(I Am Going Out In A Blaze Of Glory)
May 22, 2023 6:10 AM   Subscribe

It's so funny that even this guy who enjoyed the competitive ranking system of Duolingo, ultimately wanted to get away from it.
posted by subdee at 6:21 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

The other week I made the mistake of finishing a lesson 1 minute after the next week started. The leader in that bracket accrued 20,000 xp that week. Insane! Like, I think I know a most of the ways to "game" the XP system (for better or worse - it helps with my recall but slows my progression), but that's still like 4-5 hours of non-stop XP accumulation every day. I don't think you can passively listen to podcasts for XP any more, so I _think_ they had to be active to accumulate those points, which is wild.
posted by Kyol at 6:43 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]

I briefly got into the leagues system, thinking that the gamification would help me learn and that I should just lean into it. I got all the way into the top league (except I think there are like, super-top leagues now?) before I realized I was just typing "Brot und Wasser" over and over again and not actively learning. So I switched my profile to private (the only? way to leave the leagues) and started making progress in actually learning new things.

I wouldn't mind competing against some friends at competitive language learning (although I don't think Duo's XP system is the most interesting challenge, there), but, as always, bringing in random people ruins everything.
posted by miguelcervantes at 6:50 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

Well crap… now I really want to start using Duolingo. Agh!
posted by johnxlibris at 7:06 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

I once came in #1 in the diamond league. Top of the top! A rare achievement! Surely, I thought as I worked for it that week, the feeling of accomplishment would be long lasting and significant!

Reader: it was not.
posted by meese at 7:07 AM on May 22 [18 favorites]

I didn’t think I cared about the gamification until I got dumped into Emerald. Emerald! Me! I ask you. I was in Obsidian for weeks! Seriously, though, the one thing it has done for me is allow me to develop a long streak. Even on the shittiest days, I can listen to Oscar’s absurd voice for at least one lesson.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:09 AM on May 22 [8 favorites]

One of the reasons I stopped using Duolingo pretty much entirely was that a few days after they brought the leagues in, I could see that it was encouraging people to bot to get to the top of the leader board, or to redo the same very short introductory lesson.

Duolingo has a lot of faults. At the same time I also remember ten or more years before I joined Duolingo, looking for French language learning and teaching at home resources of all and sorts and finding them really rare and ineffective when I found them. Around when Duolingo came out one of my best resources was a little French language flash card program that I had got on a 3 1/2 inch floppy, which had a base vocabulary of about 150 words - but you could add more words if you edited the config files in DOS!

23 years ago I couldn't even find beginner workbooks, or audio that was meant for children learning. The only resources in the book stores or on EBay or Amazon were vocabulary picture books for kids, and tape or CD programs for tourists that were limited to phrases like, "Where is the dry cleaner?" and "I need to buy a needle for a record player" and "I am having the sole meunière and she would like the boeuf bourguignon," They had no discussion of grammar.

So when it came out Duolingo really was amazing compared to the competition. It's just that there are so many different resources now, you are likely to find one that works better that Duolingo. It still remains a great place to get your toehold by doing the first ten to fifteen lessons to get a feel for the language and figure out what kind of a challenge you will find it.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:12 AM on May 22 [6 favorites]

I'm mad about Duolingo's gamification right now. I started the Japanese course recently, and there's a gate during unit 2 that the app recommends you don't progress past until you've learnt all the hiragana, which happens in a separate tab. You can choose to proceed without completing the hiragana lessons, but as someone who knew very little about the Japanese language before beginning the course, it made sense for me to do them.

Except you don't get double XP in the hiragana or katakana lessons even if you otherwise have an XP boost in play. You can't earn more than 15 XP per hiragana or katakana lesson, even though other main course lessons can earn between 30 and 80 XP with an XP boost, depending on lesson type. And I have absolutely no idea why the app differentiates between the two lesson types. Just gimme my 30 XP if I have a boost.

I also didn't think I cared about the gamification aspect of the app until I fell out of the diamond league because during the week I was cramming hiragana, I couldn't keep up XP-wise with players who were playing through course content that does offer double XP when you have an XP boost.

So now I'm annoyed that Duo has created a course structure that doesn't play nicely with its own gamification, and I'm also annoyed that apparently I care.
posted by terretu at 7:37 AM on May 22 [13 favorites]

Those who Duolingo a lot: have you found significant improvement to your language skills?
posted by latkes at 7:40 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah. I'm only doing 15-20 minutes a day, so it's slow going, but I am much better, as a result.

