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Duolingo and ?? for Spanish


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I tried searching for this topic but kept getting crazy pop-ups when I was looking through the results, so rather than end up with a virus, I thought I'd just start a new thread.


I would like my kids to be competent Spanish speakers, both for its own sake and for the convenience factor given the number of Spanish-speakers in our area.  I had tried doing my own Spanish intro materials a year-ish ago (two years?), but even though we were mostly playing games, the kids for whatever reason did NOT like it.  They groaned whenever we got to Spanish.  I wasn't about to kill myself coming up with activities they didn't like, so I fell back to the one element they did like--Salsa Spanish.  Last year we watched an episode a day for months, going over and over the episodes while I tried to think of something else they might enjoy.  


Six weeks ago I started the older two on Duolingo.  While they loved it initially, now they merely tolerate it.  I'm okay with that.  At the same time, I'm left wondering whether Duolingo alone will be enough.  Sure, they can order a beer and talk about eating monkeys, but will they come out of the program knowing enough to hold a normal conversation and read/write enough to communicate?  Do they need formal introduction to verb tenses and subjective/objective pronouns and the like?


The only Spanish programs I've found are either a) really basic vocab programs for kids or b) really dry books like the one I used in high school.  


I guess my questions are twofold:

a) If you use/d Duolingo, did you feel it was effective on its own?  What are its strengths/weaknesses?

b) If you also used some other Spanish materials, what did you use, when, and why?


**In case it's helpful: I took four years of Spanish, but it was back in high school, and I never felt confident speaking--nor have I used my Spanish much at all in the intervening years.  And I'm willing to invest to reach my goal, but I'm not exactly swimming in cash.

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I think duolingo is great for getting started on a language.


I have learnt French mainly using duolingo. It teaches reading better than speaking or listening.


I found using duolingo I made the leap from trying and failing at beginner French instructions that either teach basic greetings and/or Colors. To being able to read things in French and mentally compose conversations.


For an example of level I found this book:




I was able to easily read the first 30 pages for enjoyment, as in just read them, no notes, no looking up words. I think I could have kept giong till the end of part one of the book. If I were to try to tackle part two of the book I would have needed to put real effort into it. Looking up words, making notes...


When I was last in Quebec I was able to ask for assistance finding something in the grocery store and have a short conversation. I was good enough that the person didn't even switch to English. (Which is what usually happens if you are in Quebec near the border and peak bad French.

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I'm currently using Duolingo myself, and I just don't see how it'll bring anyone to proficiency. Maybe I'm wrong. (I hope so!)


I'm looking into Excelerate Spanish (http://exceleratespanish.com/) because I saw it was being offered at a local co-op and it's video based. But I don't see many reviews of it.


I also want to check out Mango, since I think it's available via the library... but haven't yet.

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I think DuoLingo is great for covering a lot of vocabulary quickly. However, the lack of grammar instruction really starts showing further along in the tree. I het several sections in which they introduce verb tenses with so little usage that I had to Google conjugations and translations just to get through the section. Until they hit that point in the tree, I think DuoLingo might be enough.


As Farrar mentioned, with access to an iPad, the Breaking the Barrier books are fairly interactive and inexpensive.


Practice Makes Perfect workbooks aren't exciting, but they are inexpensive and pretty solid. I've noted that each teacher that I've had in my Central American Spanish schools has used the PMP workbooks for reference for students and/or for exercises.

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I am using Duolingo to learn French....but French has a lot fewer learning options compared to Spanish.    So all of my recommendations are available in Spanish and French.


I am sort of a "modern classical mason" homeschooler....if such a thing exists.   So my recommendations follow Charlotte Mason's very loosely in that I try to teach my target language much the same way I taught my children to speak, listen, write, and read in English.   (I don't teach Latin this way.  I am meaning living languages.)     HOWEVER, I am modern in that I believe we should take advantage of all of the new tools available in our day and age.    (apps, ibooks, audible immersion reading, italki, etc.)   


Stage 1:   Get comfortable speaking in the target language

Duolingo is great for introducing the most common vocabulary for your target language.   It is also great for introducing roughly how sentences are constructed.   But you will NOT become fluent using Duolingo alone.    You need more practice speaking than Duolingo can provide.    So I HIGHLY recommend the Paul Noble language programs for getting your child (or you) speaking and thinking in the target language VERY quickly.  But we don't stress about memorizing everything.  We just work on consistent, repeated, natural exposure.      The Paul Noble programs are very unique and inexpensive....and effective.    Note that they are not created with children in mind, by my 8 and 10-year-olds do just fine with the program.   We go back and review quite a bit.    


Also in this stage, we add in quite a few "folk songs" in our target language.    We sing those in the morning together as part of our morning time to get all of those good endorphins flowing.  ;)    Most of our folk songs are targeted to children...but they are great for teaching culture and vocabulary at the same time.    Plus, there is beauty in the language.   (Hearing the rhythm and rhyme in your target language makes it come to life.)   I don't recomend those canned learning songs that were created with the purpose of teaching English speaking children vocabulary.   I recommend REAL songs, nursury rhymes, and finger games.   This way they are taking away a bit of culture and beauty.   


