https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

Finished at last! What I've learned...

Even though I tested out of some early lessons, it took me well over a year to finish my tree. I nearly always completed at least one 'Strengthen Skills' exercise before doing a new lesson, which I believe led to greater understanding. And I rarely had to re-gild, at least in the beginning.

I used to do the quizzes only at French about.com, so Duo's format hit my sweet spot. I love to speed through on a timer or stop and 'Discuss sentence.'

Mostly I did not get bored or tired of doing something. (Exception: the flirting lessons. If I had to write 'I would like to live in your shoes...' or 'Is it hot in here, or is that just you?' one more time...dreadful. I also found translating the width and length of various islands and doors a bit tedious. But those are the exceptions.)

Duo has some lingo of its own. I sometimes wrote convoluted English just to please the Owl -- though if I took the time to 'Report a problem,' my sentence was often accepted. (Merci encore, Sitesurf.)

I always scan Discussion for when someone finishes a tree. Besides inspiration, I found great advice there -- one of the best was to stop reading the sentences and just listen. That was difficult at first, but it greatly helped my weak listening skills.

Improvement sneaked up on me: When I started, I painstakingly (emphasis on the 'pain') listened -- repeatedly, at slow speed and high volume -- to that confounding 'femmebot.' Somewhere beyond halfway through, I realized I was listening at regular speed, sometimes just once. I also can pick out the correct written translation(s) fairly intuitively, instead of puzzling over each sentence, even the nonsense ones. In the non-Duo world, I find myself reading and understanding (much of) the French that appears on products, instructions, etc.

Even though I loved the game aspect of the heart system, when Duo dropped it, I became faster and bolder. This change helped me balance caring about 'winning' (well, okay, not losing) the game with my actual goal of improving my French. I tried to balance caring enough with not caring too much.

Two things tripped me up a bit on my way to becoming a solid gold answer(er): Last fall, I was invited on a summer trip to...Italy. It seemed silly not to at least give Italian a try. Studying two languages was difficult at first, but the many multi-linguals among us plus Eddie Izzard helped me understand that even an American brain 'can live at that speed.' Though I found doing lessons for both to be time consuming, I was hanging in there until...French got 'improved' a number of weeks ago. It looked like a (colorful) massacre on my golden, if incomplete, tree. I had to remind myself that learning French is my objective, not a perfectly gilded tree and step-by-step progress. So I dropped Italian and 'learned a new French skill' or two or twenty, while repeating 'Nothing gold can stay...' (See 'caring too much.') The new lessons were good and improved my French, so there's that. I now plan to keep my French tree gold, but pick back up on Italian.

The most fun I had on Duo was when a discussion would catch fire -- the funny things Duo says, or why people want to learn a new language, or even just favorite words. The most thrilling experience is understanding more French and, yes, seeing the gold pile up. The most satisfying is the mix of language lovers of all ages and from different countries. A thing that mattered then didn't: Lingots! When I had nine, I leveraged them like a (micro-)Wall Street trader. Now I love to give them away. A thing that didn't matter and now does: When people reveal that they are frustrated, struggling, or just how much Duo and the community mean to them. It's a risk, but this is a kind, generous, and insightful bunch. Something that made me laugh: so many Italian sentences are about eating and family and going places, while French sentences can be rather more...somber. ('Why am I dying?' 'She is alone in her room.' 'Do I have a soul?' And not a small amount about birds dying, too.)

I loved the references, videos, and other sites that people recommended in Discussion. The one I used most consistently was Lingvist -- again a quiz format and very fast and, to me, fun. News in Slow French is helpful, humbling, and not all that slow.

Keeping a streak is unlike me. But 'caring enough' to do just a bit every day really helped me stay on track, and I rarely took advantage of the tricks we all figure out to keep the streak going.

I would have given up at the beginning were it not for Sitesurf explaining things in such a clear way -- and that was before she was a moderator. Along the way, I picked up some other go-to DuoLinguists who both enlighten and inspire. A special thanks to them, the Duo community at large, and to visionary Employee #1.

To celebrate: Though clothes with cartoon animals on them are not typically my style, I'm going to order and happily wear, yes, an owl T-shirt. : j

April 24, 2015

44 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hoothoot00

HOOT!!! Congrats!

April 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Condorboy

Nice! I hope to finish up my Deutsche (German) tree!

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Andreas83

Viel Erfolg!

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Condorboy

Viel Erfolg auch, my friend!

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Deliciae

This was a good read! Congrats on your both your tree and t-shirt owl! :)

April 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

Thank you. That means a lot coming from someone with so many languages!

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IAmJon

Gave you a lingot simply for your comment about the Flirting questions. They drive me insane and I know I should just stop using the strengthen skills feature. It feels like it has been about a year of it being stuck on those questions. It is beyond a joke now Duo. I could quit language learning today but I know I will never be able to forget that "j'aimerais vivre..." question despite Duo thinking I don't know it. It will hang around in my head like a bad memory, everytime some one mentions France...it will be there. Remove stupid sentences!!