I also have a 1600 day streak. Like I said, slow going.
posted by meese at 8:02 AM on May 22 [9 favorites]

I use Duo as a compliment to other learning -- 2-3 classes a year, an annual week of intensive immersion, listening to podcasts and interviews, reading the news, attempting to read books and poetry. Duo helps with some things like occasional new vocab and helping hammer home grammar like article agreement and vowel shifts in different verb tenses. It would definitely not be enough to get me speaking a language, but may be enough to get me reading a different language. Then again, maybe some of the languages with more content do have enough to push that? I'm studying a language with a pretty limited knowledge tree on Duo. Duo has 61 Units for the language I'm studying versus the 216 for Spanish.
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:09 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]

I've found it better for language refreshers rather than acquisition from scratch. I had intermediate level Spanish around 2010, and recently travelled to Spain for a medical procedure. I was pleased with how much value I got out of a few months of Duolingo in terms of refreshing key vocab and grammar before the trip (though, again, don't get me started on only having the choice to learn Mexican Spanish through an app that uses US English as a UK English speaker who originally learned castellano - an extra layer of complexity and US-centricity that I didn't need or want).

For first-time language acquisition and retention it's been less great. I did about a year of Russian in 2016 or so and I can still transliterate Cyrillic (which was the actual skill I wanted, I guess) but can only really remember the words for mouse, cat, butter, bread and bicycle.
posted by terretu at 8:11 AM on May 22

I like articles about gamification because they make me feel like my approach to meaningless crap on my phone is very mentally healthy. I have a 125 or so day streak on Duolingo right now and just moved back from the Amethyst League to the Pearl League after dropping leagues last week and my entire reaction is "huh!"

Like I guess the leagues thing motivates me slightly more to go for a little more XP today than I would otherwise, especially when I have an XP bonus active - but I am strict free to play and I make many mistakes, so when I'm out of hearts I shrug and close the app. I guess this is what a well-intentioned and pure-hearted developer wants the gamification loop to look like - sometimes it's an extra push to spend five more minutes practicing a thing I do in fact want to learn, but it never keeps me up at night.

I'm doing Spanish, which I took for one semester a decade and a half ago, and I'm definitely way better at listening and putting sentences together than I was when I started. And a lot of my streak was in Esperanto, it's really only been Spanish for a few weeks.
posted by potrzebie at 8:19 AM on May 22

Those who Duolingo a lot: have you found significant improvement to your language skills?

With the caveat that it's a year or two since I've used Duolingo:

For French from English, it definitely helped me to pick up a lot of vocabulary and some grammar, which was good for my reading comprehension. I found it poor for listening and awful for speaking -- probably it has improved since, but at the time the voices were pretty robotic and even my SO, a native French speaker, couldn't consistently get good marks for her pronunciation on the French speaking exercises. And I definitely found myself getting sucked into "being good at duolingo" rather than "being good at French" by the gamification.

That said, the vocab and basic grammar I picked up with Duo made a great foundation for the online French classes I've taken since; I couldn't pass the conversational tests to get into higher-level classes, but a lot of the vocab and some of the grammar I'm encountering as I progress is already familiar. And of course while the live class is dramatically more useful for me, at about £16/hour ($20/h) it's also vastly more expensive than even the paid version.

The Duolingo French podcast is fantastic, by the way, and fills in a decent chunk of what I think was missing from the app in terms of learning listening comprehension.
posted by metaBugs at 8:19 AM on May 22

Yeah, did the leagues once, got to Diamond and it stopped working on me. I do have a four-digit streak, so it's helped me keep in touch with my languages, but I don't see that much progress. I finally sprung for a LingoDeer subscription and it's so much better for Japanese.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 8:20 AM on May 22

I've been doing DuoLingo German for almost two years now, and it's...fine. My idea of the vocabulary I want is very different from the words The Owl wants to give me, but it's been fine for the grammar and prepositions.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 8:23 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I gave learning Russian solely from Duoa shot, with 20 minutes a day Duolingo sessions for a month. I found it hard to retain anything at all, to be honest. As I suspected when I started. I think 20 minutes of other types of language learning per day would have gotten me further. But it's probably an excellent compliment to other types of learning.
posted by Harald74 at 8:24 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I am currently learning/practicing 8 languages on Duolingo. It certainly isn't going to get me anywhere near fluency, but I like that it's recently been redesigned to align with CEFR levels (up to B2). The languages I struggle most with are the languages that don't have speaking and writing as components of lessons.
posted by epj at 8:57 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

