How fluent will I get using Duolingo? What I learned in 100,000 XP :)
I broke the 100,000 XP mark in Duolingo today (almost entirely in Spanish for English Speakers and the "reverse" tree -- English for Spanish Speakers). For what it's worth, XP really doesn't say much other than that I have put a decent amount of time into this.
I see people just getting started who all seem to ask one question that I though I would address here:
HOW FLUENT WILL I GET USING DUOLINGO?!!!
It really depends on how much you put into it. I honestly think that the "goals" that are preset (10-50 points per day) are a bit low. I needed to be spending around 30 minutes everyday to really make any progress. I finished my tree, drilled the exercises until at least 95% of the time I can do the sentences without really having to "think" about them (timed practice is great once things start to really feel "easy")! Then I have utilized the "immersion" feature quite heavily.
With all that, I can comfortably read BASIC Spanish. Duolingo teaches you all the basic grammatical structures, if you are trying to study in a particular field (biology, economics, whatever) you still need to learn the specialized vocabulary pertaining to that field. Duolingo also lacks a lot of idiomatic usages that you will encounter reading more advanced texts. Then for speaking and listening comprehension you will need to look outside of Duolingo entirely. You can get some experience writing in Spanish by using the "reverse" course's immersion function (of course, it is SIGNIFICANTLY HARDER translating INTO rather than FROM your target language to your native language).
Where I still need work:
-Nuanced grammatical differences; exactly when to use subjunctive, which past tense to use in a particular situation, exactly when to use certain prepositions; duolingo gives you some basic guidance, but to really perfect the finer points you will probably benefit from extra studying outside of duolingo.
-Perfect verb conjugation: at first I thought Duolingo was weak here, but after drilling a lot you realize they actually do eventually expose you to a lot of the basics. Now I'm studying 501 Spanish verbs and even "new" stuff I seem to have a better intuition to how it "should" be conjugated, just from all the drilling. But, you still need outside work to get really handle verbs beyond a basic level.
-Vocabulary. Duolingo makes no claim to be complete here. They give you a very basic amount (and maybe some more exposure in the Immersion section) but at some point you will have to find another source to keep growing on this front.
-Listening comprehension. Duolingo is pretty lame in this category. I don't think they pretend to be great, but you really realize how bad it is when you do the reverse tree. Some of the sentences IN ENGLISH did not seem particularly well annunciated etc... so I can only assume the same goes for the sentences they feed us in Spanish. I have been watching Spanish TV shows and listening to the radio; that has been far more helpful for me.
-"thinking" in Spanish. Duolingo gets you very good at translating your target language into your primary language. But once you try the reverse course's immersion, you realize how much harder it is moving in the other direction! It's been slowly improving with time, but I wish I had started the reverse course sooner!
-Speaking! I find that even with all this Spanish "in my head" I almost have to re-learn everything with the pressure/speed required to speak the language in "real time". You have to find actual Spanish speakers to practice with, no substitutes here! With about a year of Duolingo (and probably about 100 hours of watching shows/ films/ listening to the radio, etc. (and previous background in Spanish, albeit about 15 years ago) I can make myself understood in Spanish and can understand when people reply slowly and clearly (sometimes having to re-phrase things for me in more simple Spanish). My Spanish is by no means "fluent" but it gets the job done for now!!!
Remember the law of diminishing returns applies, it's quite easy to acquire the most rudimentary levels of a language, but each extra level that you want to achieve will take exponentially more time and effort!!!
