Over the past year I have worked on learning Spanish through a website called DuoLingo. There are a slew of other sites/companies that can help you learn a second, third, fourth language for not much cost, or even free. Babbel is one of these, as is Rosetta Stone. I’m sure they all have pros and cons, but I tried DuoLingo and this is how I feel about it.
I have some basic French from college but that knowledge has degraded so much that I hesitate to even say that I ever spoke the language. I’ve never used it except once when my wife and I were in Italy and I spoke with some other tourists over dinner at a wonderful, little sidewalk cafe/restaurant. They were Belgian, but they spoke French, in Italy, to some Americans. It sounds strange in retrospect.
I made a simple comment thinking I could hang, and the lady to whom we were speaking actually said something in French. She said it fast, like a native speaker. I had no idea what she said… I felt like an idiot and I definitely couldn’t hang…
Anyway, I wanted to learn Spanish to help with my skill set at work. I figured that I would more likely use Spanish than any other language in my daily life in Oklahoma, and relearning French didn’t seem to be the best option to give me the edge at work that I’m always looking for.
I tried DuoLingo because I saw an ad for it or saw it in the app store… I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled across it, but I did and I signed up for the free version. I’ve been a member long enough that I’ve seen the lessons and the app change and evolve. It’s been a growing experience for different reasons.
The app gamifies things to keep you interested, and the free version shows you an advertisement between lessons. The lessons are broken up into sections like Family 1, Family 2, Restaurant, Travel, etc. and they’re all arranged in a tree to speed the learning process and to introduce you to a language through categories.
You challenge yourself to complete anywhere from one lesson per day (basic) to 5 lessons per day (insane). As you complete lessons you earn experience points and “level up,” and earn lingots (website) or gems (app) with which you can buy things from the store. I’m not sure why it’s gems AND lingots and not gems OR lingots, but my guess is that they are in transition from one to another.
With the gems/lingots, the store allows you to purchase things like “Streak Freezes” or “Streak Repairs” or other silly things to make you feel better about missing a day, or having to watch all the ads that pay for the free version.
Ultimately you want to level up to the max of 25 in the language. Beyond 25 I guess you should be competent enough to go talk to other speakers of the language and get away from the computer for a while. I’m on level 12 in Spanish now and I have an 18 day streak going.
What I couldn’t figure out early in the learning process is whether to learn the entire tree at level one then go back and go through the whole tree again to get to level 2, or should I learn each category or section to the maximum level of 5 before moving to the next category. It’s either learning a lot of words quickly, or a few words at a time to a deeper level. I’m still not clear what the best strategy should be.
The website is faster than the app thanks to keyboard shortcuts. Way faster. The free version of the app slows you down a lot with ads, as I previously mentioned, and they also recently introduced this thing about 5 mistakes and you’re out for five hours…
It kind of irritated me when they did that because some days are better than others, and some days I make more mistakes than others. After making 5 mistakes a couple of times and having to “sit out” for 5 hours before being allowed to continue my lessons for the day, I knew I had a decision to make.
I could keep going with all these ads and bottlenecks, I could pay for the service, I could try another free service, or I could pay for a different service. I didn’t spend much time looking at the other services because DuoLingo was the cheapest of the few I looked at ($10/month).
After I paid for the service everything changed for the better. I don’t have to wait five hours before restarting my training if I make 5 mistakes. I don’t have the advertisements slowing me down. Everything runs smoothly and I feel like I’m finally making more progress.
In the free version I was happy to reach the insane goal of 5 lessons per day. But I got sick of the ads and slow-downs. After paying the monthly charge to eliminate the ads, and also working from a laptop rather than my smartphone, I’m easily achieving the 16 lessons per day average that I need to reach level 25 by the end of March, 2019. I’m on a schedule here.
I’ve gone from being happy at my 5 lessons a day to a high of 27 lessons in one day. It makes me feel like I’m immersed in the language rather than dabbling in it too. If you want to learn a language, try DuoLingo, and just pay for it. It’s worth it in time saved eliminating the ads and such. Also try the sister website/service called Tiny Cards which is to help reinforce the language training by showing flash cards on subjects.
I’m enjoying it. I catch myself thinking in Spanish about what I’m doing throughout the day, and I think that’s part of the goal in learning a new language.