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My experience visiting Spain; a review of Duolingo.

¡Hola! I just got back from spending a few days in Barcelona and thought I would share a couple thoughts about my trip and using Duolingo. Barcelona is an interesting case in Spain since the catalan language is also spoken alongside castellano/español, but I was still able to practice my spanish as well as pick up a few bits of catalan.

I started learning spanish on Duolingo about 6 months ago (along with 4 years of high school spanish, though that was over 15 years ago). I did not start learning it with the knowledge that I would be visiting Spain already this year, that was just a happy circumstance. I am not very far with my spanish education. Outside of present tense things start to get a bit fuzzy, but I was happy to have the opportunity to practice in another country. I was hesitant at first, thrown into a new place and everyone speaks at a much faster pace than what I am used to with learning. As an added hurdle I had to figure out when I was hearing/reading castellano vs catalan.

My biggest victory came while visiting La Boqueria market, a large market located off La Rambla with all the food options you could want. It is packed with people walking in and out of the aisles and making purchases. I made it my goal to speak only in spanish while visiting the market. I found that this was the perfect place to practice my target language and would recommend it to others looking for an easier situation to practice their language. Most of the conversations were relatively short, to the point, and focused around the same topic (buying food/goods). This usually kept everything within present tense and pretty basic. How much is this? What is that? How many? Cost. Gracias. These short conversations were the perfect boost for my confidence. The few things I didn't know I could usually guess by context (e.g. "the straws are here." I didn't know the spanish word for straw, but he was pointing at them and I assumed that's what he meant).

After my 6 months of self study with Duolingo (and a few other resources, textbooks, etc) I was quite happy with my abilities. If people ask, "can you really learn a language with Duolingo?" I would certainly say yes! With the caveat that you are not going to get completely fluent with it, but it will get you a great foundation to build upon and give you the confidence to attempt this type of experience. I look forward to seeing what another 6 months of studying brings and hopefully in the future I will be able to visit Spain again, or another spanish speaking country, and see how far I have progressed. Thank you to Duolingo for this great educational platform.

May 29, 2019



This has been more or less my experience with French in Quebec. Of course I don't understand everything and there are times I need people to speak slower or repeat things but in general I'm able to hold short conversations well and words I don't know I can usually figure out by context. I'm also able to understand quite a lot of random conversations I happen to overhear which makes me happy because it wasn't too long ago when spoken French all sounded like gibberish to me.


Hola. I really enjoyed reading your post and I am so glad to hear your views on Duo. I feel much the same when I go to Italy; I'm always grateful to Duo for giving me the confidence to chat freely and feel so at home. When are you going again, I wonder? A lingot for your post.


Thank you! The sooner I visit the better, though that will be limited to my funds and other travel plans. Ideally I would like to visit Madrid within the next couple of years.


Off topic, but Maria Callas is my favorite opera singer. One of them, at least.


Ciao Linda, è bello vederti. Un giorno potrò visitare l'italia. Non vedo l'ora che arrivi quel giorno.


Interesting experience, evaluation and recommendation. This should inspire more folks to use the language of choice in the real world.


Wonderful post Heather. I sometimes experience it from the other side. I work in a store in the US and a couple of days ago a young woman came in and asked me for help. She said she was visiting from Italy, and she seemed nervous and apologized for not knowing some of the words she needed. I said hi and happy to meet you in Italian. She seemed very pleased about that, and we spoke briefly in Italian. She asked me why I was learning Italian and the only thing I could think to say was for fun, "per divertimento." She looked amazed at that. Soon we were back to English. I was able to help her get what she needed, and it was a pleasant and interesting conversation.


That's awesome! And what a blessing you were to that lady, putting her at ease in a foreign country. Thanks for sharing this with us. :)


Thanks Gail. It's a wonderful thing to be able to communicate in a language that before I started with Duo was completely foreign to me. Enjoy your studies and your new skills. Tanti auguri!


I love this post! Similar experiences when visiting France and Quebec.


me encanta duo también. aprendo español unas semanas y puedo escribir algo ya). aprender con duo es divertido y rápido. creo que después unas mesas puedo entiender esta idioma bien.)


"Creo que después de unos meses puedo entender este idioma bien". More natural: "Creo que en unos meses entenderé bien este idioma".


thank you very much)


¡Yo quiero ir!

Espero ir a España en dos años, cuando mis hijos salgan la casa, y me vuelvo libre. :)

Estoy pensando en hacer el Camino de Santiago too. Vamos a ver.

Gracias para su "post", me gusta la foto.