And yeah, I'm at a little over 500 days on French from English and it's helping? I kind of want to take a more directed classroom education where I'm learning verb conjugation in a slightly more rigorous manner, or to have duolingo go "ah hah hey didja just notice that we've switched up tenses and this is how you form the future tense of that verb, buddy?", and maybe a little more of the "here's how French speakers actually refer to their grammar, so you can ask for help" maybe? And similar other things where, like, how do I choose between encore and toujours? But that's also not what they're going for, and I get it. On the other hand there was a whole lesson dedicated to savoir vs connaitre and I'm still only mostly going by ear.

I do wish they'd do more with the listening reviews to highlight the trickier bits of French homophones, but generally it feels like there's only one good answer in the words, so run with it and you'll be right nine times out of ten. Annoying.

But yeah, my response to gamification is to aim for about 10th place, get a couple of lessons and a few reviews in every day. I'm a paid subscriber, so I'm not heart or gem bound, which I guess makes a pretty big difference? But I'm also not sure I'm making as much progress as I would if I were in a more traditional learning system like paying the local Alliance Francaise branch for a few months of classes. On the other hand, the price and time investment are right, so ... eh?

That said, I'm sure my pronunciation is abysmal because all I'm doing is making my phone's voice dictation system guess what the hell I'm trying to say and maybe it figures out what I'm saying through my native vowel shift, maybe it doesn't.
posted by Kyol at 8:59 AM on May 22

Like others here, I climbed my way to the very top but then also tried to make my way to the bottom league again as fast as possible (without losing my streak).

Let me tell you, the latter was much more satisfying (and much needed after the competitive weeks before that).
posted by bigendian at 9:23 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

Those who Duolingo a lot: have you found significant improvement to your language skills?

According to Duo I should have a CEFR A1 ability level in Spanish now, and that is the furthest I have ever got in learning a foreign language. Many years ago at school I failed my German exam and did not even get that far in French, which shows you my general level of language competence.

I learn Spanish slowly but I am learning. Duolingo has infinite patience with my mistakes which is good because I make a lot of them.

According to the CEFR chart I should be able to "interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.". I hope that is true because I'm going to a part of Spain in June that isn't hugely geared towards English speaking tourists.

As for the gamification aspect, I got to number 1 in the diamond league once and never bothered to go for it again. I am quite protective of my streak though.
posted by antiwiggle at 9:34 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]

Something I suspect that duo does particularly poorly with is that if you're really lucky or have sort of a head for languages or whatever and you tend to get most answers right, you never see some of the "ah hah, in French they would always use a (this word) there, do you understand?" corrections that happen in the background when you get the answer wrong. Which on the one hand: you get it, you're answering correctly. On the other hand, you probably don't know why?
posted by Kyol at 9:42 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I just started Duolingo German, and I'm getting a little frustrated with the lack of explanation of why I'm doing things. And sometimes the answer is that there is no explanation, and you just have to memorize things, but I'm talking about things like the use cases for various prepositions. I found myself googling "am, um, im" and getting an explanation that would have been helpful to get from Duolingo, since I keep getting it wrong.

I don't think I'm really going to learn German from Duolingo. For now, I'm hoping to get some basics and maybe get to the point where I can use other resources. If I decide to really commit to learning the language, I'll seek out better (and probably more time-intensive and expensive) methods, but Duolingo is pretty low stakes, and I'm definitely learning something.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:55 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

>Those who Duolingo a lot: have you found significant improvement to your language skills?

>> I use Duo as a compliment to other learning -- 2-3 classes a year, an annual week of intensive immersion, listening to podcasts and interviews, reading the news, attempting to read books and poetry.

This. Nearly 20+years ago I was conversationally pretty good at Spanish after living in Central America for a bit. I decided I wanted to get that fluency back and Duolingo helped me regain some of my vocabulary and basic grammar, but it's very limiting in a lot of ways and is no substitute for conversation.

It's fine for rounding out your skills, but it's a very linear learning path. For example, I knew that my past tense recall was garbage and I really wanted to drill down and focus on that, but Duolingo does not make it easy to "skip ahead" to areas you want to work on.

