Yes, I Am A Penguin: 100 Days of Duolingo
I hope this story is useful to those of you who recently joined and may be feeling overwhelmed. In 100 days I went from "Tú bebes agua" to "Nosotros habríamos utilizado el coche de mis padres" - from Basics 1 to Verbs: Conditional Perfect and Level 1 to Level 14.
As I worked my way up the tree, I strived hard to keep it all golden. After I got about 2/3 of the way through, however, I was spending a lot of time keeping the tree golden and my progress slowed. The lessons grew more difficult, too. Duolingo became a bit of a grind.
I decided to slow down and simply enjoy the process of learning Spanish. I dialed back my daily goal to just 1 point per day. Following the advice from the Duolingo Discussions, I also branched out from Duolingo. I found some A2-level Spanish books for adult learners and began reading them. I started reading PrensaLibre and El Pais online at their sites and on Twitter. Getting involved with people and their stories made learning Spanish more "real" and less of a game. I postponed keeping my tree golden and focused on completing new lessons.
I tried other suggestions from the community, too. I experimented with Immersion and began watching Spanish language programming for students on YouTube. I listened to Spanish language CDs and podcasts while commuting to work. I started learning basic Spanish grammar and found many helpful resources thanks to the Duolingo community.
Then, about ten days ago, I noticed that I had about a dozen lessons left, and I was close to a 100 day streak. I set a new goal to finish the tree in 100 days and just powered through it - and suddenly I was done!
What really helped:
A2-level language books for adult readers
Learning Spanish grammar
Setting up my computer and e-reader with Spanish dictionaries (for instant lookup while reading)
Linguee.com (for examples of usage)
What I should have waited to do until I finished my tree:
Reverse tree (Spanish-English, much harder than English-Spanish)
What didn't help:
Spanish language books for children
Flash cards (I don't memorize well)
What I wish I had more of:
Native Spanish speakers. I know there are many online sources, but I'm not comfortable speaking with strangers online. My friends want to learn French :(
Now that I've completed my tree, I have enough confidence to visit a local Spanish language meetup. Completing the tree was nice, but what I feel that I've really gained is a new view of the world and a new confidence to continue studying the Spanish language and the many cultures that use it.
I feel you 1000% on the golden stuff. I to realize I don't memorize well and that its just best to go along with the lessons . At least for me, because it was slowing me down otherwise. I go back occasionally but I'm starting to just go with the flow . Reading and listening to different Brazilian Portuguese things on YouTube . It's still a struggle for me being as though it's only been like 60 days lol but I'm trying . It's the talking in convo that I can't do
I'm glad it was helpful for you. Reading the posts of other Duolingo users has helped me to keep going, too.
What are some of the A2-level language books for adult readers? How did you find them? Do you just search for "A2-level language books for adult readers" on Amazon?
Thanks! If you search for "a2 spanish" at Amazon, you'll get a list of books such as "Laura no está" and others. I got this tip from another Duolingo member.
Thanks. I never even thought of looking for anything other than 'beginner spanish,' I didn't know they had different levels for books.
Congratulations! I have just passed the 100 day mark too (106 days), but still haven't completed my tree. I got to a point where I also thought I would power through the rest of the tree. However I came across a few hard lessons (plus got distracted with Esperanto) and decided instead to take it slow. I am up to the "medical" lesson so still have a way to go. Thanks for the tips. I've been tempted to try out the reverse tree, but I'll take your advise and wait until I have finished. Also thanks for the book recommendations. All the books that I have looked at so far have been a little too advanced, but these look really good. Besides going to Spanish meet-ups, what are your plans for continuing to improve your Spanish (classes, other websites? etc)... are you going to stay and keep you tree gold and do immersion? ¡buena suerte!
I've seen recommendations for other web sites on Duolingo that I will try out. My wife and I are thinking of hiring a Spanish tutor to give us 1-on-1 lessons. We're planning return trips to Central America in the next few years. I'll certainly continue to use this site because I like the community and I learn a lot from the other people. Good luck and keep at it!
Hello to you, too! I haven't had the chance to attend a meetup - I have to finish my summer graduate class first. I would welcome any success stories you (or others) have with language-oriented meetups.
I do have some but they kind of all meld into one and they're all related to Sign Language. I'm certified in American Sign Language and as part of my classes, I had to attend deaf events and suppers. My first one I was kind of scared because there were d/Deaf people there and I didn't want to make a fool of myself. But I thought "Well, I'm here to learn Sign Language, I'm going to start a comversation with a d/Deaf person!" so I did and over time I got better at it. I even met an Interpreter at one supper so since I had to do a report on what it was like to interpret, I talked to them about their job and it just so happens they interpret for a local elementary school, which is what I do (I teach in a different town though). I was team-taught by a husband and wife and the husband was deaf while she was hearing. At the same time I got certified, I was going for my Bachelor's degree and was in a speech and language class and one of the topics we had to talk about was hearing loss. The professor knew I was getting certified in ASL, so I was forbidden from answering questions posed by the professor but any questions posed by the students, I had to answer if the professor didn't know the answer. We had to write a paper on accomodations that can be made for a deaf child, so I asked my ASL professor if he would help me out, and I got an A on the paper!
Most recently though, a few months back I was having lunch with my dad and niece (who will be 3 years old in August and who I taught some signs to). My dad saw a couple of ladies behind us using ASL so my dad turned to me and said "here's your chance to use your ASL". I turned around, introduced myself and we signed for 45 min.! I was happy I got to use my ASL skills and they were happy that a hearing person knew ASL! It made their day and mine!
Wow, that speech and language class was an intense experience! Kudos to you for taking that on!
Thanks! My professor asked the class one day if Sign Language was actually a language even though it isn't a verbal language with vocabulary based in English. The professor even told me I wasn't allowed to answer it. So when one of my classmates answered no, I almost fell out of my chair! The professor even agreed with me saying that a language is any form of communication that has it's own pragmatics (grammar) and syntax (vocabulary). She is right: Sign Language has it's own grammar (the sentence order and non manual signals, also known as NMS) and vocabulary (the signs).
Hola tbrzl565 - Congratulations on your accomplishment! Two ways that I have increased my opportunities to chat with native speakers are: 1) taking a part-time job where there are several employees who are from Mexico, & 2) teaching a very informal (free) English as a Second Language class. I don't know where you live, but if you have native speakers in your area, these may be options. I have found nearly all native Spanish speakers to be happy to help me learn more Spanish, as I help them w/ their English. Buena suerte.
I hadn't thought of actually teaching or tutoring ESL. I don't think I'm quite ready for that :-) but that is a very creative idea!
Congrats! In regards to native speakers, there's a really helpful app I've been using called HelloTalk... I know you said you don't like talking to strangers, but it's easy to make friends there! It's really really helpful, and you're connected to others who also want to learn your language (I'm assuming English is your first language!), so it's nice to have a mutual help thing going on. Lots of tools also help with pronunciation and translation... it even has a transliterator! Definitely worth checking out, if you can.