Becoming "conversational"?

Hello, everyone!

I'm learning German to communicate with a friend. He's eager to talk with me to help me practice, but I feel as though what I've been learning is pretty random, and not particularly useful in trying to become conversational. Not yet anyway.

(I'm sure part of the issue is that I'm only Level 8 in German.)

But aside from that... Does anyone have tips on how to become more "conversational"?

Edit: For the record, I do have other resources I'm using! Though to be honest I've probably gotten further in Duolingo than any other source thus far.

March 28, 2016


Duolingo level is absolutely irrelevant, it is just a good motivation tool within the website.

How to become better at a language and therefore "conversational":

1.Don't rely on one source. What else have you been using? Get a real grammar exercise book (such as Klipp und Klar), learn more vocabulary (for example on Memrise), get a course or another source of dialogues (such as Assimil or Germanpod101 or Teach Yourself...), use native media ( makes newspapers accessible even to beginners), listen a lot (course audio, songs on or youtube, check things on forvo) etc.

2.How long have you been learning? Level 8 without other resources is like a month or two? Expect it all to take time, don't be extremely hard on yourself. As was said, you are learning the building blocs but you'll need time to put them together. Have realistic expectations, set some smaller goals to help you on the path. And the goals should be easy to define and check. "Becoming conversational" is a good long term idea but a useless short term or mid term goal. Some good shorter term idea examples (mine or heard/read) are: complete a coursebook, get by during my journey to Germany as a tourist, be able to read a newspaper article, write a postcard, etc.

3.Learn the basics right, especially the pronunciation. Trust me, relearning things having fossilized a mistake is painful and a real obstacle in becoming good at the language. There are people who skip the basics, get good at the difficult and fairly academic stuff, but fail totally at normal conversation due to their beginner/intermediate gaps.

Just my two cents, I hope you'll find some of it useful, have a nice day.

March 28, 2016

To become conversational, you have to converse! However, that is a drastic oversimplification, as you no doubt realize.

There are several skills within every language, and they have to be worked on individually, then collectively. Try the following:

1) Read - Real world articles (newspapers, magazines, etc.) will give you real world vocabulary. This includes connectives, and context will help with a lot. Look up all words and expressions you don't know. Write them down and drill them.

2) Listen - Find podcasts and similar programs appropriate to your level. Use them when shopping, driving to work, waiting in line, or any other "dead moments".

3) Speak - Practice when alone, or with your dog! Describe things you see when you go for a walk. Ask questions about them, and then answer yourself. If you meet someone who understands, great! Tell them what you are doing, and why. Hold nothing back. Like a karate student accosted by a mugger, you wouldn't say, "Well, I'm not a master, so I'm just not going to use my skills." No! You'd unleash everything you could, to the point of overwhelming your "opponent."

There is no reason you cannot do all of the above, starting now, and continuing until you are as conversational as you want to be. All the best to you.

March 28, 2016

It takes time to get to a speaking point. What seems random are building blocks for future conversation. Trust me I've been a German learner since 2001. I started learning German when I was 20 years old. I only knew a few worlds before 2001 that I learned from my mom and a couple of words in school. After one two semesters of German I could chat with people.

March 28, 2016

Television is a great way of training your ear to casual, conversational German. Try finding the German stations online and watching their broadcasts.

March 28, 2016

Thank you for sharing! I will give that a try sometime!

March 29, 2016

What I do is learn words and phrases not taught on duolingo as supplement to what is taught in duolingo. Also simply just using whatever you know in conversation is the best things

March 28, 2016

In addition to Duolingo try Memrise Official A1, it has more phrases and also some youtube videos such as easy german ( and and

I also like Michael Thomas audio books and maybe a regular phrase book for travelers can help you.

March 28, 2016

I recently started going through the Memrise A1 course and highly recommend it.

March 28, 2016

Try speaking and using already what you know. I tried to speak Swedish and Portuguese with my friends the moment I could barely greet. Dont worry about mistakes. Just throw in the English word when you have no idea about the German word. Also watch videos in German every day. You get a bit better every day! Just keep it up!

March 28, 2016

Well, several people mentioned the old "just speak to learn to speak" theory, which is true to some point. But I've seen far too many people get stuck at the intermediate level due to just speaking without the other parts. And trust me, I got from barely passable speaking level up to really high level (both confirmed by official exams) mostly due to tons and tons of listening. I mean a few hundreds of hours of listen on top of the other activities (lots of grammar, some normal courses, thousands of pages read), so I really wouldn't follow the dogma of the four separate, nearly autonomous, skills

So yes, speak whenever you can. But be prepared for the opportunities. The better prepared you are, the more you'll learn by speaking. There are some catches though. Very often, the natives will switch to English even when your language skills are already more than sufficient for the situation. Some natives are simply convinced all the foreigners are too dumb to learn their language (funny when it happens with a native with crapy English while I have C2 skills in their language). And later, you might get to the level of getting your point across, you might get some friends to speak to (awesome!) but it won't help without continuing the other activities, without learning on your own too. Most people you are gonna meet at this stage are not paid to improve your skills, they will talk to you, enjoy the conversation, compliment you on your skills (so many people compliment just a "hello" in their langauge to be polite) but you won't grow at all with them. Not unless you continue the other activities. One of the worst misconceptions on this forum is the answer to the common question "what am I to do after Duolingo", when people say "just speak and use the language". Nope. You are not ready to ditch grammarbooks, vocabulary learning and tons of other stuff at that point, unless you move to the country and your life depends on learning the language in situ asap.

