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Duolingo review (Spanish)
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ASOT Away
Sparrow
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Duolingo review (Spanish)
Duolingo is an iOS and Android app that teaches Spanish, French, German, Portuguese & Italian. Teaching a variety of vocabulary, verbs and grammar rules it has a learning tree you must progress through with each skill it teaches having anywhere from 1-10 lessons to be completed.

Within each lesson you are introduced to new words and rules in a variety of methods such as:
1. being shown a sentence in Spanish (or whatever language you are learning) and having to translate it into english by filling in the blanks (close passage)
2. being shown a sentence in Spanish (or whatever language you are learning) and having to translate it into english by chosing the correct words from a number of possible options shown.
3. being shown a sentence in Spanish (or whatever language you are learning) and having to translate it into english without any assistance.
4. being shown an english sentence and having to translate it into Spanish.
5. hearing a sentence in Spanish and having to write it in Spanish.
6. being shown a Spanish sentence and having to speak it into your phone in Spanish.
7. possibly one or more other methods I can't remember.

For each lesson you have 3 hearts which are taken away each time you make an error so you must pass a lesson without making too many errors. When you pass a lesson you get 10 points and 1 bonus for each heart you retain. When you hit a certain benchmark in points you are given a higher level rating. For those with basic knowledge already you have the option of doing a quiz to unlock more advanced levels and skip the basic stuff. For those without any knowledge there is sometimes the opportunity to click on some of the English or Spanish words you are asked to translate and you will be shown the translation which helps when you can't recall one of the words, sometimes there is not this option. The app is very light on explanations of rules and is instead based upon context which is the best way to learn according to some of blogs of multiple language speakers (polyglots) that I have read. It is an example of what they call gamified learning, and is very addictive, but the important question is, does it work? Well here is my initial thoughts based on 2-3 weeks of use (note, English is my native language and thanks to high school language courses not only being terrible, but also sucking the language passion out of me I've never learned any other):

After 15 days of around 1 hour daily investment I have got around 1400 points, 720 words and am on level 8. Looking at all the skills I've done approximately half, however this doesn't mean I'm half way through as the later skills have a lot more lessons per skill compared to the earlier ones, and also the lessons are becoming harder. I have not counted up the total number of lessons, but based on my points I'd estimate I've done around 120, and would make a rough guess that to finish all the skills I'll need to do about 350 in total. My focus is to double my daily investment and try to finish all the skills in 3-4 weeks.

So far I feel pretty happy with my progress, when I see a Spanish speaking person comment on Facebook or YouTube (for example a comment on a fan page for a musician, or on a viral video) I can understand probably 35% of the words in an average sentence. In more formal or technical writing (eg a Spanish language newspaper) this number is probably more like 25% so I'm very much lost there. This is because a comment is usually informal and not very deep whereas a newspaper is obviously going to use 'bigger and scarier' words. In neither case can I call myself fluent in reading but it is exciting to start recognising words, patterns etc...

Of those 720 words, not all have stuck in my head as quite often I'll come across a written word, or try to write a word I've learned and can't recall it. Some of the words you learn early on are key to a lot of sentences and thus come across regularly in the later lessons. These ones cement themselves in your long term memory. Others are not as common and thus some of them fade from your short term memory. That said there is a function in Duolingo to review words you have learned but as I am planning on focusing on just doing new skills for another 2 weeks I haven't done any review yet.

I mentioned that later skills involve more lessons, and that these lessons are harder. Early on progress was easy, but as I'm beginning to hit skills that require me to pass lessons on pronouns, different verb tenses and verb grammar rules I find that using the app alone it is impossible to keep anywhere near the same pace as when you start. For me, I find the only way to keep up the pace is to read some online tutorials on the subject matter beforehand and make a little cheat sheet to refer to as you do the lessons. When I was first doing a skill on personal pronouns (me, te, le, les, nos, os, las, los) I found that as the app is based on contextual learning I would often end up guessing the answers and mostly making errors. I bogged down for 2 days on this simple skill. I found that once I took 10 minutes to look up the meaning of each of these terms and scribbled down a cheat sheet of when to use them I passed the 5 lessons of that skill in about 20 minutes.

