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Duolingo retrospective

So, I have completed the Duolingo Spanish tree. All of it is solid gold, even the optional extras. So, what's it mean, in the end. Have I learned Spanish? Is it a Spanish course? Is it worth it?

No, no, and maybe.

Just walking over tonight, I tried naming things I passed and realized lots of common things I hadn't seen words for (that I recall): bank, store, ice, ice cream, hamburger... store might be in there, but we seem to be shown 'businessman' and 'entrepreneur' and 'business' and 'institute' (and 'utilize') far more. Also I opened up El Pais's website, and while I could get some meaning out of the articles, it's definitely not total understanding.

And at that, DL hardly ever explains anything; I'm pretty sure I got through the verb tense exercise easily because I *had* studied Spanish grammar, with memories of the shape if not the content of Latin grammar. If doing things the pure DL way... I dunno.

I'll also note they encourage you to "immersive exercises", i.e. making money for them by translating articles for them, which I haven't done. Mostly because I didn't feel ready, and also if I'm going to do that I've got a dual language book of top Spanish stories to read instead...

Seems to me that it's far from a complete course in itself; if you rely on it solely, you will certainly learn something, but not even enough to be a good tourist. ("Where is the bathroom?" You could form the sentence, but I'm not sure we've seen 'bathroom'.) But as a gamified complement to proper study, sure. Mostly, if you'd be twiddling with computer or phone games anyway, doing DL exercises is going to be infinitely more productive than playing Angry Birds or Freeciv or Boggle or whatnot. Even low-brain mode via doing exercises you already know well is probably more productive.

So my current plans: keep my streak going and tree golden because it's at least something; maybe dip back into German to learn something there; perhaps more likely to go try to read newspapers with dictionaries open, or my story book, than their own immersion. But we'll see.

ETA: one way to get more out of DL is to read the comments, of course. I've learned some stuff there, hopefully contributed a bit as well. Sort of outsourced teaching, though you also have to be smart and mentally filter what you read -- not all the comments are sound. Still better off with a good text...

ETA2: but as I told my friends in January, a flawed system you use is better than a better one you don't, so there's that; DL kept me 'studying' Spanish when pure self-study wasn't.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/392368.html#comments



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 19th, 2014 06:18 am (UTC)
I get by in Spanish by thinking of Latin roots and adapting the endings from similar words, and keeping in mind the Spanish warnings everything comes with these days.
May. 19th, 2014 07:53 am (UTC)
My partner is working his way through the Spanish DL, and it seems to be pretty useless to someone who has no other experience in the language, as you say. I keep telling him that if he wants a game, I'll give him a game: "Recite the present indicative -ar verb endings three times in a row, and I'll tell YOU where I've hidden your shoes!" But to no avail.

He does have me to explain the grammar stuff, so that's something, but I'm not necessarily very helpful when it comes to vocab, particularly anything South American. DL in general doesn't seem worth it to me.
May. 19th, 2014 05:52 pm (UTC)
I think I'd prefer "game with a cute owl" to "game where I can't get my shoes", fwiw...
May. 20th, 2014 07:11 am (UTC)
Ah, but which is truly more motivational?

Also, this highlights my biggest complaint about DL, which is that since there are no paradigms or even explanations, you're left with rote memorization and guesswork when it comes to things like verb endings. Not good pedagogy.
May. 20th, 2014 03:54 pm (UTC)
One thing I note is that the website and the Android app are fairly different in many ways. On the web, the early lessons do have explanations; also, the mouseover tip for verbs also gives you a Conjugate option, showing the full present, preterite and imperfect conjugations. App, nada. "Verbs Present 1" shows the differences.

Also the app lessons are a bit easier -- shorter, and some segments are "paste these words together to form a translation." Plus a few minor features are missing, and the store is different.
May. 22nd, 2014 07:10 am (UTC)
Oh, that's interesting. My only experience is with the app since that's what my partner is using.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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