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Progress is measured gaming-like by gaining XP, leveling up and knowing how many words are learnt. Also, lessons have a limited amount of lives, which you must preserve to pass the lesson. They use other creative gamification techniques to keep you motivated, such as making wagers and improving your position on the leaderboard. See More
Duolingo is a good tool for a beginner, and a good supplement to other resources. But it cannot get you from zero to understanding natives, tv, and books; and their "do the reverse tree and just speak" is usually not the correct answer to "what should I do after finishing the tree". See More