https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

How well does Duolingo teach a language?

I've read that Duolingo teaches around 2,300 words in German, and that a fluent speaker only needs to know about 10,000 words. Is this accurate? Is 2,300 words a decent amount to know or is it lacking? Would that be considered B1 in a language level? Just wondering if I would be able to get around in Germany easily with the amount of words and phrases Duolingo has to offer.

August 22, 2014

59 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/eanxious

I think the other comments have done a good job of explaining that it's all about knowing how to use the words you have, but remember, when you finish your German tree on Duolingo and understand how the language works you can always build your vocabulary by reading German text, watching German TV shows, etc.! That should help you boost your skills once Duolingo's given all it has to offer :)

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Druckles

From my experience, Duolingo has given me a great start to German, and provides a platform to learning more. Having done almost all the tree, and working on here for well over a year, I found my vocabulary was atrocious when I tried to read a German novel.

Having started to expand my vocab to some of the words I found in there, I feel a lot more comfortable with reading, even some of the more bizarre constructs. I would have found that step a lot harder if I had not come through Duolingo.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Yoel.

Word counts can be misleading. I personally don't think you need more than three thousand words to be conversational. But it's what you do with those words that counts. If you have ten juggling balls, can you juggle them? Not necessarily. You need to learn juggling. The trick is learning how to "juggle" with your language, not just memorize the words.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamiraClemens

This is excellent, Yoel! I thought the same, but would not have been able to explain it like you did in English. It's always a pleasure to read something written by a person with brains.

August 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salspaugh

Great analogy.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DXLi

Very true. You really don't need 10,000 words to speak fluently. You might need that many if you're a spy and you want to convince someone that you're a native, but otherwise, not necessary.

In fact, for French, the most common 600 French words represent 90% of all words used in common French texts, and some think that you can get by on a daily basis with only 300 words.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Shoyne

What if I was using DuoLingo as a tool to train as said spy?

October 25, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamiraClemens

Well, if I ever met any native (?) with an active vocabulary of 10,000 words, I'd never presume him to be a spy. If that person would insist he were a spy, I would get extremly suspicious. A spy is supposed to listen, not to spread all sorts of informations - not even false ones. They are often even more telling, anyway. No, I assure you, I would first try to find out myself what intentions he really had. If I were sure he meant no harm and was so to say a tourist or maybe a scientist, I would not tell on him. Otherwise I'd instantaneouly inform Homeland Security. Such a creature can only be an Extraterrestrian..

August 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/schiffmeister

For what it's worth, my finished Duo German tree has 1,710 words--not 2,300. I don't know if it varies, but yesterday I had all gold on my exercises for the second time, and my word count has never gone above 1,710.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

Thanks for clarifying on that!

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/einsteinjr456

It's awesome! you should try it

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoeOcher

In terms of words duolingo isn't lacking, understanding is WAY more important than number of words e.g. if person A says: "Have you croissants?" and person B says: "Do you have any of that small half-circular bread? It's french and eaten at breakfast." person B is better at the language even he doesn't know the word "croissants" (or even the word "semi-circle") because he can describe what he wants clearly in English and could order a variety of bread types with his language skills. Whereas person A despite his more advanced vocab can only buy croissants and would struggle to order a type of bread he doesn't know the specific name for.

In terms of how much you'll learn with duolingo I've done most of my German on it and would say I'm either A2 or B1 (probably A2). I went on a holiday there this summer and could get around (though not without some effort/pointing). I went to a rural place but in cities most people will speak some English so you'll have a backup :D

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

I see what you mean. Thanks for your feedback! I hope to go to Germany someday, as well as many other European countries.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/einsteinjr456

das ist gut! I hope to see you there.

August 30, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/srafrau

I've been asking that same question ever since my students first told me about the app almost a year ago. This summer I made it my project to "test" duolingo by attempting to see how far I could get with a new language, Italian. After about 100 days of daily work, 10 min. to 1 hr. each, I have about 1400 words and am still far from completing my tree. By contrast, I consider myself a very advanced speaker of German, I've been speaking it almost daily for the past 30 years, and I completed the duolingo tree in less than an hour. Duolingo tells me I have just 1700 words in that language. This is just an example to show what other respondents have said: Duolingo is a great place to get started, but it's just one of many things you need to do to be really conversant in a language. I am recommending the site to my students to supplement their classroom work and to encourage them to practice as much as possible.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mcampbell

Did you go through the tree in an hour or test out?

