Got the Spanish Owl Statue on Duolingo, New Goal is….

Once you complete all the lessons in a language on Duolingo you get an owl statue!

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It was cool to get that. But it doesn’t really mean you’re a master of the language. In the words of the program though, it says you have ‘conquered’ the language.

It’s a goal to reach, a step along the journey.

The statue became a bit harder to get when they expanded the lessons and I imagine that the lessons will be expanded more times. Though you probably keep the statue even if it expands.

Duolingo has a feature that seems very useful for reaching a higher level with the languages. It mimics how your memory works with the different skills in that if you haven’t practiced something for a while, it starts to fade.

There are four levels:

1. still strong
2. pretty good
3. time to practice
4. overdue

I liked how they set that up. The program keeps track of how well you do with different words and skills. So this system where the skills fade encourages you to review things, especially those things you had trouble with initially.

So my new goal is to get all of the skills in the tree to the fourth level (still strong). I’m curious how much I can get to before the first things that I got back to ‘still strong’ diminish down to ‘pretty good’.

After about a week of using the ‘practice this skill’ function, I have the first section of the tree at ‘still strong’.


Today I also ordered some tacos in Spanish and replied to a question a guy asked me. In both cases people assumed I could speak Spanish, which was interesting, but probably shouldn’t have been all that unexpected given the festival that I was at.

Seems like if you speak Spanish and it sounds at least okay, you will probably get a response in Spanish here.

When I was in Germany, your German had to sound fairly good to get a response in German. If it didn’t sound very good, I saw people getting responses in English even if they said something in German first.

I think my accent is decent in German, but my grammar is fairly weak, something I would like to work on some more.

Probably will work on German a bit more in Duolingo, but hopefully after I manage to get all the skills in Spanish to ‘still strong’.

Trying the Chineasy Characters – Concept by ShaoLan Hsueh

Saw a cool project that seems a brilliant method of teaching Chinese characters by ShaoLan Hsueh, Chineasy.

Link goes to the Kickstarter page, which has 14 days left.

The Chinese language can seem somewhat intimidating to say the least. The four tones in the spoken language change the meaning completely often times.

And I thought that I would probably never learn the characters.

But then I saw this project and it seemed much more approachable to learn some of them.

By starting with a base of characters with visual representations built upon them.

Since I have been drawing a little over the last few months, thought I would try some of her examples.

Here are a few:


What I Learned from Using Duolingo for a Year

duolingo_all_unlockedHeard about a tool called ‘Duolingo‘ in a video from the guy who invented Captcha, Luis von Ahn.

Thought it sounded like a cool idea.

So I tried it out for a bit. And liked what I saw, but then my momentum slowed down. Didn’t work on it much for about a month.

Seemed like it would be more fun if more people I knew used it as well, so I invited some friends to try it out. And a few did.

That got my momentum rolling again.

Duolingo also got some funding and publicity that allowed them to expand and add new features, some of which made it more fun. And it also encouraged competition a little bit.

So friends would pass me in the number of points I had and I would be notified, sometimes I would pass other people.

And the program kept track of the number of consecutive days I worked on the language.

Working on language a little each day is very helpful, much like with learning other skills like music and dance.

More so than large amounts spread out sporadically.

Mostly I worked on Spanish- currently at level 14. Did a little German- up to level 5 and tried the Portuguese.

My background with language is that I took three years of Spanish in high school and a few years of German in college, including spending two summers in Germany.

Conversationally, I can speak better German, but my grammar and knowledge of the written language is better in Spanish.

Also, in California, I’m around Spanish a lot more, especially with the salsa scene.

Here’s the video I saw that came out in 2011 about the program if you would like to check it out.

And I would recommend spending a little time on it each day, possibly on the phone app in your downtime.

It can teach you quite a bit and is constantly being improved, both by the team and by user feedback.