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Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:24 am
by fr8mech
My son struggled with Spanish all through elementary & middle school. We decided to start fresh in high school with German this fall.

I decided to learn German so I can help him if needed, and do a little bonding.

I started using Duolingo back in February and I feel I'm doing well. Moving right along. I was thinking it's a great program.

Now, I'm a American of Greek birth, who came over as a newborn. Grew up speaking Greek, but I'll be the first to admit, my Greek vocabulary is stunted at the 6 or 7 year old level, my reading even lower, and my writing non-existent.

So, I added Greek to buttress my command of Greek. I'll tell you, if I had started with Greek, I wouldn't have continued as long as I have. I suspect it's the different alphabet and syntax. But, the Greek pronunciation that Duolingo uses is terrible, especially the alphabet. And, clearly, the syntax I've been taught is subtly different than the Duolingo syntax. I find myself making more mistakes with Greek than with German.

Anyone else here have a similar experience? Kinda know a language, but want to add to it with a language app, and struggling?

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:32 am
by hoons90
You could also try listening to some podcasts or watch YouTube videos that teach Greek. Quizlet is very useful for building vocabulary with flashcards, with lots of communal decks uploaded by people. You could choose the level of difficulty and some of them even have audio to help with pronunciation.

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 9:09 am
by seat64k
Duolingo is a great app, best use as a supplement. I find the same issue with Japanese - the audio is not great and quite often flat wrong. It also contains some strange sentences that no human would ever say.

German isn't hard to get into as an English speaker (Germanic commonality) so it shouldn't be too hard to find stuff to watch in German. The key is - especially early on - to spend a lot of time reading and listening to native speakers. Both at the same time, if you can find audio and text of the same content.

Same thing applies for Greek. I've found two tools that help enormously with this:

https://www.lingq.com (paid)
https://www.zerotohero.ca (free)

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:09 am
by BlueberryWheats
I've been having a go at Italian on Duolingo for the last few weeks. I had no prior knowledge of Italian (although I do come across some similarities between Italian and French/Spanish which I studied in school).

I can now converse very basically with an Italian coworker. Although I do find my written communication is much stronger than trying to speak Italian.

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:13 pm
by Revelation
I gave German a bit of a go several years ago by picking up Pimsleur CDs and ripping them to MP3 format so I could play them in my car. I thought they were very good. They forced you to vocalize right from the start so you got a good feel for the pronunciation. I bet you can find a cheap set via ebay since so many people give it a go then get rid of the CDs. They are good to use in the car during commutes since one doesn't feel too strange trying a foreign language when alone in the car and it feels good to use commute time for something useful.

Occasionally I watch some of the casual "learn German" youtube videos. I find them enjoyable but feel they are at best background level things to help build vocabulary.

In the end, you get out what you put in, and at this point in time I guess I'm not willing to put in much. It's yet another thing I'm sure I'll find more time for during retirement. It does IMO take a lot more work than one would think up front, and one won't make much progress unless they are willing to dedicate a block of time each day.

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:27 pm
by Braybuddy
I've been using Duolingo to brush up my German since the lockdown and the daily lessons do improve your comprehension (particularly the stories). The lessons are basic, but a couple of lessons a day do make you more comfortable using the language. The speakers are native, so there's no problem with pronunciation, but I sometimes wonder if some program is composing the sentences: "The cat gives the woman a skirt" is not a sentence I could ever imagine needing. :scratchchin:

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:39 pm
by einsteinboricua
I found that for basic words, it works. But to have a true handle on the language (written and spoken) formal training works best in my opinion.

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 3:05 am
by fr8mech
seat64k wrote:
. It also contains some strange sentences that no human would ever say.


Braybuddy wrote:
but I sometimes wonder if some program is composing the sentences: "The cat gives the woman a skirt" is not a sentence I could ever imagine needing. :scratchchin:


I think that's intentional. It works on vocabulary. Since you wouldn't imagine using a sentence like that, you can't rely on experience, intuition or instinct. You have come up with the right nouns.

einsteinboricua wrote:
I found that for basic words, it works. But to have a true handle on the language (written and spoken) formal training works best in my opinion.


No doubt, but I have no intention of using German in any way other than with my son, and maybe a trip out there in a few years for his senior trip...but I've been able to say "Ein Bier, bitte" and "Entschuldigung, wo ist die Toilette?" for a long time.

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 1:18 pm
by Revelation
fr8mech wrote:
...but I've been able to say "Ein Bier, bitte" and "Entschuldigung, wo ist die Toilette?" for a long time.

If you know the first sentence, you better know the second one too!

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Mon Jun 29, 2020 1:29 pm
by Alex5566
It is great that you decided to learn German together with your son. This is a great support. I know that there are people who want to learn foreign languages using Viber, Skype, etc. So, you can talk to a native speaker, that can fast the process.

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:20 am
by max999
fr8mech wrote:
My son struggled with Spanish all through elementary & middle school. We decided to start fresh in high school with German this fall.

I decided to learn German so I can help him if needed, and do a little bonding.

I started using Duolingo back in February and I feel I'm doing well. Moving right along. I was thinking it's a great program.

Now, I'm a American of Greek birth, who came over as a newborn. Grew up speaking Greek, but I'll be the first to admit, my Greek vocabulary is stunted at the 6 or 7 year old level, my reading even lower, and my writing non-existent.

So, I added Greek to buttress my command of Greek. I'll tell you, if I had started with Greek, I wouldn't have continued as long as I have. I suspect it's the different alphabet and syntax. But, the Greek pronunciation that Duolingo uses is terrible, especially the alphabet. And, clearly, the syntax I've been taught is subtly different than the Duolingo syntax. I find myself making more mistakes with Greek than with German.

Anyone else here have a similar experience? Kinda know a language, but want to add to it with a language app, and struggling?


My German skills are beginner / intermediate; I had classroom lessons, used Duolingo, and watched German language YouTube to learn. Here are my opinions about Duolingo.

I agree with others that Duolingo is a supplemental tool. The main disadvantage of the app is that it does a poor job of teaching you anything outside of vocab and pronunciation. As you study German, you will find out that the grammar, declension, syntax, and gendering are much more complex than English and Spanish. Duolingo cannot teach you the rules and nuances of these topics; in fact, it barely scratches the surface.

I recommend something more comprehensive than Duolingo to learn German properly. I wish you and your son the best!

Re: Learning a New Language with Duolingo

Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 5:18 pm
by fr8mech
max999 wrote:
I agree with others that Duolingo is a supplemental tool. The main disadvantage of the app is that it does a poor job of teaching you anything outside of vocab and pronunciation.


So true. I had to look up why “ein” was correct in some cases, while “eine” in others. “Essen” & “fressen” also had me confused until I looked them up. It’d be nice if Duolingo had a concise tutorial to go with its lessons, but hey, it’s free, so I’ll take what I can get and supplement with other sources.

max999 wrote:
I recommend something more comprehensive than Duolingo to learn German properly.


When my son actually starts learning German in school, I’ll take my lead from the text and technique they use. I’m just getting a jump on him.