To know a language you must be able to read, write, speak and understand what you hear. Duolingo targets your skills in all of these areas but primarily I find it is best for gaining skills in reading & writing. As far as speaking and listening goes, it is not so effective. Despite having lessons including requirements for you to speak into the microphone and listen to what comes out of the speaker I'll definitely need to use another method to gain skills here. I find that when I speak into the microphone often it will mark me as correct even with horrible pronunciation (ignoring accents, failing to 'roll' the r's, failing to speak 'j' as a 'h' sound) and when I listen the voice is somewhat computerised and muffled so it does not transfer over to understanding what is spoken by people with real accents.




So in conclusion to answer the question I asked earlier, does it work, I'd have to say yes it does. It works very well for reading and writing, so well that I'm going to double down and put in twice the amount of time in it. I think that in 2-3 months anyone who puts in 1-2 hours daily, could finish an entire Duolingo language course and be reading pretty damn well in their desired language. I'm going to try and prove that in the next month or two and will make updates to my progress here. The only caveat is that it is of minimal use to learn speaking and listening, so unless an RVFer is planning on trying game in Spanish by using a notepad to communicate to a girl (notepad game???) then another method will be required to be used concurrently for these skills. Definitely if anyone has suggestions for listening and speaking let me know :thumb up:
10-22-2013 01:37 PM
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Big Nilla, Staros, scotian, Mentavious, Matt3B, Cr33pin, Vaun
Staros Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
Great. Using it too. Probably the best free tool there is to learn Spanish. I'm living in NYC so I'm considering combining it with some speaking group (or finding a nina to practice with).

Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.
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10-22-2013 04:09 PM
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scotian Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
Excellent break down on this app that I didn't know existed, just downloaded it and look forward to practicing Spanish, +1 from me, thanks.

Don’t sweat the petty things, pet the sweaty things.
10-22-2013 07:20 PM
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Doctore Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
Using it to learn Spanish myself, and it's damn awesome for a free tool, but by itself, it's not enough. I also use Pimpsleur and Yabla / Lo Más TV.

What I like most about Duolingo is that each lesson is fairly useful yet only takes a few mins to do, so I can "superset" it with random household tasks like cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. easily making it an integral daily habit.
10-22-2013 07:39 PM
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Mentavious Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
I use duolingo French in conjunction with coffee break French and it helped me big time. Both are free.

A man is only as faithful as his options-Chris Rock
10-22-2013 08:20 PM
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Matt3B Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
Wald got me on this a fair few weeks ago now and I'm impressed by it. I've only done 3 lessons or so but my early impressions are it's not enough as has been said. I'm going to start up on Pimsleur again soon and use this in conjunction with it.

My only worry with things like this and Pimsleur is that it doesn't teach you the hows and whys of grammar. Part of me thinks I should know this, but part of me thinks that when Spanish speaking kids learn to speak, they don't know about grammar.

The 3 Bromigos Blog
10-22-2013 08:54 PM
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ASOT Away
Sparrow
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Post: #7
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
(10-22-2013 04:09 PM)Staros Wrote:  Great. Using it too. Probably the best free tool there is to learn Spanish. I'm living in NYC so I'm considering combining it with some speaking group (or finding a nina to practice with).

That's definitely a good idea in your case. With 10 million people in your city you should definitely find a hot Spanish speaking chica to hang out with. Don't consider it either, get out there and get it done Big Grin.

(10-22-2013 07:39 PM)Doctore Wrote:  Using it to learn Spanish myself, and it's damn awesome for a free tool, but by itself, it's not enough. I also use Pimpsleur and Yabla / Lo Más TV.

What I like most about Duolingo is that each lesson is fairly useful yet only takes a few mins to do, so I can "superset" it with random household tasks like cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. easily making it an integral daily habit.

Yes I find that I will do a lesson whenever I'm doing a household task that is otherwise wasted time.

Los Más TV looks good. I like the way they break down video clips by difficulty. Thanks for that suggestion.

Also if you want to jump right in you can also use a phone app called TuneIn Radio to listen to thousands of radio stations from all over the world, find a good talkback station and you'll start to hear the nuances of pronunciation before long.

(10-22-2013 08:20 PM)CThunder86 Wrote:  I use duolingo French in conjunction with coffee break French and it helped me big time. Both are free.

Yep definitely Pimsleur or Coffee Break series audio lessons to help with listening would not go astray. Whilst I feel consistent Duolingo use is very good for reading and writing, as I explained it is not so good for listening and speaking.

(10-22-2013 08:54 PM)MattC Wrote:  Wald got me on this a fair few weeks ago now and I'm impressed by it. I've only done 3 lessons or so but my early impressions are it's not enough as has been said. I'm going to start up on Pimsleur again soon and use this in conjunction with it.

