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  5. You really DO forget


You really DO forget

So my brother came to visit for a while and I essentially didnt do this for 5 days...I forgot so much!

Practice really is necessary.

June 25, 2014



And THAT is why Duolingo is the best language learning website out there, bar none. For beginners, at any rate. Yes, the sentences are silly, and no, Duo doesn't explain grammar as well as they could, but... nobody else makes the repetition, repetition, repetition compelling like Duo does.


Well, Memrise makes this repetition even better in my point of view, but I abandoned this site due to other issues.


I love Memrise because I can practice very specific things even just 3 minutes at a time, but it certainly isn't as addictive as Duolingo :-)


Well I'm glad you're back!


I use Duolingo, but I think it is a mistake to rely on it too much. Read this article, and although it's about hitting a baseball, it's really about cross-training your brain, and why practicing under pressure helps you handle the pressure of actually performing the task.


You can type out Duolingo sentences over and over, but the reason you lose your knowledge quickly is because what you have learned is not attached to anything in the real world. When you get into a Skype conversation and have to actually say something to another living human being, what you say is forever stamped into your memory, with the conditions surrounding the moment linked to the memory as well.


I guess I have to find some French peeps in San Diego. I wish there was an app that gave you social skills. I'd download that.


I just finished sending a 3 minute video to my "correspondent" in France, explaining something complicated that happened to me this week. I learned five-fold more during that process than I would have with the same amount of time on Duolingo. I had to deal with past, present and future tenses, words that I had never used or known before, consider alternative verbs, and juggle direct and indirect object locations. I'll wind up getting feedback from my native speaker and confidence in my abilities to improvise communicating an idea, not just repeating a static...correct/incorrect...sentence. I gave you a bunch of lingots to help you get through Duolingo lessons. Get your vocabulary beefed up and then go to work on conversation sites. There are links for them all over the discussion boards. Bon chance.


Here is a site where you can find other to communicate with...Either it be their native language or also someone trying to learn http://conversationexchange.com/


You might find https://plus.google.com/+Languagepracticehangouts-French/posts useful, you could post asking for help from French natives, e.g. one on one speaking practice, or you could participate in one of the hangouts to practice speaking. I use the German one and there has always been native speakers involved when i've used it :)


Tell me about it. I‘d had 2 years of French classes before I went on my exchange year. My vocab wasn’t very great but I knew a lot of grammar and could hold a conversation. A month or so in Brazil, focussing on PT, and… gone. Had to re-learn everything. Ofc it comes back way faster, but still.

Also, I can’t [REDACTED] remember the imperative of to be in my native language...


That [REDACTED] move was hilarious. Just wanted to let you know.


I don't believe duo is the only thing you should do if you really want to learn a language. You should try getting books and learning apart from it. It is a very good source of practice, indeed, but if you want to learn a language, you still have to get a book and try to learn grammar. I know that because I am self-taught on english, my first language is portuguese and I am currently trying to learn french. I didn't know anything until some weeks ago, I want to end this year knowing at least how to communicate on a basic level.


