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The stages of learning German...

  1. The beginning (first few weeks): this is totally amazing!!! I am already speaking German! Ich heiße Lance und ich komme aus den USA. I picked that up in like FIVE minutes. I suspect I'll be fluent in a few months or so. Note: This phase is blissfully romantic. You might even fancy that your accent is charming for others to hear. This may indeed be true, but you really aren't very sure how all those special letters are pronounced or what gender goes with which noun, and you don't really care just yet. You are too busy skipping through the carefree world of being a novice to notice those pesky details. Nobody really expects anything from you yet, so anything you are able to do is WUNDERBAR! Rainbows and bunny rabbits abound until...

  2. Shell shock (after a month or so): wow, this is a bit tougher than I expected. I keep mixing things up the more I learn. But I WILL prevail! Countless hours are spent in front of the computer screen, devouring new vocabulary and studying German like it is going out of style. Note: It is not unusual in this phase to feel like you are drowning and suffocating at the same time. You are amazingly somehow still optimistic, although you suffer from persistent brain farts, like forgetting words in English or accidentally mixing German words into your English. You may ask yourself: will these symptoms go away or have I done some kind of permanent damage? No matter, the rush of learning a new language has yet to wear off and you plunge forward with a newfound surge of linguistic adrenaline.

  3. The insufferable bragging rights phase (aka Hermione Granger Effect): after 6 months or more fraught with intensive study, the grammar is beginning to make a lot more sense. Heck, I even explain German grammar to my mom who lives in the US and has no interest in learning German. Native German speakers tell me I know more about the structure of their language than they do. Sometimes, I even use the fact that I am learning German as a conversation starter with strangers. I find myself correcting other people's German in my head. I am a BOSS! Note: In this phase, you have an inflated sense of your abilities. You have grasped a respectable amount of grammar rules to be sure, but you still sound a bit like a malfunctioning robot when you speak the language out loud. This doesn't get you down, because you compare yourself to that OTHER dude in German class who is doing way worse. Go ahead though and brag a little. You earned it! Just be sure to store some of these confident memories in your brain to help you through the dreaded Phase 4...

  4. The long and lonely plateau (can last for a year or more): a crippling embarrassment at not being a more articulate and fluent speaker by now begins to creep in. What gives? ALL those hours and I still say things like, "Ich habe zum Berlin gefahren" or "Ich bin kalt" when you feel chilly. Come ON man! You know the rules! You must use "sein" with "fahren" and "nach" instead of "zum". You KNOW you have to say "Mir ist kalt" when it is nippy out. Note: During this phase, your German improves by painful, small degrees, and only after you have neglected your friendships and your work-out routine so you can spend more intimate hours with duoLingo trying to crack this thing. In this phase, people close to you may assume you have died. You want to throw your laptop out the window when you suddenly realise you just lost your 99-day-streak. However, you achieve little miracles from time to time, such as being able to sort out a shipping mistake with the folks at DHL, or you even manage to successfully schedule an appointment at the Bürgeramt over the phone without the help of Google translate. Congratulate yourself on your steely determination, and keep climbing that mountain!

  5. Open sesame (this stage is ongoing until you are "fluent", but the refinement of this stage lasts your entire life because there is always more to learn and that excites you): you get over your anxieties a bit more and slowly start using German again in public. You make LOTS of mistakes still, but they are more minor mistakes such as messing up declensions with articles and adjectives. Your vocabulary grows daily, but you still struggle to pull the words out of your brain on the spot. You even have a little bit of fun with your mistakes at dinner parties, and realise people are laughing WITH you and not AT you. You no longer feel embarrassed, because you know that this is an incredibly tricky endeavour and people are impressed that you put so much heart into learning a new language as a grown-up. You even start your own YouTube channel where you do a decent job of speaking German (even if they are a bit scripted for the time being, because talking off the cuff still takes a tremendous effort). Note: during this phase, you are likely to lose faith from time to time when someone speaks German very quickly or with a heavy dialect (or both combined) and you understand virtually none of it. You sink into only a minor despair on such occasions, and quickly realise you are in too deep at this point to back out. Now, you can actually relax. You revisit novels that made no sense to you a year ago and marvel that you now can understand roughly 60-70% of its content. You shed a tear while reading a moving passage and don't even realise for 30 whole seconds it is written in a foreign language. You start to feel more comfortable, and the language sounds less and less foreign every single day. You have all the theoretical knowledge there. A new world is opening itself up to you. Just let it happen now...

