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Duolingo led me to make a speech at the Académie des Sciences

TL;DR : Starting from zero, studying French with Duolingo for 1.5 years without buying any textbook nor attending any course, yet I could give a speech in French at the most formal place for a scientist.

Until the end of 2013, I had never ever learned French. All I knew about the language was the words "bon-juu-ru (bonjour)", "ran-de-buu (rendez-vous)" and "ann, doo, torowa (un, deux, trois)" in a very bad Japanese pronunciation. Then by chance, in a totally unexpected way, I was given the opportunity to go to France to study.

I didn't even have the time to choose a textbook before leaving Japan, my home country. Though I was only expected to use English in my research team, it was evident that I'd have to study French. I was very nervous, because I had a traumatic experience with language in the past - when I was a university student I selected German as my second foreign language, but was so bad at it that I had to spend an extra year. My English ability comes from the fortunate fact that I spent four years overseas in my childhood, but it also meant that I didn't have the opportunity to learn actively how to speak in another language.

One of the very few things I could do before coming to France in January 2014 was to find some easy and free learning tool - which was Duolingo.

A year and a half later, which was yesterday, I was in the grande salle (great hall) of l'Académie des Sciences (the French Academy of Sciences, formerly the Royal Academy of Sciences, founded in 1666!).

Grande Salle de l'Académie des Sciences

...giving a speech on a topic related to my studies. A very short one, just 10 minutes, but entirely in French. And I wasn't reading something that someone translated for me; I wrote the speech by myself (though of course, my professors had to correct many, many mistakes).

Giving a speech in French

Now that was quite an experience, quite a leap in 1.5 years. I didn't buy a textbook and I didn't attend any language course. ...Well, to be accurate I did attend the first 2 hours of a French course provided by my university, but I dropped out (again!) because the course was too advanced.

More than half of the time I spent for my study was on Duolingo. It was fun at the beginning but after some months I got stuck somewhere around the lessons "Question 1" and "Numbers"... I couldn't advance a single lesson but just kept on regilding the earlier lessons.

Meanwhile I found a French course podcast provided for free by a Japanese university and decided to work on it seriously.

Quite seriously.

Quite seriously.

This enabled me to go on further - and found that Duolingo was really ideal for making my new knowledge firm. I also found the discussions very helpful, and I would like to thank everyone who was giving great advices, especially Sitesurf. I can't count the number of times her comments enlightened me out of darkness. I was looking for a chance to say merci beaucoup, but when could be a better chance than now?! I was greatly influenced by her and began helping people in the "English from Japanese" course, and actually I became a course moderator later! Merci beaucoup, Sitesurf!

After a year of studying, I was beginning to be able to grasp a very little bit from a French speech, and speak something very elemental. My professors seemed to overestimate my progress, and in March suggested me to be one of the speakers of a joint lecture. I didn't watch before leaping, and since then I worked desperately, writing every single word of the 10 minute speech by myself.

An infinite number of corrections were made, but still I can proudly say that they were my words; my professors commented that I wrote sentences with advanced grammatical elements, though I didn't go outside what I had learned in Duolingo. And it is important that I could easily understand whatever corrections were made, thanks to all that knowledge that Duolingo had packed into my head. With a perfect grasp of the structure of my sentences, I could do my best to convey them to the audience in an understandable manner. I am proud that everyone commented that my words were articulate enough from the French perspective.

Though my episode is a result of quite a few miracles, I can say for sure that there is no trick in my learning itself; surely I'm a slow learner and anyone really serious could easily advance quicker than I. Thus I'd like to encourage every French learner that "you can do it!". There were moments of hardship, depression and demotivation during the year and half, but it was Duolingo that kept me on the path every day - the path that led me to l'Académie des Sciences, and the path that I'll keep marching on.

June 17, 2015



I am so proud of you!

You say 'miracles', and I decipher: hard work, dedication, open-mindedness, ownership...

I wish I were there, at the Académie des Sciences, and give you not only an attentive ear, but also a vigorous handshake...

Bonne chance pour la suite !


Sitesurf, We all owe you a big Thanks for helping us so much. Merci beaucoup!


Just kidding. I bold-italicized '[deleted]'


How kind of you! I feel the biggest miracle of all was that I found Duolingo together with its great community and you.

Perhaps the next goal for me is to keep on with my effort so that I have another opportunity to speak, this time in your presence - but for now I am happy that you were attentive to my comment and would like to ask for a virtual handshake!


おめでとう!Thank you for sharing this story with us. I hope you don't mind my tweeting it. :D


ありがとう! Of course I'm happy with your tweeting!


Formidable !

Thank you for sharing the story of your language learning and your eventual triumph with us Kippis. And lovely to hear of your inspiration from Sitesurf; she is truly a model of selfless service.

What was the speech on? Sanskrit? Can you share a copy with us?



The program of the whole session is available online as a pdf, and you can find my name (Sho Hirose) as one of the speakers. As for the content, my part was on gnomons (the pointer of a sundial that casts shadows) described in Sanskrit astronomical treatises and mathematical procedures used for solving problems related to the gnomon. Since we were offered to make some publications out of the talk, forgive me for refraining from providing a copy.


This is probably the biggest achievement any Duolinguist has ever accomplished. Congratulations!!!


Thanks! Honestly I'm not 100% satisfied with the quality of my talk - That's one small step for a duolinguist, one giant leap for Duolingo.


Aprés seulement un an et demi passé a étudier la langue française obtenir de tels résultats m'impressionne, un exemple á suivre ,félicitations.


Merci, c'est gentil !


I was about to ask you your secret and this post comes in handy.

<h1>Big congrats</h1>


You still don't know my core secrets...


<h1>Big thanks</h1>


A huge congratulation to you! This is the reason why I am on Duolingo: We have a strong community that shares their stories and prove that what we're learning actually works!