April 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

I tried to 'Skip' those horrid pick-up lines, but turns out that's just the same as getting it wrong. So they just kept reappearing, even after I expressed my clear lack of interest (heh). Finally, I just went ahead and translated them, while comforting myself with the certainty that the Wild and Crazy Guys who wrote those lines would remain forever dateless...

April 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Carolyn250

Félicitations. Wonderful post- full of humour and insight.

April 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

Merci, Carolyn! I hope you saw yourself in there... ; j

April 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/andantees

Félicitations!

April 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/missdaralnazeer

well, that was awesome

April 25, 2015

[deactivated user]

    Congratulations!

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/evatenn

    Félicitations! Great comments, most* of which really resonate with my experience, including appreciation for the very helpful discussion comments of Sitesurf and other experts.

    *Sadly, no one invited me to Italy this year, so that "have to learn Italian" thing just wasn't a problem for me...

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Oui, quelle problème, non? (My passport was expired, if that is any comfort...)

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elizabeth261736

    Lovely post. Now I know to not bother purchasing the flirting lesson, but will consider an owl t-shirt too. I just got my first owl a couple days ago.

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Yes, do not purchase the flirting lesson -- it is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is and it will never leave you alone! Congrats on your owl! I had never noticed the 'Gear,' link, but someone mentioned it in a discussion. I say, why not get an owl when you've earned it?!? : j

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elizabeth261736

    Thanks for the warning! Where is the gear link? I have not found that.

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Duo modestly puts it in small, light type at the bottom of the home page. Please join me in the Order of the Golden Owl (recognizable by our, um, green T-shirts...)

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/richardprevost

    Congratulations. Impressed with those of you who take on two languages at one time.

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    As am I, since I picked a second one up and then put it (carefully, temporarily) down. My Eddie Izzard 'Dressed to Kill' link didn't come through on my post -- but it's easy to find on You Tube.

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Andreas83

    My recommendation is two have them "tiered". So the first language with the most effort, then less effort for the second and even less for the third.

    I like learning multiple languages. It's a challenge though, French and Spanish tend to get mixed up (but I had learned them each up to some point previously, before duolingo). And Swedish, German and Norwegian, though I haven't started the latter two here yet.

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sureican34

    Hi thanks for the post ,it's great! ,i have a long way to go but i am very optimistic that one day, like you and many others i will say i finish my tree ...sweet! ,not only that but i will hopefully have a decent knowledge of the language ,good enough to start a conversation in Frech lol thanks again and congratulations !

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Bonne chance et merci -- I look forward to reading your golden post when you finish!

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sureican34

    sure i will :)

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/daKanga

    Congratulations - it is so good to hear of your journey.
    One day I will make it up to those heady heights of a golden tree. Although I am still quite happy plodding away in the trenches, and trying to deepen and broaden my understanding here, and I keep trying to make those Learning Loom Threads, in the hope that they might also help others climb the tree of knowledge faster - while focusing me on trying to say things simply in my muddled way - so I can understand them to. The tree still looks ever so long - and it is so great to hear that others have succeeded in turning it all golden. And Thank You for encouraging all of us to keep on at it - and aim to the sweet spot of caring enough, but not too much. Your post is ever so well written and inspiring.

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Thank you -- and what a great link, merci! All the best to you and others who, like me, 'take the scenic route' on Duo. : j

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/bigbjohns

    Congrats :)

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lazouave

    Ce texte m'a tellement fait rire... Merci pour ce bon moment! ^^ (et, bien entendu, félicitations =D)

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Merci, Lazouave. (Je me suis amusée un peu pendant je l'écrivais. Enfin!)

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/keishacat

    great post! Eddie Izzard inspires me as well

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RunningFrog

    Good work! Congrats!

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sps1919

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your thoughts !

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/no.name.42

    Thanks, this is one of the better finished tree posts that I've seen.

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Merci! (Et merci pour tous des poissons...) ; j

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/no.name.42

    Thank you, anyone who would make a reference to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in French deserves all the fish they would want ;)

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/luvmybabes

    Congrats! Wear your owl t-shirt proudly! :)

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pieronorfo

    Bravo, i tuoi consigli mi saranno molto utili

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Gratzie!

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Andiamo3

    Thanks for the post. It helps to know that learning and fun can be achieved with patience.

    April 24, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mbpalladino

    Congratulations!! Well said, and great inspiration for me, since I'm about half-way through my French tree. I just found Slow French (no kidding that it's not so slow) and am grateful for these other suggestions too. Also-there's a t-shirt section?? Where is this shop? :D

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    Maybe this is some super-low-key reverse marketing scheme, but I am finding it beyond charming that Duo's merchandise is so hard to find. It's the 'Gear' link at the bottom of the page, to answer your question. Also, it's not that expensive. (And the scheme is working...) ; j

    April 25, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LouTaylor

    Congratulations! Your post made me laugh....especially the bit about the 'colourful massacre' to your golden tree! I had the same thing happen to me as I never start a new lesson until everything behind it is golden and have only just caught up following the improvements! I have only two lessons to learn until I have completed my tree but have had enough for today! :-)

    April 26, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jktsmith

    It only seemed like a foolproof strategy, didn't it? That wily owl... Good luck with your last two lessons when you are ready! : j

    April 26, 2015
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