Ok. So that may not be everyone's stages of learning German, but that is mine in a nutshell so far.

Any others care to share some of the "stages" you have gone through? Where are you now with your studies and how do you feel about your progress?

April 26, 2016


  • 1732

Cool story, I have recently started to learn German and just started here on Duolingo few days ago. It seems very addictive and is very helpful as a practice tool along with my other learning sources. My stage right now is that I am able to understand every 5th to 10th word when I listen german radio, and I know why german sentences (when I try to read something) have certain order of words, even though I have no idea what they are talking about. So far so good. Reminds me of 10 years ago when I was learning English and could only understand numbers and names when I watched a TV show :-) Good luck to everybody.


Looks like those few days turned into over 4 years. Good on you :))


Well I am going on a foreign exchange to Deutschland for a year and my method has been cramming as much German down my throat as possible. Do I even know what I am doing? Nein! But I have been doing 70 exp per day for a month and just upped it to 80 per day to catch up with some missed days this weekend.

50 exp is insane? Well put me in the loony house fast! Germany better be ready for my broken Deutsch! Because I only have three months left and I shall cram till I cant cram no more.


Das hört sich gut an! 50xp is definitely not insane. I was doing around 500xp's per day at one point ant that, perhaps, was a little insane. I say do as much as you can until your brain says NO MORE!

The Germans will be happy to hear your broken German, I am sure.

What a good idea to prepare in advance!

Ich wünsche dir viel Spaß und Erfolg beim Deutschlernen.


Looking forward to all of these stages. I knew German when I was a kid but once I began school, I quickly transitioned to only answering in English when family conversed with me in German. Then I forgot almost everything. My family was fine with that. "No no we need to know English more than you need to know German!" Which is true. I've made a few attempts here and there to relearn (even with Duolingo) but got distracted. Recently, I made plans to visit family living in Deutschland this summer and suddenly I'm very motivated. These discussion threads are so awesome with the community and advice. Very inspired. Right now as I go through the lessons I think, "oh, yeah that sounds familiar" or "oh, ****! That's how you're supposed to say it?!"


Thanks for sharing ^-^


My pleasure! Thanks for taking the time to read it.


How could I not? It was an interesting topic : )


First I was learning German through English but I wasn't going well, I couldn't feel progress in learning, so now I'm learning through my native language (Portuguese) and I'm realizing more progress than before.


Are you fluent in english? Because I am also native portuguese speaker and to me is just unimaginable that someone would prefer to learn german through portuguese instead of english. It also seems that most people I've come across also agree with me.


I started learning German from Portuguese, I did it for about 3 months, had some personal problems, got away for a few months and when I came back to Duo, I decided to try German for English speakers and the struggle was so less painfull lol.

I mean, still a freaking difficult language to learn, but my brain works better when I need to translate things to english and back on. There are lots of similarities =)


No, I'm not fluent in english. Maybe I'm intermediate. I was not able to evolve, I don't know why.


Ah that's why. German is much more similar to english than portuguese, even though I have already noticed some similarities between portuguese and german which are not so evident. Anyway, keep trying with the english, things slow down after you get to the intermediate and its difficult to go past that, but that's only because the gap between intermediate and advanced is bigger than beginner and intermediate. Just keep going and you'll get there.

Btw, nice avatar, I like that commercial!


Yeah , I think so! I'm trying to improve it. I've been watching TV shows and movies, listening to music, podcasts and etcetera but sometimes I lack vocabulary. How have you learned it? Because you said you are fluent in English.

Thanks! Your avatar is nice too. I really like this commercial. I do like that dog.


I studied in an american school when I was a kid and I've always read and talked a lot in english in the internet, so it kind of developed naturally over the years. Vocabulary takes time to build up, so just be patient.


I started learning german here about two weeks ago and yes there are some things easier to understand because i know english, but honestly the way sentences are structured seem similar to spanish (native language) . So sentences that involve defining female or masculine i translate it to my head in spanish and then words similar to english well i learn it that way. :S


Ah interesting! I wish you lots of fun and success in your continued studies!


Stage 1 and 2 are the same for me, but:

  • Stage 3: I neglect researching grammar that I don't understand and as a result I often have to guess Duolingo answers and feel guilty afterwards.

  • Stage 4: You stop doing German for months because of how hard the grammer was, only to come back with a brand new attitude and research the things you found tough.

