Recently, a reader named Stefan asked me in the comments, “What do I do after Duolingo?”
It was a good question, and one I imagine a lot of people have.If you’ve finished a Duolingo skill tree, congratulations! That required a lot of commitment, and by now you are likely able to do some things in your new language. But maybe you’ve realized that while Duolingo is a great program, using it alone didn’t quite get you to where you want to be.
So if that describes you, then here are six things to try.
1. Keep your momentum.
Finishing a skill tree requires weeks and months of persistent effort. You’ve developed some great language-learning habits. Keep them! Don’t lose your momentum.
Pay attention to what your schedule was. Did you study (or, if you prefer, play) for an hour straight, once a day? Five minutes at a time spread throughout the day? Whatever you did worked for you, so keep it up.
2. Try another app.
If you’ve had more success with Duolingo than with classes or other methods, there’s a good chance you enjoy using apps to learn. It stands to reason, then, that you should try another app.
Babbel is good. It will cover a lot of the same stuff you’ve already learned, but from a different perspective.
ReadLang is a great way to take your language to the next level and expose yourself to more challenging texts.
I’ve never really got into Memrise myself, but other people swear by it.
Not every app will be for you, but give several a try and maybe you’ll find something else you really like.
3. Segue into authentic texts.
Duolingo has an “Immersion” feature. I’ve used it in the past, but I’m personally no longer crazy about it. Many of the texts are from Wikipedia, which I believe are too hard for language learners. And the focus is entirely on translation, a skill that I think is important but one that shouldn’t replace good old fashioned reading and listening altogether.
Look for books, articles, stories, YouTube videos, and TV shows that you can reasonably understand. (If you’re having trouble deciding what to listen to, check out this recent article.) After Duolingo, you should be able to pick out individual words and glean the general meaning of most texts.
Really, you should have been doing this all along. But I know that some people felt safe, comfortable, and motivated working entirely within Duolingo’s confines. At some point, though, you have to think outside of the app and take your language into the real world.
4. Have conversations.
Why did you want to learn a foreign language in the first place? If you’re like the vast, vast majority of people, it’s because you wanted to speak to other people.
So get out there and speak. Language exchange at a site like iTalki is a good way to meet people for conversation and practice. Or maybe look for a MeetUp group in your area. Or, if you have the budget for it, hire a tutor.
You might be surprised at how much you’re able to say after finishing Duolingo. (You might also be surprised at how much you’re not able to say.)
There’s no better way to improve at something than to get out there and do it, and speaking is no exception.
5. Find an intermediate course.
What proficiency level are you at when you complete Duolingo? I’ve heard wildly divergent claims, ranging from advanced beginner (A2) to upper intermediate (B2).
It’s really hard to say, though. Yes, you’ll have received instruction in topics way beyond the beginner level. But did all that stick? Did you see the language in enough different contexts and use the language enough to really be at an intermediate level?
I think to be on the safe side, you should find a solid intermediate course. A self-study course is your best bet, but a test prep book or a college textbook might be useful as well. The idea is to get some of the more difficult points down before progressing to the next level.
6. Review your skill tree.
Finally, if you’ve finished your skill tree in Duolingo, you’re not really done.
A vital part of the program is revisiting completed lessons again and again. Review old lessons often to keep them “gold.” It keeps words and concepts fresh in your mind.
Again, though, don’t spend all your time reviewing Duolingo. Branch off and give other techniques and methods a try.
Duolingo is a great springboard into the language pool, but now that you’ve dived in, keep swimming.