I can read about 53% of all real French, DuoLingo informs me. I started actively searching for French texts to test out their assessment of my ability. To my surprise, I understood quite a lot of those texts, and even though the gaps are frustrating to encounter, just knowing that I've progressed so much makes me happy.
I study French every day, even if it's just a little bit. That's my only real secret: dogged persistence. I didn't imagine that I would get this far when I started out, so the reward is sweet. I can actually understand (some of) what all these new people with a similar talking habit are talking about!
As you might have read previously, I read the Guardian for news and cultural commentary, and part of the charm of the website is that there are three editions: Australian, UK and US. It's interesting to have access to the local news of two different continents, as well as mine. The UK site often has articles on other parts of Europe, and I learn a lot this way. But ever since I discovered Scandinavia, the English-speaking world doesn't impress the way it used to. It seems lacking in sensuality, for one. It seems to be to the right of continental Western Europe in general.
At first I wanted to learn Swedish, but learning on my own proved difficult. I tried to enrol in a university course, but Sydney offered none. The only Swedish university course was in Melbourne, and it was being phased out. (It's probably completely gone by now.) I bought language software, but couldn't stick at it. I followed a whole bunch of Swedish feminists on Twitter but had to defriend them to save my sanity when I still couldn't understand them after ages.
Then I discovered DuoLingo. And though it didn't have Swedish, I figured I could learn another language while I waited for a Swedish version to become available. I chose French. I was already familiar with some basics from a year of high school study, which made me more confident in the language than I was with Spanish. And even though DuoLingo has blessed me with a Swedish version just a few weeks ago, I will persist with my French, because I feel like it has become a part of me. I would miss it if it went away. And hey, the more languages you know, the easier it becomes to learn another one! It's not like I can't wait, either. I can wait, because I'm in the now. I'm enjoying the process. (Thank you to whoever invented mindfulness.)