A semi-scientific reading progress test
I have been studying Swedish here via Duolingo for 90 days now and thought I would conduct a little external proficiency experiment. I have accumulated about 5200 XP of Swedish, just recently reaching level 13, and have completed the first set of skills past the final checkpoint (Adverbs 2, which is tier 26 on the tree if I am managing to count correctly). Relevant background information about me: I am a native English speaker from the US, 36 years old, now living in Finland where I am studying English and German Education at a Finnish university. My second languages are Finnish (estimated proficiency B1) and German (estimated proficiency B2). I have also studied several languages at a very cursory level, including, in no particular order: Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French, Polish, Lithuanian, Latin and Irish.
For a sample of written Swedish, I went to the Swedish Wikipedia and attempted to read the introduction of the recommended article on the main page: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_f%C3%B6r_Vendetta_(film)
I was able to read and understand the passage without too much difficulty (so mission #1 accomplished). I was able to recognize almost all of the grammatical structures in the text from my Duolingo lessons, so the rest pretty much came down to vocabulary. The total word count of the passage was 337 words, 284 after excluding proper nouns. Of those 284 words, I estimate that I had learned about 200 (72%) words from the tasks here on Duolingo, I was able to guess about 50 (17%) new words from context, and I had to look up approximately 30 (11%) new words in the dictionary. I suspect my guessing from context might be a bit more successful than for some people with all of the cognates from English, German and Finnish (though the amount of distracting false cognates in that mix is also pretty amazing!).
All in all, it looks like everything is going as it should and the site is working as advertised. I'm starting to learn some vocabulary from outside the Duolingo lessons, though there are never enough hours in the day and I'm juggling Finnish and German at school, which are both great sources for both cognates and total linguistic confusion.
That's just one satisfied user's testimonial, though. :)
At the 95-98% level reading becomes not only more enjoyable, but also more effective for learning. I haven't really tried any fiction yet, since I'm busy with studies, but I'm getting in the mood to try. I am able to get the main points in the Swedish news broadcasts fairly well on tv (advantage of living in Finland) and will every now and then turn on the Swedish subtitles for a glance, but I really need to work on my flashcard collection to get the new vocabulary to sink in. I'm looking forward to summer, too.