Lingot --Brent

Corrections welcome. What I wanted to say: I want to go! I hope to go to Spain in two years, when my sons leave home, and I become free. I am thinking of doing the Camino de Santiago too. We will see. Thank you for your post, I like the picture. Lingot


To Pensando; Well I wouldn't presume to correct you but I understood exactly what you were saying and that is the main point is it not?.


Gracias. Saludos.


Hola Pensando, admiro tu actitud por el aprendizaje, quisiera que pudiéramos hablar algún día para que practicaras tu español, que ya es bueno.

Otra pequeña corrección: 'gracias para su post' debería ser 'gracias por su post'. Por y para pueden ser confusos, pero básicamente entiendo que 'por' se usa para indicar una causa un porque y 'para' indica una finalidad u objetivo.


Gracias! Lingot


Hola. Just minor corrections, only given as they were welcomed:

  1. "...cuando mis hijos salgan de la casa y me vuelva libre." You can also say "...y me libere". However, do not confuse "libere" (1st person singular present subjunctive) with "liberé" (1st person singular past indicative).

  2. "También estoy pensando hacer el Camino de Santiago."

Regardless of these tiny corrections, you made yourself perfectly understood en castellano. ¡Mucho éxito en tu aprendizaje!


Mi éxito es seguro con gente como tu. Gracias.


I, too have been studying Duolingo for quite a while (I am at level 25) and am planning a trip to Spain with stops in Madrid, Seville (Sevilla), and Barcelona. I am pretty good at “restaurant spanish”, similar to the situation you describe and looking forward to a more immersive experience. Thanks for your post.


I always enjoy reading these types of positive experiences. Well done! Thank you for sharing this.


I agree with your recommendation. I love using Duolingo!


You have certainly had a big gap but no doubt the basics were still in your memory as they tend to be drummed into you at school. I noticed that you stuck to a topic of food purchase which must have helped your confidence enormously! Buena suerte


Like others here I enjoyed reading this post for a linguistic peep into Barcelona.


Posts like yours really help me get focused on my language goals. My aunt said if I get fluent in a language, then I could visit a country! Good job that you were able to adapt to a different country, and converse!


TravelingHeather, absolutely outstanding post and super cool picture! I would be in absolute heaven to walk around that market for a few hours. Im very excited to be arming myself with the knowledge of the Spanish language. I cant wait to try to use it in real life situations when I go back to Miami. (next winter)


Congratulations! Thanks for sharing such an encouraging experience! This makes me want to visit Spain now!


Love this post. I too recently went to Barcelona. Although with a native speaker of Spanish so I was not too worried about a language barrier. I had very similar experiences as you in many parts of the city. As I say I am still an infant when speaking conversational Spanish but was super excited to use what I knew in stores and frequently patted myself on the back when I was able to have basic conversations and got several laughs from the Catalans. Keep traveling my friend.


Best post of the week! I really enjoyed reading what you wrote. Also, I think you picked the best country to travel to...Spain, the most beautiful country.


This was an interesting post to read since i am learning german on duolingo and i'm going there this summer. I am a little less nevus thanks to you.

sorry for the bad spelling i'm not a native english speaker. -AJ


You can learn catalan in spanish instead of eng. I started doing that a little it's fun. I will say it seems a cross between Italian and spanish.


Quina bona experiència! I would also like to visit Catalonia at some point. My family on my mother's side originates from Catalonia and I have a chance to learn the language with Duo.

You do have prior experience with Castellano outside of Duo, but did you find it difficult to communicate given that Duo focuses on the Latin American variant of the language as opossed to the European variant? Just curious.


I had no major issues with spanish from the americas vs spanish from europe, aside from my general lack of abilities. They are more alike than not and I had no real problems. I certainly noticed their use of coche vs carro and zumo vs jugo for instance, but those are easy enough to pick up on. I feel in many ways my current understanding of spanish is better than it was in high school, in that I was very word-for-word translation focused in high school and that is just not a proper way to become fluent. I am much better at looking at and understanding the whole, rather than a word-for-word translation, and I think the Duolingo lessons helped a lot with that.

The one area where my high school education gave me the leg up is I at least know of the existence of vosotros, even if I can no longer conjugate that form very well. That said, I am still at such a basic level in my learning that the lack of vosotros in Duolingo didn't yet cause any major issues any more than my lack of abilities in many of the conjugations outside of present tense....which is to say, I'm going to get pretty lost with more complex conversations whether they use vosotros or not. I could see it becoming an issue in the future if Duolingo does not incorporate more than the little bit they do now, but I think self study can easily remedy that situation.