As far as the gamification was concerned, I admit getting sucked in for a few months, but I'm over it now. I simply ignore it all now.

Having said that, here's my personal "hack" to getting XP for anyone who wants it, (maybe this is well known, I have no idea):

In the little barbell section in the app (which I guess is "Review"), there is a "Speak" section which gives you 10 sentences to read out loud, and if your accent is decent, you can whip through these in about a minute.

The XP for this is normally 20XP, but during the double point bonus that becomes 40XP, and if you happen to do it during their special +5XP hour, that goes up to 45, or maybe even 50, I can't remember how they calculate it.

So this is very unbalanced and a good demonstration of why the whole gamification system is wack. Taking away the bonuses for a sec: a standard lesson gives you 15XP I think, and can take you 4 or 5 minutes to complete. This Speaking review gives you 20XP and can be done 4x faster.

And from a learning perspective, if you just sat there for a few hours and recited the sentences, there's really no comprehension going on, you're just reading words. Maybe it helps with your accent slightly, but that's debatable, the DuoLingo speech recognition is not that sophisticated.
posted by jeremias at 10:02 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]

I'm a language teacher (English to adults in Brazil) and duolingo is quite useful if you know that it's a tool with a specific purpose. It's incredible for learning vocabulary. Like, I can't stress enough how great it is if you are just starting out and know nothing in the target language. It's still good if you are an advanced learner and just need to add more words to your vocabulary. But if you already kind of speak the language and lack confidence, the ability to understand expressions, different accents, or different grammatical cases... duo isn't so great. But it's free and convenient. So as long as you know what it's for then enjoy it for what it is.
posted by Glibpaxman at 10:05 AM on May 22 [8 favorites]

Those who used Duolingo a lot and then stopped for at least a few months: have you found that you retained much?

I ask because I don't seem to retain a lot from flashcard-type learning after I stop regularly drilling, but I wonder whether that's a common experience.
posted by trig at 10:42 AM on May 22

I am on ~750 days of Polish in Duo. It's terrible for grammar rules. I frequently have to ask native speakers why I was doing what I was doing. No amount of banging your head against the same lesson over and over will tell you the why. It's great for learning vocabulary. I have found pairing it with iTalki to work well; you can practice actual speaking with someone on iTalki. The gamification is fairly annoying and easy to get sucked into. I find myself just churning out 80xp lessons to stay in the flow of Obsidian league and forgetting to do the actual lessons. I also greatly dislike their new layout. It used to be organized by topic, so each lession area was a certain thing (past tense, reflexive verbs, etc). Now it's a flow where you do a little of each thing in order. Hard to get a good repetition / learning session that way.
posted by msbutah at 11:02 AM on May 22

I really wasn't expecting much from Duolingo, I just wanted a way to occupy my farting-around-on-the-phone time in a way that would be marginally more edifying than scrolling through Instagram, and I lost access to the NYT Crossword and Spelling Bee when I canceled my subscription last year. I have learned much, much more than I expected to, and the gamification aspect has been a big part of that (hello, addictive personality!). It keeps me consistently engaged and encourages me to spread my learning over a variety of lesson types, and that is working for me in a way that nothing else ever has. So I totally get why other people get annoyed with Duolingo - particularly with the gamification - but in my case it has been very helpful. (19 weeks in the Diamond League, I am slightly embarrassed to report)
posted by la glaneuse at 11:17 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I have gotten sucked into the gamification— which is ordinarily something that will make stop using an app, all grumpy penguin-like. I thought I would quit when I hit 1000 but didn’t. But 1111 is coming up soon and then I’m off this bud…
posted by profreader at 11:41 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

I don't think that Duolingo by itself is sufficient to learn a language. I use it in conjunction with reading stories, podcasts, YouTube lessons, grammar textbooks, etc. But I have days and weeks when I get burned out and my motivation sags. During those times, the gamification of Duolingo helps me to keep going and put in a bit of time every day. (471 day streak, 27 weeks in the Diamond league). It's a silly mind game, but there's something about "I get double the points for 15 minutes of evening practice due to my Early Bird bonus and I get double the points for 15 minutes of morning practice due to my Night Owl bonus, so I can't let those extra points just go to waste" which somehow works for me.

