So, I have just reached a 1 year, 365 day streak, on Duolingo. Technically, it’s been a little longer than that I think, because I believe I broke some short, earlier streaks. I’ve also, occasionally, used a Streak Freeze item, which you can use to skip a day. Still, the point is, I have effectively used Duolingo, for 5-15+ minutes, each day, to learn a foreign language.
The vast majority of this time has been spent learning Spanish. I very briefly toyed with the idea of doing Japanese at the same time, but never bothered to get past the first set of challenges. I took 4 years of Japanese (maybe it was 3, I think it was 4), in High School. I still know the general idea of Japanese, but I am rusty enough that I couldn’t really understand it with any speed without some work. More recently, I have also started doing a little bit of the Norwegian tree, along side the Spanish.
Surprisingly, Norwegian is closer to English than Spanish. I guess if you look up some actual language relational trees, both English and Norwegian are on the same larger branch, and Spanish is on a seperate branch.
So the question is, do I feel like I’ve learned anything? I would say, yes. Early on I was doing a bit of research on what it means to “know” a language, and it’s essentially 4 parts. Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening. My weakest area would definitely be speaking. I seriously doubt I could speak Spanish well at all to anyone beyond some basic stuff. Part of this is because I don’t exactly have any way to really practice speaking Spanish to anyone.
I would say listening is probably my second weakest area, but more because I’ve found that natural Spanish speakers, talk very quickly. I sometimes will run a Spanish TV channel or Spanish HBO in the background while doing other things and I can sort of pick out words I know, but they get jumbled among words I don’t know.
Writing is a little easier. My problem with writing is that I still get messed up on the tenses or whatever they are called for the verbs. Eating, eaten, will eat, he eats, I eat, that sort of thing. I still get kind of lost on which one to use where. I imagine I could get the idea across, but it would come off as broken Spanish.
Lastly is reading. I feel fairly confident in the reading department, at least if I know the vocabulary being used. Part of this is because I can get the idea of things like eating and eat and eats, using context clues. Como, Comer, comes, all just become “something to do with eating”.
The app itself overall, does an alright job, but it’s not perfect. It does a really good job of pushing memorization of the same handful of phrases, but it’s not so great at encouraging the free forming of sentences. I’m not sure that would even be possible though, since the App isn’t going ot be able to effectively evaluate open ended questions.
I also wish there was a way to just do the matching mode with words learned so far. Especially with verbs. Like give me all the variations of “eat” and let me match them up, so maybe I can get a better handle on which is which. There is a separate app that sort of does this, but the format is a little different and it doesn’t directly sync to the main app.
It also gets a little less literal with it’s translations that I like. I have seen other people comment on this a bit on the Duolingo forums, and there are arguments for both ways. Some people will argue that making the translation more natural English is better, because it gets the point across more. I would argue it makes for poor learning, and encourages memorizing phrases instead of actually learning translations. One common one is with words like “Always” and “Never”. You may get the phrase, “He is always happy”, which in Spanish would be, “El siempre esta feliz.” Except it’s not, not directly, in English, “El siempre esta feliz”, is “He always is happy”. The placement of “always” in the English version is valid both ways, though it would be more common to say “is always” than “always is”. I feel like if Duolingo emphasized the “Always is” translation, it would better emphasize how the sentence structure works in Spanish. Since spanish is “siempre esta”.
Another way more common example of this is the omission of “the”. A lot of the Spanish uses “la/el” in the sentence. “Me gusta la escuela”, which duo translates to “I like school”, even though it’s more literally, “I like the school”. Now, granted, I am learning Spanish, and it may in fact be perfectly valid to just say “Me gusta escuela”, except Duolingo, in the app, would mark that incorrect, for missing the “la”. These little inconsistencies drive me nuts and frankly, are probably one of the biggest reason I miss some of the questions. It also does make a difference int he long run, since “I like school” and “I like the school”, are arguably completely different phrases. One can like going to school and learning (I like school), or one can like a particular school (I like the school).
Anyway, I can deal with the little weirdness, but there are times when it’s annoying, it also feels a little inconsistent on it’s enforcement as well.
I plan to keep going on my learning expedition. I have been also doing a bit of LingoDeer Spanish, for a fresh perspective and methodology. I have a couple of Audiobooks for learning Spanish that I got in a Humble Bundle a while back I want to listen to. I hope to reach at least a mild level of competency in Spanish, and maybe eventually some other languages as well, eventually. I don’t have any particular reason for it, other than I have always liked the idea of learning other languages and, in general, I enjoy learning new things.