Good to know the variants were not an issue. It has been a while now, but sometimes there will be posts asking for a European Spanish course separate from the existing one. Other than 'vosotros', most differences are in words and expressions like you pointed out, so a separate course is not necessary. I just had to ask, hoping your experience would help learners understand that when speaking Spanish or castellano, you will be understood from Mexico to Argentina, everything in between and almost all of Spain.


I'm clearly not Heather though would respond to "did you find it difficult to communicate given that Duo focuses on the Latin American variant of the language" with a simple no not ever with one exception - pescado - though this could have been my accent. Accent and speed of conversation trouble me most in Spain.


I had a similar experience in a bus depot in Santiago Chile. I actually ran into a guy learning English on Duolingo. I spoke Spanish to him and he spoke English to me and we were both largely able to communicate (or point out mistakes). A super cool experience. Duolingo should contemplate making some “travel group meetups” or at least offer some suggestions about groups in foreign countries....


I would love to move to the Netherlands some day when I am old enough and have enough money saved, so I am practicing Dutch a lot! I particularly enjoy how similar yet different it is to English. I'm hoping that by the time I can pack my bags in a few years after finishing college, I'll have done enough on Duolingo to be very confident in my Dutch so I can settle in quickly! I always love to hear reviews like these because they get me excited for the future!!


The dutch are strange in that they will switch to English quickly. I hope you will meet some people to practice with. Veel Mazzel.(good luck)


Enjoyed your story, TH. I happen to live near a supermarket (Massachusetts) where there is a large Spanish-speaking population. Will to be able to interact with employees in Spanish eventually. Haven't quite got that far yet ... soon I hope. Very good point about that type of interaction being basic and in present-tense.


So good to know how Duolingo has helped you. I hope to be able to use my Duolingo French one day. A great post. Thanks for sharing.


I am glad that Duolingo works. I'm sure one day I can do the same! :-)


Interesting experience


Great story Heather...I am gong to spain for 6 weeks at the end of next month...staying in a small town where they don't speak english...although i am staying with a friend who speaks english...can i ask how far had you got with duo when you went to barcelona?...I am about 25% of the way through...


I had everything level 1 through History and Home, but I have not yet retained much of that since it was just at level 1. I had everything level 5 gold through Fashion/Travel3/Leisure, and then varying levels of 2, 3, and 4 through Recreation. So present tense is where I am strongest and I had just started touching upon the past but not very good at it yet.


Thanks for the story - great to here how Duolingo learning translates to the real world.


Nice post! I just wanted to say that...


Hola. Thank you for this post. I want to visit Barcelona too sometime in the future. I want to learn Catalan later though, after I become fluent in Spanish. I'm learning Spanish first because I think it's the base language and also more widely spoken, it'd also help me while visiting other spanish speaking countries I guess. It felt great reading about your experience and how Duolingo helped you on your trip(s). Cheers.


It's great to know that you can use the courses on here as a way to not only better your knowledge, but use it in a real setting. I'm currently in high school and am learning Spanish (Spanish III if you're wondering) and I've decided to take Spanish IV next year due to Duolingo. It's also good to learn that you can pick stuff up easlily.


Awesome to read about your experience! Pretty smart going to the market for practice. If I ever find myself in this situation in the future, I'll be share to use the same idea!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It's encoraging.


Thanks. This really helps. Been with Duolingo since 5 months ago and I am leaving for Barcelona in 3 days time. Definitely will be visiting La Boqueria market, armed with my Duolingo Spanish. Fingers crossed. Cheers.


As a native Spanish speaker, the verb tenses confuse me sometimes! I would also love to immerse myself in the language I am learning some day. Posts like these really give me hope so thank you very much. Lingot for you!


Thank you just off to the airport for 2 weeks in Alicante will definitely be practising my Spanish. Anne


That's great! It is amazing when some words in Spanish suddenly make sense to me. (I've been watching the science fiction show El Ministerio del Tiempo.) I'm glad you were able to make yourself understood.


Its encouraging to hear post like this!


This is something I would like to do. Thanks for sharing your story about the market, it is helpful.


Thank you for sharing your experience with us. That's so exciting! And your posting was encouraging, too. Like you, I had all of my Spanish in high school and I'm so thankful to learn it again through DuoLingo. Thank you, DuoLingo!!! OK, so now I need to plan a trip. YAY! :)


Barcelona is a beautiful city! La Boqueria was my favorite place to visit. I hope I will travel to Spain again soon and check my progress in Spanish in "real life"!


Thanks for your sharing. That's my goal too. I have been practicing Italian in the hope of just getting by.


Well done, the hardest part must be the first few phrases but people will appreciate the effort.


Happy for you

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