I am having such a hard time learning French that I am just about ready to quit trying! Some of the grammar really confounds me and I feel like I'm not progressing. I'm so frustrated right now. Does anyone have any tips to make learning easier?
I would suggest trying to work on your listening skills for a whiile. It is very rewarding when you start to be able to hear things. Warning - full speed French like in a movie is brutal. I use Yabla, Music videos (you can always look up the lyrics to follow along) and the Anki 16000 sentence deck. Don't worry about understanding everything, just hearing the words is a skill you need to develop.
Focus on memorizing all the congugations of Etre and Avoir in all the tenses (one tense at a time)....this is the the basis of everything else. Memorize the congugations for one of each type of regular verb. One with er, ir and re ending. Don’t worry to much at first about the irregular verbs and exceptions. Every rule in french has like a zillion exceptions, so it takes time to get used to it. Make friends with a conjugation dictionary either online like reverso.net or buy a Becherelle (it’s a book with conjugation charts for all the verbs). And be patient with yourself, french is really complex and takes a long time to learn all the nuances!
What are you using besides Duolingo, Meryem? There's a lot missing from the Duo course, I'm not sure I would have been able to get through it at all had I not already known French and just wanted to brush up the gender thing that always defeats me. I think there may be some material on the Open University site or the BBC, if that helps?
I would echo the suggestion to work on your listening skills to get over the grammar difficulties. Think about what grammar actually is - a set of rules distilled from how people actually speak the language. Most of us had a much harder time (at least as we can remember) learning our native language grammar than actually learning how to speak the language. That is simply because memorizing the rules is an artificial effort to get at what we really want, familiarity with the patterns and rhythm of a language. Properly internalized, grammar should be more like one's ear for music, something just sounds off when it is not right.
The way you get there is becoming familiar with the patterns as they are actually used - then the rules of grammar become a resource rather than a task.
I feel exactly the same about French. It really is frustrating and complicated, it makes you want to tear your hair out! Especially:
1) trying to use the correct auxiliary (être vs avoir) in passé composé, and conjugating the verb correctly, keeping in mind which auxiliary is being used, who the subject is, whether there is a preceding object pronoun.
2) figuring out when to use "c'est" versus "il est"
3) placing adjectives before vs after the noun (and all the exceptions to BANGS).
I guess my only advice is to identify which grammatical topic gives you the most trouble and keep reading about it and working on it until you get better at it.
Everyone goes through stretches where they feel like they're staying at the same level. Have patience and keep doing regular work in French. I can't tell you when, but you will start to improve again.
If you haven't done so already, find some people you enjoy on youtube who teach French. Watch their videos. If there's one on a subject you find tricky, re-watch it in a couple of days. Then re-watch it in a couple of weeks. Don't feel bad if you keep returning to a certain grammar point to continue to increase your understanding. Even people who have been studying for years can find new nuances in the "simplest" rules.
Understand that grammar rules by their nature will often be arbitrary (in English, French, or any other language). Sometimes you won't remember them until you've gone through lots of examples. Duolingo is good in that it will give you several examples over and over until you finally get them by repetition.
Another way to get examples is (as several of others have said) by listening to French, whether in music, podcasts, or videos (youtube, tv shows, movies). Reading French is also good (whether it's French websites or French books). Relax and start immersing yourself in French for awhile. Your mind will eventually start to absorb the grammar rules once it has been exposed to lots and lots of examples.
Don't worry about ever being perfect. Remember that even native speakers make mistakes, so you will to. Work on improving your French skills, but don't get down on yourself for not being perfect.