Thanks! A very useful assessment I think. Although I found myself tensing up each time you said Duolingo was weak in something. Not because it is not, but because I think Duolingo does the best job of anyone on the basics and does not pretend to get into extending beyond those. I had finished my Spanish from English tree once, but have not gone to the reverse because I am still drilling. Until I can get these 98-99% of the time, they really aren't much help to me. My fault if I don't, not Duolingos. And, I am totally aware I will have to go outside Duolingo to get more listening, speaking, reading and writing. Unless I want to converse with penguins and ducks. By the way, I really like that aspect. I am extremely pleased that Duolingo does the part it does cover so well. I need this. And, I am picking up the ability to guess conjugations. My Spanish is not where yours is, I expect, but actually suprises my spanish-speaking friends who are amazed when I know words and get a tense right. I can tell I am on the right track. I just need to stay with Duolingo and use it for all it is worth (maybe another 80,000 XP), keep up with the Duolingo immersion (translating) and not forget that in every area I will need to expand if not 3-4 times further than Duolingo but 8-12 times further than Duolingo. Still, I guess I don't see Duolingo as weak in those areas, just as a very strong foundation, like a good prep school. After Duolingo it is up to me how far I take what it has given me. Thanks for what you say. It should help a lot of folk. And thanks, again, Duolingo. I am so pleased with my progress and yet you still have so much more for me. Thanks so much!
I know what you mean (re: calling duo in any way weak) -- it almost feels like blasphemy!!! I love, love, love duolingo and it's definitely the best program available by leaps and bounds. I just want to encourage people to work on adding outside resources. I highly recommend you start a reverse tree (keep working on the original as well). There is a lot of overlap and they will reinforce each other! After struggling with English to Spanish translating (immersion) I can fly through Spanish to English translation most of the time now! Have fun on your journey :-)
I agree with most of your points.
1) If you are serious about really learning a language you need to put multiple tools into use and there is no substitute to time in it. There are people that say they have been learning a language for several years but with perhaps 1 or 2 hours a week and no other work besides the classroom they are enrolled. If you spend 1/2hr every day for 6months here at Duolingo, you can potentially acquire more language than those students.
2) Doing drills everyday works and I prefer doing timed drills until I can get all 20 questions right (and I have to do this for both normal and reverse trees) and then if I switch to non-timed mode for strengthening units containing weak words (from the words list)
3) I too augment the drill work with other study outside of Duolingo. I do listen to Spanish Radio/TV/Podcast around 30+ minutes every day. Listening is a great way to fill the daily commute time with something useful. In fact, I started my journey doing exactly this before I even discovered Duolingo. This way my brain gets used to recognize frequently used patterns of speech. Some people like to do this using songs that can be understood. Whatever works for you.
4) I have done MOOC courses outside of Duolingo (such as Coursera, MiriadaX platforms). Some of them were targeted to early upper basic/early intermediate students but others were for Advanced Students (C1-C2) and natives and they were rather challenging for me but I succeeded. I have benefited from each one of them in some way. I have also done other courses where the purpose is not to teach Spanish (or any other linguistic purpose) but teach some other topic that may be of interest to you in Spanish. You knock two birds with one stone this way.
5) I try to enhance vocabulary acquisition through MemRise and another app (Vocabulario) on my phone. For Spanish, you need to boost the vocabulary level to around 5000 to have sufficient coverage for everyday topics and when you do get some unknown words you will be able to guess them from context.
6) Upon realizing that I was not particularly good with verb conjugations, I bought a verb drills book and finished all the exercises in it. I have another app on my phone for drilling verb conjugations. I used it some and home to use more later again when I have more time. Similarly, you eventually need to acquire some more grammar. I do have a few grammar books in possession and consult them all the time. I am determined to be proficient in subjunctive and I have 3 books in Subjunctive and I am making a post almost every day on subjunctive regarding what I have learned.
7) Having access to someone to talk to helps a lot and in fact, at some point it will be necessary for you to advance. But without sufficient acquisition of other aspects of the language first it will lead to frustration and disappointment unless your speaking partner is a language teacher who is getting paid to do that and is trained to restrict the spoken language to your level. Work on listening, vocabulary, grammar and writing to a certain level first. Your average speaking partners will also appreciate that as well and will not feel awkward.
" . . . and then if I switch to non-timed mode for strengthening units containing weak words (from the words list)"
I'd like to do this too, but how do you find the lessons for weak words?
When you click on the word, it brings info on the word regarding which unit it appeared. Find the unit on your tree and then find the word (or a variation of it) on the sub-unit and work on it.
