https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern

My First Year on Duolingo

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I'm proud to report the completion of my first year on Duolingo! When asked about my progress, I typically state that I've learned a large amount about a small number of languages, and a small amount about a large number of languages. I'm not close to fluent in anything other than my native English, yet, but I am very pleased at the progress I've made in French, Spanish, and Esperanto. Before finding this resource, I never imagined I'd reach these levels of (admittedly modest) proficiency in any language.

I'm further excited to report that as a current resident of Boston, I've recognized hurled obscenities in French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, and I've been able distinguish between a men's room and women's room by reading signage in Irish. I've even eavesdropped on a Mandarin conversation or two at the train station, though my findings reminded me of the episode of the Office where Dwight interprets the German fax machine instructions to be referring to "either an incense dispenser or a ceremonial sarcophagus."

While my experience has been overwhelmingly positive, I do have some less chirpy observations I'd like to voice. I hope they will be taken for what they are: one man's opinion.

I would still characterize the forums as "unusually friendly" relative to the rest of the internet, but there does seem to have been a bit of a downturn in civility as of late. I frequently find myself disappointed at the lack of a communal answer as I see people's questions being downvoted into oblivion by anonymous readers. Clutter certainly needs to be removed, but I think the forums could use a little more discernment between "this isn't relevant" and "this isn't relevant to me," especially as it relates to the posts of new or young users.

The increasingly popular stance that the levels, streaks, and milestones are "useless," or that the people who seek them are somehow disingenuous, is also frustrating to me. There is, of course, a grain of truth in what these people are saying. Duo's metrics are an invention. But then again, so are languages themselves. I would contend that, like languages, the metrics are tremendously useful to a great many people. Being able to observe and quantify the time and effort I've invested here, even in subjective units, does wonders for my motivation, and I know there are other people like me.

Some people are solely focused on results and don't give a second thought to the metrics. That's fine. Admirable, even. I'd love to have such unassailable motivation. What's not fine is denigrating other people's learning styles, or the pride they take in their accomplishments. As far as I'm concerned, it's a display of the same elitism typically ascribed to the level-builders. Again, there is quite a difference between something being "useless" and "useless to me."

Anyway, this represents a little bad and a lot of good. We throw the term "changed my life" around lightly, but this platform has certainly opened my mind to a great deal of new learning, and dreaming. Thanks to everyone, community and staff, for a great first year.

4 months ago

69 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/buck72
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Thanks for writing a thoughtful post on your first year. Also, congratulations on your language learning progress.

So often, people forget that there is a first time for a poster, who may not understand where to even begin looking for an answer. My first post was a "general question looking for German language resources" and several DL members took the time to reply in a helpful, friendly and civil manner, but at the time, I had no idea where to look.

Some possible ideas on solving the same sort of questions: have a first lesson on "How to Use Duolingo" that answer basic general language learning questions. The Help page at the bottom of the site is somewhat difficult to find as a beginner (at least it was for me). Also, having an additional lesson that someone has to work through before ever being allowed to post on the Discussion section. It could explain what the Discussion section is for, requesting languages, saving posts, searching for information, etc. By requiring it to be completed prior to any post may help stop the redundancy so often seen in the Forum Discussion area.

For years, I struggled with trying to learn German - as the books, CDs, and tapes on my shelves will attest to. Duolingo is the first platform that has helped me where I've had conversations with Germans who were amazed with how much I've learned.

Again, thank you for your post. :)

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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I think people often overestimate the amount of overlap between their experiences and those of other people. I'm on the forums quite a bit, but I'll still run across frustrated comments like, "We see this posted every. single. day," and think, "Huh, where has this ever been posted?" A lot of people say "we" when they mean "I."

I believe you're right. Oftentimes, an initial post won't be about what it claims to be about. My first post, inquiring about the value of "laddering," held a different message at its core, that could be summarized as, "Hi?"

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Angela872862

I have googled "laddering" but did not find a satisfactory answer to what it would mean on a forum. Would you be really kind and tell me please?

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Heike333145
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"Laddering" is a Duolingo term. It means that you use a newly learned language as the basis for a language to be learned.

For example, I learned French from English. And after that I climbed further on my language ladder by learning Italian from French.

This has the advantage that all the explanations are in the newly acquired language, and you have to type a lot in that language in order to learn the third language.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Angela872862

Thank you so much. A brilliantly explained answer. I was afraid that I might get a downvote!

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/birgit72635
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Congratulations for this wonderful achievement! Your language experiences outside of duo are nice and hopefully you will have many more "meetings" with other languages.

