Finished my French tree - so how fluent do I feel?

I’ve finished my French tree and hope that other beginners may be interested in my experience and conclusions.

Time/effort taken: I started as a complete beginner. As I have limited leisure time, I set the learning level as “casual”, ie 10 XP per day. But I set myself a target of one new individual lesson a day, and I couldn’t start that lesson until I’d done any practice necessary to keep all previous skills gold.

Usually this meant 2-3 practices a day. But nearer the end of the tree, there would sometimes be up to 6 skills to re-gold, resulting in a daily French session of more than an hour. This was a lot more than I bargained for, but I’m glad I stuck to it as it was beneficial in the end.

App vs website: I started off on the android app, but soon switched to the website as the exercises are a bit harder and force you to remember words rather than just select them from a list. It was also very helpful to read through the “tips and notes” on the website before I started each new skill. I still use the app if I’m really short of time or away from home.

Conclusions/fluency: So 359 days later, I ended the French tree on level 16 (10219 XP) and a fluency score of 60%.

For READING French, I think the fluency score is pretty accurate, because a lot of the exercises are translating French into English. I can certainly understand over half of the words of any French text, enough to get the gist of the overall message.

To improve? I’ll probably keep practicing to aim for level 25 (30000 XP), but not sure I can take another two years of the same phrases. I’m looking for other things to read. A whole book seems too much, so maybe online newspapers to start with?

The fluency score doesn’t seem to relate to other skills. For WRITING French, my fluency is much lower. I’m OK on Duolingo phrases, but writing something original would take me some time with a lot of dictionary/grammar checking.

To improve? I’ve started the reverse tree, as the exercises are translating English into French. I’m also making Anki flashcards for any words that give me problems.

For LISTENING to French, this has been my main disappointment. I can only understand about one word per sentence on French TV/radio. I had loads of trouble with the Duolingo listening exercises, even when using the “slow” button. I seemed to be particularly inept at distinguishing the letters and words being spoken, never mind writing it all down correctly. I did get better near the end of the tree but rarely got away without a mistake somewhere. Thank goodness that Duolingo’s new five mistakes limit doesn’t apply to the website, or I’d have never got through it.

To improve? Following a recommendation and link in an earlier post on this forum, I’ve got the Les 500 exercices de phonétique audio and pdf. Looks a bit daunting though – the pdf has no English whatsoever! I’ll also try the “News in Slow French” website – the free bit is just a 10-minute snippet, but that’s perfect for practice.

For SPEAKING French, I’m also poor and couldn’t hold much of a conversation. But I did work on pronunciation by repeating all the writing exercises out loud and usually managed to get the speaking exercises on the app correct.

To improve? This will have to wait for now, as my available practice time is full, but hopefully the 500 exercices above will help.

Overall: I couldn’t get on with languages at all at school, so it is a credit to Duolingo that it provided just the right level of interest and challenge for me to persevere. I’m pleased and a bit surprised that the enthusiasm is still there to carry on improving my French. And I really hope that all this effort benefits my aging brain!

Good luck to all other beginners. Stick with it, if only for the terrific satisfaction when you look at your fully golden tree.

June 20, 2017


This has really helped me, thanks, I will try news in slow french, it looks good

June 20, 2017

Bon Travail! Congratulations on finishing your tree! And keeping it golden at that!

Your post is very encouraging and inspiring to keep being diligent in language learning. Just a hint, the fluency score is very inaccurate and flawed. Don't trust it, especially since it can only go to 50-60% (you've probably got the highest score you'll ever get). :)

June 20, 2017

Congrats!!! Thanks for sharing your progress.

June 20, 2017

Thank you for sharing your feedback. I am studying french too and I knew nothing at all at the beginning. It was helpful to read about your experience and how you feel about the skills you adquired. I started with Duolingo because every day I spend a lot of time on public transport to go to work and I wanted to do something useful with this meaningless time, so I manly use the app. From what you said however it is clear that the website is more effective, I did't know there was difference between app and website exercises. As a suggestion, when I study a foreign language I try to see movies that I already know quite well il my language. I find them easier than TV/radio. This way I already know the general context and it is more simple to understand the words too. With subtitle in the foreign language is even better.
Good luck for your future progess.

June 20, 2017

June 20, 2017

Congratulations! You've put in a lot of hard work. I'm also struggling with the listening exercises in French. Half the words sound the same due to all the silent letters! :)

June 21, 2017

Good job! I still have a long way to go...

June 21, 2017

Congratulations jackiecfrench, and thanks for sharing your experience and impressions.

I am not studying French at present, but when I was I found the RFI Journal en francais facile of assistance in trying to conquer listening skills - looks like it is similar to yours News in Slow French (audio and transcript). It was bewilderingly hard at first, but working through the audio+ transcript regularly began to pay off over time.

All the best with your further studies!

June 23, 2017

Bravo. La persévérence est la clé de la réussite.

June 21, 2017

That is great info. Congratulations! you have shown amazing perseverence!

June 22, 2017

no its not loser

June 22, 2017

I am at a loss. I am level 14 in French but I started less than 3 months. I have been doing 50xp per day but I just cannot understand the pronunciation. It is very difficult to repeat.. I am able to read French but speaking no way, except greetings. I have been at level 25 in Spanish for over one year, so I am now putting much effort in French.I sometimes go to 100xp, if I have time.. I do not know when I will finish the tree, but I plan to keep going over and over until I know the words. Finishing the tree is not an immediate goal. Congratulations to you.

June 22, 2017

Trying to pronounce the sounds first helped me. I watched these 4 videos. Also I think it's helpful to listen french music and watch french films since you can hear same words from different sources.

June 23, 2017

Listening can be one of the most difficult parts to pick up, but I regularly use Apprendre le Francais avec TV5 Monde, and it helps quite a bit! Start at A1 and work your way up from there. I also make my students do this, and it helps them quite a bit too and keeps them up to date on current events!

June 23, 2017

hi and well done! i finished my tree yesterday - but where will i find the reverse tree? im just doing the basic and am on level 12 apparently - but what that relates to - who knows!

June 26, 2017

The reverse tree means that you "learn" English from French (or any other language). Here are the courses from French that you can get to by going to "Add a new course" on your language dropdown menu and saying "I speak French".

And good job on completing your tree!

June 26, 2017

First, congratulations!

Second, I would caution you against trying the news at first. It may be shorter than a novel, but the news has a lot of special vocabulary about economics and politics that you won't be familiar with. Short snippets of a novel would probably be easier.

June 23, 2017

I have also recently finished the French Tree about maybe a month ago. I also have the exact same problems that you have. I am confident in my readings that I am able to understand what the text is saying 80% of the time but when people are talking or when I am speaking its a different story.

The new 5 mistake seems like complete BS to me, I definitely wouldn't have finished the tree if I had to go through the new system.

BTW how did you get such a high fluency of 60%? 99% of my skills are still gold, I am level 20 and I still only have 51% fluency.

The website definitely have harder exercises, it really has helped me with my spelling, especially with the accents I always put them on now, I used to be too lazy to put them on.

Also It took me like 2 years of on and off to complete the entire tree, I did a 6 months long push of doing like 5-10 exercises per day to have all the skills completed while remaining gold. Sometimes I hade to do like 15 exercise if I missed a day just to make up for lost time.

June 23, 2017

Congratulations on finishing your Duolingo tree! Best regards!

June 24, 2017

you are all weird and very poopy you ugly

June 22, 2017
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.