What I learned in 101 days of Duolingo-ing like a madman!
Fellow Duolinguists, happy to say that I am on my 101st day (and streak!) of using Duolingo. Given that the 50XP per day goal is considered "insane", I must be practicing like a MADMAN because I am at about 500 XP / day on average :-)!!!
I wanted to share a few tips/insights that I have picked up over the last few months, this won't have much to do with language acquisition per se, just tips for aspiring Duolingo MADMEN:
Finish that tree. Everything else I am going to talk about assumes that you have already completed your baby steps in the language. Finish your tree and IMO keep it golden. I know, I know, the leaves keep on degrading, it's too fast, how can I keep up? etc... JUST DO IT. If it's too hard you need to study MORE! If it's TOO EASY then challenge yourself to the TIMED PRACTICES and crank out 10 practice sessions (when you're good this should only take about 25 minutes tops). Once you keep it golden for a while the leaves start degrading more slowly and it's very easily manageable. Just trust the system and push forward to that point.
Get into the immersion section! If you are on one of the popular courses (Spanish for english speakers, French for english speakers, etc.) it is an amazing resource. You will translate a sentence and often see edits within minutes. If you are getting frustrated with downvotes (that are truly unjustified, ie you've double checked and triple checked your answer and aren't sure what the "corrector" is smoking) you need to power through level one. After I got to level 3 I don't think I have experienced a single downvote. All the haters are stuck in levels 1 (with a few possibly making it to level 2). Funny how life works!
If you are not getting votes fast enough and really need to get out of levels 1 or 2, UPLOAD a couple wikipedia articles on subjects you are familiar with. Then race through and translate the easiest stuff ("birth name" "date of birth" "country of origin"). You'll get votes quickly and then once you get to level 3 you will be past the annoying down voters. Your stuff will still often be "corrected" to equivalent or worse sentences, but the votes won't affect you.
Once you are at level 4, just keep going to new articles and try to do a couple paragraphs of translating a day. You'll get 500-1,000 points fairly easily at those levels and you will learn a decent amount.
Duolingo won't be enough for you at this point. Find native speakers to speak with, study "reference grammars", read novels, and watch TV shows/ news in your target language. I've been watching "Isabel" in Spanish and it is delightful! If you are interested in Spanish as spoken in Spain, the largest broadcasting corporation in Spain (RTVE, or Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española) is state-owned and they make virtually all their content available on line FOR FREE, check them out:
The program Isabel comes with options for subtitles (I try watching first without). It's about the quality level of a decent Showtimes program.
- If you really want to take your language learning to the next logical progression of the language-nerd level, check out SPACED REPITITION software (such as Super Memo, Anki, Memrise, etc.) and start beefing up your vocabulary with the SMART WAY to use flashcards. If you don't know what "spaced repititon" is GOOGLE IT NOW. If you have the discipline to implement a program it will revolutionize the way that you study!
OK that's all I can think of for now. MOST IMPORTANTLY HAVE FUN AND PRACTICE A LITTLE EVERYDAY!!!
Yes, the TV watching is great :D I like watching Univision news and they have telenovelas too. I was super into one at one point but now I can't remember the name and it's killing me!! :(
Find a Spanish newspaper online and read the articles everyday. I read the comments people post at the bottom and it shows me how native speakers say things.
I read comments under Spanish videos on youtube, it's such a great feeling to be able to understand them!
Lol "scuttabotch"!!! I see what you did there! Reading the comments is a great idea, I'm sure you'll see a register of the language you won't see anywhere else!
I've been text messaging native speakers and I haven't figured out all the shorthand they use yet!
Hahaha you're the only one to get it! And ah yes!! I've got the slang down to a tee, way better than the actual language lol
I am happy for you, I really am, but I want to respectfully disagree with one particular point. Immersion, as it is set up right now, is a complete waste of time and useless for any kind of language learning. The only thing it is good for right now is grinding XP levels really fast, which is good for the "game", but not good for getting better at the language, which is the ultimate goal. I have done the translations myself a few times, and I can assure you that the only skills you need to churn out quadruple digits of XP per day are:
- knowledge how to use Google Translate;
- very very rudimentary knowledge of Spanish grammar;
- some basic knowledge about subject matter is good but not absolutely necessary;
- good knowledge of English grammar;
- patience to deal with people who have none of these four skills, but are there for the easy XP, because they are under the strange impression that XP matters (it doesn't).
In addition to that, whatever little benefit Immersion will have, it will all be concentrated solely on passive language use, i.e. understanding the language. It will not aid you in any manner whatsoever to improve your active language use, i.e. actually using it to express yourself through writing or speech.
The only way Immersion would work as intended from language learning point of view is if the following were true:
- English-to-Spanish learners would translate from English to Spanish;
- English-to-Spanish learners would review translations from Spanish to English;
- the opposite arrangement would be made for Spanish-to-English learners.
As it is right now, and please understand that I am in no way aiming this personally at you, just speaking in general, we have lots of Immersion-made level 25s who are barely at or above A1 language skill in Spanish, because that system is broken.
There are a lot of users out there who agree and have been complaining about how the downvote arbitrage is breaking the XP system, this is why I have been advocating the the timed practice flow study method, userscripts, and the Platinum Tree word/skill color upgrade. Please come contribute to the discussion: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/6231894
The upvote/downvote system if very flawed, but the basic concept of reading lots of Spanish articles and taking a stab and translating them has merit. I look at the "levels" and "XP" as more of a benchmark of how much time I am spending (i.e. let's translate enough sentences to get 1,000 points today!) Gamification should just be a motivational tool, not the end goal.
