I started playing with Duolingo some time ago, after justphoenix
mentioned using it. Now that I have been using it for a couple of months, I wanted to give some thoughts on it, for any who are interested in learning, or brushing up on fluency of, one of the five languages the app offers (Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese).
I've been learning German. For no real reason, I've always been interested in Germany. I've got a little German ancestry, but no more than I do any of the other half dozen nationalities that makes up your typical American Mutt. We are planning a trip there in a few years though, so to have some knowledge of the language would help then, for sure.
Anyhoo, the app is laid out differently than any other method of learning another language that I've ever heard of. It just sort of jumps in, teaching you whole sentences, and repeating them in a hundred various combinations to allow you to pick out what words are what, and when to use them. It has a format, to be sure, it breaks it up into sections. Conjunctions, accusative pronouns, clothing, plurals, etc. But it's focus is always on sentence structure. Because of this, I know that the negative "not (nicht)" goes after the verb, but I haven't even been taught the numbers one through ten, yet. I think that this is because the app is designed to have your end goal to help translate Internet pages in other languages into English, which is why it is free.
The other issue is that it moves very fast. I'm learning so many words with every lesson, that I can't possibly retain them all. They'll come up later, and I have no idea what they are. I was getting a bit frustrated, and then, I taught myself a way to make it fun again. The answer?
Cheat. Use the hints the lessons give. Look it up online if I feel like it. If I keep passing each level this way (it's got a semi-game like format to each lesson), aren't I then still moving too fast for me? Yes, but the app is repetitive, as I've said, and I figure even if I only retain 10% of what I'm doing, then 10% of 10,000 words is better than 10% of 1,000 words. I'm now treating it more like a game, with the goal to beat each current level, and I hope that some small amount of fluency will come with it as I continue.
I'm also looking into getting some other materials on learning German from the library. There are some audiobooks, some workbooks, and even an interactive book designed for kids! That one actually looks fun. No single one of these things is as good as something like Rosetta Stone, but added up together, these materials could help strengthen each other.
My final verdict is that I WOULD recommend it to others. I'm learning at least a couple good words or small phrases every day that I use it, and that is bound to add up. I could now ask someone for a bathroom, a place to eat lunch or dinner, introduce meine Frau, and I'm currently learning nouns found in a house, such as a door (Tür), or table (Tisch). I plan on keeping at it, even if I sometimes feel that other things are not fully explained (fucking when do I use das, der, or die? WHEN!?! Masculine and feminine? NOT. THAT. SIMPLE.).
You might want to give it a shot.