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Those of you that finished your language lessons are you now conversant in the language?

Say you finished German/French/Ital/Port, are you now able to read newspapers in that language and converse with people who are native speakers?

And would you say your vocabulary is "like a child's" or like an adult's?

Thx in advance!

September 23, 2013



I finished the German skill tree, but I am probably biased as I am Dutch and speak a dialect that is closely related to German as well. However, after finishing duolingo you can read newspapers and other easy articles. For German your vocabulary is more "like a child´s". And based only on duolingo I think you can only have very basic conversations.

However Duolingo gives you a start. And using other resources I have been able to become almost fluent in German in 3 months. I used memrise for vocabulary. I watch German tv, documentaries and I regularly converse with friends in German.


It's actually less than a child's vocabulary. A 5-6 year old child knows 2500-5000 words according to http://www.balancedreading.com/vocabulary.html and if you finish the German duolingo tree you have learned less than 2000 words.

I remember when I knew only 2000 German words. I had problems reading Harry Potter in German. There were too many words I didn't understand. Had I tried reading news, I'd have had the same problem.

Since you're dutch, you can probably survive reading news after having learned only 2000 German words because many German words should look similar to dutch words. Also, becoming fluent in any language after only 3 months is difficult unless you're learning a language that is very similar to a language you already know.


However, when it comes to learning to read newspapers (and most other types of text), the Immersion section of Duolingo provides very good scaffolding. So if you do some translation work parallel to working your way through lessons, you can attain some fairly good reading skills. Or if you want to you can simply use Duolingo's tools as aids while reading uploaded articles without partaking in the translation process.

When it comes to conversation though, Duolingo can really only give a good base to work from. Like Celine, I use Duolingo as only one of many learning sources, and my guess is that that's how most people do it.

As an aside, that also means that the results from the webCAPE tests that Duolingo let some users who finished all the lessons do are misleading, since we users spend more time learning German than what can be seen from our Duolingo data. Besides, people who engage themselves in individual Duolingo studies are bound to be more individually motivated than the average language course student, the populations really can't be assumed to be comparable. So, the whole language grading comparison was IMO used as a cheap marketing trick, though the results are certainly still useful. I hope I don't offend anyone by writing this, on the whole I still like Duolingo :) However, one should not see it as a complete language learning package.


So how did you learn to read after completing Duolingo??


I finished the French tree three months ago, and continue to review every day. Before using Duolingo I had studied French in school (reluctantly) for six years, but I couldn't actually use the language. I'm still working on the German tree so I can't comment on that.

Duolingo provides an excellent foundation to start with, but mainly trains reading/writing ability, so if you want to be able to hold a conversation, you really have to practice it separately. As for reading newspapers, I've found that I'm well equipped structurally, but lacking in more advanced/specifically themed vocabulary.

I'd say my vocabulary is like neither a child's nor an adult's. Maybe a very limited adult-level vocabulary. I don't know many basic words that even a child certainly would (lettuce, shoelace, toaster), but I know more words about economics, science, and so on. Also, there are many words you'd see in the newspaper that might challenge a child are almost the same in English (attaques terroristes, candidature presidentielle) so we understand them easily without ever having studied them in French.


I can say that I have very little trouble communicating on my Spanish minecraft server, but that's reading and writing not speaking. You have to realize that after finishing your tree, you still haven't had very much audio input, which is very important (that's how you learned English!). I highly recommend watching movies, shows, listening to podcasts or music, etc. really, no matter what level you're at. Although, if you're a total beginner, it could be frustrating watching a movie and having no clue what's happening.

Also, your second question is quite vague, but I would say like a "child".


For reading children's books you need more vocab than what you get from the tree here but what you get here is a great start I think.


The average adult has a vocabulary of 20,000 words (not that they use that many much of the time). Duolingo provides just short of 2,000 words...but most of the grammar. If you can practice until those 2,000 words are natural then you have 60-70% of what is used every day...which makes it workable..


Less than 2,000 words actually, especially if you did Spanish, which only has 1571 words.


