My Duolingo story… From zero to a 5/5 certificate (starting in December)
In November, my girlfriend told me that she might be taking a job in France. Awesome! Sounds like an adventure! Except… I couldn't speak a lick of French. Well, "bonjour," "s'il vous plaît," "merci," and "parlez-vous français," but, that's really about it. And all in a terrible American accent.
So in December, around the 10th, I began teaching myself some vocabulary on Memrise, and trying to think about how I was going to tackle teaching myself the notoriously difficult language that is French. I had first tried Duolingo a few years ago, when it was still pretty new and buggy, but was reminded of it when I saw the iPhone app had won Apple's "App of the Year" awarded. What the heck, I thought, I'll give it a try. Worst case scenario, I've got a way to practice French while I'm waiting in line at the grocery story. Well, I quickly became addicted.
Fast forward to about one month ago. I finished my skill tree! Since then, I've worked hard to try and keep all of my skills golden (which has proved very difficult, by the way).
Now, each month around the 10th, I've taken the Duolingo certificate test to see how I've progressed. If we can safely assume I started from nothing, here's my progress month-by-month:
- December: 0.0/5
- January: 2.1/5
- February: 3.3/5
- March: 4.7/5
- April: 5.0/5
Ça doit être impossible, non !? I can hardly believe it myself.
Like I said, Duolingo was pretty addictive to me. Some days I only earned a few points, and some days I earned a few hundred. On average, I think I did a bit under an hour a day… although seldom all at once, usually spread over several shorter sessions.
I also hasten to add that Duolingo was not my only learning resource. I continued to reinforce vocabulary through Memrise. I went through all of Michel Thomas's audio courses on French. I watched (and am now re-watching) the free, excellent French in Action TV series for beginners. I read through a graded reader, listened to podcasts almost every day, changed the language on my phone to French, switched to French media for my news (Le Monde est fantastique), and perhaps most importantly, I formed relationships early on with real native French speakers and Skype or chat with them on a fairly regularly basis!
I hope my story is encouraging or helpful to some of you! I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have about the journey.
That's incredible, it is really hard to achieve something like that in that short time. I agree it can be addictive if you really like learning languages, in the end it is kind of a game, but a good one. Congratulations, I am also learning french and I am constantly looking forward to my DL time of the day, watching my tree growing with small steps every day. Your story is indeed encouraging, motivation is not easy to get sometimes, but I've found plenty within this community, that's why I'm also trying my best to share my little knowledge whenever I can. Thanks for sharing and I hope your french can give you big rewards in your life.
All you need to achieve what you want is dedication.
This is a great point. The motivation factor can hardly be overemphasized. Possibly relocating to France to remain with my girlfriend of several years? That's quite the motivation! Making appointments to talk with French friends on Skype can be motivating too, if you're like most people and don't want to let others down. And watching your progress move slowly down the tree is very motivating as well. I think one of the smartest things a language learner can do is leverage their own motivation!
You must know how to conjugate verbs, right? Do you have any tips on how to remember how a words must be? Ex:
NOUS is NOUS CHANTONS
That kind of thing.
Aside from the irregulars, there are patterns in the conjugations that don't really change. All of the regular -er verbs are conjugated like that. You will pick up on the patterns as you practice and it will become more natural. If you need more help, I really strongly recommend Michel Thomas's course.
Write tables, the 6 forms, when you encounter a verb, for each person: je, tu, il/elle/on, nous, vous, ils/elles. you will soon see and remember the patterns, I think it will be easier by seeing the whole table than by trying from memory to remember for only 1 case
My French teacher makes us write tables, for the person, and I always memorize them right before my French tests, but right after that, I immediately forget them. Thanks for you advice. :)
it will come. you can also write only the tables as a cheat sheet with the endings: e/es/e, ons/ez/ent for parler for example
Download the anki flashcard system. Change the response field to type to answer.
The following is for French. Adjust accordingly for the language of choice.
Go to http://conjugation-fr.com Pick one regular verb from each of the four main groups. Copy and paste a table from a couple of the common tenses onto Anki flash cards, one table to a single card. Drill on them each day until you are comfortable with those. Copy a couple more. Look for irregular verbs and load each of their tables onto separate cards.