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/srafrau

I'm not sure if the program lets you test out of everything, but I did make some typos, and in some cases I mistranslated some words that have multiple meanings, depending on the context, and I couldn't guess the context. So after I tested, I had to do a few lessons before I got my golden owl. I found this a bit irritating, but it did help me better understand how the program works--and it underscores what others have said in this discussion. Duolingo provides great practice for building a vocabulary base, and simple sentences, but person-to-person communication involves so much more. It's important to supplement your learning with videos (there's so much online!), conversations with other speakers (don't have to be native ones), and extensive reading. For my Spanish, I have a subscription to National Geographic en Espanol, which is just about at my reading level, plus there are so many cognates in the sciences that it's easy to guess new terms; sources like these fill my need for immersion when I don't want to be tied to a computer screen.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mcampbell

<nod> Thanks for your answer - I am always interested in other peoples' experience with things since I am just starting.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/heimaey

Yeah it's interesting because I'm going to surpass level 11 in Spanish with Italian soon and I'm much stronger with Spanish, but I think my Italian level will go higher...

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

Good job with those languages!

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/heimaey

Thanks!!!! :)

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/v_Tiara

Wow! You speak 6 languages + your mothertongue!? Great!

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RomanDrozd

So far so good man, I've seen nothing but success. Granted I've compounded this with Rosetta stone which I have almost completed. Funny however, there are words in the earlier stages of Duolingo that were not even covered in the later stages of Rosetta Stone.

August 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ElliottofRivia

I know this is from years ago, but I totally agree. The difference in content and method between Rosetta and Duo for German is fascinating. I did most of Duo's tree first, then started fresh with Rosetta and they don't fool around! "Oh, I'm doing dative already, and reflexive verbs?! No explanation?! Alrighty then..." Doing both has been such a great stepping stone.

June 19, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bockenheim

I'm sure you could get a job and discuss politics in Germany with Duolingo!

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

That's good to hear! And I see you dropped a language.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CarlosJFort

I think he is not the only one to drop a language. I have dropped English (I have a pretty nice level already), and I have dropped German from Spanish (I'm a spaniard) to get German from English. Now I'm studying German from English (Level 5) and French from Spanish (level 5, too).

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

That's still pretty impressive! I'd get overwhelmed too easily with more than one language at this point, although I do plan on starting Swedish once it's released.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CarlosJFort

When I finish my trees, I'm more likely to get Italian or Portuguese from Spanish (I've got German from English because German from Spanish is in beta stage).

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pdquinn1

When I completed my tree it shows me as having 1722 words. Conversational is considered to be 3,000-5,000 words. However, I agree with what Yoel says. It is what you do with the words you know. Duo is a great first stepping stone to learning your language of choice. But the learning doesn't stop with completing your tree. Listening practice and continuing to build on your vocabulary are essential.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PetervonPolenz

Any suggestions where to go (on internet)?

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aniform

I actually found this question asked on the subreddit r/german. The suggestions were great. This one mentioned is the daily newscast spoken clearly and slowly for listening comprehension. http://www.dw.de/langsam-gesprochene-nachrichten-learning-german/a-2925601

They also mentioned German Sesame Street, which I will definitely check out, because it sounds like a great time. http://www.sesamstrasse.de/home/Sesamstrasse-Die-Seite-fuer-grosse-Fans-und-Eltern,homepage1077.html

Other things mentioned were reading German newspaper websites.

Also, someone posted this for adjectives: http://www.nthuleen.com/teach/grammar/adjektivendungenexpl.html

August 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/srafrau

I fully agree on the benefits of the slow news. I have also found that the nthuleen source is one of the very best ones on the web--the clear examples make it especially helpful for difficult grammar concepts, not just adjective endings.