I have to disagree with you. Duolingo gives you more than "basic knowledge", maybe an intermediate level. I am using it to learn vocabulary in German, and I am in a B2 German class. I can easily say that 90% of my class will not know the answer if you ask them to translate "device" or "ghost" in German. And I can say for sure that, if someone finish the tree and does a little bit of immersion, he can easily join our classroom.
Also I used it for less than 2 months for Spanish (because I went to Spain a month ago) and I could speak with my hispanic friends really easily (french helps a lot) and more importantly with the locals (Where is the beach ? When can I buy good clothes ? Where is the nearest bar ? etc.) And I didn't finish the tree. And I wasn't even being intense with the learning (10 - 15minutes per day).
In my personal opinion, people tend to underestimate the power of Duolingo. Maybe it's me ? Do I have a super power to learn languages ? I don't think so. If you are serious enough and speak a little bit in your target language, you can reach an intermediate level, only with using Duolingo.
In conclusion, Duolingo gives more than Basic knowledge. Sure it depends also on you. But you will be enough fluent to speak the language and to read it.
I think I use the word "basic" and "fluent" differently, but I think we actually agree. I think Duolingo gets all the "basics" out of the way. You learn the most common grammatical structures (probably more than 90% of what is actually used in the language) and you get enough vocabulary to follow most day to day uses of the language. Where is the beach? Where can I buy good clothes, etc. Getting all the basics out of the way puts you well into what I would call the "intermediate" level.
I think Duolingo is very powerful. It can get you from absolute zero to intermediate quite efficiently! :)
I think I'm trying to encourage people to supplement and push to the upper levels of B2, maybe even break into C levels.
Personally I've found focusing on skills helps the most, keeping the trees gold, and not doing any immersion. There are major differences between keeping the trees gold and drilling the skills constantly with timed practices, vs racking up points on immersion. Personally I'd like to see the point totals be separate, as a total based on skills only would have much more meaning for me and relation to learning.
I agree. There are people on immersion that are really translating sentences (actually doing the work which is good) and there are others who seem to get most of their points doing minor changes and reviewing translations. At this moment, I too have decided to allocate my little available time on Duolingo to doing the drills (mostly timed one so as to encourage my brain to think fast) and writing subjunctive of the day posts which actually take quite significant time to compose every day (and get 0 XP)
I just think of XP as a fun little toy to encourage you to put more time into Duo, otherwise it's completely meaningless.
I invite you to look at Immersion in a different way, putting XP concerns aside. Immersion gets you reading "actual" passages, instead of neat and isolated sentences that have been made simple for instructional purposes. Used correctly Immersion can be a great tool. You get out of it what you put in. In the beginning maybe you just check other peoples translations (I think there is some value in that for a beginner actually). Then eventually you attempt a few easy sentences. The real power comes when you try your hand at translating entire passages. I definitely improved my reading comprehension with the immersion tool, it can be done! :)
I did actually translate almost complete document (about computer technology) by myself in immersion once (translating to Spanish). It was reviewed by a couple of native speakers as well and went through without modification. It did require a lot of time to do a good job there as it was hard to find suitable translations for some computer technology terms. Either there is no clear consensus on such terms in Spanish or they just use terms without translation. I might go back to translation upon reaching level 25 on both the regular and reverse trees.
Having said that if it did not offer any XP, I think the negative issues surrounding it would be eliminated.
There are other issues besides XP, people will often come and correct your perfectly fine translations and make them worse (like changing "tolunayo's flowers" to "the flowers of tolunayo"). As if the goal was to translate word for word.
But when you look at immersion as your own personal tool, you can do some really cool things. I like uploading documents in areas that I'm personally interested (historical figures for example) and then you learn a lot of specialized vocabulary. Interesting things come up. For me I really like learning the "precedents" that are already established in certain translations (for lack of knowing a better word). For example, in English you can't call him "Alexander the Grand" because "Alexander the Great" has already become the historically accepted translation.