Then you will see and practice the patterns in context with each other, and find it easy to spot and produce them. Using the type to answer option and drilling fifteen minutes a day will have you easily handling the four main verb groups, in three of four tenses, in a month or so. More time practicing produces faster results.
It's like Duolingo for verb conjugations.
Just wanted to say that your message was very encouraging and a great one. I'm new on here and finding it to be a really great site to learn and enhance personal skills. I am inspired by the message you wrote! Definitely keep up with your progress and continue with the methods in which you are taking to improve on your French. I was in France last year and being around the native tongue I found it extremely encouraging and motivating! When you are in such an atmosphere where a language is all you can constantly hear, read or speak you really get pushed positively into learning that language and with practice you begin to see the improvements! You are a perfect example with your message! So I just wanted to say thank you and keep going as I will too! A great language teacher I have worked with has a language website called Radio Lingua. It's recorded audio's of lessons in many different languages. It has many free audio's to listen from so it really helps too! Don't know if you might have already heard of it but thought I would share, it is a really useful easy language site to learn by listening! thanks again, take care and good luck on your language journey!
well actually i feel kinda depressed when i am learning french since august and i am not even past half of the tree...
Don't be depressed, I'm almost half way through my spanish tree and i started in september 2013! :)
Il vaut mieux finir lentement l'arbre et apprendre beaucoup de français~ It's good to take your time and learn more French anyway, as slow and steady wins the race. I've been learning for a similar period of time, and while I finished the tree pretty quickly, I found myself having to go back and review a lot of the previous lessons because I had finished them too quickly. So there's no shame in not being past half the tree so long as you're learning!
Hey, don't feel depressed. whiterteeth did an incredible job! The thing is, if you learn things fast, you'll forget them fast. whiteteeth has to use his knowledge (and he is going to ;-) ), otherwise he will lose it very fast.
Well I'm sure I can cheer you up bro.
I'm on level 14 and not even a third of the way through the tree!!! That said, I'm just doing it for fun and don't have a particular motivating reason other than I'm just gonna learn french by hook or by crook!!
that really is encouraging, You could also maybe look at the BBC website for French,"Ma France" is the post-beginner course. I find them excellent for always using native speakers giving natural responses, and unpicking the kind of stuff English speakers tend to find difficult. It includes a fair amount about culture at the same time. Good luck!
Thanks for the tip! It's difficult to know where to go after you finish the skill tree here. There's not much in the way of 'post-beginner' or 'intermediate/advanced' material out there that I've found.
C'est incroyable, j'essaie de finir l'arbre de français maintenant. Bonne chance avec vos autres étudies!
Vous allez certainement réussir avec un peu de la motivation ! Bonne chance à vous aussi !
Good luck with your French, and I hope your example can stand as a good example of the benefit of nurture vs nature. Having a strong motivation... or a better word would be necessity... is an immensely powerful catalyst to your learning. I was immersed in French from the age of four, and common wisdom says I should find it easier than everyone else, and in fact despite leaving it derelict I can still read it as if it were my own language. But then I was uprooted to China at 7, and all that need evaporated, and while my school diligently taught French on the other side of the world, I had nothing but a overriding thirst to learn Cantonese. A smattering of which I managed to learn despite the fact that the British school system did not think it might have been a GOOD IDEA TO TEACH IT. Pthuh.
I've sort of forgotten what my point is, it's 1 am and I am tired, but it was something along the lines of, Hey everyone, you can be this guy, you just have to need it as bad, and when you do, the need itself seems to rip through all barriers. Don't try and force motivation, just find necessity ;)
Excellent!! Thank you for suggesting French in Action. What a hoot! Il y a beaucoup à apprendre et à faire !
Your message is easily one of the most encouraging ones here. Félicitations à toi, il est très difficile d'apprendre le français à court terme. Way to go ;-)
Félicitations sur vos progrès en français ! Vous avez certainement travaillé très dûr tous les jours. Maintenant il faut continuer à pratiquer pour ne pas perdre ce que vous avez acquis !!
