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Mastery of a Duolingo language

I have seen several benchmarks suggested for "mastery" of a Duolingo language.

My own suggestion would be, on, say a well-constructed French language test, how would I stack up against a native French 13-year-old. Or maybe against a typical native-English-speaker-French BA graduate. Heck, give them both the same test and average the scores. Their average score would set the 100% fluency.Let's call that the DB (David Bradley) standard. 100% would be an operational standard of 100% fluency. Of course no one is perfect, but by that point, you'd no longer be a "foreign-language-learner."

(a) The highest standard offered, is "Level 25". One reaches that with about 30,000 Experience Points. I have not yet reached 6000 points, so that figure seems respectably high. I notice that there are those who shoot way past this point, but realistically, maybe at Level 25 a person should pursue something other than Duolingo: probably formal instruction coupled with immersion? The question would be, at Level 25, would someone reach 80% on the DB standard? 60%? 40%? Who knows?

(b) The most ephemeral would be the "fluency" rating. I believe, for instance, that I'm currently 33% fluent in German (I'm at level 8). I'm guessing on the "DB standard", I'd be under 5%. The strength of this measurement is that it reflects current participation, but it seems wildly inflated.

(c) The next measure is how many of the skills have been turned studied and mastered. I've seen posts in which people have reached and passed the highest skill in a tree, and consider themselves "done". This obviously happens most quickly if the student minimizes review. For me, I expect this will happen around Level 16 (Roughly 10,000 XP). I'm guessing I will not be much above 25% on the DB standard, nor will I have extracted the max from Duolingo.

(d) A variant of (c) would be reaching & passing the last skill, and then turning one's whole tree golden. If one's been reviewing all along, this can happen soon after, in my case at level 16 or 17 (again, around 10,000 XP).

This brings up the question, how important to real fluency is it to continue on with the "reviewing" after one has turned one's tree golden. This is the long stretch between 10,000 XP and 30,000 XP. I suspect it is important. The reviews, if I'm right, are not simply rehashing, but also integrate skills and raise complexity.

This discussion may be nerdy to some, but then again, most people investing lots of time in Duolingo really want mastery. How can you tell your progress?

PS #1: There is a Duolingo Mastery Test I've heard of from the lingot store, but I've never experienced it. I'd love it if it was properly standardized like I've suggested, but it sees unlikely. It's probably just one more benchmark based on ambiguous benchmarks?

PS #2: It's very possible, even probable, that all of the above benchmarks may mean different things in different languages. Consider a Spaniard learning Portuguese, for instance. Level 20 may reflect a much higher level of mastery than a Level 20 for a Yank learning Mandarin.

March 4, 2018



Review is absolutely necessary, because you miss a LOT of words the first time. Even the first few times. I've had my French tree finished for nearly a year, but I've been keeping it golden while I do Spanish, and I STILL see words I swear I've never seen before. Maybe some of this is updates to the program, but a lot of it seems to be that you can run through a lesson with like 20 questions, half of which are testing the same word.

Also, there should be far more lessons. Maybe they kept it simple to keep people motivated, so okay, could there be an "advanced tree" or something? I would like to keep practicing, but eventually I'll probably get tired of the same thing, whereas if there were new levels or something, I wouldn't.

People say "move on to something else" well first of all, from Duo's perspective, they absolutely should not want us to do that. They should be doing everything they can to keep dedicated people (those who finish a tree have to be reasonably hooked) on this site, rather than telling them to go somewhere else. Second of all, many people simply aren't going to do that. I've found Duo and I like it, I don't have the motivation to go find something else I like.

And yes, the fluency seems silly. I'm currently something like 55% in Spanish and 65% in French. I took years of French and am using Duo to keep it fresh, but I would be absolutely confident I could get around France, have a basic conversation, watch a kid's show, etc. There's no WAY I'm even remotely close to that in Spanish.


Agreed, review is absolutely necessary. I've had a complete French for over a year (maybe two now?) and still learn new things (an argument could be made at this point, however, that I'm not studying as efficiently).


How did you finish the tree? Did you rush through the lessons and rarely used strengthen button?

If you strengthened and kept the words list at "Still strong" for each word, then there's a flaw in Duolingo algorithm.

For example, let's say you do all of the French tree in 10 days. There's no way you can keep refreshing all of those words every day (by strengthening). Some words will never show up.

What one has to do is go slowly and eventually you won't see "la femme", "l'homme" or "la fille" anymore and Duolingo will remind you of those words only when you're on the verge of forgetting them.


I feel like they need to add more variations and exercises to existing lessons. It's gotten to the point where when I get an exercise I have it memorized, rather than actually understanding how the phrases and words therin need to be broken down. I think more variation would help that.

As well as just more complex sentences. Doing a mini-paragraph instead of just a single sentence.

The fluency I think is based on your capability with getting exercises right with certain words. I'm not sure what else it could be based off of.


Something that I have found very helpful is to read books that are in spanish, even if you are starting with books meant for children in grade school. This shows you how people actually write in spanish. You can also watch movies or tv shows in spanish, and depending on how much you know you could have subtitles in english or the other way around with subtitles in spanish. I have also been listening to songs in spanish for two years now, and it has greatly helped with my pronunciation. The only thing that I haven't done that I would suggest to also help, is to make friends that speak spanish, and try to talk to them in spanish.

Something else I forgot, is you can try learning the reverse tree, learning english from spanish, it is very different.


I was gonna start doing that soon, doing English from Spanish. I am not quite at that skill level yet though.


I agree, books are a wonderful addition.

Children's books, and YA (young adult) (middle grade) books are about the right level of difficulty to start, but I have found the library selection is very slim. (Spanish speaking families are not served all that well by the selection at the library),

For more complex literature try short stories. Look for books with "parallel text" = one page is native language, the opposite page is target language. I bet you'll enjoy it. In Spanish I love this one : "Short Stories in Spanish: New Penguin Parallel Text by John R. King (Editor)" 1999. Both the Spanish and the English language are beautifully written in this book. It costs under $10 new.


I think that to master a language you would need to do much more than lessons on Duolingo. That being said I'd be interested in a standardized test so I could gauge my progress.

There is an interesting study (see link under the About tab) about the effectiveness of Duolingo. You might enjoy reading that if you haven't already.


Where might i find the 'about' tab, please?


Links including the About, Help and Guidelines tabs are found at the bottom of each discussion page.


I would, thanks!


Nice post. Mastery of a language will take much more than Duolingo has to offer. As it stands I have 3,104 French words in my words count. A 13 year-old would have several thousand more than that in their vocabulary; not to mention all the verb tenses that they would be associated with in everyday language. I've long campaigned Duolingo for an advanced version of Duolingo that would introduce a far more in-depth use of verb tense as well as many, many more words. At this point, I don't believe either will happen, but one can always hope.

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