That's interesting. Mine is stuck on 1571 words but when doing practice there are new words being thrown in that I haven't seen before in Duolingo. But getting them right doesn't add to my word score. I have about 5000 on my cue card list after 3 years Pimsleur and 2 months Duolingo. Still a very worthwhile program.


I completed Pimsleur I and half of Pimsleur II befre staring at Duolingo. Are these 5000 coming from Pimsleur I/II/III and + ? How would you rate them?


Hey, it's off topic but: why have you started with pimsleur, and now you are using duolingo? isn't pimsleur good enough? or do you use both?


I would say that both are good but first of all they're good for different skills (as min, and the second point is that they're good for different situations. I'd tr to explain what I mean. I study Spanish just for fun as a "BTW" activity and usually do it when I have free time. That's basically because I don't have a real reason to study Spanish. It is good for travel, but I don't use it in any day-to-day activities.

Pimsleur: I was heavily using Pimsleur when I was driving to my office alone in the car; it took me around half an hour to go one way; Pimsleur lessons are ~30 minutes long and I could have the same lesson twice during one working day. I was also sometimes listening to lessons at gym. Pimsleur is good for listening/speaking skills. Their approach is not to focus on writing/reading and grammar at all.

Duolingo: I study new topics on the web checking grammar on external resources and reading comments to the lessons. On the other hand I study the material I already learned on Android app. These Duolingo lessons are more "atomic". I don't need to take 30 minutes for that: I can watch my daughter (10 months old) playing on the floor and answer 5 questions, then catch her if she is going to fall down and pass another 5. Also a few while waiting for my wife. So it is kind of background activity and I can get into it and out of it very fast. Duolingo is trying to cover all aspects of language, but on my opinion Pimsleur will give better listening/speaking (but will limit it with less flexibility in building your own sentences)

So probably summary is that they can be used together - I can probably give you more feedback in a year.


The words mostly came from Pimsleur as I have gone through all the lessons three or more times. That's about 90 half-hour lessons times three! But I also look up song lyrics and other words I need to translate from English to Spanish whenever I want. They are all stored in two Cuecard files, one for words, and one file for verbs. Pimsleur stresses that one shouldn't take notes, but I did. Looking back over them is funny as many spellings are wrong. This is where Duolingo has been very helpful, as well as expanding my vocabulary of useful words. I had a look at La Casa Rojas yesterday and that is also helpful in a different way. As for rating them, it depends on the person and how they like to learn. Listening to Pimsleur and repeating is great for multitasking like jogging, driving or sunbaking.


(the same question as for _Stef) Hey, it's off topic but: why have you started with pimsleur, and now you are using duolingo? isn't pimsleur good enough? or do you use both?


(I'm not the person you replied to, but...) They're both 'good' and useful for learning a language, but they target completely different skills. Duolingo focuses on reading/writing, and Pimsleur is for speaking/listening. They can compliment each other rather than competing.


I started using duolingo in late April for German. I'm now living in Germany, and I'm taking formal classes here (started last week!). I think duolingo gave me a pretty good base, and I was able to skip to the A2 level classes. My vocabulary is good enough to understand the basic subject/gist of what someone is talking about, other than that I'm lost. I can understand my teacher though for the most part. And my reading comprehension is pretty good. I just find it hard to speak. I'd say you have to supplement duolingo with other resources if you're aiming for fluency. I find writing a diary in the language you're learning is an easy non-stressful way to get you thinking in that language.


Interesting that you said that. I have started a diary on my page, but I am really doing awful at it, and using a translator for most of my thoughts. I'm hoping it helps.


Have you heard of Lang-8? http://lang-8.com/ It allows you to write diary entries that are then corrected by native speakers, I've used it a fair bit myself though it's been a while since I last logged in now. It is very very useful for improving your language skills and you don't have to worry about teaching yourself erroneous language patterns, you might also make some friends. The community is generally very supportive and kind so have a bit of courage and get writing, it'll be worth it :) Oh, and if you want to practice your pronunciation and switch things up when you get tired of typing, a good dictation program can be a fun and really good tool. If you have an updated Mac you should already have German dictation support included in your install - I don't know what it's like with other OS, but I'm sure you can find some alternatives if you Google. On most Android phones (if you want to write entries while talking a walk for example) you can download German dictation for free, I'm guessing iPhones have that too. Of course, dictation programs get things wrong every so often, but I've been surprised by how well the most updated ones work.

