I’ve passed two milestones regarding Duolingo recently. The first was my four-year anniversary of speaking Hungarian. The second, which happened recently, was the one-year anniversary of speaking Spanish.

Duolingo has changed their interface at least four, maybe five times since I started. Two of those major changes happened AFTER I had finished going through all of the Hungarian.

To explain what I’m doing with the Hungarian: Duolingo added a level (after I started) called Legendary. To reach legendary, you had to pass a pretty difficult test—twenty translations with fewer than three mistakes. And you had to do that eight times in a row after you finished a unit.

After I made it all the way through their Hungarian lessons, I went back to start achieving the legendary level for every lesson.

For Hungarian, originally, the legendary tests were strictly translation. Every sentence was in English and you had to translate it with no mistakes. It was hard.

It used to be that you’d fail after three attempts, and would have to start over from scratch. For some sections, it would take me a month or more to make it all the way through those eight lessons.

Then they added a mid-point, so that if you made it halfway through you at least got some credit for it. That made it easier for me.

The next change was to put a legendary level on every lesson in a unit, plus a test at the end.

Very recently, they’ve made the change that if you have infinite lives (which I do, because I use the paid version of Duolingo) you don’t fail after three mistakes and have to start over. This has made going through the Hungarian levels much easier.

As I’m going back through the older lessons in Hungarian, I tend to do a lot of review, because Duolingo changed the course significantly. The first time through, I was a little pissed off because they didn’t have a section on telling time. (Telling time in Hungarian is…interesting.) They’ve added that. And they added more useful phrases, combining the things that you learn. Plus, they moved possession into earlier lessons, which they had really needed to do. (Doing possession in Hungarian is also…interesting.)

I frequently run into new vocabulary while reviewing the Hungarian lessons. Honestly, that makes going through the Hungarian again worth it. That’s part of what I enjoy about learning—new words, new concepts, new ways of phrasing things.

But what about the Spanish?

I just finished section two, out of nine total. That tells me that it’ll probably take me at least five years to get through all of Spanish. It took me about three years to get through all of Hungarian.

I don’t speak Spanish with the fluency I have in Hungarian. (That was one of the nicer changes that they made with the speaking part. It used to be that I would speak Hungarian and I had a 50/50 chance that my phone would recognize it as Hungarian. Now, probably 95% of the time it recognizes when I’m doing Hungarian lessons and speaking in Hungarian. This has greatly improved my speaking abilities.)

So far, I haven’t been speaking as much Spanish in the Duolingo lessons as I do Hungarian. That’s part of the teaching style, though it frustrates me, sometimes. It does make the lessons significantly easier.

Even given that, I’m starting to develop something of an accent, and I’m figuring out how to put words and phrases together in a sentence. There’s a rhythm to a language. I have that rhythm in Hungarian. I’m starting to figure it out in Spanish.

I can barely say anything at all in Spanish beyond the very basics. I could say more in Hungarian after one year. Part of that was because I’d once lived in Hungary, but part of that is because the course is more condensed.

Spanish is still significantly easier than Hungarian. There are a few trickier things that I’ve recently run into, such as personal pronouns, and a few cases where the word order isn’t the same as English word order.

However, because I’ve spoken Hungarian for a lot longer, I still twist the word order automatically. (Verbs go at the end in Hungarian.) Particularly when I’m tired. The sentences start in Hungarian and end in Spanish. Hol van el baño?

I’m still grateful to my friend who introduced me to Duolingo. As I say to my husband, I speak in tongues every night. I feel it keeps my brain younger.

Here’s to many more years!

# # # # # # # # # # #

Thank you so much for being a patron of mine! I truly appreciate you.

If you’re reading the free version of this, posted two weeks after the Patreon essay gets put up, maybe think about supporting me for as little as $1 a month.