I agree one hundred percent. Three days ago I stumbled across a Business Insider article suggesting DuoLingo and I signed up. It's a very nice mousetrap, and the portability of the apps for practice during otherwise wasted time is very helpful. For many years I've tried to learn German using all sorts of other mousetraps--college classes, old US State Dept training courses, Pimsleur (very expensive in the pre-web era), Michel Thomas, German children's vocabulary books, etc. Learned something about German from all of them after many hundreds of hours, but I only learned about German. These sources did little to help me pick up skills. I knew I was in trouble when I arrived in Frankfurt in 2011, and took the ICE to Freiburg. Across from me in the passenger car, an adorable little four-year old girl was speaking with her Oma loud and clear, and I could understand virtually nothing. It was a very humbling moment for me, to discover my very hard-won academic knowledge did not equate to practical skills. After a month of time in the Hochrhein area, I came home determined to at least understand the spoken language. What helped me make huge strides in comprehension: the advice from the Polish gentlemen of Antimoon.com about getting massive input in the target language. This led to a determined effort to listen in an immersive fashion to German-speaking soaps on YouTube, audio A2-B1 level graded-readers, and some of the material at Deutsche Welle. At first my brain was not able to pick out much, it sounded mostly like babble. But I sat through the frustration and just kept listening, fighting the impulse to pause the shows, until my brain was able to finally parse most of the dialogue. I needed over 200 24 minute episodes of "Alle zusammen-Jeder für sich", and over a dozen Hueber Verlag and Langenscheidt graded-readers to reach that stage. One trick is to download the shows and watch them using VLC at 85% of their normal speed; this helps to train your listening and word-parsing process immensely. Learning the vocabulary is much easier in a natural context, and the grammar rules become easier to learn and to keep in mind now too. You begin to develop an 'ear' for it. These days I listen to and read all sorts of media in German, and use I Anki, grammar texts, and now also DuoLingo to build up vocabulary and writing skills. DuoLingo is great, but it can only be a part of a well-balanced language learning "diet". I know this reply was lengthy but hopefully someone else can benefit from it.


Hi- I'm learning French. I was intrigued by your comment "One trick is to download the shows and watch them using VLC at 85% of their normal speed".

I googled to figure out about VLC, b/c of what you say about slowing things down. None of the info I found mentioned this function, but it is the one I would want. I have gotten a bit leary of downloading new things. Any problems? Is is easy to figure out how to play at reduced speed? And, important question (for me) does the pitch change downwards at the lower speeds?

I download MP3s of 10 min daily broadcasts of "journal en Francais facile" from RFi. Then I open them in Audacity (free download). It's possible to reduce the speed w/o changing the pitch- via an effect called "Paulstretch" and save the new audio. I find this very very helpful in terms of my improving my comprehension - listening at a slower speed. But it's a time intensive way to go about things.

Hence my interest in VLC, and my questions. I've gotten somewhat leery of doing downloads, which end up not doing what I want, or are a pain to figure out. Cost/ benefit ratio!

And, I agree with you about the importance of being able to understand the spoken language, especially if one's goal (mine) is to be able to converse in the language. As opposed to being able to do written translations, which Duo emphasizes. I'll repeat your comment, because it makes so much sense to me:

"My sense is that understanding what someone else is saying aurally is the fundamental skill of a language. If I could only choose between listening, speaking, reading and writing--listening, being able to understand what is being said, is by far the most critical skill."

So, thanks very much for giving your experiences in detail!


VLC is a reliable video player. The audio, once slow down, doesn't change pitch. I just tested it with a video I had just to make sure before I comment. If that helps you go for it. I would recommend to find a French speaking person if possible though, for better percision.


Thank you so much for checking this out! Have a lingot.

I will take your advice- I know someone who is fluent.


I second the suggestion to find a native speaker to help you with hard-to-understand parts whenever possible. There are many days it would have speeded my learning considerably, to have that kind of assistance. Unfortunately, I've not found many native German speakers around here in my current area of rural South Carolina who have the time to help me understand all the tough parts I would wish for help on. Probably I should move!


I live in a large urban area, and so far I haven't found anyone locally to help me either! And, I tried. Via serendipity, I found a friend of a friend who tutors me once a week on the phone- she lived in France for 7 years, is fluent, perfect accent, and ended up teaching French in France to immigrants. The rates for this kind of help (I checked around) are usually sky-high (at least in terms of my budget) so I was very very lucky. And, there were more steps along the serendipity route than I've said- actually a rather long story. This is the French version - Bon Courage!