After completing your duolingo tree and the Paul Noble CDs (you can work on both at the same time...just a few minutes per day consistently.), I then recommend practicing speaking as MUCH as possible in your target language.   This is very easy to do in our modern age.   I recommend websites like Italki for homeschooling families.     It is very affordable and you can spend time speaking informally in your target language with natural born speakers from your own home when you are available to practice.   Italki has two different plans:   You can practice with an actual teacher or with just a regular person who speaks Spanish and wants to trade time practicing English.    


Also, around this same time, start watching some Spanish TV shows or audiobooks.     This is an easy way to absorb some culture and language.   (Youtube has many news and children's programs available for free.)


Stage 2:   Introduction to reading, writing, and grammar

After your child feels somewhat comfortable talking and listening in their target language, I then introduce reading and writing.     Have your child follow along in some easy readers while they listen.  (Immersion reading.)   After doing this several times, have them practice reading out loud.    (Very similar to how they probably learned English.   First they learned to speak and listen to words in English.   Then, you read aloud to them.   Then, you introduced reading the text themselves.)     


Also, around this time, it is a good time to start a formal language program.    I also REALLY like the Breaking the barrier programs.   (You cannot beat the price on those ibooks!)   It is really strong with grammar.   Plus, the ibooks have audio build in.   They are wonderful.      We also add in copywork from our readers and eventually some studied dictation to work on spelling.    (Using sentences from our readers.)    Again, this is very similar to how the child probably learned to read and write in English.   (Copywork, dictation, formal grammar study.)   







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I used two programs to help me get started as an adult but I'm thinking about letting my children use them along with something else and they are free so no harm in checking them out. One is a podcast- http://www.learnoutloud.com/Podcast-Directory/Languages/Spanish/Learn-to-Speak-Spanish-Podcast/30314 I just listened to the podcast. I didn't use the whole program. 


Secondly was spanishdict.com , they changed this a lot since I have used it but I found that it was doable and think it would be for maybe 6th grade and up if done at a reasonable pace. Also it is an adult forum and I never ran into anything questionable but depending on your child's internet savvy I don't know that I would let them use the question and answer forum etc. 


Anyway both were free, very easy to use in small amounts, etc so thought I would mention them though it's likely there are better things. 

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My daughter recently tried Duolingo. She has been using Rosetta Stone for 3 years, and she didn't like the way Duo was set up. She was on a mission trip earlier this year, and she was complimented on her pronunciation and vocabulary by some of the native speakers. She recommends Rosetta Stone over Duolingo. You will need to supplement RS to boost the grammar though.

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We use Rosetta Stone Homeschool (got 5 levels = 5 years for $180 + points on homeschoolbuyerscoop) + Spanish for Children by CAP.


Now Rosetta is a program that we enjoy, but their software policy is rigid and we have had some software glitches which Rosetta has helped us resolve, but that was time-consuming. Also, DS7 has fits with their voice recognition, but DS9 and I have no problems. The software does warn you of this -- for users under 6. They also have the option to turn the speaking lessons off until their voice matures.


Other than that it has been great. The homeschool version is laid out in lessons with accompanying worksheets. You can choose from a 36 week or 45 week curriculum. The curriculum covers word recognition/reading/writing, listening, and speaking (with voice recognition). You need a good pair of headphones with a mic. What Rosetta Spanish is lacking (at least so far) is grammar skills that enable reading and writing in Spanish.


For that, we added Spanish for Children. SfC will NOT build conversational spanish skills (speaking and listening), but it is great for grammar -- verb conjugations, how to put together sentences. It also builds your academic vocabulary (where Rosetta is more conversational vocabulary). So SfC is not a standalone program unless all you want to do is read and write in Spanish.


We have been doing this since August and they are having basic conversations with each other and their dad (4-yr high school) and uncle (Spanish major). Next we are going to add Reading A to Z --- they have Spanish readers with a read to me option. If I didn't have dad/uncle/local Spanish stations & speakers, I would probably do Skype lessons for them to practice listening and speaking. Rosetta teaches, but you need more opportunities to practice.


Basically, if your goal is to become bilingual, then you can simply use a curriculum that develops conversational spanish with some reading (this is what Rosetta is - so far). If you want to be bi-literate (beyond basic reading), then you need a program that also does the grammar, academic language (SfC). Many people in America are bilingual, but not bi-literate -- so it is a choice. If you want to be both bilingual and bi-literate, then you most likely need multiple programs (as well have). Whatever you use, you also need practice.


Note -- we are still in Level 1 of Rosetta, so my comments about Rosetta's grammar/reading development is limited to that level. Either way, I would want more grammar instruction in the 1st year than Rosetta gives which is why we added SfC.


Edited by RenaInTexas
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My dd tried Visual Link Spanish but didn't want a computer only program because she likes books and stuff on paper. I wasn't trying to learn then, so I had no opinion. 


I started trying to learn with ds this year using Breaking the Barrier. It's challenging and designed for a classroom with a teacher. It's not been enough for me. 


I realized I still owned VL, and I reinstalled it on our computers. I really like it. I think it's going to be great for ds along with the BtB book for understanding grammar more fully. There are some free lessons on the website, too. 



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