I Like Duolingo

Me gusta Duolingo!

About a month ago, I realized that I’m not immersed enough in Spanish to actually achieve even minimal fluency by the time we leave a year from now. I only had two days over the weekend with any significant immersion for more than a few minutes, but during the workweek I’m in a strictly English environment. Eso es no bueno.

I had a choice to make. Either continue drifting with Spanish, or get serious. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn Spanish while practicing with nearly every person I interact with outside the house, so I chose to kick it into gear.

I went back to Duolingo, and started over. My goal was to get caught back up to where I stopped a year ago, getting all the lessons back to the gold completed state.

With this program, when you complete a set of lessons on a subject, the icon turns gold. After a while (days or weeks?) it loses its gold status, which indicates that you need to review the material, because memory decays over time. You go through one or more refresher lessons, depending on how long it’s been, to get it back to gold.

Even when I was studying regularly, I actually never practiced enough to keep everything gold. I would review one lesson, only to have two revert back. It got rather discouraging, especially when I hit new lessons that were more challenging.

Duolingo-in-iPhoneWell, I’m now on a 33 day streak, the longest I’ve ever had. And last night, I got the last of my previous lessons back to gold. Today, I actually started new material. Nice.

At the same time, when I kicked it into gear I decided to form relationships with more fluent speakers around me, so I would be doing more serious practice 7 days a week. I’ve got the guy at the corner market and a couple of neighbor boys, and every time I talk to them I try out a new word or phrase so they can correct me.

But my best teacher has turned out to be Eliseo, the cocinero at the little restaurant where I’ve been getting lunch during the workweek. Because of my schedule I’m often the only one in there, so we talk a lot. Man, he is so┬ápatient. I’ll try to say something, and he’ll correct my grammar, then make me repeat it several times until he’s satisfied. He’s got a little notebook that he’ll write words or sentences in if I can’t understand.

The end result of all this is a burst of improvement that I’ve seen in just the last couple of weeks. The proof came last week, when I talked with some native speakers back in the U.S. that I’ve never been able to understand, and could actually hear what they were saying.

It’s still a long journey ahead. According to Duolingo I’m 22% fluent, though it doesn’t feel like that much. But as Eliseo tells me every day, “Poco a poco.”

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