  • Stage 5 (Where I am now): You are trying to restrengthen all your skills and fill in all the gaps in your skills with the new German Tree 2.0 that came out when you were gone, you're looking forward to speaking to your friends in German!


I've been stuck in the "oh no I don't know anything" phase for months now. I can see my progress, I understand enough to get the point of most sentences. But when it comes to talking or writing :( nope.


Haha, it's the same by me. Don't give up


I don't plan on it :P I may be going to the Netherlands in 2017 or 2018, and by extension would like to visit Germany, so I can't. Best of luck on your learning journey!


I'm currently entering Stage 4 of the ones you listed above. Recently got my Start A2 Deutsch certification at the local Goethe Institut here. During the speaking part, I was painfully aware of how stilted and full of silly mistakes my spoken German was. Oh well, the only way out is through, and that's by embarrassing myself by speaking it in front of native German speakers (which I still can't do without stuttering).


Wonderful text, Lance. I am right now alternating between stage 2 and stage 4 with my Yiddish course. In the beginning it all felt easy peasy, reading the printed Hebrew letters took just a week or two, and even the cursive letters were beginning to make sense... But now, right now I have to face all the Hebraisms and Aramaisms present in more complex texts and am made painfully aware of how much of the cultural contexts I lack when I try to make sense out of a text on יום טוב פסח (Pesach), for instance. And some days it all just feels overwhelming and in vain, when I stumble even through texts I read with ease just a few weeks ago. I know this interim stage of horror and frustration in language acquisition, but since it is the first time I need to learn a new alphabet as well, every turn of a page right now feels like a challenge.

What does it mean? – ?וואָס איז דער טייַטש


For me, the learning German is summed up in one stage: Struggle.


Haha, good post Lance. I'm on the cusp of #3 & #4 I would say...

Have you been taking the standard tests along the way (A1, A2, B1...)? If so, would you be able to correlate your stages with these levels? Or with which stage Duolingo helped until?

Mach's gut!


Thanks! I probably should look into the standard test assessments. I haven't done so. I have however taken classes up to B1.1 level at language school here in Germany.

I reckon I'm at a firm B1.2 level at the moment.

DuoLingo still helps me, because I forget little details and the constant drilling into my brain seems to work. I am quite a forgetful person by nature, so I struggle to keep the new knowledge I have acquired. Though I notice at some point I no longer have to memorise certain things and they become more like an automatic behaviour.

I would say that duoLingo stopped teaching me anything new about grammar or sentence structure about 4-5 months ago though. That was when I was just starting B1.1. That said, I still make rather obvious mistakes with grammar if I am not focused on the task at hand.


Yeah, I started a German course in Germany previously while also studying, and being thrown in the deep end (where everything was in German) was too intense at the time and I wasn't learning anything. So now that I'm nearing the end of the Duolingo course (and having practised a bit more in conversation) I'm looking to have proper instruction next (jumping in at A1.2 is the plan).

I realise that testing is secondary to learning, but I would like to have something on my CV when looking for work (no offence, Duo). So thanks for that correlation.

Viel Erfolg!


This is so accurate and really motivating. I feel like I'm sitting somewhere around 3 and 4. Now that I'm living in a German speaking region at least I'm forcing myself to speak to people every day, but the conversation is never as sophisticated as I want it to be.


Lance, you are my spirit animal. But really; I'm currently in stage 2 for sure. My stage 1 was a little different because I've always been very apprehensive. I often find it hard to speak in my first language (English), let alone a foreign one, but I have always wanted to learn German (literally been saying it since middle school at least and now I'm a second year in college).

Anyway, I finally started maybe two months ago? It was going well but about two weeks or so ago I reached the predicate adjectives and even though I was telling myself, "Maybe I should take a day to review... this is a lot of words to be taking in..." I kept trudging through anyway until I literally had no idea what was going on and I've spent the past week or so trying to figure out what I rushed through. Bad idea!

The point is, I really needed this! It has really motivated me! So thanks!


Your spirit animal! That is an awesome compliment :-D Thanks for sharing your experience. I am so pleased that my words helped motivate you.


Very nice. You write very well. I think I am in stage 4. Danke.


Cheers! Much courage and Godspeed to you in the tumultuous, emotional rollercoaster ride that is Stage 4. I feel you are totally going to come out alive and well. And a huge congrats for coming this far already!!!


And damn! Look at that beautiful 556-day-streak. Ok. I am shutting the laptop for now. Bis zum nächsten Mal!


