Monolinguist (English-only) tackling Mount Everest (Mandarin)
Sorry for the long post upfront...
I am a typical American, in that I am only fluent in English. I have dabbled in other languages in the past (Spanish, German, Japanese) but none of them have stuck. I believe this is because I never really had a need to learn these languages, so I didn't care enough to really try.
Without getting too personal in my reasons, I am now in a position where I HAVE to learn Mandarin for family reasons. It isn't an option. I have tried several methods prior to duolingo: Chinese 101 class at my local community college, flashcards, chatting with native speakers...but progress has been painfully slow.
I came across Duolingo almost two months ago. As an avid gamer, I thought this was just the thing to keep me motivated and care about what I was learning. So far, I think it is helping a lot in my reading and writing(typing) skills. To date, I have mastered the topics (to level 5) in the first two sections. I can breeze through each of them in practice mode easily, so I am definitely making progress in reading/writing. I am working on maxing out the third (maybe 2-3 more days of work). Speaking skills are another thing all together...
Are there any other complete novices that are taking on this tree? What do you find helps or hurts your studying? How do you improve your speaking skills using the things you learned in Duolingo? When I try to speak using the things I have learned to read so far, I find I struggle to recall the words (and especially the tones). I have access to many native speakers, but it takes me so long to come up with a response to their statements that I can tell they get frustrated. Even when I do respond, my pronunciation is so abysmal that they can't understand what I am even trying to say, let alone correct me in real-time. Have you found a good way to work on this? Does anyone know if there are plans to add a speaking function to the Chinese tree?
This is my personal strategy:
I dedicated the first crown level (mainly) to understanding the sentence structure.
During the second crown (and halfway through the third, sometimes) I worked on reading and writing, to remember the pinyin and Hanzi (I know Japanese so I had a some knowledge with Hanzi that made the task a bit easier than it would be if I had started from scratch).
From there onwards, I stopped looking at the sentences during the lesson, and started only listening to them, to improve my listening comprehension and burn the tones into my brain.
I’m planning on using dictation instead of writing at some point after the fifth crown. It should (hopefully) prepare me for my first real conversation practice.