That said, I can't see being one of the people who seriously tries to win the Diamond tournament or become a "World Champion". At that point I'd either be putting in hours of daily practice which would be better served by diversifying into some non-Duolingo study or else wasting time racing through beginner lessons which wouldn't give me any benefit or both.
posted by tdismukes at 11:50 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

You people really know how to take all the joy out of my getting into the Pearl league as I did for the first time today.

I signed up with Duolingo in March and I've been really pleased with it and have been making what I thought was good progress in French study -- I'm currently on unit 31 (out of 204). Seeing myself place on the leaderboards does help motivate me, although I rein myself in so as not to get too carried away. I take a lot of pride in completing perfect lessons as well. I really like that I can replay, or slow down, the audio as many times as I need to understand it. I've been feeling like perhaps I can begin reading French books or watching French movies before too long, and I've been looking forward to learning some other languages once I complete the French course, with Russian being a top contender.

But I suppose from what I've been reading here about Duolingo's limitations that I will need to diversify my learning experience if I hope to learn to speak French fluently.
posted by orange swan at 12:44 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]

I have been using Duo to learn Italian for 1774 straight days. (Well, I did use my "streak freeze" a couple of times when I was traveling abroad and had time zone kerfuffles, but I have practiced every day.) I hated the leagues, but generally find myself either in Diamond or Obsidian, and sometimes finish in the top 3, but almost from the beginning, I learned to completely ignore the Leagues with the exception of checking where the person above me is. If they are 50 XP or fewer above me, I will practice more lessons to pass them, even if I am certain they will pass me later on.

In the beginning, I hated that I wasn't learning as I'd learned French in middle school, with repeated conjugations and rules, rules, rules. So, I went off to Italy only knowing present tense and useless expressions like "My monkey is hungry." Well, it wasn't entirely useless; I made a lot of bell boys in stuffy hotels laugh when I explained how little Italian I knew, and then acted out "monkey" because they were sure I was misspeaking. I wanted to learn "where is the bathroom?" and "how much does this cost?" and instead got "The girls wear short skirts in the summer."

Now, almost 5 years down the road, having used nothing but Duo, I can read the Italian web site equivalent of my own professional industry association. As with French, I'm much better with the written word (and can translate in both directions) than listening/speaking, and I'm still far better at the present and past tenses than I am with things like conditional or subjunctive moods. I definitely learned Italian through Duo better than I did from seven years of academic French.

Note: I only used it in the browser on my computer and never in the app on my phone until a few months ago, so I never did speaking lessons until very recently. And as I noted, I mostly ignore the leagues/competition aspect. I've completed all of the lessons in the entire Italian course, and have gotten to the newer Legendary status on about 2/3 of the course, but have avoided the rest due to those darn conditional/subjunctive moods.

All that aside, I've learned not to do a lesson on Mondays until close to midnight; then you end up with only real people and not bots and cheaters. The scores are lower, and scores are more tightly clumped, but people seem less eager to compete.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 12:52 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]

I won the Diamond League a few weeks in a row and I think maybe also the Diamond Tournament - certainly competed in it several weeks in a row. I just decided to spend a while hitting the leagues hard, just to tick off the achievement.

One week I did get up into the high teens-thousands at least. There’s a particular trick to it which I don’t totally remember, but there’s basically a way to get double points on the challenge that appears on the bottom right of the league pages, and you just hit that really hard, earning 80pts for every few minutes of study. So I was using a particular technique, but was also putting a lot of time into it, and it did help me to drill those few weeks’ worth of exercises until I knew them really well.

Nthing that it’s not enough to learn a language on its own, but I’m taking lessons too and when motivated doing flashcards and reading and listening to podcasts. Duolingo feels like an easy way to add to the selection of things I’m doing, and the more I learn languages, the more I realise that it’s a matter of learning the same things multiple times in different ways, with them sinking in a little more each time.

I have been lucky enough to preserve the old “tree” format, which gives you grammar explanations, rather than the more recent iteration of the “path”.

