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One Year on Duolingo

Today I have a 365-day streak, which means it has been a year since I retired from Amazon and made language study my full-time "job." (So much for the science-fiction novel I told everyone at my farewell party I was going to write!)

I made Duolingo the core of my language-study program, and I gradually came up with an extensive list of things to use to supplement Duolingo. Even though Duolingo alone is not enough to learn a language, I found that it enables a unique sort of just-in-time language study, in which you don't read a grammar book until you have a question you want answered. I think this will eventually be seen as Duolingo's greatest contribution to language learning. It certainly worked well for me.

I studied three languages the first year: Spanish, Italian, and French. My program was to study French in the mornings, Italian at noon, and Spanish in the afternoons. I have kept to this schedule, even on weekends, and I estimate I have put about 400-500 hours into each language--not all of it on Duolingo, of course.

I finished the Spanish tree in a few weeks, but I'd studied Spanish for many years and had had a number of immersion experiences, so that doesn't mean so much. The Spanish accomplishment I'm proudest of is Mar Plateado. While I can't take credit for creating it (that was Ben's idea), I did help, and I definitely came up with the name.

Although I had studied Italian a little bit in the past, I didn't manage to place out of a single lesson. Even so, I finished the Italian tree in December, making a big push right at the end so I could claim I really did finish it in 2014. (I'm paying for that now because it's taken me a whole month to regild the bottom 14 skills.) In this time, I improved my Italian enough to read three novels in 2014. By attending local Italian meetups (I actually host one now), I have become much more conversational.

French, I had never studied before at all. My big goal for 2014 was to learn enough French to read a novel. In October, I read Jule's Verne's Cinq semaines en ballon, even though I wasn't actually done with the French tree. (I currently estimate I'll finish it at the end of April.) I even managed a second novel, Candide, before the end of December. I need a lot more work on my conversation though.

In the fall, I began writing a blog about reading novels in foreign languages, where I documented the learning techniques that worked best for me. It reached 20,000 views today.

In this past year, I've written hundreds of comments in the per-sentence discussion forums, and I've reported over 1,000 errors, of which about 200 have been accepted. I've also accumulated over 2,000 lingots somehow. Best of all, I've made about a dozen online friends here. The Duolingo community is one of Duo's greatest strengths, and I'm proud to be part of it.

For the year to come, I am studying German, and I hope to attempt a German novel this fall. I'm also thinking about trying to pass the C1 certification test for Spanish and maybe the B2 test for Italian. And I'm going to spend a week in France this spring--shortly after I finish the French tree. Then I'll get a different sort of estimate of how much French I've learned. :-)

It has been a good year, I have really enjoyed using Duolingo to learn, and I want to thank Luís and all the Duolingo staff and volunteers for their hard work. It has been greatly appreciated.

January 16, 2015



Congratulations on one year Greg.

For those of you who don't know, Greg and I have been working together now for more than 120 days on an experiment to see how much work it takes to regild a tree, and keep it that way. If you are interested you can read about it here: http://gregreflects.blogspot.co.nz/2014/12/how-to-make-gold-duolingo-tree.html

My Italian improved hugely in that time (almost exclusively due to the fact that I knew Greg was waiting for my daily results, so I didn't want to let him down) and, thanks to information from his blog post here: http://gregreflects.blogspot.co.nz/2014/09/how-to-read-foreign-novel-on-kindle.html, I have now managed to read several Italian books on my Kindle.

I realise this post may come off a bit like an advert for Greg's blog, but it hard to overstate the influence he has had on my learning and improvement over the past months.

Thanks for everything Greg. Not only have you helped me out a huge amount, but also all of those people following you through the courses, thanks to all your error reporting. You are a very valuable member of the Duolingo community.

Most importantly of all, I have also made a very good friend. :)

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Greg, this is certainly the most impressive post I've read here so far on language learning. I'm afraid, you're a role model now. :)

Congrats on your achievements!

(I am waiting for that science fiction novel, though, preferably in Spanish! ;))



You are an inspiration to me, Greg! I'd like to thank you for your great comments in the Italian lessons! I think your next step should be "Talk Show Host!" I'd watch it!


Great job Greg! :) I've enjoyed reading your blog. Can't wait to see what you think of German! :)


Congratulations, Greg! :)


Congratulations, Greg! Working on Mar Plateado with you has been a blast. I'm just a bit sad that your thorough mastery of Spanish means you've moved on to other languages, leaving you little time to visit at MP. Enjoy your vacations!


The biggest thing I need with Spanish is to improve my listening comprehension. That's currently a big hole in my study plans. I've discovered that I can watch a Spanish detective show without subtitles and still follow about half of it. That suggests I might be at the point where I can improve just by watching shows. (And rewatching at difficult points.) We'll see.

I did take the online test which is meant to determine which level of DELE you ought to consider taking. (Actually it tells you which online classes you ought to take to prepare yourself, but that implicitly tells you which test.) Go to this page and click on "Prueba de Nivel". It's really long, but it's fairly thorough. It suggested the C1.3 and C1.4 classes, which are their most advanced classes to prepare someone to take the C1.

Then I tried doing the listening comprehension part from an older C1 exam. That scared me. I could make out some of it, but not enough of it. I should also get more practice writing. (The conversation part doesn't worry me; I've done lots and lots of that.)

Obviously neither of those is something that Duolingo can help me with. So it's not that I have thoroughly mastered Spanish, but I do think I have reached the point where Duolingo has little more to teach me about it.


next step: write a science-fiction novel in a foreign language... xD

But really, great work. Those are some pretty impressive accomplishments. (i'm finding it hard just to learn 1 language)


Congratulations, and thank you for your many interesting and helpful comments.


Congratulations Greg, on your very successful retirement transition from Amazon into the great river of language.


Congratulations. But what are the C1 certification test and the B2 test?


Thanks, no I understand :)


Great post, and I've already read several of your blog posts, too.


parabens! huge congrats man.


Wow, congratulations! This is definitely the most impressive language learning story I've heard. Just read a couple of articles on your blog and it was very interesting! Bonne chance avec les langues que vous etudiez!


Amazing work! And thank you for a very informative blog, I've already bookmarked a number of posts for later!


Very inspiring, Greg.


i hope you don't mind that I directly mentioned you Greg in one of posts. I can remove your name if you wish. Here's the link ---> https://www.duolingo.com/comment/7294741


Very happy for you to mention me.

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