Glad you found what I posted helpful. In just the short time that I've been using DL I've already gotten so much from the community that it's nice to be able to give something back! About VLC--for language learners, VLC's ability to adjust the speed of sound playback without affecting the pitch is definitely its killer feature. I believe it's reasonably secure, as it's an open-source program written by volunteers. It's definitely not malware. Run it on the fastest machine you have, and download the highest bitrate video available when you have a choice. I have 2013 Nexus 7 and the beta version of VLC I'm running on it works well. On the Windows, MacOS or Linux platforms, the speed feature can be found under the playback menu. On the Android app, the speed feature is under the three vertical dots in the lower right hand corner; on the iOS app, it's a little clock icon on the lower left. On the computer versions the A/B feature is also very helpful--I use it to repeat challenging sections of dialogue automatically until I either grasp it, or realize that it is just not spoken clearly enough for a non-native listener to understand. I have discovered many an idiom or saying this way! The only downside is that you can only play videos at a slower speed that you can download--many websites, especially the large well-funded ones, don't allow downloads of their videos. YouTube is hit-or-miss. You'll know that you're making real progress when you've been listening to a video in your target language on VLC for a few minutes, and it occurs to you that you forgot to slow it down, even though you can understand it! Good luck! :^)


Thanks for more great info. I have Windows 7 and an older computer, so I hope computer is up to it.

Yes, good point about downloading videos. Four or five years ago I figured out how to "rip" videos esp. from YouTube, even back when I had to get flv and then change format for classroom playback and integration into lectures. (For teaching, not for learning French.) There were various tools to do this, which I found via the internet. I learned how to jump through all the hoops. And then, the tools I'd bookmarked started disappearing. For a short time, YT had a download feature available, but last times I've tried, it's not there. So, I understand what you mean about problems with downloading vids. Not sure I want to go to the effort of trying to outwit YT again.

I have several videos in French- I have a camera that takes videos, so I took to pointing the camera at the screen, and recording vids. I'll have to see if my recordings at are a high enough rate to work with VLC slowdown.

If not, that's okay, b/c I'm content to find an easy way to listen to audio at slower speed. I'm fairly sure that that MP3s (which can be downloaded from RFI) will work fine. Also, I have recorded the audio part while watching French TV online using Audacity. That is totally easy, totally painless. But, fiddling with Audacity to slow down the audios is time consuming.

Thanks again!!! Have a lingot.


Wow, you're really determined to get useful French videos and audios by hook or by crook--I'm impressed by your fortitude! My 2011 vintage laptop runs Windows 7 also, and it's plenty powerful enough to run VLC to slow things down, so I suspect you'll be fine with your Windows system. Maybe this suggestion will help you more easily snag content to work with: With YT, there are are some addons that you can install in Firefox to download YT videos, these are easier than trying to keep up with the webpage-based YT-downloader whack-a-mole. These addons just put a button right on the YT webpage that lets you download and save, when the posted video allows itself to be downloaded. On my Android tablet, TubeMate does the same thing. Good hunting, and merci for the lingot!


I'll have to respond to your latest comment here, b/c Duo only allows a limited number of discussion tiers.

Laughing about whack-a-mole. Yep!

I use FF as my browser, and have for years. The only add on I've used is the one (the ones) to get rid of ads on web pages. Thanks for the info about the YT FF add-on. FF is trustworthy, I know that.

Have another!


Thanks for sharing your experience.

I agree with you about the great benefit of listening to native speakers but I find that trying to follow a native German video is just too difficult without subtitles. Have you heard of Yabla? They have short graded videos with subtitles in both German and English, with optional vocabulary exercises and a "fill in the missing word" game. French, Spanish, Italian and Chinese are also available. After a trial period there is a small monthly fee, but I think that it is well worth it.