I also contemplated giving up my streak at 365 days but ploughed on, currently on 445 days! I seem to have made remarkably little progress but that’s maybe because I wasted so much time on the Leagues, where I now languish happily near the bottom, having achieved my Diamond League goal and relaxed :)
posted by penguin pie at 2:49 PM on May 22

The desktop (non-app) version of Duolingo has clear "lessons" and guidance for each of the skills--an explanation of what you're actually supposed to be learning grammar-wise. The vocabulary dump lessons usually don't have this feature. This was a game changer in how I used Duolingo.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 3:19 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

In French, I got to the Diamond league or whatever the theoretically highest one is, and then took my profile private (which removes the leagues completely) and since then have been concentrating on using the app for its intended purpose. It has been very effective in improving my 55-year-old high school French to the point where I understand a lot more. Still can’t speak it terribly well but I’ve been in France several times without being able to speak in French at all so it’s a definite improvement before my planned visit in July.
posted by Peach at 3:51 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I just learned Duolingo has a Spanish -> Catalan module and I am very tempted to check it out. (Maybe it will help with my Spanish too!)

I recently hit my 365-day streak. I pay a small amount of attention to the leagues. If I'm going to get dropped down a level, sometimes I'll do some extra practice to catch up. But I don't optimize for XP at all. I guess that worked well for the OP but I think it would be counterproductive for me, cuz I want to distribute my learning efforts across methods other than Duolingo. I have my own flashcards, and I want to read some foreign language texts, but obviously those activities don't earn any XP.
posted by grobstein at 3:53 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Those who Duolingo a lot: have you found significant improvement to your language skills?


Mostly I use Duolingo to study Spanish for the first time, and it's my primary method for that, partly because of time, and also because I do a lot of work in ed tech and want to learn this thing well. After almost 600 days my vocab is coming along well, I'm learning some of the odd constructions, and am getting better both at speaking and listening.

I've also experimented with Duo to brush up on some languages I have studied, French and Latin. That's both fun and satisfying, as Duo's approach is so different from the teaching methods I experienced with those.
posted by doctornemo at 4:32 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Just before COVID I was invited to address a meeting in Berlin, so I used Duo to get started on basic German. That was fun, as I'd always wanted to learn, and found the language satisfying.

I was still in German kindergarten (get it?) when I landed, and appreciated understanding the occasional word uttered around me. Locals were kind when I tried out my painfully basic words.

Best moment was talking to someone who was fluent with English. Jet lagged, I apologized for my accent. "I must have a Russian accent, since that's the language I know best."

"Oh, don't worry," she smiled. "I'm not threatened."
posted by doctornemo at 4:34 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I'm a Duo user (453 day streak). I've been resurrecting my high school Spanish. Last weekend, I managed to watch Shrek (for the first time ever) in Spanish. I did have the English subtitles on, but I used them less than I thought I would. I started reading the first Harry Potter book in Spanish (yes, I know, JKR is an ass, but I've read it so many times in English) and doing pretty well. I try to use my paper dictionary when reading to look up vocab. I found a podcast call Simple Stories in Spanish and use that as well. I've also tried journaling in Spanish.

My HS Spanish teacher just got married to a Mexican man and is moving to Mexico permanently soon. His husband has a nephew who is a upper elementary school student. I'm going to ask if I can do an English/Spanish exchange with him.

I do miss the DuoLingo events. I did a cooking class, and some conversation classes. I was considering doing some of the paid classes but then they got rid of the whole thing.
posted by kathrynm at 5:01 PM on May 22

It's been a few years since I did Duolingo, but it got me started learning Turkish so I could speak to my in-laws. Since then, I've tried other types of learning, like conversation groups, one on one instruction, and watching shows dubbed in Turkish. But nothing gave me such a quick progression as doing Duolingo.
posted by stripesandplaid at 5:41 PM on May 22

One problem I have been having with learning Korean on Duolingo is that when they give the Hangul version of the word, for example 빵 (bread, for those curious), they don't give the romanization, so I've been picking up Korean very slowly since my brain sees these words and just interprets them as a picture. I assume it would be the same for any non-latin language, like Sanskrit or Cyrillic.

I'm also learning German, that's going much faster, I took that up as proof that I'm not dumb and Korean is just very difficult. Oh, and that word is pronounced 'bbang' or 'pang', by the way.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 8:27 PM on May 22

I stay in the Amethyst league (7/10) because I really like purple.

I am tremendously bad at being competitive.
posted by seraphine at 9:17 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

I was just in the Diamond League finals, and going into the last couples hours, I was in 8th place and over 1,000 points ahead of the next language learners. The top 10 points scorers are considered to have won the tournament. I put my phone down thinking I’d wrapped up a top 10 finish because three people weren’t going to grind out 1000 plus points in under two hours.

