I'm already level 6 in Italian on Duolingo. I can speak some Italian. If I complete the lessons and internalize all of it, can I be sure that I would be understood in Italy? Will I not sound like a "book"?

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    Could you give some examples of what you fear would sound like a book? The Italians here and those who didn't use Duolingo to learn the language have no clear idea of the Italian taught there.
    – DaG
    Dec 15, 2015 at 14:01
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    There are some grammar problems with the sentence you use as an example (verb conjugation, plurals, missing articles), but it's understandable. Anyway my take is that Duolinguo alone doesn't suffice to learn a language, I'm using it for German and I couple it with several other tools and old fashioned grammar books. Dec 15, 2015 at 14:11
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    @Rod Get a good grammar book. It's hard for me to recommend one because it is strongly dependent on your background and your native language (for example for me the Russian grammar books targeted to English speakers are downright irritating). In a pinch, even reading the wikipedia page on Italian grammar is a start, although you should really find a better resource. You can ask in the Duolingo forums for suggestions, the people there are usually quite helpful.
    – Denis Nardin
    Dec 15, 2015 at 15:09
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    Sounding like a book would be great. Dec 16, 2015 at 11:14
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    For anyone still interested, these two related questions on Language Learning Stack Exchange might be worth looking at: Is Duolingo effective in learning to speak languages? and What are the drawbacks to Duolingo?
    – J.Past
    Aug 25, 2016 at 19:39

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: With only Duolingo you will sound not like a book, but like a tourist who has somehow memorized a very long phrasebook. However Duolingo together with other learning aids can be a very powerful tool.

I use Duolingo for other languages (German and Russian) and I think it is an invaluable and powerful resource. However it is not sufficient by itself to learn a language. In particular there are three things that Duolingo lacks

  • Grammar. Duolingo goes from downright awful to barely sufficient for learning the grammar. In this it shows its roots as a tool for learning English (a language in which most of the parts of grammar that cannot be figured out on one's own are advanced topics). A good grammar book with exercises is essential here to complement. Seriously, this is the part where Duolingo sucks.

  • Conversation. As all self-learning methods, Duolingo cannot replicate the challenge of being actively engaged in conversation with someone. Unfortunately there's not much to do about it, except finding someone to practice with (possibly a native speaker).

  • Reading. Here Duolingo is serviceable, but you should actively seek articles and short stories compatible with your learning level. The 1-2 sentences of Duolingo exercises just don't cut the mustard.

On the other hand Duolingo is very useful for other parts of the learning process:

  • Learning words. Practice practice practice. After doing Duolingo's course you will have at least a sufficient starting vocabulary.
  • Example sentences Duolingo also makes you memorize sentences, which is very useful for cementing the grammar rules by knowing many examples. However you have to seek somewhere else to learn the actual rules.

In practice I tend to read the relevant chapters of the grammar books before doing Duolingo's skills and it seems to be working fine so far.

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    I'll definitely find more sources so I can speak like a native speaker. Thanks @Denis for helping out. I got a clearer picture on where to go. Dec 16, 2015 at 2:08
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    I'm not keen on grammar based approaches to language learning. After all, children don't know grammar when they learn a language. ;-) Of course, grammar is important, but it can come later.
    – egreg
    Dec 17, 2015 at 16:12
  • @egreg: I quite agree with you.
    – Charo
    Dec 17, 2015 at 17:40
  • I don't know, I usually prefer to build grammar first (just bare bones, to have a reference point) and usage later. Of course this is an extreme simplification. Anyway everyone should look for the combination that fits his/her style best. But Duolingo sort of assumes that you will pick up some grammar as you go
    – Denis Nardin
    Dec 18, 2015 at 3:33

As @Denis has answered, Duolingo should be used in conjunction with other tools. I have been using Duolingo to learn Italian, but I was not able to make proper conversation at all. And I feel Duolingo lacks useful sentences which are used in daily life or normal conversations.

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