I tend to see the positive things concerning the forums and love how many people are here to help and are always friendly.. :-)))

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Go raibh maith agat, Birgit. My 10 levels of Irish give me considerable appreciation for what 25 would look like. That language makes me dizzy!

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/birgit72635
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Tá fáilte romhat, a chara. Well, no, Irish shouldn't make you dizzy ;-)). You are learning so many beautiful languages and they all have their challenges and Irish sounds so beautiful and it sure is worth learning. ;-)

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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I've been in love with Irish since I heard Níl Sé'n Lá performed as a very young child. It's certainly one of my favorite languages to listen to, and I was excited to discover it had made its way to Duo.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Heike333145
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These are great achievements! Congratulations and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Just my thought about the metrics: I wouldn't say they are useless, but it totally saddens me when I see that people are depressed by the loss of crowns (for example) due to a tree restructuring, or devastated because their streak wasn't continued.

In these cases, I recommend focusing more on what we can't lose: The knowledge we've acquired. And I have my own metrics (my Sunday Crowns) that can be easily adapted to the quirks and novelties of the Duolingo world.

This is what I find important: We should not be dependent on what the system displays, and make these displays the basis of our happiness or unhappiness.

All the best, and happy continued learning! :-)

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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When the system takes something from you, take it right back! Thanks for your input. :)

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Laykilibre
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“[T]here is quite a difference between something being ‘useless’ and ‘useless to me.’” Darn right. Well put. We all have our reasons and our motivations and our methods. MY day streak matters TO ME and it’s not necessary for anyone else’s to matter to them. Some people love doing reverse trees; I tried and found it not helpful, but I do see a lot of value in laddering. Etcetera.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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I'm one of those unfortunate, scatterbrained individuals for whom taking a day off turns into taking a week off, which turns into taking a year off. I actively try to keep myself anxious about the streak, because I know it will keep my butt in the chair, learning.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ash.Purple

Don't worry about it. I took 4 years off duolingo until I realized I was ashamed of always being a quitter.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Laykilibre
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There are so many other ways to work on a language, so please don’t think of yourself as a “quitter”! My original point was that it works for me and motivates me, but I completely see that it won’t be and doesn’t have to be the right tool/motivation for everyone.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JamesVicke5

I work a lot of angles on Spanish since I have such a horrible memory. I make and keep flash cards, I listen to the Spanish religious channel while I sleep. If there is no English on Netflix, I choose Spanish and have English subtitles. They don't match up sometimes. I've got two boxes of Flash Cards and I use Talk-to-Me, a disc set. It had some discs to listen to in the car, though my CD players is not working anymore. Sometimes I listen to those at night too. I keep a Spanish word dictionary, where I look up words and write out the definitions. And I'm working my way through the Study Spainsh website on grammar too.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JamesVicke5

But Duo is what it all revolves around.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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People often underestimate the usefulness of shame as a motivator. XD

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/simopr1
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what is "laddering"?

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Laykilibre
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Others have explained, so I won’t. But I’ll mention why I like it, which is that I get practice in my second (and strongest non-native) language while working on other non-native languages. Of course one is limited by what offerings there are, for one’s “from” language.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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It's learning a foreign language, from a foreign language. Like if you changed your profile language to German and tackled Spanish from German.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/simopr1
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Isn't that what we call a reverse tree?

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tachy90
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A reverse tree is when you 'study' your native language from your target language. Laddering means learning a foreign language, then setting your profile to that language and learning a third language.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Angela872862

Courtesy of Heike333145 above: Laddering" is a Duolingo term. It means that you use a newly learned language as the basis for a language to be learned.

For example, I learned French from English. And after that I climbed further on my language ladder by learning Italian from French.

This has the advantage that all the explanations are in the newly acquired language, and you have to type a lot in that language in order to learn the third language.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/-jane

I never really post anything but today marks my three hundred and sixty sixth day on Duolingo learning German so I just wanted to say congratulations !

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tachy90
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Wow . . . that's a truly staggering amount of level 25s and languages studied in a single year, congratulations!

(And i agree completely, wrt streaks and metrics.)

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Merci! I'm excited to see what the next year holds.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/little_spanird

well to see youre a little over a year but congrats you have made it this far i started about a week and a half ago im doing great for my pase but your pase is much faster and better then mine and your doing 24 languages what does this mean in spanish tu comen manzanas yo come pan y leche

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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We all start somewhere. I love your profile picture. I've raised and released many ducklings over the years.

I eat apples and you eat bread and drink milk, apparently. You said tú, meaning you, meaning me.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMenonPenguin

well, yours is a bit faster than mine. :P

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/A-positive-bean

Congrats on your first year! :)

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Danke, Bean!