When I checked in this morning to ogle my virtual tournament champion trophy, I was disappointed to find that I finished 11th. Those three psychos were sandbagging all week planning to push into the winning rankings in the last minutes. What a fool I was!
posted by chrchr at 9:39 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Huh. I had no idea until I read this that there was a secret Diamond Tournament above the Diamond League. I actually won my DL once, top 3 a few times, and have kept my place in it for over a year now, but obviously never pushed hard enough to make it to the real top.

I think I'll let it go. The gamification of Duolingo seems to give me enough of a push to keep working on my French, I have a 3+ year streak running (no freezes), but the great thing is it doesn't impinge on all the other crap I need to get done in life. One day I hope to be able to take the time to study more intensely, but right now I can spend maybe 20-30 minutes a day learning in and amongst work and family pressures, and still keep on top of the day to day, it's great for that.

When I do go out to France I now understand a lot of written French, and can just about get by in a basic conversation without my interlocutor always dropping straight into their much better English - it's nice to not feel like another ignorant rosbif.
posted by tomsk at 1:18 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]

I wonder why the writer didn't take to the vibe in Modern Greek. Was it the emphasis on "drama sto mini market?" (drama in the mini market)?
posted by johngoren at 2:13 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]

FWIW, tomsk, the Diamond Tournament was underwhelming. IIRC, it's pretty much just like another league with different graphics, if you finish in (something like) the top half, you stay in, below that you drop back to the Diamond League.
posted by penguin pie at 2:52 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]

Duolingo is definitely not useful if you want to be fluent or if you already have a decent vocabulary but need more grammar. I used it for German, and stopped using it once I got beyond an A1 level. I want to know why I am using words in certain forms, not just memorize. There really is no explanation (or at least I never saw/found them).

If you are trying to learn German, I would recommend Grammatisch. The lessons are organized by grammar/function so if you want to practice say, which preposition fits, or when to use the dative vs accusative, I am finding it very useful. I also have a separate app just to learn the genders (Der Die Das is the name of the app). Neither of these really has a focus on the vocabulary itself, but really good practice to learn the stuff that native speakers just know by instinct.
posted by LizBoBiz at 4:03 AM on May 23

I use it for German - I was at B2 level in the past but hadn’t studied for about a decade (had been on holidays etc but was still rusty). I like it because it makes me do some German d wry day. Possibly easy matching games 5 days out of 7, but I do exercises a few times a week, and it keeps my ear for hearing German active.

It is great for vocabulary, and great for forcing you to correct article cases/adjectival endings etc. It isn’t great at explaining *why* it is “auf der” and not “auf die”, but if you already know that in theory and are just making errors in practice, it will correct you. I’m probably back up at B1 level, but a true B1 where I can negotiate living in Berlin for a couple of weeks and interacting with childcare providers without any recourse to English.
posted by tinkletown at 4:36 AM on May 23

I remain in the Obsidian league because it's the best fit. Staying there requires just the right amount of time I can commit each week.
posted by doctornemo at 5:01 AM on May 23

Duolingo is absolutely brutal about minor gender/conjugation errors for something intended for casual language learners. I consider the phone app nea unusable because of this.

The web app doesn't block you from doing normal lessons if you run out of hearts from making minor mistakes, and has fewer / less intrusive ads, so it's far preferable.

(And while I'm moaning about Duolingo, I still can't believe they still haven't fixed the issue where the tile for the correct first word in any sentence is always capitalised and the wrong ones aren't)
posted by grahamparks at 8:33 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]

I've found that in Spanish at least, they started a while ago mixing up the capitalized tiles - sometimes there will be two capitalized ones, sometimes none, and sometimes one capitalized tile but it's the wrong answer.
posted by moonmilk at 12:25 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]

In the little barbell section in the app (which I guess is "Review"), there is a "Speak" section which gives you 10 sentences to read out loud, and if your accent is decent, you can whip through these in about a minute.
Fifteen of those lessons at 40 XP each during a double XP bonus is 600 XP in fifteen minutes.

There is also a “Listen” section and over time I’ve gotten those down to 30–40 seconds with my current vocabulary. That means I can do 20+ lessons at 40 XP each in a 15min period, for 800+ XP.

(I am increasingly embarrassed as I spell this out, but:)

You can get the morning and evening 2X bonuses for doing a single late and a single early lesson, as folks have noted.

You can often get another 2X bonus for completing a couple of the daily quests (though it would take a little planning to arrange not to do this when you’re already in a streak, because you don’t seem to get it then).

