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Properly Setting Expectations with DL

I'm a "lowly" level 9 in Spanish. I've been doing a number of different things since beginning DL: - I try to use DL religiously everyday. - Using DL I try to do at least some studying of new skills - Using DL I just started using the "Immersion" - Using DL I try to do a fair amount of "practicing" each day.

In addition to this I am doing the following 2-3 times per week: - Listening to "News in Slow Spanish". - After listening to the above, I try to write down all the words (in Spanish) - After translating to Spanish I try to translate to English

Finally, I do try to watch at least one movie in Spanish (English subtitles) and when I driving around town I keep CNN en espaƱol on.

Once per week I am also meeting up with a friend I have from Santiago, Chile to just talk in Spanish.

I'm just curious what the thoughts are of you more seasoned learners are on where you think this should get me when I complete my Spanish tree? Right now I'm finding my comprehension is doing quite well but I'm not constructing Spanish sentences very well when I speak or write. I'm guessing this is somewhat natural, however, I do worry that when I get done I will be able to understand the language better than I can speak or write it. Where were some of you at when you completed your tree?

Also, are there additional things you think I should be doing besides what I outlined above?

3 years ago


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Sounds like a good plan to me. The more exposure you can get to real humans, the better, so your planned meetings with your friend should be quite helpful. Your friend will be able to pick up where Duolingo's leaves off in helping you construct common phrases. As far as sentence structure and word order, that's something you'll pick up over time with enough exposure. Eventually things will start to "sound right/wrong", just as they do in English.

With respect to the formatting issue, Duolingo uses a varient of a formatting called Markdown. The following description is from a recent thread where another user had issues with formatting lists:

Leave two spaces at the end of a line before you hit enter to force it to go to the next line. Also, if you leave a blank line before you start a list, it'll format nicely, changing the dashes to dots, like below: (space)(space)
(empty line)

  • first list item (space)(space)
  • item #2 (space)(space)
  • etc etc
3 years ago

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Where you are at the end of the course will depend on your abilities and what you made of the journey along the way. Saying everything out loud helped me, but I got really lazy on the last 1/3 of the tree and basically didn't learn what I was doing before progressing through those skills. I was "racing the tree". If you sign rather than speak, signing your way through the course should help fortify your memory of the content. I also recommend doing the reverse course once you finish (taking the English for Spanish speakers course.)

I finished the tree in about 90 days. That's not a lot of exposure time for someone with my own memory capacity (I have low memory capacity). Once I started using Spanish with a friend, I was able to put what I was learning on Duolingo to more frequent use. This really helped increase my listening comprehension, as well as my ability to speak.

Give yourself every advantage you can. I am currently able to engage in some conversation. However, a friend of mine was able to translate his entire blog into Spanish and took a 3 week trip to Mexico where they spoke in just Spanish. So, different people will have different results based on the level of work they put in and the capacity of their brains. I would be further along in my studies if I was studying fewer languages and if I was putting in more effort.

I hope this helps! :)

3 years ago


Oh, and I wished they didn't mess with my formatting. I'd love to see some simple WYSIWYG editor in the discussion here. Sorry for the bad formatting.

3 years ago

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In general, when you get done, you will be able to understand the language better than you speak it or write it. That is absolutely normal. Most people are at a higher level of fluency if they only have to understand the language than if they have to produce it, and they're usually better at reading comprehension than listening comprehension.

This is even true for native speakers (of whatever language): most people have a much larger passive vocabulary (words they understand when they see or hear them) than active vocabulary (words they are able to use in their speaking and writing); and most people find it easier to understand grammatically-correct sentences than it is to produce them. The difference isn't as marked for a native speaker, of course, but there is a difference.

The only way to get better at speaking and writing (because translating isolated sentences is not real writing, just as repeating words to make certain you pronounce them correctly is nto the same as speaking to a person) is to actually do speaking and writing. Those are things that Duolingo, as excellent as it is, simply cannot give you. (The translation/immersion can give you some writing practice, but again, it's not the same as having to pull the words out of your own brain.)

The speaking practice you are doing with your friend will help--you might also want to e-mail, text, or message your friend on a regular basis for practice in writing the language.

Ideally, what you want to get away from is the need to translate the Spanish into English to understand it, or translate the English into Spanish in order to express your thoughts. The only way you can get to the point where you're not needing to use English at all (even in your head) when you're having a conversation in Spanish, though, is by practicing. It isn't going to happen overnight.

3 years ago