and it's been a great resource. It's like paying someone a few bucks to listen to me butcher la langue français. It must be torture for them, but is a good exercise for me.
6) I find Duolingo about 50% easier on the mobile phone than via a web browser. I believe this has to do with their low-rejection threshold in the pronunciation exercises (seulement mobile), and the occasional auto-correct suggestions via phone.
7) I am somewhat worried that I will lose motivation going forward, as I won't have as many cool exercises. That said, the incremental improvements I'm seeing is motivating, and as others have noted, there is a wealth of French media available for enriching my experience
8) Finally, the biggest hurdle for me, and I suspect others, will be overcoming the confidence hurdle. My spoken French is atrocious, and my writing is barely understandable. I intend to work through a French grammar book, as Duolingo is light on this front, and Rosetta Stone almost nonexistent. I have a trip planned for France in August, so that is another motivation for me to improve my French, such that I am able to get around Paris and the countryside with some degree of facility.
I hope the above was interesting or helpful in some way to other language learners.
Congratulations on finishing your tree. I am making slow progress. My goal is to keep the tree I have so far entirely gold, and I have found that I spend quite a lot of time doing that, with the result being that my progress has slowed the further down the tree I get.
Some other sites that you may find helpful to continue your French studies:
1jour1actu, which is French news stories for children. I find I can understand much of what is presented either in written format or videos, and some of the stories explain things that sites for adults assume you know already (like how elections work in France or what are the major soccer/football clubs that everyone follows).
For adult news and help with understanding spoken French, the RFI site Journal en Français Facile is superb with a 10 minute daily newscast including a transcript. Be sure to do the quizzes which are posted about every 3 days too. https://savoirs.rfi.fr/fr/apprendre-enseigner/langue-fran%C3%A7aise/journal-en-fran%C3%A7ais-facile
For a more formal course, I recommend the Carnegie Mellon University online French 1 and 2 courses. You will get the grammar you want there. http://oli.cmu.edu/learn-with-oli/see-our-free-open-courses/
Finally, I really like French in Action, which while very old (from the 1980's), is still very useful. http://www.learner.org/resources/series83.html
All of the above is completely free. It is amazing how many resources there are on the web now to learn French.
I think you should really really consider a site like italki where you can practice having live video conversations with native French speakers! This will help loads with the 'confidence hurdle', and will prepare you nicely for your France trip in August.
Je pense que tu peux maintenant commencer à lire des livres en français. Peut-être tu dois commencer à lire des livres pour enfants d'abord, et après quelques semaines ou mois, tu peux commencer à lire des livres pour adultes.
C'est ce que j'ai fait quand j'ai fini mon arbre français, et j'ai appris beaucoup plus, en lisant de nombreux livres.
Congratulations! Do not worry about needing French in Paris, most locals speak English as well as French. Once I said something in my broken French to a local and they responded in English. My accent/bad French gave me away! It is still fun to try.
This was my experience with German in Germany and Austria as well. I was always proud that my German was good enough that when I asked a question (in German), the answer I received (always in English) was to the question I was hoping I asked.
Good work. I finished my French tree in about 2 1/2 months from when I started working at it seriously, generally an hour or more a day.
But the tree hasn't gotten fully gold yet, I'm doing reviews trying to get there. I'm also working on grammar drills, using a book I bought and the UT-Austin site I posted about the other day.
That's keeping me motivated enough to spend 20-40 minutes on Duolingo French most days, as I slowly tackle the Irish tree.
I've got an older version of Rosetta Stone for French, from 4-5 years ago, I haven't decided if I'm going to crank it up again or not.
For help with speaking, I'm planning to take the Conversational French course at the local Junior College when it starts up next month.
I haven't been to France yet, but my experiences in Italy and Germany about 10 years ago were that nearly everyone in the areas tourists frequent spoke pretty decent English, though we did find a restaurant in Torino where nobody spoke English, we spoke next to no Italian, but had a great meal anyway.
C'est tres utile et tu m'aide beaucoup avec tes observations. Felicitations et merci!
For pronunciation: Pimsleur CDs from your local library, hands down. For listening comprehension and intermediate level vocabulary: News in Slow French.
Not at all, I'd say advanced beginner. I can express simple phrases about banal topics, such as weather and eating, and can comprehend quite a bit if spoken to slowly.
On a positive note for others, I'm lucky I can speak one language, so most people should probably be about Intermediate at this point!!
Congratulations. I wish you would post an update since your post was over a year ago and let us know how your French came in handy when you were actually in France. Also, I'd like to know if your spoken or written French has improved after leaving Duolingo. I love learning this language but darn I butcher it up. Those "r" sounds are killing me.