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Can you learn a language in 39 hours?

According to the publicity of Duolingo, 1 semester of a course is equivalent to 39 hours in Duolingo. But, what does it mean?. If we do some numbers, 39 hours=2340 min, and if each lesson takes approximately 5 min, we have that 39 hours is equivalent to 4680 XP. which means completing a tree and a few repetition. Every single person who has completed a tree will agree this is not enough to learn a language. So the answer to the main question is "No", but I would like to add, "but it is a good start."

Looking for another learning resources on internet I found the following article written by Steve Kaufmann a famous polyglot and founder of "https://www.lingq.com/". So I would like to know your opinions about this website (Lingq). (I already use Memrise as well)


July 21, 2017



Although Mr. Kaufmann makes a few valid criticisms, the main purpose of his 'review' seems to be the promotion of his own (pay) website as a superior tool to Duolingo (considering 'LingQ' is based around 'lingQs', I doubt anyone will get much out of it with the 'free' option of being limited to 20 of them).
The reveiw is an 'informercial'.

And, naturally, I agree that of course you can't 'learn' a language in 39 hours; you can certainly get a good grasp of the basic vocabulary and grammar of many languages in this time, however.


off-topic but since i see you have a high level on a lot of languages. are you able to understand people in those languages and have conversations with them ? (russian turkish french spanish for example)


Probably to a certain degree. However, nobody can be completely fluent in this many languages, and it's very easy to get mixed up when you learn so many. Level really has nothing to do with fluency.


Of course, but beyond the commercial bias of his opinion, it would be interesting to know if anyone has experiences in this app to know his vision regarding Lingq and duolingo, and of course to discuss the basis of Mr. Kauffmann's review


I use LingQ, and it is the best website and language learning resource ever. Yes, it costs 10 dollars a month, but if you have the money it is so worth it. You can practice and read all words you'll ever need to become fluent, and that number is around 30,000 words or so.


Thank you for answering. And I didn't know this number, I though, maybe 2500 to B1 and 10.000 to C1. Actually I've read that even the native speakers know a lower number than you mentioned


This isn't a fair argument that you are making. 1 semester at university doesn't teach you an entire language. Nor does doing 39 hours of duo. No no, in fact, any amount of university semesters would only get you so far as advanced. The road to fluency is a very long one, one of cultural immersion, foreign literature and movies. Essentially, Duolingo is saying that in the same time as a university course, you learn more on Duo than in said course.


Interesting question. Most university students would take at least 2 or 3 semesters of a language. This would include more detailed lessons on grammar that Duolingo doesn't cover. But even with the grammar lessons 1 semester of a university course would not be enough to become fluent.

As you mentioned though it's a great start.


In the USA a degree (major and minor) in language requires much more than 2 or 3 semesters. My university: 101, 102, 201, 202, 301 , 302, 401, 402, and a few classes taught as "495-" something which is required. To study and be certified or get a major/minor it's more like 8+ classes depending on where you start. So yeah once you complete a tree, you got to continue with other resources and practice


Just to add to swingbeatnik7's comment,

In my uni, we had 101, 102, 103. Then 201-3, 301-3 and then 400 level classes. And, they never mentioned that fluency would be a result.

So, if LingQ is saying Duolingo claims people can learn a language using it's course, it is being dishonest in order to make Duolingo look dishonest. And, that's a crappy, shady thing to do.


swingbeatnik7, I was adding to your comment, not replying to it. Sorry for any confusion.


If you read the article, it actually says that the same time in lingq could be much more effective than spending it on Duo. In addition, there are legitimate and meaningful criticisms towards Duolingo (such as the rigidity of the course). Finally, it's the same when Duolingo says that spending 39 hours in Duo is equivalent to spending 50 hours in Rosetta Stone.


Indeed, there are meaningful criticisms, such as Duolingo only gets you so far and they are missing certain elements. Duolingo doesn't advertise being a one stop shop though.