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/QuincyWarr

Ive been with duolingo for 2 days

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Rainbowchimera10

ive been here for

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Keep 'em coming

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zeextu
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wow you have never missed a day and have soooo much xp for one year, its really impressive

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Tack, Chef. Lingot for the profile picture.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Reeion
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How much time have you invested? Your language levels show you have put A LOT of effort into your learning and is VERY impressive. I am also curious if you have a favorite language you plan to get fluent with?

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Thank you! I'm not sure. A lot. Probably averaging a few hours a day, but with a lot of variance. If I had to pick one as the most likely candidate for eventual fluency, it would be French. But hopefully I'll manage more than one.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/D3XT3RY0NuT
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Congratulations! / Félicitations ! / Felicitări!
What are your top 3 favourite languages? And what do you think about Romanian at first look?

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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My favorite languages to listen to are Japanese, French, and Irish. My favorite to study are French, Spanish, and Esperanto. Romanian is a beautiful language; it's a romance language so there was some familiarity there, but accents always give me trouble.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/VoluXian

Kudos! In my eyes, streaks aren't useless. And I don't think they give me as a duolingo user value either. However, to me they're a source of motivation; to keep at learning a language and not slack.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheMenonPenguin

heartwarming :) here is a lingot.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Gracias, Pingüino.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ash.Purple

Grazie, Pinguino

(Italian version)

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/joel73391
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Wicked Awesome! I remember hearing ALOT of Kweyol (sp?) when I lived in Boston: is your French good enough to pick up what they're saying occasionally? Level 10 seems to be a gatepost, at least for me - it is when it gets harder to push on with a language (it's where you get past the endless 'turtles eating apples' type basic sentences).

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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I agree; why do you think I stopped at 10 in so many languages? XD

I had to look up Kwéyòl; I hadn't heard the name before. When I would take the train to and from work there was a gentleman who would spend every afternoon pacing back and forth on the platform and raging into a cell phone in a language I didn't recognize. I remember feeling I was taking his meaning a time or two but being unable to parse out what words I'd recognized, so it's possible it was this one.

Confusingly enough, I work in a predominantly Chinese neighborhood but in a clinic that caters almost exclusively to elderly, white, English-speaking men. But we share a building with a clinic that hosts a very diverse population, so I encounter a number of speakers of Spanish, and what sound like Chinese, Slavic, and Indian languages wandering in by mistake.

I should clarify that I've been here less than two years, with little time to explore between full time employment, grad school, and the 3 daily hours I spend sitting in traffic or train stations.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/joel73391
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I think I prefer Haitian to French: it just sounds so much more lively, more 'bubbly.' I miss Boston (Well, Cambridge anyway) but do NOT miss the 1.5 hour-plus commutes round-trip to work & class.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Thomas.Heiss
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Hey Jeff,

congrats for making it into the duome.eu SHOF bronze (1+ year) list: https://www.duome.eu/bronze

Wow, you have come so far with your above language list. Impressive!

How did you like the French-English reverse tree? Has it pushed you a bit with writing in French?

I am also taking a reverse tree for Portuguese: PT-DE.

The good news is that I stumbled across multiple postings that the PT-EN tree has also recently updated; it got much longer.

..(...)..

But I can hardly believe that you gave Esperanto a go before Portuguese ;)

What do you think. How "fluent" will you be in writing or speaking (free text or voice chat) or listening in EO?

Do you use any other websites to listen to native EO recordings?

With the Esperanto course I maybe see the problem that you can't take any reverse trees (to practice translating into EO), so you will focus with Duolingo more likely on the reading part from English, Portuguese and Spanish.

The PT-EO course (writing in Portuguese on lower crown levels L0-L2 (L3)) might be good training for you after you have further progressed with your EN-PT tree ;)

As the EN-PT tree had updated in June 2018 and the A/B test is final yet, I can strongly advise it; it has MANY available (html formatted) "tips and notes" which can be accessed on the web portal / duome.eu and contributors have added several more sub-grammar skills to get you slowly but progressively going.

I see that you have already started it...

..(...)..

As I see that you are taking the Spanish and French courses:

www.lingvist.com has made a big update to their SP course: https://lingvist.com/forum/topic/1149/the-wait-is-over

You can learn 5935 Spanish lexemes and 5093 French lexemes; but unfortunately you can only learn 3000 words with "Lingvist Free".

Have you already joined Duolingo events http://events.duolingo.com or language exchange table www.meetup.com?