Thank you for the pointer to Yabla. One of the many nice things I really enjoy about DL is the community, and the great many insights and resources available that I would not have otherwise known about. I'll check out Yabla, definitely! My sense is that understanding what someone else is saying aurally is the fundamental skill of a language. If I could only choose between listening, speaking, reading and writing--listening, being able to understand what is being said, is by far the most critical skill. It is the foundation for all the others among normally developed people. The BI article referred to by toussaintlou above makes a great point--you have to have a lot input, and a great variety of it, in order to develop a real-world skill. And during that time, nothing will seem to be improving, but the training is making a difference. 50 episodes into listening to the German soaps I mentioned, nothing seemed to be happening, and I was feeling very discouraged. But something was developing, in my brain, subconsciously--I was learning to recognize the speech patterns, being trained to grasp the spoken words, even if I didn't yet know all the meanings. But you don't sense this consciously for quite a while. Suddenly, a hundred or so episodes in, bigger and bigger chunks of speech become immediately recognizable and understandable, and words that you hear repeatedly without knowing what they are, you can then look up in a dictionary when it itches you enough. Eventually you reach a tipping point, where you understand more than you don't--that's very exciting! New words really become easier to learn then, just through context. Keep it up, and then you get to the point where you only occasionally don't understand something, even when you comprehend the individual words--and more often than not, you'll then discover that you've stumbled across an idiom. It's so fun to find these; you actually look forward to not understanding! You'll suddenly realize that you can easily repeat things that you've never said before in the language. But just keep listening--it takes a lot of time, and a lot of effort, but you will eventually get the hang of it. There doesn't seem to be a true shortcut to avoid this process. People think children learn faster than adults, but babies put in a dedicated 18-24 months of listening before they even begin to speak in sentences. And they make many adorable mistakes! That should give some idea of the amount of exposure time needed to develop native listening competency.


If you can understand the people of the Hochrhein area you have truly mastered the language.

This is what Mark Twain has to say on learning my native tongue:


Weiterhin viel Erfolg.


Thanks for the link to the Mark Twain page, I got several good chuckles from it! Not quite yet there with the dialect of Kreis Waldshut, I'm afraid... the old friend that I travelled there to visit is in fact a transplanted Heidelberg-area native. She needed several years to master the dialect there, and she's a vastly smarter cookie than I--she holds two Ph.D degrees from Ruperto Carola. I'll be quite satisfied if I can one day manage with good old Hochdeutsch. Leider bin ich noch nicht da. Vielen dank für Ihre Antwort und Förderung!


Glad you liked Mark Twain's take on the German language. Like Oscar Wilde always good for a quote. Like your friend I too am a native of Heidelberg, albeit now living abroad for nigh on 30 years. Hochdeutsch I refer to jokingly as my fourth foreign language. An English friend of mine actually managed to learn our regional dialect (Nordbadisch = rheinfränkisch and distinctly different from the Südbadisch of Waldshut which is alemannisch). He had had no formal language training beforehand but was thrown in the deep end having to communicate with the Oma of his now wife. He said he found it easier to begin with than standard German as we don't always enunciate the word endings and to him it felt like light version German grammar. On a different matter I would like to thank you for giving me a new English word. I had never heard of parsing before but it exactly describes the problem I have with French oral comprehension. It's like I've been to the doctor and got a proper diagnosis. While I don't yet feel better at least I've got a name for it.

Viele Grüsse


@rotmike: Haha, you made my day by introducing the concept of a "recovering monolingual"!

However, As a bilingual by birth and having later gone to school in a third language (by choice, not because of moving to another country or something like that), I am always trying to debunk the myth of bilingualism coming "for free" and without effort. Sure, kids pick up languages more easily than adults (but it usually takes a bit longer), and normally you end knowing both well and being able to switch between them easily, but it is not without a cost. Even if you have a bit of a gift for languages and receive solid input in both/all of them, there are plenty of similar awkward / confusing / embarrassing moments when you are lost for words as there are for adult learners, but people don't tend to have as much compassion for or be as impressed by children learning a language as they are with adults, because of this "oh, kids are like sponges when it comes to language" theory. Also, learning to read is not as easy if you are learning two languages that have different rules of pronunciation.

If I am highlighting the negative here, it is because it is usually ignored. Of course many (most?) bilingual people thrive and can really use both their languages (and fit into both cultures that usual follow from the languages), but also I know plenty of examples where it hasn't worked out that well: If you are not a good student anyway, and maybe not great at reading, having to juggle two languages can be too much and you end up with two halves of a language, maybe mostly only being able to use one in a familiar setting and the other out in society, or always mixing your terms and expressions (which we do all the time just for fun and convenience, but most of us are capable of expressing ourselves properly in one language or the other when one has to, like in an exam or in another more official situation.