Also, while not perfect, the tool that Duolingo provides to recommend their own translations (the "Duo Bot's translation" feature) is often useful when you're stumped. A lot of times it will point out idiomatic meanings that would honestly take a lot more time to look up on your own. That said, you have to use a grain of salt when using that tool!
I like to read on my own too, outside of Duolingo. But I usually don't have the energy and patience to look up every word/idiom etc. that I don't understand. With immersion, you can go through a lot of that legwork in a more efficient (maybe lazy?!) manner.
What is XP? And do you know why when you look at immersion, everything is in Spanish and you have to translate it into English?
XP is just "experience points" that you get for completing lessons and working in immersion. The points allow you to maintain your "streak" (if you get at least one point each day) and then allows you to "level up" until you reach 25 in a course. Ultimately meaningless, but it's fun and can encourage you to push on (treating studying as a game).
Immersion (when available- some courses don't have the immersion option) is always translating from your target language to your default language. So when you switch to the English for Spanish speakers course then you can translate English to Spanish.
Or if you did French for Spanish speakers, in immersion you would translate from French to Spanish, etc...
What shows/films/radio podcasts do you like to watch/listen to? I'm still at a pretty basic Spanish level but I'd like to start doing that to improve more quickly, any particular recommendations?
I started a thread and people gave me a lot of good recommendations recently:
I prefer shows to films, because you get a lot more time to practice and because the general theme is constant you'll get a lot of repetition of similar vocabulary etc. and you get used to the way each actor speaks, etc.
I haven't checked out that many podcasts honestly, I just listen the FM radio on the way to work. We have a station in Northern California (San Francisco bay area) that does a lot of talk shows. They're pretty silly, but it's good practice.
If you have the patience for over the top storylines, it's probably best to start with "telenovelas" (Spanish soap operas). Especially ones coming from Mexico and Colombia seem to be produced with all of Latin America in mind, so they use pretty universal Latin American Spanish (avoiding regional slang for the most part) and they tend to hire actors that speak clearly and enunciate all the words a little bit more than people would in a "natural" conversation so they're a bit easier to follow. I'm not a huge fan of the genre so hard to make recommendations, but I think "Betty la fea" is one of the more popular ones of the last decade.
Great points! Even if you wanted to-- it's hard to sustain your studies if you don't make them fun!
In moderation I actually do like translating more complicated passages back and forth (although it's still hard for me to translate into my target language)!!! But I'm weird like that I suppose... I really like reading Wikipedia in general, so translating Wikipedia articles, for example, is great fun for me. I'm sure it's not everyone's cup of tea!
But I definitely see your point! Find ways to immerse yourself in your target language from which you derive joy and the practice will be sustainable. My sister got good at German by reading the entire Harry Potter series translations. There are many roads available these days, best of luck on the road that makes you smile! :-)
What was your background?
Did you start with no knowledge of Spanish?
Have you studied other languages before?
How much time do you spend listening and talking to people?
I took four years of Spanish in high school and spoke Spanish with friends and growing up on a farm. It was always very broken Spanish though!
I've studied Persian, Arabic, Urdu and French in a university setting. I wish we had duolingo for all of those when I was studying!!!
Not enough! I have my car radio permanently tuned in to the local Spanish station and I was watching about 30 minutes of TV shows every day for a few months which helped tremendously! I need to get back into that habit. Then I speak whenever possible, but I need to get into a daily habit there as well.
Wow, congrants I want to learn english, I am colombian, we can practice. nice day.
Thank you! I am an expat living in Spain so I have all the access I need to practice and I was hoping duoling was going to give me that "foot in he door" I needed to get started. Your post here has answered a question I had only asked in my head. Lingot for you friend.
That's awesome, I'm jealous! I would say it will definitely help you get your foot in the door, living in Spain you'll be at a huge advantage obviously. I think if you crank through the tree you can get most of the feel for basic grammar and word order, etc. out of the way. Then when you speak with the locals you can focus more on solidifying your vocabulary and getting quick enough to process Spanish in "real time". Best of luck to you!
Thanks mbalavi. I am new to Duolingo. I enjoyed the read. Did doing the reverse tree really help?
