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Leveling up and learning

This is just one person's opinion, of course, and in no way prescriptive.

I have been enjoying DuoLingo for a few years now (along with Memrise and the Pimsleur audio courses). I just got back from a few weeks in Tuscany, after having finished my Italian Tree (and all five Pimsleur courses.) God, I had a wonderful time, in great part because I could speak freely and comfortably in Italian. I wasn't close to discussing Umberto Ecco or why Berlusconi is having a resurgence, but I was able to get around and have fun talking to people. When I got back to the States, I started really "hitting the books" in Italian, French, Spanish, and German, with the goal of a grand-tour of Europe in a couple years.

Now that I'm really working at four languages instead of one, I've given some thought to what is efficient and purposeful. A game I often played was to speed-strengthen from the top of the tree until I couldn't get a perfect score on a skill. I got a lot of points that way, and leveled up pretty easily.

I still think it's a valuable tool: What's the highest skill on which I can speed-strengthen and get a perfect score? Speed-strengthening helps me operate on instinct rather than deep-reflective-thought, and demonstrates (to me) where my weaknesses are.

BUT. Now that I am working to finish these other trees (French, Spanish, and German), I am concentrating more on acquiring new skills, and at keeping the trees gold, rather than gaining skills too quickly. It's fewer points per day, but those points are more hard-won, they feel more EARNED, and definitely there is more learning going on. Timed repetition; can't beat it. It's definitely harder.

There are, obviously, many ways to use DuoLingo, and I have had a fluid process throughout my DuoLingo journey. My current approach is "slow and steady (and thorough)". It's working for me - until it doesn't. :-)

Best to all.

November 18, 2017



So glad you had a great time in Italy. Your observations on steady but more in-depth learning through Strengthening are spot on and a good lesson for all of us. I love your idea of strengthening from the top down which I'm going to try. Now, what I do is when I see a skill on the French tree (that's my emphasis now) has lost its gold is to do the entire skill and not just enough to regild it.

Thank you for sharing this.


I've no idea on the best method for you. Personally I take 1 or 2 days a week blitzing duolingo, rather than bits here and there.

It works for me. I can have casual speaking conversations with Russian natives. Still so much to learn but it does help if you know people of the language you're trying to learn.

For me I've found reading, speaking, then writing the order in which I have progressed best.


I gotta ask. What could possibly be a motivation to learn the Russian language? It's weird and makes no sense. Also, there's not much to do in Russia. There are so many great and beautiful languages out there, like Italian... Why Russian?


An odd question for someone on a language site. But assuming you are not just a troll...One word: Pushkin.


Ok, I can't disagree with Pushkin, he's the best. I'm not a troll, I'm just a native with a specific opinion about my own language :D


There's not much to do in Russia? Have you ever been? Bit of a silly thing to say lol.

Anyway I learned French, German and Spanish in school. I find the Italian language has a lot in common with Spanish. Russian is no more weird than Japanese.

It is difficult to learn, but I know Russian speakers so it kind of helps. I don't want to start loads of languages that I may not make use of. As an aside though, I may try another language to add a bit of variety.


>Have you ever been? Yeah... I live here. I'm russian. But you're right, Japanese is pretty weird too... Wonder why I'm learning it.


"We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly.

If someone knows how to play the violin only a little, he will find that the painful minutes he causes are not in proportion to the possible joy he gains from his playing. The amateur chemist spares himself ridicule only as long as he doesn’t aspire for professional laurels. The man somewhat skilled in medicine will not go far, and if he tries to trade on his knowledge without certification, he will be locked up as a quack doctor.

Solely in the world of languages is the amateur of value. Well-intentioned sentences full of mistakes can still build bridges between people. Asking in broken Italian which train we are supposed to board at the Venice railway station is far from useless. Indeed, it is better to do that than to remain uncertain and silent and end up back in Budapest rather than in Milan."

A lovely quote by Kató Lomb, who taught herself Russian by reading the literary novels she had alongside an English-Russian dictionary, and later learned up to 16 or 17 languages! xx

  • What country has the world's largest museum?
  • What country has the world's deepest lake?
  • What (at least partially) European country has indigenous residents speaking languages from at least five completely unrelated language families, with all the cultural and ethnographic history that entails?
  • What non-Romance, non-Germanic Indo-European language has an abundance of native-level speakers spread across 13+ countries?

I'll give you that English speakers of a thousand years ago would have had an easier time with the grammar, but that's a far cry from "makes no sense."


Oh and one more thing. Try learning your native language from the language you are trying to master.


Interesting. Rarely does one come upon reflections on such matters for those who have high levels in a number of languages, thanks for the contribution. What did you mean by, "I am concentrating more on acquiring new skills... rather than gaining skills too quickly"?


Also buy/loan simple story books in the language you're learning.

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