He’s right, and the original op ed made the same point.
The Foreign Service Institute actually has a ranking of languages in terms of difficulty for English speakers, along with an estimate of how long it takes to reach S-3/R-3 proficiency (which I assume means Speaking and Reading proficiency measured on a scale of 0 to 5).
Looking at the chart now (I’ve seen only abbreviated versions in the past), I notice that they seem to consider French quite a bit more difficult than Spanish, at least in terms of the time they estimate it takes to go from 0 to S-3/R-3. That’s certainly the way it seems to me.
24 weeks for Spanish, 30 for French.
600 to 750 “class hours” in all.
C. and I both decided to try our luck with Duolingo Russian a couple of weeks ago.
Neither of us could get through even one lesson without losing so much “health” that the app froze us out and told us to come back and start over again when our health was “full.”
Normally you can “refill” health by doing practice sessions, but if you haven’t passed even one lesson, you’re out of luck. Duolingo doesn’t let you practice just the two questions you got right before you made 5 mistakes in a row and got the boot.
Our only cost-free option was to wait overnight (Duolingo restores your health while you sleep), re-start Lesson 1 the next day, lose all 5 health ‘bars’ again, then repeat the cycle.
Either that, or we could buy health in the Duolingo Store.
Needless to say, the idea of getting into a health-buying/1st-lesson failing loop didn’t hold a lot of appeal.
We could have just ditched the app and done the lesson online, but we were in the car at the time, not sitting in front of a laptop. There was no way to get online because Duolingo doesn’t let you log onto Duolingo-online from a mobile device.
So, long story short, we’re not learning Russian on Duolingo.
C’est la vie.
And see: How hard is it to learn English?