August 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/schiffmeister

What the heck!? Mine is 1710.

September 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pdquinn1

You got cheated! :)

September 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/heimaey

It serves many purposes. I am brushing up on my Portuguese and Italian and having fun translating Spanish. I am also playing around with French and Dutch so I can get a foundation of the languages. French is fairly easy as it's a romance language, but Dutch is hard for me. My goal is to learn a good foundation for Germanic languages because I want to really seriously tackle Swedish and Icelandic (if duolingo adopts that one day).

This site will maybe not make you fluent without some other factors involved, but it's probably the best language site on the internet I've seen.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

Duolingo is working on a lot other languages, though they're still in the incubator phase. I also plan on learning Swedish once it's released! I just love the language, and I heard Sweden is a really beautiful country. I hope to move there someday in all honesty.

August 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aniform

Perhaps this may enlighten you a bit. I was curious about language a while back, not foreign language, but language in general. I stumbled on research that showed that men on average have a vocabulary of 5,000 words, with those well educated having 8,000. Women on average have a vocabulary of 8,000 words, with those well educated having up to 12,000. Based on that, I'm pretty sure that if a guy can get by fluently with 5,000, I feel secure in 2,300 being a great start.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

Das ist toll! I'm so glad this website exists.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ubdip

Do they give you samples from a dictionary and multiply the percentage of words you know by the total number of words from the dictionary? Or how should this be measured? I can't imagine a good test for this question. The numbers you gave could be the active vocabulary, but I think the difference between a native speaker and the speaker of a foreign language is the huge passive vocabulary.

Just for fun I opened my monolingual German dictionary (200,000 words) and took a random page three times. I knew at least one fifth of the words and understoond about one third (because of foreign language skills or derivations from known words). Even if I consider that my short test has a big statistical error I think I should understand at least one tenth (and many words I know, e.g. technical terms, dialect and common speech, are missing in the dictionary). But I guess my active vocabulary is much smaller.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

I've noticed that I'm able to recognize a word much more easily than coming up with it myself. And also, respect to you tackling 6 languages at once!

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aniform

Yes, I believe this pertains to active vocabulary. We can certainly understand many more words than we use. So, I assume it's probably a larger passive vocabulary. How much bigger could it be, I wonder? Because another component is those that can gain understanding from context, but still not know the word at all.

Although, it could be quite large now that I think of it. I mean, I sometimes win scrabble games using Old English for christ sake. Certainly would seem that the words I can recognize go far beyond the ones I use.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davost

Good idea! I repeated your exercise with my Swedish dictionary (68000 words). In three randomly selected pages I knew 78 % of the words well enough to say I: a) understand it, and b) I have heard it being used at least once. That puts me at about 50000 words in passive vocabulary of the ones in the book. I figure the statistical uncertainty could about 10000 words.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/fyeahjasontodd

I read that only the 3,000 most frequent words are necessary for general fluency.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamiraClemens

Right. That's more than enough for a good conversation or to make clear to others your views regarding environmental problems or the play they gave at the theatre. And those loanwords or semantic loanwords - I mean those many that mainly are imported words of Latin origin - regarding them you have a clear advantage, because there are so very many of them in English. You often have a word of Latin and one of Germanic origin with the same meaning, where those of Latin origin indicate a not so much a higher level of education but are used in a formal situation or a greater social distance, or maybe I am mistaken? Well, for instance, you can say "house" and "edifice", or you have ""vice versa" and "the other way round", "performance" or, "play". The frequet usage of words like this make you appear to be exteremly educated in Germany - oh, there is "often" and "frequently", "go on" and "continue".