Hahaha you definitely should have included the day-streak. I get past five and I am convinced we (myself and I) can do this! Heck, we can even conquer the world at this rate!!! :D


Das war sehr gut. Danke Lance. :)


Gerne! Und Danke dir!


I'm in stage one and i swear my pronunciation is better than the bot's haha.


That is very likely. Congrats on starting the journey, and welcome to all the fun that is in store!


I feel the same just the other way around: as a native german speaker struggling with english. But now I start to make jokes in english and the people around me (south florida right now) laugh about it, that is such a great experience.

Viel Spaß weiterhin mit dem Deutsch lernen!


Ah how wonderful! That has happened to me, but sometimes by accident because I made a funny mistake in mixing up words or using a phrase erroneously. One of my new favourite things to say in German is:

Du hast Recht, aber meine Meinung gefällt mir besser.

I got a few laughs out of that. Or using colloquial expressions like: Du weißt wie der Hase läuft. People are surprised if I whip something out like that out of nowhere.

At a party recently, I tried to use a newly acquired expression: Das ist nicht das Gelbe vom Ei.

I didn't fully understand which context to use it in (and had drunk a little too much wine), and after the host fed me a piece of delicious avocado pie, she asked how I liked it. I could have simply said, "Hat sehr gut geschmeckt!"

Instead, I emphatically declared: "Das war das Gelbe vom Ei!!!".


Dankeschön und viel Spaß weiterhin mit dem Englischlernen!


Nice one, Lance!

I wrote an article once on the frustrated immediate stage of language learning, when you know something, but are painfully aware on the long road that still lies ahead:



Oh cool! I will check the link out. Thanks for sharing :-D


Thanks for sharing. Very interesting. Learning language like reverts pyramid.


My intermediate stage learning and I are headed to Germany next week: the enormity of it is just starting to hit home! ....seriously considering hanging a large sign around my neck stating that I'm a mute!!!!!


That made me laugh. I too will visit Germany this summer I think I'll go as a mute!


2 years later and that's my position! haha


Hi, It doesn't matter. It can take a while to become familiar, "friend" with a language. I personally took a big break with German this 2 last months, because of summer and holiday. I, now, come back to the matter. The long autumn and winter evenings will be good opportunities to daily listen, learn and so on... That said it's clear that long interruptions are not without consequences. It is much better to keep the distance :)


Great article thanks for sharing


This is so well written!! Thank you for sharing it! I had a laugh while reading it and I kept nodding my head in agreement. I was thinking to myself, "Yes! this is it, exactly!" : )


Happy to hear I was not alone with all these feelings! :-D Thanks for reading!


I'm sort of in stage 4 with regards to the embarrassing / bumbling idiot. My significant other pointed out that I am sort of whispering the things I say to her family, or to her. Because of just how much confidence I lack. It was only when she pointed that out that I realized it. I feel so shy and almost unworthy of speaking German. I am finding it really really hard.

Despite my struggles I am still managing to do some studying almost every day. I wish I had your zest for learning though! I kind of bury my head in the sand a bit and just hope that with time and repetition I will improve. I only get a chance to spend time in Germany a few weeks a year at most unfortunately.


The adventure of German learning:

  • Stage 1: the happy meadow of basic greetings and stock sentences.

  • Stage 2: the relaxing forest of cognates.

  • Stage 3: the small hill of articles.

  • Stage 4: the mountain of adjective endings.

  • Stage 5: the deep swamp of plurals.

  • Stage 6: the dragon of cases.

  • Stage 7: the flaming chasm of doom (also known as the passive).


Where do the subjunctive moods fit into this string of biomes?


I think we all identify and can laugh at ourselves while reading your journal of learning. I lost count of the number of times I thought OK that's it I should be able to express myself free-style without problems :-) A few months ago I passed B2 with 86% but it is like driving a car - a licence does not mean you can drive well, simply that you have passed the driving test. Right now I am still working through a rough patch beyond where you have described - not understanding / accepting why I cannot express myself equally in German as I do in my mother tongue despite all the effort I have invested. No matter how much I have learnt there is always more. I think that all the grammar rules and most exceptions have been discovered but using them correctly on demand is another thing. I also am amazed at how extensive the vocabulary is and how unpredictable even an apparently simple word can be thoroughly confusing eg thunderstorm = Gewitter = Ungewitter (dictionary says it is "veraltet" but my smartphone weather app uses it!!!!!! which is why I had to look it up because I could not understand what an non/unthunderstorm was) or in reading a novel today saw an unfamiliar word vertrösten and guessed it had something to do with solace, which did not make any sense in the context and so after looking it up I see it is either to promise (why is versprechen not good enough?) or to put someone off! (which is not exactly a related idea). I do take some solace myself in quoting Mark Twain referring to a gifted learner: It takes 30 hours to learn English, 30 months to learn French and 30 years to learn German.