Sooo inspiring! Thanks! C'est extrêmement encourageant! J'adore ce genre de témoignages! On devrait en faire une compilation. J'adore l'idée de se tester régulièrement avec les certificats, pour avoir une trace de sa progression!
I once had a piece of pocket lint in my pocket for three weeks, despite diligently changing my trousers every day. I would search those pockets for change every day before I did the laundry, and for lack of anywhere else to put the pocket fluff in my hands that I had retrieved in lieu of desirable money, it would inevitably end up in the pockets of the new trousers I was wearing. I gradually became quite sentimental about that pocket lint, that seemed to grow and grow from nowhere until one day it became to much to continue humouring, and I decided to find somewhere to dispose of it. I walked all the way the the waste paper bin, and finally did away with that pocket lint, which was probably the fruit of many weeks of forgotten till receipts and snotty tissues.. Yet despite the sense of relief of not having to have everything I subsequently placed in my pockets covered in the mysteriously unrelenting build-up of lint, I still feel a small, hard to place sense of loss.
And this, this is still a better love story than Twilight.
Very encouraging indeed !! I'm also using Michel Thomas along with Duolingo and will begin Assimil next month. Congrats on your progress !!
Félicitations! C'est merveilleux! It's really inspiring to read your story.
I also use some of the same resources that you listed - I always find it interesting to see confirmation that certain combinations of materials are working for someone.
I also like that you shared how you used the Certificate Tests - it's a great idea, to take them on a regular schedule, as you did.
I wish you and La Mademoiselle a wonderful journey, should you end up in France. In the meantime... congratulations, again, on this journey, where you tackled a language you had little experience with... and became a champion!
If you still think you may have a significant amount of time before any such trip would occur... I recommend you look into Assimil New French With Ease for further practice; listening, reading, and speaking. It's the main resource I'm using, with Duolingo and Michel Thomas. (I use other resources, too, but rotate them, as to not burn myself out). Assimil is made a by a French company, moves along at a good, but not overwhelming pace, and it's fantastic. Highly recommended by most polyglots I've encountered. I personally find it to be fun, and effective - it covers grammar, pronunciation, reading, etc. in a way that feels less tedious than some of the other methods I tried. I also feel like it's a great compliment to Duolingo, and may be even more wonderful for you, if you should now work the Duo tree backwards, as many people suggest when one finishes.
Thanks for the tips! It's funny, when you're starting out, there are so many resources for beginners to draw from that it's difficult to pick one (or even a couple). Once you've exhausted them, say, when you finish the skill tree, it's difficult to know what, if any, materials will help you! So I'll be checking out your recommendations.
Great result. I will use some of your tips to get better myself. I think it also helps that you live with the locals (or have you not moved yet?)
I do a test at the ending of every month, so far I have done 3 and all were poorly. I also use other sources like Pimsleur in the car (although I stopped that), I watch (and rewatch) the Friends series Extra and I follow the appendre of TV5 Monde (now on the A2 level, but I think it's very difficult compared to the A1).
Yes, it helps, but it depends on your motivation. I know some people who moved in France 20 years ago, and are still unable to manage with everyday life alone (paperworks, etc...), if you're motivated, of course, it's very quick.
I haven't moved yet. The friends I have made are all online! Through Skype, or you can use the app HelloTalk to chat with people.
Diversifying your learning methods will help a lot. I've heard great things about TV5 Monde.
Good morning whiterteeth,
Good job ! Confidences for confidences, me too, I have recently made these tests again, English and French. I have had 5/5 for these two tests. About one month ago, for the same tests, I had respectively 4.21/5 and 4.71/5.
Duolingo is like a wizard ! But the magic comes from you. It is inside you, duolingo only makes it go out and show it to others ! :)
Que la magie opère !
Pour ceux qui ne me connaissent pas, je suis Français, bien que que je ne le sois pas de souche, ou encore de sang... Mais la France est pour moi un deuxième pays, elle m'a adopté depuis l'enfance. Elle m'a tout donné, un très bon accueil, les études, la joie de vivre et elle m'a permis de réaliser mes rêves d'enfance.