It does help a lot! I would say hold off until you're completing your first tree though. Keep drilling until it starts to feel too easy! Then it's time to start the reverse :)
How do you do the reverse tree? I think it is time for me to start that challenge.
Wendi, click on the language icon up on top bar next to your user icon and pick the "add new course" option. Then you need to select the "I speak Spanish" option. Then click on the English course and I think you need to click again "ir a este curso" or something like that. Then you're enrolled in the English course for Spanish speakers! All your menu options and instructions etc in Duo will switch to Spanish. To access your original tree you need to do the same in reverse (añadir nuevo curso/ yo hablo inglés/ add Spanish/ go to this course). I'm on mobile right now so I'm explaining by memory, if I'm missing anything and you get stuck, let me know and I'll go over it more clearly tomorrow!
Good luck on your reverse tree!
PS you can also "ladder" ie take a new language but for Spanish speakers, then learn that new language but with Spanish instructions! :-)
I agree that you finish the first tree then do the reverse tree. Going back and forth is helpful (although adds more time to my studying, which has been hard). I mainly want to do it because I need more help going to English->Spanish; I feel going Spanish->English is easier for me so I need help pulling the Spanish vocab from memory.
I laddered from English to Spanish to French. I am currently doing the Spanish->French and French->Spanish trees. Getting away entirely from my native language forces me to think in Spanish and French. Reading in Spanish is becoming enjoyable as I pick up vocabulary and grammar. I don't watch enough television (in Spanish). :) I find news and advertising are easy listening whereas the soap operas and talk shows are difficult. Content translated into Spanish is good because it won't be spoken too fast.
I'm thinking of laddering to French soon actually :)! Did you skip the French for English speakers course entirely?
I've only spent a few hours with French for English. I managed to test over the first set of lessons. Spanish and French grammar are more similar to each other than either is to English. With your level 25 Spanish, you should definitely learn French from Spanish.
I was going to do French for English speakers, but you've convinced me to just go straight to the ladder! I like the idea of not "wasting" the opportunity to keep using Spanish as well!
Great assessment. I've been doing Duolingo and taking an in-person class (after about 15 years away from HS Spanish as well) and I agree with your findings.
And making progress on the reverse tree I see! Have fun, and try the immersion in the reverse tree for a humbling experience (it was for me at least)! :)
I finished the reverse tree a few weeks back. :) The immersion to Spanish is definitely harder, I agree. My current goals are to get preterite/imperfect down (as we're doing in class) and to improve my listening. Have you found SpanishListening.org? It's a collection of native speakers speaking for about a minute on a given topic, with comprehension and vocab quizzes afterwards. Super useful.
I haven't used that site before, I need to check it out! I think Duolingo does a great job teaching you how to use simple past/imperfect- but it's a bit weak on drilling when to use them! It would be cool if they had special drills for when (or not) to use subjunctive and then simple past vs. imperfect and things like "por" vs. "para" etc.
Then again, there is the approach of just communicating with people, you can make those mistakes and they'll still fully understand you. Then, hopefully with time and a lot of reading/ practice you'll just instinctively start to get that kind of thing correct. (Sometimes getting perfectionist about those kind of things can get in the way of going out there and using your language skills! That's one major problem I had with language study in the academic setting).
Luckily, what Duolingo lacks, the rest of the internet offers. Por/para drills from SpanishNewYork and Dr Lemon on imperfect/preterite with games/drills to the side. I've been saving interesting-looking resources to my Pinterest.
And yes, it's good to keep in mind that a polite listener would be able to overlook mistakes!
It's really great to hear from a credible person who has mastered both, the normal tree and the reverse one. So thank you for the information, it really helped.
Do you think it would be better if people learning Spanish on Duolingo enroll in Spanish learning centers in their countries? I was wondering that it would be hard to assess my current Spanish level as I know a lot of definitions and sentences but I'm terrible when it comes to pulling in and out of a conversation. Problem is I don't want to waste time and money learning the basics when I know around 80% of them already, but I think it would be beneficial if the tutors are Spanish natives and you can benefit a lot from them.
