Is it truly effective to finish a language tree within less than a month?

Hi everyone,

In the past 2 month, I wrote an article under a title called "I've just finished the German tree within a MONTH!!!!". It was an extremely exciting time since I had the feeling I learnt much during a relatively short time span.

Then, after fighting with German conversations the same way I did with the tree, I found out that my obtained duolingo skills aren't flexible. So how much is duolingo learning effective for starters? And what is its relativity to time and speed?

I would most likely appreciate comments from fast language learners, especially the ones who finished the tree in record speeds.

Thank you

May 28, 2015


I don't think it is effective to lean on Duolingo only. I learn German and I reached the eight level on this site. But I know much more about the grammar rules, vocabulary and conversational phrases due to the fact that I consider Duolingo only as a helping resource and not the main one. Mainly, I learn from the textbooks, and sometimes I follow lessons on Youtube, simply to complete the visual learning with the auditive one. When I use Duolingo, I always have a notebook and a ball-point pen, simply because I don't think they can be replaced by a monitor and a keyboard only. This site is good for enriching vocabulary and practicing.

May 28, 2015

There's some research indicating that about 35 hours of Duolingo is roughly equivalent to the first semester of a university level language course, but a semester's university language course is not enough to get a foundation in a foreign language. Still, that makes Duolingo pretty efficient, and there's a lot to be said for getting basic vocabulary and grammar in the equivalent of a single working week (as opposed to three or four months), but it would be absurd to believe you could become fluent this way.

For some perspective, the US Foreign Service language training program suggests that a relatively easy language easy (for Anglophones, like Spanish, French or Dutch) would take about 600 hours of study to achieve a reasonable level of fluency. A slightly more difficult language like German is closer to 800. Japanese or Arabic is something like 1600-2200.

May 28, 2015

In order to really internalize the lessons in Duo you need to repeat at intervals (hence the decaying of skills). This is actually true for anything you learn - lots of practice at intervals makes you better.

May 28, 2015

I think working your way through the tree quickly is very effective if you also plan to continue to review the material you already learned, and also branch out into other things. But just because you finished the tree doesn't mean you've finished learning your target language by any stretch.

Duolingo covers some of the most important words and grammar, but it's still just a beginners course. If you completely master the material they cover, then you're just going to have a strong grasp of the basics. That's not a bad thing! You need a strong grasp of the basics in order to move on to other things.

The thing about language learning is that there's a lot more to it than just grammar and vocabulary, and a lot of it is stuff that just can't be taught in a course. Learning how to tell jokes, for instance, or flirt, or be a nerd, or tease, or argue. These are things that you'll mostly learn by interacting with other people, though you might be able to get a little bit of it from TV or reading fiction.

Duolingo is a good first step - it gives you just enough of a foundation that you can start interacting with native language materials without being totally lost. Granted, some things will be easier than others - newspapers, movies that you can watch over and over, materials that were originally created for children - those are probably easier places to start than, say, academic physics journals, or reality TV shows.

May 28, 2015

I agree. I finished my Spanish tree just now, and plan on going back and reviewing non-gold lessons every day or so, just so the words don't slip from my memory! That and watching movies/cartoons in Spanish, and reading Spanish articles and books from the library or online will help me to advance in Spanish. This also goes for anyone learning any language. Practice, practice, practice! ;)

May 28, 2015

Duolingo is not a stand alone vehicle for learning a language. I have spoken to people from all over the world, and some seem to agree that you do need to know some level of a language before starting Duolingo. Everyone learns languages at different rates. Some languages are easier depending on what your native, adopted or home language is. Speed is not as important as how well you are learning and how deeply you master a language.

May 28, 2015

I learned spanish through Duolingo but not only by Duolingo. I had to keep notes, search for grammar rules, dictionary, verb conjugator and a dear friend to practise to.

May 28, 2015

With some of the members here this has become a competition as well as a learning process.

AlexisLinguist finished a new tree in 55 hours and a reverse tree in an hour.

I have just completed the Italian tree in eleven days. My Mod friend ceaer and I competed to complete a tree in two foreign languages (no English). Portuguese from Spanish. ceaer took four days and I battled in two days later to get the tree.

But I cannot remember any of these lessons at all!

May 28, 2015

I think people underrate how much dedicated study of grammar can turbocharge your acquisition of a language.

May 31, 2015

Grammar study can help as long as you don't get too hung up on "correctness"when you actually start hearing people speak. Focusing on it too much, though, can really impede your ability to speak the language - by the time you come up with the correct form of a verb in your head someone else has answered the question or the conversation has switched to English or has moved on to an entirely different topic.

May 31, 2015

DuoLingo teaches you useful things, but it's only through practicing conversation that your previous lessons will start to be of use to you. At some point, it will just click.

Of course, there is no substitute for conversation. It is the most important aspect of language learning.

May 28, 2015

I spent between 5 and 6 months on my Portuguese tree, and I've put about 4 months into my (reverse) Romanian tree. I only let myself proceed to a new unit, or a new lesson within a unit, if I've first regilded my entire tree. I figure that keeping it gold is the way to get the most out of it.

May 29, 2015

If you do the tree within a month you can actually notice all the great work duolingo did for you. Differently from learning a language a language through other conservative manners. That being said I would only suggest learning the tree that fast if you are serious with the language and you need. You are not learning it for fun but you need it for daily communication or work. It would be great if you kept on practicing weak skills because that will help you remember it more and develop a bigger vocabulary. It would be great if you watched German movies with Enlish subtitles on youtube. Always try to read the translation of the subtitle first before the actors speak it because that way it does miracles in your listening skills. I think duolingo is defficent in listening so there you have a great way to develop your listening skills. After you have finished a lot of movies you can emerge in conversations with natives and you are done, you learned a language.

May 29, 2015

Absolutely it is. Finishing your language tree and not using any other resources won't even get you to A2, why wouldn't you want to do it in a month? Well done. Keep it up!

Duolingo is one very limited resource for learning a language. It's great to supplement proper courses and textbooks.

May 30, 2015

I don't count myself as a fast language learner, only a persistent one. However, I think my advice would apply to all language learners. Try to learn a language from as many sources and methods as possible. Duolingo is a great resource. Combining it with language textbooks, readers, Internet resources, and real world conversation (if it is available) only increases its value. One method reinforces the others. Real world conversation, of course, is very helpful and it is perhaps the top reason people learn a language in the first place - to communicate with other people.

June 1, 2015
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