This is the most unique Duolingo Review you will ever see.
Bottom line: If you want to be fluent, don’t waste too much time on Duolingo.
If you’re satisfied with the amount of progress you made in high school foreign language class, and you just want to ‘brush up’, Duolingo is perfect for you.
Here is a parable:
A man wanted to be able to fight, so he signed up for a Taekwondo class. In class he practiced kicking, hitting, and blocking the air. Sometimes the students demonstrated moves on each other, but they never did any real sparring. After months of classes, he thought he could fight really well, so he picked a fight with a tough guy outside a bar, and got the sense slapped into him. He wasn’t a good fighter after all. The class didn’t prepare him to fight in real life.
The Taekwondo class is Duolingo. Duolingo users who think they are fluent will get their feeling hurt when they go to Spain and realize the natives don’t talk with subtitles. They don’t pause 20 seconds between each sentence to give time to translate either. Duolingo does not prepare you to deal with this since it gives you only one sentence at a time, and it spells the words out for you.
You know those foreigners who speak English understandably, but have an accent, and make little grammar errors? They are Shakespeare compared to people who rely on Duolingo. Duolingo doesn’t even come close to getting results that good.
The only way to get used to listening to native speakers, is to listen to native speakers. Listen to real native speakers, not computer generated ones, that pronounce random sentences one at a time. The only way to get good at having conversations is to spend a zillion hours reading and listening to the language, and then have conversations. –Real conversations.
It is not easy to leave your safe Taekwondo class, which made you feel like you were a good fighter (even though you weren’t). If you know nothing of a language, you can get a nice, and easy start with Duolingo, but quit Duolingo ASAP. Do not make a zillion day streak. Do not finish the tree. Step out of that dojo! Metaphorically, get out on the street and fight again and again, until you can win! (That is metaphorical, people. DON’T REALLY DO IT!) Drop Duolingo and immerse yourself in the language. One way to immerse is to consume media by-and-for native speakers. When you are ready, chat with native speakers on HelloTalk.
Yes, it is annoying when you don’t understand all of what you hear. Yes, it’s awkward to speak in your second language like a toddler, when you could speak in your first language like a man. It is hard. But immersion is the only way.