Just Gilded My German Tree
I was away for over a year after I finished the German tree once (but did not make it gold all through). Returned some weeks ago and rapidly worked through the same tree and gilded it. Thought I'd share some of my experience with the people here. I hope it helps you too.
The Duolingo format does help remember a lot of words. Kind of like using flash cards. I'm amazed at how much I've retained even though I was out of practice for a long time.
It has been a lot of fun earning the achievement badges on the mobile Android app. Those should be made visible on the website too. Duolingo's gamification is still pretty good.
Lots of new lessons have been added. In general, the quality of the lessons themselves has visibly also improved. There seem to be fewer nonsense/less than useful sentences (eg: My coat is on the roof).
The male speaker has terrible pronunciation. I have fairly acute hearing (am a hobbyist singer) and still have trouble deciphering what is being said. For beginner learners like on here, we really need to hear better pronunciation to make sense of what is being said.
In addition to poor pronunciation at times, there is the issue of not having context. Granted that this is difficult with the current format, but the sentence selection still needs to improve. If a large number of experienced people complain about the same sentence, Duo needs to take a second look at it.
The mobile Android version does not have any notes or explanations as to the grammar rules like the web version. There should be a way to review them.
We need more and varied exercises. We are asked to match synonyms, which I really enjoy. How about choosing an antonym from the list? How about providing a sentence in the current tense and asking us for the past tense (either write the whole thing out or choose from a list)? It would be helpful to see side-by-side how tenses changes in similar sentences to solidify our grasp of the language. As it stands we do a bunch of exercises in a single tense and move on to another for good.
Conversations in German would be good. They provide much needed context. I've heard that a Duo Bot is available but only on iPhone, so I've never had a chance to try it out.
All said and done Duolingo is still a great way to learn a language, and the value for the price simply cannot be beat. But Duolingo really does work best as a supplement (and only up to, say, CEFR A2 levels perhaps) and not as a primary form of learning a new language. You do need a textbook and a workbook that drills the grammar into your head as Duo's exercises will likely not help enough in that regard. I have been browsing archive.org and Google for a ton of free German books of varied reading levels which I will be going through next. I also have a Living Language German book I bought that I hope to read through more carefully for the grammar rules.
Lastly, I collaborated with a native German Duolingo user last year to write an English-German short story ("From America...nach Deutschland" on Amazon) and it really helped a lot more than I imagined. I mention that because my best advice to sincere learners here is to be pen pals with a native German speaker as that will really help you learn better and faster when coupled with textbooks and Duo. Trying to write even a few sentences each day in German or seeing your thoughts translated into their German equivalent really sinks in some difficult stuff and helps you remember too.
Hope the above was helpful. Thanks for reading! I wish you all the best with your German studies. :)