  • 1732

Hey, congratulation on your B2! I set my goal to be around B1 by the end of the summer. Or at least comfortably passing A2. I have done an online test a week ago and they told me I am done with A1 even though I don't feel so... (I think I was just good at choosing the right answers out of the offered ones ;-) ) But learning something new every day :-) Good luck with solidifying your German B2 level!


Thanks ally. But be aware that no online course can ever prepare you for a certified exam, which is strictly controlled by the universities. They test not only covers grammar comprehension (understanding and correcting written text) but listening, writing and speaking in a conversation as well. The requirements of each approved testing institution are well documented online and there are even some YouTube videos. All the best with achieving your goal!

  • 1732

Thanks for your reply Orlando, yes I know. I have experience with learning English and it helps me now to learn German. Also I combine many sources in my german learning and I like it that way. It may look chaotic but I think it will eventually pay off. I like Duolingo for it forces me to speak out loud, that is very helpful. I am also studying from self learning books and following DW courses Warum Nicht and Radio D (try google it if you are interested). Those are unusual and they are free, just like Duolingo. Good luck!


"A licence does not mean you can drive well". Nary a truer word was spoken! I think it is very helpful (and therapeutic) to know that we are not experiencing these difficulties alone.



Orlandowan1Duo: I see that you are at Level 14 in German now, but the post is now a year old. What Duolingo level were you at in German when you took the B2? Also, what would you say the extent of your vocabulary was (number of words) at the time and if you can answer that, how do you go about determining the number of words you know? Finally, I'm assuming you use resources outside of Duolingo. If so, which ones did you feel best prepared you for the B2 in German?

BTW, these questions are open to anyone who has taken the B2 (or any other level) for German (or any other language).

Thanks in advance to those who reply.


Hi Lisa I used this resource as one of many but it was never a major factor in my learning process and certainly not in preparation for the exams.

The very best an online course alone can get you to about the A2 examination level and the online site evaluation is VERY optimistic because they want to encourage you - but it is limited to reading with some minor listening ability. In learning German one of the biggest failings of every online resource I have used is that they do not directly reinforce the leaning of genders and plurals of nouns. Without this the grammar of any sentence cannot be correct.

The examiners publish a very detailed outline of the exam for each level and that should now become your starting point and focus. They assume the basics are perfect for each level - eg using nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs. As I said above as well you have to learn to pass the exam itself but it still does not make you fluent, especially compared to your first language - and I am referring to a graduate working in a professional field. It would be easier for a child to be equally fluent because they have very limited language capability.

I used a combination of self-help methods including lots of exercise books (grammar, audio & writing), other online courses, selected VHS modules, an audio course and just trying to immerse myself with news, books, practicing writing formal letters etc. One of the toughest but important challenges is holding conversations with tandem partners. With hindsight, for me, one of the best resources for learning grammar was the first and cheapest, a condensed summary that I bought. It is a powerful A5 pocket book with all the essentials that I still use for quick reference on occasion because it is filled with notes and mark ups. Sites like leo (vocab), reverso (verb conjugation), canoo (details of word properties), linguee (examples of use in published text) and of course duden (not the most user friendly site but the bible for German) supplement what else I may need.

Unlike English, in German it is vital to know the gender and plural of nouns rather than a large volume of nouns. Verbs and conjugation are also important but slightly easier to master. I would focus on getting a simple sentence perfectly correct rather than trying to get too sophisticated too soon. Do a little grammar, listening, writing and talking each day. I really struggled to find suitable tandem partners who went beyond the everyday chit chat exchanges. It would really be helpful if you had someone reliable who can provide you with quick reliable feedback on writing and speaking errors.

Taking stock of number of words is not easy to determine or advisable. You will forget many of those words before you actually need to use them. Your vocabulary will grow rapidly once your grammar is adequate and you try to express yourself and have to look up suitable words.

I hope this helps. All the best.


Very helpful, Orlandowan1Duo. It reinforced a lot of what I've already come to learn about learning German, or, really, any foreign language. It's a lot of hard work and dedication and will take quite a bit of time and immersion in the language (in whatever form you can get it) before you can even approach the fluency you have in your native tongue.