Hope this helps!


cool, I just registered to the lang8 site. Today's entry will be online!


Thanks for the link


I am about 4 or 5 branches away from finishing my Portuguese tree, which has taken me about 8 months as I have steadily studied it, studying nearly every day hoping it might go in better. I already speak Spanish (which I think has helped me a little to understand Portuguese grammar), although my first language is English. I studied a basic Portuguese language course in England a few years ago, but my ability was very limited. I had various holidays in Brazil before starting Duolingo and I was totally unable to have a conversation, understood about 20% of what was said and got very confused.

Three months ago (6 months after starting Duolingo) I moved to Brazil permanently. I can now speak with locals and friends in modest Portuguese about all the everyday topics, my friends are surprised with how much I have improved, I can now understand about 80% of spoken language, although not slang. I feel much more confident and use many words that I have learnt on Duolingo. Ok, I don´t speak fluently and still get confused with the harder grammar, but Duolingo has helped a lot. I now watch TV everyday, read the newspaper, talk to natives, and do everything to push myself to improve. With Duolingo I think I have a child´s (6-7 years old) vocabulary as there are some everyday words that I do not know, but when I come across them I go to my dictionary and learn them.

You do have to supplement Duolingo with other things, and learning the language in the country where it is spoken is a luxury as more supplementary tools can be found, but just like everyone you have to be persistent.


I'm not even close to finishing my tree, but what I can say from many comments i've read these days is that those who could actually finish it and feel like they knew something about the language were the ones who had another resources. Actually, you can't expect to become fluent with only one way of learning. Duolingo has helped me with fixing whatever I learned, vocabulary or structure, specially because here you know when you make a mistake instantly and you can ask whatever it is that you don't understand. So, Duolingo is awesome, but you have to search for resources that match your likings for deeper knowledge in the language :)


I have finished the German. I try reading German magazines and web sites almost every day. I find that my vocabulary is just not big enough. For almost every sentence I have to look up at least one word in a dictionary.


it's the same for me. i understand the lyrics better, but i have a looong way to go... :/


Who also finds themselves making up sentences in Spanish (or whatever they are learning) when doing everyday things?


Yeah and it keeps me awake at night too!


This is good for practicing different tenses when starting out, there is no way you will be at an adult level after completing the tree. The immersion section can help you learn extra vocab but I'm not sure if it will help you become conversational.


like a child´s.


Finished the Spanish tree in just over a month, it helps bring me up to about 3 or 4 year old child's level. Also done a few years of Pimsleur, but when talking with native speakers it is still very hard as they speak so quickly! Especially on SBS news. Also when conversing with locals in Ecuador, they use shortcuts and local words and can slur their diction compared to school lessons. Lot of fun learning though.


do anyone have any suggestions food a spanish language podcast or something along those lines for further immersion?


Check out La Casa Rojas Spanish Podcasts http://lacasarojas.com/. Luis is from Peru and he speaks quite clearly and at not too fast a pace. His podcasts are very interesting and often topical or cultural in nature not the usual ''let's pretend we're in a restaurant' type topics. I've been a La Casa Rojas subscriber for a couple of years and find it a great adjunct to my language learning. I think it's worth checking out the free content especially if you're past the beginner phase. Their content is top notch! The podcasts may also be available (no transcripts) for free on iTunes as well.


Thanks for that. A little fast but not too fast. Bookmarked!


I'm enjoying this thread. It's nice to know where my fluency will be at.


I can have a conversation in German regarding almost any topic and I can understand newspaper articles without looking up words, but my skills aren't derived from Duolingo alone, and I still wouldn't call myself "fluent". My listening comprension hovers between 80 to 95 percent, depending the accent of the person speaking. I know all the words I need to know to express myself, but I don't necessarily know all synonyms for each word. Regarding complex subjects, I still speak somewhat haltingly. I still often use the wrong genders and prepositions.

I only have four branches left in my Spanish tree, and I'm still pretty useless with respect to speaking it.

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