Thank you very much! I believe that my current ability of French is something that everyone could attain, and I was just fortunate that I had the opportunity to demonstrate it in an extremely dramatic way!


What a great story! I always wondered if one day I could be able to give a scientific lecture in any of these languages I am learning. You made it true! Honestly I have never tried to read an article in French but you inspired me to give it a try :) Congratulations and bonne chance :)


I also have an important research article in French that I must read for my study, but have always been shy about doing it. In that sense we could say we're on the same line - so let us do it! Let's open a new page.


Yes! To the French articles! P.S: Next time, I will not skip French articles in my search results :))

[deactivated user]

    Félicitations! Quel accomplissement! C'est un beau témoignage envers l'efficacité de l'apprentissage d'une langue avec Duolingo. J'espère un jour pouvoir faire la même chose en allemand. Merci pour ton témoignage. Je te souhaite une excellente journée,


    Merci FreedomWind ! Oui, Duolingo m'a donné du courage. Donc j'ai retrouvé mon vieil ami allemand ici, et cette fois-ci, je vais surmonter ma faiblesse !


    Thank you for sharing your truly extraordinary story! I joined Duo 99 days ago and having finished my tree on the 45th day, I continue to keep my bars golden daily. Memrise is another free program which I find very helpful and I also use the pay-for Babbel. Overall, Duo, with all of it's wonderful feedback, has kept me the most motivated especially when people like you share such fabulous stories. My goals are nowhere as lofty as yours (especially since I can't bear public speaking even in my own tongue) but I do hope to spend an extended period of time in France next summer. To understand and be understood while continuing to learn is my dream. Thank you again and best of luck to you as you move forward.


    Thank you too. It took me almost a year to finish my French tree, and I believe you're far advanced than I am. The summer here is indeed pleasant. However last year I hesitated to go out for fear of having to speak French outside. This year it's double the pleasure to go out : the weather is so nice, and my heart is cloudless because I'm no longer afraid of being involved in a French conversation!


    おめでとう!よくできました。(I hope I didn't messed anything, my Japanese is still in beginner's phase ).

    सुस्वागतम् भोः , अभिवादनम्। सौभाग्यमस्तु सर्वदा। : ) welcome and congratulation. Good Luck . (I can't translate last sentence exactly, its charm gets lost in English. )

    P.S. You have a beautiful handwriting. : ) あなたの手書 きはとても美しいですよ。


    ありがとう! धन्यवादः सखे।

    However you might want to know that I'm known as one of the worst scribes among my friends in Japan!


    I don't see what's that bad about it. At least it's readable :P

    My notes are almost always illegible.


    Your story moved me! I am way more motivated on my journey now! I gave you a lingot because of your great success!

    Thanks! So inspirational (:


    I have been inspired by so many people during my course, and it's such a pleasure that I could be one of them! Thank you, and I believe you'll be inspiring others in the future.


    Wow, That is so amazing and motivating. Heartiest congratulations Kippis and wish you all the best in your future learning goals.


    Thanks so much, I indeed have many language goals I wish to reach in the future - I can't believe I hated language learning so much in the past.


    Congratulations on your incredible accomplishments! Thanks so much for writing about it and sharing your very inspiring story.


    Thank you too, I'm happy if my story had given positive effects upon you.


    Congratulations! By the way, where did you find that cute stuffed Duo?


    Thanks! I got him when I participated in the Duolingo incubator summit held in Berlin this April.


    Do they sell them anywhere?


    Congratulations! How exciting! It's really nice to see stories of the impact Duolingo has had on others' lives, and this is certainly one of the best!


    Wow! you really Warmed up my heart! Thank you for sharing your great story! and this is my first time i give a Lingot! Have it!


    Thanks for your jewel of heart!


    I'm quite glad to see Japanese people working on Duolingo to learn other languages. I'm an American Japanese person studying on Duolingo and haven't seen many other Japanese speakers. Glad to know some of us are out there. おめでとう。


    Wow! What an amazing and pleasent story. Thanks for sharing!


    Bon travail ! Thank you for sharing your story. It encourages me to keep up with my language learning. Right now, I'm going through some hard times with my languages, but this really enlightens me. I truly enjoyed reading your story!


    Congratulations! And thanks for sharing!


    I find this post to be absolutely incredible... Not only did you learn French and speak at this amazing event, but you learned English and wrote this entire post with fewer errors (like none) than people I have graduated college with. I admire your hard work sir.


    perfect you are amazing >> can you tell me how many time i need to speak french very well if i study 2 levels in a day !!


    Thanks for sharing your story. What an encouragement it is! It sounds like you have worked very hard and deserve all the credit you can get. Thanks again for sharing!


    This is amazing! Congrats :)


    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. What makes it even more inspirational for me is that not only have you achieved to speak publicly, but on a specialist subject with its own language too. I work in a specialist health related area and would love to speak about my work in my target language of Spanish and you have made me think that one day (with hard work like you), I will. THANK YOU once again.


    Well done, this is a great Duo success story!


    Sincere congratulations for your achivement and a big thanks for sharing such a story! Reading stories like this is what gives the rest of us inspiration for our lessons!

    P.S.: I also studied german-and I had the same experience as you did. But I believe the main problem was that the teacher progressed too fast as well as pointing towards fluency and perfection instead of towards the basics. This is what is so great about duolingo-you go step by step and you carve your own way of learning.


    A very impressive and motivational story for all of us language learners! Felicitations!


    Congrats! Ur story is very long! ;)


    Kippisさんがどうして日英のフォーラムに驚くほどの投稿をされているのかの一種の疑問でしたが、こういう恩送り(pay it forward)的な側面というか経緯があったのですね。

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