My only worry with things like this and Pimsleur is that it doesn't teach you the hows and whys of grammar. Part of me thinks I should know this, but part of me thinks that when Spanish speaking kids learn to speak, they don't know about grammar.

I thought the same about not needing to learn the hows and whys of grammar. Still I think that it is not too important to learn all the hows and why's, however as I found with some of the skills it definitely helps to spend a few minutes reading the rules and making a cheat sheet so you can understand what the skill is before starting the lessons on that skill.

(10-22-2013 07:20 PM)scotian Wrote:  Excellent break down on this app that I didn't know existed, just downloaded it and look forward to practicing Spanish, +1 from me, thanks.

Thanks. Having spent all the time you did in Colombia you might find the first dozen or so skills are too basic for you. Either you can blast through them, or if you scroll down and click on the locks in the app it allows you to do a quiz which if you pass will have you skip the preceding lessons. Enjoy.
10-22-2013 09:33 PM
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FunctionalPsycho Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
Pimsleur audiobook series is great for learning pronunciation.
10-30-2013 08:52 AM
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RexImperator Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
I have been using it for German and find it quit good as well. Problem is, Level 8, where I am, is about where it starts to get hard with all the grammar rules. Admittedly, I've slacked off a bit.

I hope they make a Russian module because this language has grown on me and I've been putting more time into learning Russian over others.

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et Thybrim multo spumantem sanguine cerno
10-30-2013 09:23 AM
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ASOT Away
Sparrow
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Post: #10
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
(10-30-2013 08:52 AM)FunctionalPsycho Wrote:  Pimsleur audiobook series is great for learning pronunciation.

Thanks. I'm working with a tutor over skype every day now it's going pretty well.

(10-30-2013 09:23 AM)RexImperator Wrote:  I have been using it for German and find it quit good as well. Problem is, Level 8, where I am, is about where it starts to get hard with all the grammar rules. Admittedly, I've slacked off a bit.

I hope they make a Russian module because this language has grown on me and I've been putting more time into learning Russian over others.

I got to level 8 and noticed the same thing as you. I took the last week off doing new lessons and instead would do daily review of old ones (hit the strengthen skills button). At the same time I started daily skype with a tutor and started to make a notebook on all the grammar skills I've learned so far. Now as I set off to start more skills on verb tenses, pronouns etc I think I'll do a quick review of the rules for the topic, write a half page summary and then start the duolingo lesson. Takes away the guess work and instead you pass based upon your knowledge. Can't wait to get back into it, aiming to hit the 1000 word mark by the weekend.
10-30-2013 10:30 AM
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Saladin Offline
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Post: #11
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
Combine Duolingo with a tutor on iTalki.com to improve speaking and pronunciation. Its what I'm doing right now with Spanish.
(This post was last modified: 10-30-2013 01:25 PM by Saladin.)
10-30-2013 01:25 PM
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scotian Offline
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Post: #12
RE: Duolingo review (Spanish)
I've been on this for a week or so now and got through the first seven levels pretty quick, its been a really good refresher as I haven't spoken much Spanish in the past year and am a bit rusty. As the OP mentioned, it definitely isn't enough for speaking but does a good job with the written and practicing grammar.

I bought a language book/CD package a couple of weeks ago called Living Language, it was cheap at about $50, so I"m using that too but I found Duolingo to be more interesting and fun to use. I got through the beginner level of Living Language easily and haven't moved onto the intermediate one yet, I may wait a bit to do that. I downloaded a couple of Spanish grammar ebooks onto my Iphone and the one I found the best has been this one. Basically I'm reading this one and taking notes while going through the levels of Duolingo and it seems to be working well.

I also downloaded an app called Conjuverb and this thing is worth its weight in gold, a very handy resource to look up any verb and all of its conjugations. Another app I got during my recent trip to Mexico and have been using as a Spanish/English dictionary is Spanishdict and that is also useful.

Of course, I've been pipelining pretty hard for my upcoming stay in Colombia so have been chatting in Spanish to numerous girls on Skype and Whatsapp, so things are definitely improving, I'd say I'm almost back to the level I was at after spending four months in Colombia last year. My main goal will be to improve my Spanish there and get over the plateu I reached the last time I was there.

All of these language resources are great tools but nothing can replace what I believe to be the best method: practicing in bed with a fat assed Colombiana!

Don’t sweat the petty things, pet the sweaty things.
10-30-2013 08:15 PM
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