Duolingo and Rosetta Stone used the same research company to determine language learning efficacy between them. Curious, did LingQ?

On a personal note, while Duolingo will get learners further faster with grammar and vocab, Rosetta Stone offers cultural lessons that Duolingo does not. (I really liked their cultural lessons. I just didn't like their teaching method. It didn't suit my learning style.)


You have a point in that about they do not use any impartial source but a review from Mr Kaufmann who knows around 10 languages. Indeed I used Lingq and I felt It is not an intuitive app and maybe difficult to use, but I was trying to get other opinions about the app to maybe change my mind. On the other hand I tried out readlang, which use a similar way and actually I liked it, but I think you must have at least an A2 level to be able to move forward with out frustration.


Can you learn a language in one semester? I had problems following your calculations in your comparison and then you pose a question which you answer yourself so I am struggling to understand the purpose of your post.


To be honest, the first purpose is to practice english. Then and as the second paragraph says it is to know reviews or feelings about Lingq since I am looking for complement learning resources.


Be more direct when asking for reviews then. Duolingo is a great company and it doesn't tell people not to use other resources while using Duolingo. It's not an either/or situation as you've posited. It sounds like you're attempting to encourage anti-Duolingo sentiment by hinting at false advertisement on the part of Duolingo.


I use a lot Duo, so I do not intend that. I just say 39 hours it is not enough, and it is necessary to find other learning resources. On the other hand, Duolingo does the same when It compares these 39 hours with 50 hours in Rosetta Stone.


"Learning a language" means something entirely different to everyone. I personally believe you have learnt a language when you can get by in everyday conversations, be understood by others, and read the language around you.


Well, as others have noted, there's no claim made that you can learn the language in 34 hours, only that you can learn as much as you would in one semester of a course. A single semester at a university won't get you much beyond being able to say some basic phrases. So, no, you can't learn a language in 34 hours, but no one is really saying you can.

I'm also suspicious of his claims of the superiority of LingQ, because he is using Duo's recommended 5 minutes a day as a comparison to the 60-90 minutes a day he spends on LingQ. He doesn't provide any data to suggest that one is more effective for a broad group than the other, just that LingQ is more suited to his particular style of learning.

The other thing that isn't noted in the article is that Duolingo is free (i.e., you can access all instructional content for free). Paid programs can offer more in depth learning experiences because users spend more to learn more. LingQ has a free option, but it's pretty limited, compared to what you can do on Duolingo.

Ultimately, I don't think that there is such a thing as a panacea for learning languages. I use Duolingo most frequently, because it works the best for me, but I've also tried Memrise, Mondly, 50 languages and Mango. (I've avoided paid services, because I know myself and I can see how expensive that would get in very short order.) But I still buy books and visit websites that put an emphasis on explaining how grammar works in different languages, because I know I learn best when I can put information like that into a chart for myself and "master the system".

I did pull up a couple of reviews of LingQ that explain how it works, as well as one of Mr. Kaufman's posts responding to a review. Generally, the reaction seems to be that it's a great system for people who learn best by reading.

http://eurolinguiste.com/lingq/ http://l2mastery.com/blog/linguistics-and-education/methods/review-of-lingq-com/ https://blog.thelinguist.com/a-review-of-bennys-review-of-lingq


Actually I tried Lingq and I didn't like it, but I wanted other reviews maybe to change my mind. Currently, I am using more frequently Memrise to my main target language, and Duo to don't forget the few words that I've learnt in other languages.


By this website, you mean Lingq and not Duolingo? If so, it might be helpful to clarify that.


I guess it depends on what you define as "learning a language". Knowing how to say hello is technically speaking the language, and I don't know everything about English.


you would need a photographic memory in order to learn a language so fast i guess. But repeating everything you learned is the key to learning new languages it depends on the person how fast you learn it tho.

So the more time and effort you put in it the faster it goes.

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