What Level Should I Tackle Immersion At
I love the idea of immersion but what level should I be to start doing it well? I'm level 6 as of now (7-18-2013). I have done small translations like translating dates in Spanish to English but nothing major. When should I attempt translating sentences?
Duolingo starts suggesting you translate after a degree, but I don't know when exactly. I think it's time to start translating when you learnt around 1000 words. On this webpage: http://howlearnspanish.com/2010/08/how-many-words-do-you-need-to-know/ , for Spanish, it is written that "Learning the first 1000 most frequently used words in the entire language will allow you to understand 76.0% of all non-fiction writing, 79.6% of all fiction writing, and an astounding 87.8% of all oral speech." So I think knowing 1000 words or more is a good point to start dealing with translations. Before that point, concentrating on learning words and grammar is better than translating, in my opinion.
It used to be that Duolingo introduced one to immersion from the beginning. IMHO, Immersion, at that time, was a bit of the wild west because of some of the ridiculous translations in there.
I think that Immersion is now much better organized, though it could still use some tweaking. But, I think people are finding it much more intimidating than in the past. I think anyone can use Immersion regardless of level. If one is really low level, then expect to primarily review other's translations.
My suggestion is to try translating something other than a Duolingo article. Pick up a children's book at a used bookstore or find on online and give it a try. I started with a book from the "Goosebump" series. You should have a decent dictionary and a used Spanish text or grammar, but just start plugging away. Children's books have, for the most part, simpler grammar and shorter sentences if you avoid stuff like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings -- nasty vocabulary there! You could also try looking through a Spanish newspaper everyday, starting with sports and crime, which is easier than politics.
The immersion practice option appeared on my Italian home screen when I reached level 10. I think most of the texts are quite challenging for that level of skill, let alone level 6: you can look words up in the dictionary but if you don't really understand the verb forms and idioms it is hard to know whether you are on the right track. I would second the suggestion about starting with text that is designed to be grammatically quite simple, such as children's books.
First of all, CannedSoup, if you're successfully translating dates in the articles, that's already a good start. Good job :)
Your skill at Immersion will only be partially related to your skill in the lessons. Your language skills are important, but there are also skills tested that the lessons don't. You will have larger texts to read, so you need to be able to use some sentences to help you understand what is wanted in other sentences (some translations alter depending on context). You also need to be able to assess your resources and decide what is possible for you at a given moment. Lessons are designed to be doable with no other resouces, but you don't have to restrict yourself that way for Immersion.
I'd start by familiarising yourself with the sort of articles that end up in Immersion. Look for ones where all or most of the sentences are already verified (by clicking on the "Translated" tab), and then try to read the entire article. This way, you start by reading correct language in a lengthier format than the one offered by the lessons. If you stick to verified sentences in translated articles, then you should be fine to start that part of it now.
rspreng's advice to read things elsewhere - especially children's books - is excellent, and applicable to just about everyone learning a language. Ideally, start with picture books, where the pictures help give clues about the story if you get really stuck.
When you can comfortably read a varied selection of the sentences, you are ready to look for non-translated sentences in the same sort of article - regardless of what "level" you are at in the lessons.
When looking for sentences to translate, look for an article on a subject that you know a fair bit about, at least at the beginning. If you are keen on computers, the computing articles are a good place to start. Football articles are a great place for football fans to start. And so on. This is because your subject knowledge can help translate concepts you'd otherwise struggle to do. I translated my first computing article at Level 3 because computers are one of my hobbies. Being able to use that knowledge to help me translate enabled me to "fill in the blanks". That said, even now, I wouldn't attempt to do an immersion exercise sourced from a mainstream novel because I don't know enough about the subject to be sure I'd got the finer points of the translation down.
Start by looking for obvious errors and shorter sentences, since these are easier to confirm and/or correct. Web articles and adverts may be easier to translate than books, or vice versa, depending on your reading habits (including in your source language). Also keep an eye on specific forms of errors. DuoLingo teaches certain points of grammar early. Make a note of which ones
Get yourself a pocket paper dictionary with both your target and source languages, get comfortable using it, and refer to it if you get stuck. Online dictionaries exist and can help, but a paper dictionary is often in a position to explain better and doesn't have to be loaded in a separate tab. Duolingo is very good at grammar but teaches vocabulary at a relatively slow rate. In Immersion mode, you can also "auto-peek" by hovering your mouse cursor over a word you are unsure about. In a lesson, "peeking" is to be avoided, but the number of words likely to be unfamiliar in a typical Immersion article makes the "peek" function very helpful there.
For similar reasons, a paper grammar reference is also helpful. Get whichever one looks simplest to use. Basic teaching books for a language often include the present tense verb conjugations, which are enough to get started. Once you start tackling other tenses, a dedicated verb book may prove useful, if you can get one.
If you can't translate a sentence, move to the next one. It's absolutely fine to just translate a sentence or two in an article; it's more important to be correct than prolific. You can always go back and translate more sentences (or confirm/alter those of other people) when you have learned more of the language, or simply have more time to think about a given translation.
Ultimately, I would recommend visits to the immersion area from time to time, even quite early in your time using Duolingo. Absorbing correct, complex writing can help gain a better sense of how the language works. When you start correcting and/or confirming translations, you have an application for the things you are learning, which may in turn make the lessons easier.