Je ne les oublierai jamais...
I have been in France since 1982...
Merci mon ami ! Votre anglais n'est pas mal du tout. Il faut continuer ensemble, bon courage !
that's very fast! i have been learning Duolingo since February and my progress is not as fast as yours. which is rather dissapointing.. help me with tips to learn faster please !
I think it helps a lot to use other learning methods in combination. You'll consolidate your learning, and often you'll find explanations for things that Duolingo doesn't go over. Also, don't feel like you have to rush!
how many hours in a day do you use duolingo? and the other learning methods as well?
I'd say two hours a day for everything I do is normal for me, but not all done at once.
That's awesome! Congratulations! It's amazing what motivation and determination can do. Did she take the job? If not, you're going to have to spend some time in France anyway and really show off your new skills.
She did get the job offer… we haven't decided whether or not to go, but either way, you're right!
Incroyable, même en tant que Français, je n'arrive pas à faire un sans faute au test! Bravo!
Merci, mon ami ! Maintenant, j'essaie de faire l'arbre inverse… puis on peut faire des comparaisons ! :)
Congratulations! You are well prepared for this new adventure. One question: where have you been watching the French In Action TV for free?
Thanks so much! That's an invaluable resource as I am learning both French and Spanish and that website has both French in Action and Destinos. I will be making much use of it.
Thankyou for sharing your story, this is almost exactly the method I am using to learn the language. Swap Pimsleur for Michael Thomas and TV5 Apprendre for French in Action (it's only available in US and Canada and I am in Australia) and it looks the same schedule. I use iTalki for Skyping native speakers as I don't know anyone in France.
I think the key is consistency and motivation and you're streak shows you have always had it bubbling away each day even if only a few points as you say. And to treat the tree like a learning tool not a game of Mario racing through it but not picking up what it is trying to teach you. I am about two-thirds through the tree but try and never let more than 6 lessons not be golden at any time.
Do you do much immersion on DL? I have only just started and you can definitely see 'easy' versus 'hard' writing in the articles and might be a way of moving your skill level up. As you would know from life that people who read more appear to have wider and deeper vocabularies. Just a thought, and appreciate it is only another tool in a toolkit.
I like the concept of immersion, but in my experience, there's too much politics… It's a rewarding environment if you're very devoted to creating good translation according to the community standards—if, on the other hand, you're just trying to practice translation and get exposed to some things you wouldn't normally read, it can be rather demotivating. Instead, I usually just try to find interesting articles in French for my own reading.
I mentioned Le Monde, but I also read Rue89 and Buzzfeed France to get varying perspectives on current events. There are also several webcomics I like, Bouletcorp and PirateSourcil. At the local university library, I picked up a couple bilingual books of short stories and poetry to get more exposure to French literature. But I also think this is an area that greatly depends on your own desires and interests. What I find interesting in French may be completely boring to you.
The only thing about the learning tree is I think that numbers should be closer to the top. Counting is some of the first things you learn when you are a child. One of my methods for remembering new words in a new language is I will make notes for myself and when I am thinking of something I will try to think of what it would be in German (The language I am learning). If I learnt numbers right at the beginning I could use it all of the time when thinking what something would be. That is just my thought.
Try different things! This is what worked for me. Keep track of your progress each month (use the certificates), and diversify your learning methods. I liked Michel Thomas, but there are a lot of great resources online. And start talking to folks as soon as possible; you can find French speakers who want to learn English on Italki and HelloTalk.
Well that sure is progress. I think you are correct in that using a number of different resources is beneficial. You have obviously spent a deal of time at it and had a motivating reason. Personally, I'm doing it for fun - just decided one day I'd like to learn french and here I am - though learning at a lot slower pace than you :-)
Dude im glad that you made it and that story is totally an inspiration for the beginners to Duolingo :)
This is so encouraging! Thank you for sharing. I am learning French right now because I am going on a ten-day exchange program next year. While I don't expect to be fluent by then, I want to have a reasonable understanding of the language.