Thank you :)
If time and money are major factors for you, I honestly think you're better off with Duolingo-- as long as you are realistic and really put the time into it. If you put a good 30min to an hour into it every day; really drilling and going over stuff you get wrong, you'll make more progress in 6 months than you probably would with two years of formal classes.
Then if you want to speak, you need to find some native speakers (either locals if you live in an area with Spanish speakers or online if not-- I haven't really set up anything formal online, but it seems like there are a lot of Spanish speakers that are actively looking to exchange Spanish conversation for English conversation.
Duo is a very good tool to get a newbie started. I'd say if you're new to a language, starting on Duo is better than taking a school course. You start saying sentences right away without getting overwhelmed by tons of vocab and grammar rules.
Thanks for your assessment. I will most definitely try the reverse tree once I complete the regular one.
It will seem trivial at first, but power through and once you get past the early lessons I'm sure you will see the value in it. Best of luck!
Excellent list!!! At 57% fluent I realize I am nowhere near that fluent. I spent a lot of time doing other exercises and talking with Spanish speakers in other countries. I also have a Spanish teacher. Any day I don't spend just a few minutes, I lose something!
Well said and believe me I understand the importance of finding actual Spanish speaking people to communicate with.
What I love about Duolingo is that it takes you to a level from which you can direct yourself. You have easily enough knowledge of your target language to have a simple conversation with someone, and ask them questions about grammar and vocabulary to learn more. The only tree I've completed is French, but when I lived in Cambodia I was able to socialize at French speaking parties quite easily, and then ask the French friends I made to correct my mistakes.
I guess u might be right. family members have used Duolingo but then had to switch to Rossetta stone.mI probably will do the same.
I wouldn't switch to Rosetta stone personally. What are your goals?
I think I came across too negative in some of my comments; that was not my intent at all. Duolingo is an AMAZING tool. I just want beginners to have a realistic idea of what this tool will do for them. I think as beginners we tend to overlook how much effort it really takes to be "fluent". Duolingo will give you the building blocks; and it does so in the most efficient way of the many, many options that I've personally come into contact with. I don't think there's a better way to go from "absolute beginner" to "intermediate" out there.
My point was that it's going to take more work to get from where Duolingo leaves off to obtaining "fluency" and especially for some goals (listening comprehension, speaking, etc.) people will need to start adding other tools to their study program. Nothing replaces actual native speakers and consuming content that was prepared for native speakers.
Note: to me "fluent" means that you can read/write/converse effortlessly and convey abstract ideas almost as well as you can in your native language, maybe with a few minor mistakes here and there- but nothing that gets in the way of people understanding what you are trying to convey). I'd say that's around "C1" or so on the "European framework" for people that are fans of that model.
I am almost finished with my English to Spanish tree, and I've also started, in the last couple of months to take Spanish beginner lessons in a small class setting. I had an "aha moment" as I walked out of my class a couple of days ago. Duolingo is very organic. It teaches us to speak the way a child learns to talk. We start with the names of things. We expand to simple sentences. The sentences become more complex . . . . Whereas, in the Spanish school, the teacher handed us a book with lots of verbs and taught us the conjugation patterns for the present tense. She told us to memorize the patterns and five of the verbs each week. I've never been good at memorizing lists, and it would take me years of lessons to reach the (very elementary) level I've achieved in one year of duolingo. What the lessons give me is a chance to talk to someone in a relaxed setting without wondering if I've said something offensive or if the other person is snickering at my attempts. I guess they balance out. I'm going to treat myself to one of the sweatshirts when I complete the tree. After reading this thread, I know that I'll keep reviewing and try the reverse, Spanish to English.
The reverse tree is great, I think you will enjoy it! :)
I also found a lot of value in just working through example after example, rather than memorizing charts, etc. but then not really practicing as much. I think the other great advantage with Duolingo is that you can do hundreds of sentences and get instant feedback, rather than a classroom type homework assignment where you work on maybe 10-20 sentences and then get it graded a day later and then review it the day after that.