Thursday, November 23, 2023

1000 Days on Duolingo


Last month I passed a double milestone - 1000 days on Duolingo (1035 as of today) and two years of learning German. I'm a language nerd, wouldn't call myself polyglot, but I love learning languages and German is the sixth foreign language I've tried to learn, besides English, Russian, French, Italian and Spanish. Of these I have a decent command of English and Russian and I still retain some Spanish and some very basic Italian. My encounter with French was short-lived and very long ago, for a year in middle school. Italian I self-taught during my university years and I started with Spanish with the appearance of Livemocha and then I studied it anew for a few months at the Spanish Cultural Institute in Sofia - until the coronavirus broke out, the courses became online and I lost interest.

I started my journey with Duolingo a bit as a joke in January 2021 and for the first year I practiced my Spanish, until my visit in Vienna in October 2021, when I decided to include a German course to my Duolingo routine. This was my first encounter with German and though I wouldn't claim I fell in love with it, for the first time in years I felt highly motivated to bring my language endeavour somewhere. Having studied languages all of my conscious life, I know only too well that it's an endless journey. However, there's a stage, probably a solid B2, when the knowledge of the language is permanently fixed and daily practice is no longer needed to keep it alive. Thus I know that even if I stopped reading and listening to English or Russian for years, I'll never forget them completely and will always be able to revive my knowledge of these languages. I didn't get there with Italian or Spanish, but I do plan to persist and bring my German to a decent B2 level (one day, in many years time).

Meanwhile, I believe in May this year, I reached the end of the German tree and started the revision part, with no new words and grammar. I got a little bored and decided to try the reverse course, English through German. The first units were, naturally, a joke, but I soon found a method to practice my German, which turned out extremely effective and I believe has significantly improved my language skills. The method is very simple - I turn off the sound of the phone, as I don't need the English sentences read to me, instead I try to translate every single exercise in German, without looking at the clues, and only after I've translated it out loud, I do the exercise and compare my translation with the German key. I do the same with the stories - I read silently the English text and translate it aloud in German, checking from time to time with the hidden German translation (by clicking on a word or a phrase).

Meanwhile I continued with my German course (through English) and they soon rearranged it again, adding new lessons with extended vocabulary and grammar. I finished it in a couple of months and now I am stuck again at the revision level, so I do mostly the reverse course.

I know it's a painfully slow progress, but not only do I enjoy it, but I can see my improvement - I can read books in German and watch films with German subtitles, and though I am still far from understanding everything, I am getting at least 60% of it. Hopefully, next year it will be 80% :)

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