How far has Duolingo gotten you?
I'm curious, English is my 1st and only language. I just started the duolingo (Spanish) and it seems awesome, no complaints at all. But realistically, I wonder, anyone who has progressed all the way through the program, how do you feel about your new capabilities? What level of fluency are you at (or not)?
Duolingo motivated me to learn French (I'd never had any thoughts of it before I came here).
I became so interested that I passed the whole French tree in three months and also found a bunch of other resources to learn grammar, check pronunciation and practice writing and listening. That said, my experience is not exactly pure Duolingo, but it was always the backbone of my studies and the main motivator.
I began to read books after 2 months from the start of learning, and after about half a year or a little more I re-read "Le comte de Monte-Cristo" in French. Of course, that was with a dictionary.
At the end of the tree, you will know all the basic grammar (tenses, conjugations, genders and so on) and have the vocabulary about 1500-2000 words. This is fine for reading and understanding quite a lot without a dictionary. If your goal is talking, you may want to practice it with native speakers to become really fluent. Listening to fluent speech will also require additional practice, but the foundation you set with Duolingo will give you a good start.
Personally, Duolingo was an eye opener for me. I realized I could grasp the basics of a new European language in quite a short time while having a lot of fun.
I started using Duolingo about 8 or 9 months ago with absolutely no knowledge of Spanish or French, and since then I have finished my Spanish tree and started my French tree. Honestly speaking, if you think the first little bit of the Spanish tree is awesome, you'll think the rest of it is awesome too.
As for me, Duolingo has given me a relatively fluent knowledge of Spanish, and I can (and have) had complex conversations in Spanish without much difficulty. With French, I just started it a couple days ago, and I already feel like I could have a basic (and short) conversation with someone in French.
It can be challenging at times, but if you stick with it, you'll be speaking Spanish before you know it. :)
I'm feeling a lot more confident in my french. I wouldn't know how to rate myself in terms of fluency (I'm definitely not fluent), however I feel much more confident in speaking and constructing sentences, putting complex ideas together, and my ability to read french has drastically improved. I had studied french a little before finding Duolingo, but never formally or in a classroom setting (I used to only date Eurotrash, but now I'm over it). I feel like if I went to France today, I could check into my hotel, order a nice meal, and make a new friend with the skills I've gotten so far.
I've tried other language learning systems too, but never for very long. Berlitz is just god-awful. Pimsleur is pretty good, but is designed only for conversation and that limits its effectiveness because you learn literally 0% of written french, and that is not conducive to committing language skills to long-term memory. I tried Buusu for a bit too, but that got old real fast, and the lessons were woefully boring. Now let me say I love Duolingo. I'm practicing, it's working, and before long I'll probably end up with another trashy Frenchman... oh wait. Well, c'est la vie.
Really well in fact, I'm native bilingual on spanish and english, and while I've spoken these two with great ease (well, no duh) throughout my life, I've never been quite good at picking up new languages, I did start learning french last June on a month-long trip to Québec and I got basic knowledge of the language, when I came back I picked up duolingo and in little less than a month after starting the french tree I've finished it and oh boy I couldn't be happier with the level of fluency I've acquired, now, Duolingo has only gave me the bases and the knowledge about french but the fluency came by practicing, talking with friends, doing the immersion here, listening to youtube videos (Cyprien and Norman Fait des Vidéos are excellent for example) Currently I'm at a B2 level of french.