3 Years, 33 Trees, 300000 xp
It is three years today that I discovered duolingo. I am so grateful that I did, it has been such a wonderful addition to my life. It has opened a window to the rest of the world that is very hard to see through from within the English speaking bubble. The perspective is far better from where I am now. In addition it has pulled me out of the dark hole of doom and gloom that I was wallowing in and given me success and self esteem back in my life. I am in a far better frame of mind than I was three years ago. I have been able to apply what I have learned to things other than languages as well. Thank you Mr Lingo:)) I needed you.
This has largely been a year of consolidation, going back over already completed languages and polishing them to the point that I understand and read them well, most recently I regilded all the Scandinavian trees and Dutch, retrieving my Norwegian owl at last (that course definitely gets the best tree award), but I also recently finished my Welsh tree and am half way through Hungarian which I love, it is a real fast paced grown up course, although inevitably for one with such long sentences there are sentence variations still missing. Next I plan to go back to Russian and have another crack at speeding up my processing of it to the point where I can follow speech. I am too slow as of yet. Usually after a break I find a language quite a bit easier than before. When you return to it it feels familiar and flows better.
My advice from three years experience is not to worry about grammar. Just follow the course, regild skills as they lose their shine and don't be afraid of learning multiple languages. Each one teaches you something different and improves your skills in the others. Don't get fed up with repeating the basics as these need to become completely automatic, your brain needs to anticipate what is coming and fill in the blanks, that is how you learn grammar, not by memorizing tables. It is the unconscious language centres in your brain that are responsible for it, not the conscious part. You don't need to work out what to say and which ending to use you have to let it emerge because it sounds right. For it to sound right you need to get lots and lots of listening and reading practice. Duolingo is a good start and good review but watching tv in the target language is brilliant too, with subtitles first in English, then in the target language, then without. But don't be in too much of a rush to turn them off. I also think reading the subtitles while listening helps develop your processing ability as you are doing two things at once. And the text and speech often differ showing you two ways to express the same thing and teaching you extra vocabulary. Don't stop and start while watching. The brain learns best while in a flow state of engaged attention, listening while understanding. You don't need to understand every single word, just follow along picking out what you can at first. The gaps will fill themselves in. Enjoy being a detective picking out clues and building the big picture. Listening to music in your target language is also helpful and audio books too. I sleep with one on to block out street noise and it helps teach you the rhythms of the language even before you can understand much. Several times I have had the experience of a language sort of tuning in over night, going from too fast to understandable in the course of the night, which is very cool. Immersion works.