You can get a thirty minute 2X bonus for completing a weekly friends quest. And during a friends quest you can gift your friend a 15 minute 2X bonus for just 20 gems, and perhaps they will reciprocate.

With just two 15min sessions a day you can earn 1200 XP or more per day, and the 30min friends quest bonus could be another 2400 XP, which makes 10,000 XP in a week very achievable without spending hours at it at any time.

In my defense I haven’t gone this far, though I have been in the top ten of the diamond tournament once and am currently going for it a second time.

The catch with this stuff is that your time in the app is mostly spent grinding at whatever gets you XP fastest. You’ll get good at that exercise and it will support some part of your language learning, but it’s relatively tedious.

I’ve definitely increased my skills with the language I’m practicing, but I’ve increased my Duolingo skills to a greater degree, and that wasn’t my goal.
posted by Songdog at 6:11 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]

On top of Sondog's method of cranking XP on the Listen and Speak review sections I also amass a pile of XP in the Match Madness section.

For a while I was able to take advantage of the Double XP on both my Android device and iOS device - that seems to have nerfed recently.

If you are interested in seeing how others are amassing their XP - click on the RAW icon on their user page at https://duome.eu/
posted by art.bikes at 6:39 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

I'm curious how many of the people who are competitive in Duo pay for it. I don't currently, and when I was trying at one point to be a little bit competitive, it was frustrating to have 1/3 to 1/2 of the time of my XP boosts taken up by ads.
posted by Night_owl at 7:53 AM on May 24

I kept up a Duolingo streak for seven years, using the iPhone app to keep my Dutch from going rusty. It worked well enough for that. I don't think I'd have got very far learning from scratch, though, because it's not structured enough to suit my learning style.

For what it's worth, Dutch is not a favoured child; in the app, at least, there were no grammar tips, no stories, none of the vocab matching exercises I saw people talking about in French and Spanish. But even for popular languages, I don't think the app offers things you'd reasonably expect from a language learning tool: vocab lists, for instance, or consistently presenting nouns along with their gender.

I eventually called a halt to it last month. I'd been trying to turn the whole path Legendary (after completing the tree, and then completing the new tree, and then getting most of the way to turning the tree Legendary, and then finding myself on the path instead, with no additional content but a lot more nodes, and an unfairly large percentage of them not yet Legendary... they are very, very good at moving the goalposts). But the last section of the path is all just "personalised practice", and the same questions just kept on coming up, irrespective of whether I got them wrong or right. I realised that not only was I not really learning anything at this point, but that typing out the Dutch for "the ruler" and "the knit cap" and "the painter has paint on his fingers" and "I do not dare to drive over the narrow bridge" and "We will definitely go bankrupt unless we find more customers" over and over and over and over and over and OVER was making me downright angry. Which sounds like an overreaction, but it was like writing lines. "Write out in Dutch three hundred times: All Red Devils like to eat Flemish stew and Brussels sprouts." It felt like punishment, not learning.

Anyway. So I gave up; and I do miss the habit, but my blood pressure thanks me for stepping away from de liniaal and de muts and de schilder heeft verf op zijn vingers.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:06 AM on May 24

I'm on a 1550 day streak, studying both French (which I actually have a damn UNDERGRAD DEGREE in, but never get to actually use, hence keeping it up via DL) and Spanish (which I didn't know going in, but is close enough to French that it's probably easier for me than it is for others).

I don't have any true goals around either language; for me it's the equivalent of doing crossword puzzles or Sudokus to keep my brain active. I also just like learning languages, enjoy speaking them aloud and improving my accent, etc. There are plenty of Spanish-speaking folks in my city, and it's fun when I realize I can catch a few words or phrases when I pass them in a grocery store or on the sidewalk.

I almost always use the web-based Duolingo; I only use the app when I'm traveling without my laptop, and I DESPISE IT. So many ads, you have to stop learning if you lose too many hearts, etc. I highly recommend trying the web-based version if you haven't.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 1:08 PM on May 24

So many ads, you have to stop learning if you lose too many hearts, etc.

I'm on the Android app. I do not have a paid account, but I don't see any ads, and I can keep playing no matter how many mistakes I make.

I think it's because I am enrolled in a "classroom." This is a free feature, which was presumably designed for schools, but which actually anyone can set up and use.
posted by grobstein at 10:24 PM on May 24

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