You bring up good points for why immersion should not be the ONLY tool that one utilizes. I am puzzled by how far you take your conclusions:
I think Spanish --> English Immersion IS INTENDED for Spanish to English translation. New learners do not have the experience or skill to accurately translate English to Spanish. They can take their baby steps within the comforts of the tree, and work on building "passive language use". In the current field of language acquisition "time spent reading for pleasure" is believed to be one of the most valuable tools. More than 70% of a literate person's vocabulary, apparently, comes from reading:
Keep in mind most professional translators only work in one direction (ie they translate INTO their strongest language). Duolingo is monetized based on their translation services, so they do have some concerns to keep quality up. Most of us will never be as good at Spanish (or whatever new language we are learning) as we are at English. If that is YOUR goal, however, I don't want to discourage you!
Later you can always work on the REVERSE TREE (take the English for Spanish speakers duolingo course) and work the other way. You are able to use the immersion section in this way as well. If you want to SPEAK the language, then of course, you need to get out there and SPEAK with native speakers!
Of course, I agree that a person's duolingo "level" and "XP" are utlimately useless measures of their skill. It only roughly corresponds to how much time you have spent in the sandbox. Of course you can game the system for XP, hopefully no serious learners equate that to actually learning the language!!!
Congratulations on your progress and thank you for all the useful resources in your article. We are very close together in progress, however I have been working toward LV25 in Spanish using the timed practice flow (Platinum Tree) method. (No Immersion) https://www.duolingo.com/comment/6231894 We have been pushing for more of these features within DL so we don't have to use so many outside resources. Please check it out and contribute your feedback / upvotes. ;)
Thanks Mark, I used a similar approach when I worked through my tree. I definitely believe in repitition, but I like the variety in the Immersion section too.
Aquí un lingot! I love your enthusiasm, it is inspiring.
Have you tried creating audio decks in Anki? Keep up the good work!
Right now I am using Memrise because they had some nice Spanish vocab decks ready to go. But I have used Anki and Supermemo in the past. I've never made audio decks, because I watch a lot of TV shows in Spanish and am using that for my listening comprehenion.
I create audio decks (containing new vocabulary, & phrases) from the shows that I watch (on DVD, or YouTube).
Have you tried using a monolingual dictionary yet?
I originally meant to write about just Duolingo stuff, I was going to do a seperate post for general language acquisition tips. Then I got carried away!!! I do use a monolingual dictionary (for other readers we mean a "Spanish to Spanish" or native dictionary) and it is FANTASTIC! Right now I am using the "Diccionario de la Real Academia Española" or (DRAE). They have a FREE APP for the iphone (I assume it's available on other mobile platforms as well).
Definitely a good practice because you connect a new spanish word to other spanish words and get additional practice trying to understand the definitions!
Another thing that I did before transitioning to full novels was reading "graduated readers". There is a great one called "Noche Oscura en Lima" that is completely free at:
I think the book is old enough that it is out of copyright protection, but if anyone finds out otherwise, please let me know so I can delete this link.
Thanks so much for the encouragement! I've seen other posts that mention the "tree." What exactly is the tree? Is it the top part or is it all the lessons?
You complete the tree by finishing all the lessons. ( I understand that in the past there were lines between the skills so it really looked more like a real tree.)
That's madman for sure!!! :-)
On higher immersion "tiers" you get bonuses so once you've been on there for a while, translating a few paragraphs can get you 500+ XP.
If you're getting 200-300 XP from just working your tree, you are going to get far! Keep it up!!! :-)
Great ideas! I enjoy doing immersion and can get up to 2,000 xp a day doing it.
2,000 points-- you are a MADMAN Connor! I love it. Keep it up!
Also check out my buddy "DionesDantas"... I have seen him do over 10,000 xp in a day!
Great tips. Thanks. What I need is advanced grammar and accent improvement. I have plenty of opportunity to practice with native speakers. I just bought an advanced grammar book on Amazon but it's not wonderful.
What book did you buy?
Improving your accent can be tricky. When I was learning Urdu I realized the problem for me was not that I couldn't produce the sounds, but that I wasn't hearing the sounds "correctly" in the first place. If you have native speakers around, try to find someone patient who's willing to give you feedback.
A lot of people have posted about using "ipa" (international phonetic alphabet) pronunciation guides. I haven't tried this myself, but a lot of people swear by it.
Then, from an opposite perspective, I had a teacher once who advised that as long as you can make yourself clearly understood you should embrace your accent. He said "accents are a beautiful thing!" :-)
Thanks. Your teacher is right about the accent. I like hearing accents in English. Anyway, I think accent reduction is a slow process.
The book is called The Ultimate Spanish Verb Review. It does have chapters on what I'm looking for, which are the different subjective tenses. It's okay, but not a great help. My new strategy is to translate some of the more complex things I have to say and write in English. I am fortunate in that I get to translate short, written pieces at work, and I can pretty easily find someone at work afterwards who can review it for me. Too complicated to explain why these people don't just do the translations, but that's the situation and it works nicely for me.
Thanks for your reply. I really love the Duolingo community and not just for the help. It's nice seeing so many highly motivated people!