The only question I have is, is it possible to become fluent by using Duolingo? I plan on using a variety of sources to enhance my French once I complete my Skill Tree (TV, podcasts, a lot of the things that you mentioned).
Again, thank you for posting! You have revived my motivation!
It would depend on your definition of fluent, but I would say no. Your reading comprehension and writing production will be quite good, but you'll need to watch TV/listen to podcasts and talk to French people to get your listening comprehension and speech production up to what most people will consider fluency.
wow this is super duper inspirational :) now i feel like powering through my german skill tree haha
Congratulations! I'd be interested to know how you formed relationships with French speakers?
Look for websites offering "language exchanges." This is where you find a person who speaks your target language and wants to learn your native language. Then you can make arrangements to talk on Skype, or by email or however, and try to do it half in one language and half in the other, so that you both benefit. My favorite site to do this is Italki.
Félicitations!! That's super inspiring! I hope you end up moving to France, you just need to get to show off your skills. :P
I'm currently one week into learning French, just found this site recently. I'm not completely new to French because I studied it for a year in 2012-2013, but haven't gotten to use it outside the classroom since then (you never hear French in Finland) so I've forgot most of what I learned. It's been great here - I've learned so much new vocabulary already :) I got 1.40/5.0 from my first certification test which I took a couple of days ago. I have to try that every month like you did.
This is inspiring to read.
I met a girl in England who was half french but would ultimately be leaving to come back to France. I decided to pack everything up and move to Paris from Leeds. The thing however was that I did not speak barely a single word of french. Luckily I found a job and 1 year, 2 months later here I am speaking far more than I did (After many hours on Duolingo to help me through the process).
I wish you all the best of luck in your path and the choices you decide to make along your journey.
Wow! You mean December 2013, that's only a few months ! I'm inspired ! I also found Michel Thomas' audio courses excellent for learning the grammar fast because he teaches it without all those boring rules. I hereby commit publicly to start using Skype by 1 May 2014 - I'm so scared to try but I will. And you also mentioned a few other learning tools which I will also add to my routine. I think it's important to learn from several sources and in different ways. I agree that this is addictive. I can't wait to try Greek or Italian.
I completely understand the fear of speaking… the first session (and the second and the third, too, I'll be honest) were absolutely terrifying. But like a good session at the gym, even if you dreaded it before, you walk away from it knowing that you've done something very good. You will see progress very quickly this way. If you want to look for French speakers trying to learn English, or would prefer a personal tutor, you can find either on Italki. (Duolingo should do better about hooking us up, since there's a English from French track too!)
I would completetly endorse whiterteeth's comments on this. I use italki and the first few times were terrifying but now after just a couple of months it is surprising how much easier it is. I make it a little more interesting by skyping from different places in my city so they can see parts of the town and not just my office wall.
The thing about talking to people is you will use different types of conversation and you will get used to questions (asking and answering). I would write 'kind regards', 'please find attached', and other routine phrases a dozen times a day but never say them in a conversation. Skyping gets around talking as if you're writing a letter.
I would also add from a personal note that I started at Alliance Francaise at the same time and I was perhaps the worst in the class which was an uncomfortable feeling (but somebody has to be) and through the use of skyping I have picked up the language in a more normal manner and I am easily now the best speaker in the class after just a couple of months.
Another tip: record yourself on your iphone for a minute just talking about yourself in French... je m'appelle..., je suis... Etc. and keep it so you can look back and see your improvement over time. This is similar to the tests because you won't notice your improvement on a daily basis but if you work consistently you will definitely see imprvement on a monthly basis. So don't start on May 1, start this week! :))
Will do! Thanks for the encouragement and the ideas. I am about to record myself speaking French now so I can see how I improve over time.
Oh, and if you think "I don't know what to talk about" then just grab a newspaper article or magazine article about something you like and work through translating it. But honestly once you feel comfortable asking questions it's like having coffee with a stranger at a conference. You make small talk and you find out about each other.
Ton temoignage est reellement encourageant et innovant. puis-je savoir ou trouver ce Duolingo certificate test sur la toile de duolingo pour que je le fasse passer a mes eleves et leur attribue des certificats d'encouragement?