Speak whenever you can but don't stress out too much if the opportunities simply don't arise at the moment, there are lots of other things that will help you. And actually, it is a bit too early to consider speaking as the main part of learning, when you are just in the first third of the Duolingo course. You might happen to fossilize mistakes instead of learning to speak correctly.

March 28, 2016

Of course one should use other sources too if one wants to get better. But as I understood the question, it is basically about starting and get to a conversation point.

How to reach a conversation point? Just start. Use what you already now, ask, point at stuff, get the pronunciation, laugh a lot and have fun! :D

Now, that might be easy for me to say since I live in Vienna now and plan to live here for a long time. I need the language to do that. I have managed the conversation point, I understand a lot more than I can speak, I am taking classes, planning to take tests, have grammar books, dive into a lot of different sources for expressions/different words, read books in German (finally good enough!) and watch movies in German. Of course that and more is the way to go if one wants to get good in a language.

March 28, 2016

"Conversation point" as you mention it is something different than being "conversational" as most people use the word. Is pointing at stuff and ordering a meal already a conversation? I don't really think so, even though it is more of a matter of opinion what is actully "conversational" level. Some people consider themselves awesome just ordering a beer in a language while others don't consider themselves conversational until they reach a pretty high level.

I was using my weak Italian in Italy last month. And it was actually pretty depressing to be so limited in expression, especially compared with my other foreign languages. There were even people taking advantage of my weak skills to cover their incompetence. And all my experience using my languages at various levels (from beginner to C2) during the last fifteen years confirms that simply going out and "having fun" with pointing at stuff and using several words becomes pointless after a short while and it can even be quite demotivating and a waste of time compared to other activities you might be doing at the moment. Actually, you don't need to speak to other people at the beginner level at all, unless you want to, now that we are talking about it.

March 28, 2016

I watch tv in german , netflix originals (because they blocked proxy) is usually spoken in different languages which include german with english subtitles, i watch mainly the kids stuff because it is simple and standard german. It helps because you hear the words spoken and also you can work out the words and how they are used, also german radios are good, yes they play english music but the adverts and some of the presenters speak german. Just keep pushing you can do it and remember the fact you are trying to learn someone else's language is good because it means you are willing too and not being ignorant or expecting them to be able to speak yours.

March 28, 2016

If you can watch German TV . I suggest you watch: In Aller Freundschaft, and Verr├╝ckt nach Meer mit UT I have a satellite system and I watch these, as well as the German news.

March 29, 2016

The only way to improve speaking is by speaking. So you should start speaking with your friend, without the fear of sounding ridiculous. Self-shaming is part of the process of learning a language afterall.

Btw, loved your name!

March 29, 2016

Many years ago I got a tip from my Spanish teacher. He said "if you want to learn to speak any language fast, expand your vocabulary and start speaking".

I do not know if you experience this "tounge fever", like it will sound silly, I will make mistakes and all that. The very start might feel frightening. If you already have a native speaking friend - just go. This might sound silly and as oversimplification, but just start. Use every word you can, as confirmation or a question. Kaffeemaschine. Staubsauger. Glas. Wasser. Essen. Gut! Learn some harder ones to impress. Pat yourself on your shoulder. Often. Gut gemacht! Laugh a lot. Point on different stuff and ask what it is. Notice the beginnings of useful sentences. Ich denke, dass..., Ich glaube...

Sometimes a beer or some wine helps to get started. As above, I do not know if you have it - but kill that fear of making mistakes. Take the kids approach - they just do it, sometimes it gets wrong, but then they do it again. And get it right.

As one of my favorite musicians put it: Hit it! :)

March 28, 2016

For beginning listening (tuning in your ears to German) I suggest Slow German. (google slow german Annik Rubens) For beginning speaking skills (tuning in your mouth muscles) I suggest reading aloud from the Easy Reader series (google easy readers german)

March 29, 2016

A friend recommended to me a few months ago. I used it to connect with a French speaker who wanted to practice her English. I highly recommend the site as my conversational skills did significantly improve after I started skyping with her. Once I finally finish my German tree, I'm hoping to do the same thing for my German.

March 30, 2016

I've been listening to Musik in German for many years now. It was the Musik that got me. I started learning because of that. I'd tried using a book from a high school German course that used to belong to my ex. Funny how it ended up in my place when I was packing... Sowieso, I am using Duolingo to fill in the blanks a bit more. I write for someone, in English, to translate into German and I'd like to be able to start writing in all German eventually for him, rather than having to simplify my English sentence structure enough for him to understand. I have other 'teach yourself' books as well. I figured I'd do Duolingo, then go back to the books, as well as practice with a couple of little old German ladies I know. Learning High German was not my first choice because it's actually Austrian German that stole my heart, but it's a good place to start.

The levels correspond to the amount of time you spend working on the lessons. They don't mean a ton because you can level up if you repeat enough old exercises.

Keep working on it and it will become easier. When the language starts to open up for you, it's amazing. I'm noticing that with the Musik I listen to.

Have you started to dream in German yet?

March 31, 2016 Maybe give some of those stations a try. Musik makes a good learning tool, even if it is structured more like poetry with the images et cetera.

March 31, 2016
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