August 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Hbezhan

I think only learning German words will not help to be conversational, but using them into sentence surely help learners to converse and able them to be good communicators. Since, I have been learning German, I learned lots of German words but I have problem using them in sentences correctly. I can more of them but some words need proper usage.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dimrub

I'm very close to completing my tree, and I've done two things of late that relate to your questions: 1. I took the competence test on dw.de. I passed A1 with ease, and I haven't completed the A2, but looking at the level of difficulty of the questions I did answer, I think that's borderline. So no, probably not B1, but definitely A1, and maybe even A2. 2. I went to Germany for a family vacation. I was able to make myself understood, and some of the times, I even understood what people were saying back to me. Granted, it was mostly shop and restaurant conversations, but I was also able to understand some of what was being said on TV, and a lot of the written material (signage, shop labels etc.) So Duolingo is doing a great job at getting you from nothing to something (should I say "nichts zu etwas"?), but then it's up to you again. What's great though it's that you get over the hump where you can advance much more easily - e.g., by reading books, taking intermediate audio courses, and even listening to news.

August 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/priyanshi

Don't underestimate Duolingo, I'm sure if you practice regularly then you'll be fluent enough to speak German. I learn French from Duoingo and I'm getting pretty smart in it. And, day by day, Duolingo is getting better and smarter. You should at least start your basics here. I' m sure it will help it. And one more thing, if you're planning to learn German online for free then you'll not get something better than Duolingo. It's the best foreign language learning site!

August 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamiraClemens

Well, I do not know if this would be considered B6 or D0 or S2 or something. I would consider it an excellent supply. Wished I'd know more people who - although, as Yoel explained before, not the amount of words (alone) makes you the most versatile and of course not the most precise communication partner. Maybe I am not expected to mention this, but intelligence is not only "the best aphrodisiac", but enables you to make the best possible use of it. Your active vocabulary. And the most original use. And that, I think, are the criteria for a poet.

August 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

I will try and make the best out of what I learn, but the reason I was so concerned was don't you have to know B1 of the native language of a different country if you move there? I'm not sure if I'm wrong or not.

August 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dimrub

You don't HAVE to have any particular knowledge of a language in order to move to a country - certainly not to Germany, where you can make do with English without much trouble. And the other way around: living in a country is the best way to learn its language - quickly and thoroughly. All you have to do is get exposed to the language for as much time as possible, and you'll be fluent in no time at all.

August 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

Okay thanks for making that more clear. And you have a good point, being around the speakers would definitely help. If I wanted to move to any country, it'd have to be either Germany or Sweden. Probably Sweden, but I really do hope I'm able to go to Germany as well.

August 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamiraClemens

Hello, hope you aren't concerned any more! I just called the Department of Foreign Affairs (Auswärtiges Amt) to inquire for you regarding the maybe necessary language level you might need to move here. The lady told me, that is different from case to case. By chance I know that a woman from Ukraina who wishes to marry a German idiot - I am talking of a friend of mine lol - needs level A 1. Do you intend to work here, are you in the company of a husband, father, great-grandson or your mother's cousin-in-law who comes to work here? Sorry was only joking.

The information I got from that woman at the Foreign Office was: you will find in the net the German Ambassy in Washington. Many questions are answered on the website, and you can call them and talk with them.

It would certainly be nice to have you here, so do not worry! You are not a husband-hunter who comes under false pretense. dimrub has told you how things are, so chill and do not set yourself under needless pressure! Good luck!

August 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kysandragon

That was very nice of you to do for me! Thank you so much! And yes, I am much less concerned thanks to the helpful comments posted here!

August 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Gnorian

To really learn a language, you'll need to practice listening to it spoken and conversing with it. But Duolingo is great for getting that headstart and for memorizing vocabulary that pushes you to really learn it.

August 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/truelefty

Duolingo says that I know only 1418 english words... I think that something there is wrong, because I can almost perfectly write anything I want, and I can understand a 90% (approximately) of the words of any normal text, or of a movie, or whatever. So, if the 10.000 words-thing is real, then I know 9000 words and not 1418... Who knows, you could never count them all. And, by the way, I know over 700 italian words, over 300 german words, native spanish, some dutch words, many esperanto words, some hebrew words, some russian words, and... do I need more? xDD Will I explode? lol

January 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Crisp_by_Yosi

As far as I know, Spanish B2: 3000-5000 words.

March 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NoHernndezMoreno

hola

November 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Samuel573067

i think, as many others also said, that duolingo is great to give you a start out, then you have to complete the study of the language by reading books, watching tv shows etc.

July 5, 2016
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