Now, I am currently raising a trilingual-in-the-making, so I am certainly not against a polyglot childhood, but I think it is important to really think about the input children get and what chances they have of succeeding. I once knew a family who spoke one language at home, put the kids in daycare in another accent of that same language (and the kids thought this was a different language), had them watch cartoon in yet another language, and then had the bright idea to put the kids in school in yet another language, one that the parents didn't even speak much of themselves! When I come across these kinds of examples, I never say anything, but in my mind I hope for the kids' sake that they happen to be good at languages, because otherwise they'll be pretty screwed up...


It is hard to imagine that a recovering monolinugal American like me had any language wisdom at all to impart to someone who lists Hochdeutsch as their fourth foreign tongue, but I'm very flattered just the same! Were you fortunate enough to have been brought up with these languages outside of French, or have you learned them as an adult? If I could have chosen my parents, they would have been polyglots for sure. What a priceless gift, to give one's children multiple languages at the get-go! I ask because I'm always looking for insights to further speed my learning of German--it has been a long, arduous road to learn it so far.


Great tip! Thanks :)


Man I must say, the slowing down speed idea. THAT IS AN AMAZING IDEA! Thank you! I'm gonna do that von nun an!


For what it's worth, you seem to have taught yourself English very well! Blessings on your future language learning. :)


your english is fantastic.

I'm listen to a little media (movie or interviews) in french every day for about 30 mins or so, I use a french reader with easy sentences, and I have a teacher once a week to help with basics and pronunciation.

i didnt do any of that for a week and i lost alot! lol


Exactly also listening to music in that language also helps.


Tell me about it! I completely understand.


I know what you mean. :)


I actually just came back from a week's vacation at the beach and wanted to avoid getting on the internet (social media sites), etc but I did check out a Spanish grammar book from the library to work with while on the road to the beach and oxymoronically, while relaxing on the beach

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I've just been on holiday without social media, but both my Spanish and French improved through having to use them in real life, and also because of the immersion factor. Only hearing Spanish around me, seeing television in Spanish, etc, really helps. We were in a Spanish resort on the north coast, very few anglophones, and most menus and signs were only in Spanish. The French came from the ferry, where all the staff were French, and the signs were French, Spanish and English. The voyages were for 24 hours, so there was a while to absorb a bit. We chose on price grounds, but I'd recommend to anyone the benefit of going to an area which isn't touristy, or not touristy from your own country. I used my e-reader for dictionaries, etc, but a small paper one would do as well. The best thing is understanding and being understood,


So true. I love that it tracks what you may have forgotten over time. Perfect game


Glad to hear you say it!


Yep! I've left Duolingo for a month and I've forgotten tonnes!


yup, it's no lie when people say "keep practicing!" they really know what the are talking about, at home I practice 2 languages everyday..


Yes! You are totally correct. :)

[deactivated user]

    I haven't gone a day without it, but with all the repetition and the "strength bars" I have really learned a lot. FYI I am learning French. My brother is using my account to learn German, and I think it DuoLingo is working well for him too.


    I wholeheartedly agree! The duolingo app is handy because of this! I often use it while I'm out, usually waiting for something/someone or not doing anything else productive, so why not to practice my french? It has an option where you don't have to use a mic if you're in public but you're still able to finish the excercise.


    Yeah, I know what you mean...I'm going on a 9-day backpacking trip in August (bye-bye, streak!) and I'm afraid of how much I'll lose over that time.

    I'll probably bring a copy of the Nouvelle Observateur and a compact dictionary (but it's backpacking, so I can't bring the big heavy Larousse) on the trip and do some translating so I'm not completely out of it when I get home.


    hey what if you have nobody to practice speaking with ?? that's the problem for me right now :(


    Here is a good site you can use http://conversationexchange.com/ ....There are native speakers all over willing to help you in exchange of you helping them learn a language you know. The good thing about this site is that it is free. And you get to choose what country you want to find people in. The site is really active...The first day I signed up I had over 12 inbox messages from people willing to help. People love when someone is trying to learn their language


    Yes, that´s true, the practice is the secret


    ikr. i was on level 30 or something and then i accidentally reset it so i get to practise again

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