Best regards / Muitas saudações / Viele Grüße aus Deutschland

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Hi Thomas,

I believe I reached the A2/B1 threshold on French, Spanish, and Esperanto at various points. Given my difficult history with language learning, I was pretty excited for each of these milestones. Of course, I've backslid quite a bit from there as I've dabbled in the other languages you see. I avoid studying more than two languages at a time, and I have a hard time recalling any language I'm not actively working with. But the information quickly returns with review, and I figure that I'll probably have advanced notice before traveling anywhere where English isn't the primary language.

I enjoyed the reverse French tree. There was some new vocabulary and more writing in the target language. I tested out of much of it, which was gratifying because it showed me how much I'd retained from the first tree.

There's actually a surprising amount of music and literature available in Esperanto. I did engage with it a bit while I was actively studying the language. There have been many requests for reverse Esperanto trees, enough so that it has become one of those topics the downvotes will quickly erase.

Along with Mandarin and German, Portuguese is one of the big contenders for my next concerted effort, after I achieve my goal of reaching level 10 in every language available on Duo. Even if I don't achieve fluency in something, I do a lot of reading and writing about history and mythology, and even dabbling in the local language helps me focus in on a region.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LytjeDk
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If you havent seen kern (https://kern.punkto.info) do. They make some rather awesome Esperanto podcasts!

Also, if you are lucky enough to live in a country where you can here Muzaiko (http://muzaiko.info/), you should try that. It used to work here, but not anymore. I do believe that it works in most countries though.

Fine, mi pensas, ke Esperanto estas la sola lingvo en kiu vi povas paroli fluente nur per Duolingo. Mi nun (Oktobro 1a 2018) estas nivelo 15 en Esperanto. Mi ne estas tuta flente parolanto, sed mi fakte tuta povas uzi cxi tiu lingvon. Mi estas nivelo 21 en la Greka, kaj mi tute ne povas aliaj frazoj ol tiu, kiu mi praktikis en la Duo-kurso.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Ĝi estas ebla! Dankon, I'll try to work Kern into my routine. Muzaiko checks out! Where does it not work?

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LytjeDk
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Mi logxas en Danio, kaj cxe tie Muzaiko ne funkcias. La kialo estas la rajtoj de la muziko. Fakte preskaux certe, ne estas problemo, sed la laboro por kontroli estas tro multe. Do muzaiko elektis iuj landoj (inklusiva Danio) kiu ne povas auxdi gxin.

Mi uzas kern kaj iu Esperanto kanalo en Spotify, do mi haves suficxe de son- aux vocx-materialo.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MatheusTro16

nice

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FromageAlexandra

How can you learn so many languages at once?, that takes a lot patience and a lot of time

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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I never actively study more than two languages at a time, and for most of the flags you see I only learned the basics. But it has been quite an investment.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FromageAlexandra

Thats very impressive though, I wish I could do that.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FromageAlexandra

beautiful scene behind you in your profile picture

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Thanks, it’s Diana’s Baths in New Hampshire. A fantastic place.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FromageAlexandra

wow i wish i could have seen it in person looks amazing in the picture

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yasashi2

Congrats on one year on DuoLingo, I've been here for 2 days and am loving it. I loved your post, it's very well written out. Best of luck with learning/continuing your growth/knowledge of these languages.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Thank you!

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JamesVicke5

I just finished a year without a streak freeze today. I was going to suggest a new "accomplishment!" (or achievement) I know they don't mean much, but I like them. It's an adult Internet version of those little stars some teachers put on tests and papers when we were in the first couple of grades of elementary school.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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I remember the first time I made a mistake or something and got a silver star instead of a gold one. "How could I have let this happen??"

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FromageAlexandra

Congrats

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ionasky
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Well done you! Love your analysis. I too like to keep my streak... so I know that at least for ten minutes a day i am doing something that pushes my learning forward, even If only a little. And the owls are sweet, i want them back again, so i will finish a tree, even if to some people it seems as if i should have moved on from what duo can teach ( which is by no means everything) Today is the day i got my first level 25. It‘s a mini milestone and not useless to me... in fact i am quietly proud of that achievemnt. Other people's learning is none of my business, and mine is none of theirs. Lets all keep on doing what works for us, and if we can spread a bit of help and assistance to those who migh need or appreciate it along the way then surely that is the mark of a civilised and decent human being?

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/D3XT3RY0NuT
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Congratulations! Keep up the great work!

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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Congratulations! Esperanto was my first, as well! You're right, moving forward is what's important; the streak serves me well as a daily dose of incentive.

4 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FromageAlexandra

Sorry if my comment was out of knowwhere

4 months ago
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