I just started using DuoLingo for Spanish. While I definitely love the service, I have noticed that it is much different from a normal language classroom. I was wondering how close to fluency DuoLingo will get me, and what I should do after I finish the course. Thanks!!
Duolingo won't make you fluent, but it will give you a good basis to work from. How much you get out of Duolingo depends on your individual capacity to learn and language and retain it. But Duolingo offers several features to help put you into contact with more experience, including the course and all of the features in the Blue bar at the top of the screen, including the Activity stream where you can converse in your target language with fellow learners. The discussion forums are also a good place to find offsite resources.
In addition to the course you're taking, there is also the reverse course (English for Spanish speakers, assuming you're learning it from English now). You can also ladder from Spanish, using it to learn languages like French and German. All of these options will give you an opportunity to interact with Spanish in different ways.
Buena suerte con sus estudios! :)
You'll want to augment Duo with outside resources. Duo is great at making the practice and repetition fun (and this is a necessary part of language acquisition that most programs fall short on). It's great at building your reading comprehension and pretty good at building your writing skills.
However, Duo is not strong at explaining grammar; it's fair on listening and weak on speaking. So you'll want to use resources like SpanishDict.com and Spanish.About.com (and others) to help you understand the grammar. You'll want to watch videos, listen to radio, and speak to natives to round out your learning later on.
For now, when you're getting started, Duo is exactly what you need. You can't talk until you have the basics under your belt, and Duo will give you that.
I agree with the others that Duo gives you a good basis but in order to have any sort of fluency--that is, the ability to read, write or speak easily--you need to reach outwards and practice elsewhere. On Pinterest, I'm collecting resources that look promising or have helped me. Maybe some will be useful to you?
I left this comment in response to someone who was learning English. The ideas are the same though.
Listening: Podcasts, videos, movies. Look for things made for ELLs (English Language Learners) or just look for things where they speak slowly enough for you to follow along. Don't worry about understanding everything exactly. Don't be afraid to rewind and listen again. Turning on (English) subtitles or reading a transcript might help too. I like to listen once for the big ideas, and then again to get details.
Escuchar: Podcasts, videos, películas. Buscas para cosas por ELLs (estudiantes quienes aprenden íngles) o sólo buscas por cosas donde hablan lentamente que puedes entender. No te preocupes con entender todo y exactamente. No tienes miedo de rebobinar y escuchar una vez más. Quizas es útil prender subtítulos (íngles) o leer una transcripción. Me gusta escuchar una vez para las ídeas grandes y una vez más para las detalles.
Speaking: Any listening exercise will help because you are practicing how people speak. But you also need to practice speaking! Find people who want to practice English. This site connects people to like via Skype, or you can find friends or community groups. When my friends have traveled abroad, they found that it was difficult to practice the language they were learning because everyone wanted to practice their English! Talk to your pet, talk to yourself, just practice talking.
Hablar: Alguno exercicio de escuchar va a ayudarte porque practicas cómo hablar. Pero necesitas praticar hablar también! Encuentras personas quienes quieren practicar íngles. Esta cita connecta personas cómo Skype, o puedes encontrar amigos o grupos en la communidad. Cuándo mis amigos han venido al extranjero, ellos encontraron que eraba dificil practicar la lengua que estaban aprendiendo porque todos quierían su íngles! Hablas a su mascota, hablas a te mismo, sólo practicas hablar.
Reading: Books! Short stories! Newspapers! I recommend you start with something familiar to you. If you find the words intimidating, skim ahead to find unfamiliar words, then look them up before you read. You already know how to understand new words in Spanish, so use the same techniques: guess from context; see if it sounds like a word you know; keep reading to see if someone explains it; back up and read what you've already read; or just look it up.
Leer: Libros! Cuentos! Diarios! Recomiendo que empiezas con un cuento que esta familiar a ti. Sí las palabras son intimidantes, descremas por delante por empezar palabras nuevas, y buscarlas antes lees. Sabes como entender palabras nuevas en español, y así que puedes usar los mismos métodos: adivinar de contexto; comparar a las palabras que sabes; leer adelante para ver si se explicó; leer antes una vez más; o sólo buscarla.
Writing: Write letters, write about your day, write on Duo, write your grocery list, your facebook updates. You can find lots of writing prompts online or you can make up your own.
Escribir: Escribes cartas, escribes sobre tu día, escribes en Duo fóros, escribes tu listo de la tienda, o noticias de Facebook. Puedes encontrar muchas temas de escribir en el internet o puedes inventar tus propias.