I especially like the fact that you mentioned the importance of learning simple structures well. I think that is really good advice.

Thank you for sharing with us the resources you used. Most sounded familiar to me, but I have yet to do any comparative research of my own. Personal recommendations by others certainly help narrow the field of options that exist and can save a person some time. I'll comment on a couple of them (not so much for you because clearly you've studied German longer and know it better than I do, but for others who might read this). The others I'll have to check out more thoroughly and look forward to doing so.

With regard to Duden, I've also heard that it is the "Bible" for learning German, but at my level, I haven't used it much. I was also glad to see that you added canoonet to your list. For German, I'd say it's even better than Wiktionary, which I have also found immensely valuable for declensions and conjugations of words in several different languages, but specifically Arabic, German, Russian, and Turkish. I probably refer to it at least once a day. I would also add WordReference.com, Tureng, dict.cc., and PONS. If you have no idea what the German word is for something, typing the English into any one of those four will likely return something of value for you. For sentence dictionaries, I don't know that any are all that terrific for German just yet, but the best one I've found thus far is Reverso. One last resource I'll mention is German for English Speakers. My first experience with it was a turn the page with your hand print version, but, as you can see if you visit the link, it is now completely online and free. This is definitely one of the best free German resources in existence for the English speaker learning German.

You mentioned

I really struggled to find suitable tandem partners who went beyond the everyday chit chat exchanges.

Although I always encourage others to start speaking in their target language with others as soon as possible, I realize it is easier said than done, and am guilty of hesitation in this area myself. Nevertheless, I appreciated your honesty in telling us that finding a suitable partner was a challenge. This was especially good to add because if others are experiencing this or do so in the future, they'll know they aren't the only ones and that just might help them persist in this pursuit. I hope it does, because I truly believe this is one of the best ways to further one's fluency.

Thank you Orlandwan1Duo, for your quick, thorough, and thoughtful response and best wishes to you with your language learning goals.


Hi Lisa and thank you for sharing - you mention some resources that I have not ever seen. The internet is rich in useful information and I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been when there were no options other than classical "school learning", possibly from a single book.

One thing that struck me that I had forgotten to mention but I thought was important for learners to know about was youtube, which is quite useful from an immersion perspective. I have not researched the content thoroughly but often spontaneously look for what is available and I am surprised by how much and the quality (not only for languages either but other topics as well). For example you can find video session of people taking the conversation part of the formal language tests eg I have seen B1 B2 C1 and C2 before.

Several people also frequently upload short "lessons" that are not that structured overall in the framework of learning the language systematically but they do give bilingual modules and hearing the spoken word is important. If nothing else they allow you to listen to the content while you learn / revise. Of course there are some presenters not worthy but you can tell quickly if the person is suitable for you and of course they would not last long if they were that bad. Clearly some of these people actually do it for a living and have hundreds of uploads.

I also wish you a successful journey and if you want to practice let me know. Applications like Skype cross geographical boundaries with sublime ease.


As someone who's too afraid to start German, this really helped. I now know what to expect! Thank you!


It's a very satisfying language to learn; finally grasping those things you thought you'd never get! Just be willing to put in the time. (:


As a native German speaker, I am impressed. And as I am currently somewhere not unlike your stage 2 in my Russian learning, you gave me hope. But then you have to be almost superhuman, because this:

However, you achieve little miracles from time to time, such as being able to sort out a shipping mistake with the folks at DHL,

is something that even native speakers have trouble achieving.


Russian seems like it would be an even more massive endeavour. I kneel before your courage!

Haha. Yes. I think I was on the phone for nearly an hour, but in the end it was satisfying and instead of getting angry that I wasted part of my day I considered it a free private tutoring session...


I am happy to say that I am at stage 5 ! Although vocabulary is still my weakest point (I'm working on it) At least, my reading listening and writing are more than okay. And I enjoy speaking it even though I do make a lot of mistakes. But who cares what people think when you start a conversation with "Entschuldigung, Deutsch ist nicht meine Muttersprache"



And I like the sentence you used as an example. That is an elegant and confident way to initiate conversation.



Thank you. This is a wonderful reading. I am new in German, but fluent in Norwegian, and understand Swedish and Danish as well. Many words in German pronounce like Danish and Norwegian. After 13 days, I am at 1/4 of the tree, and aware of the difficulties of German. I guess my hard time was Norwegian at the first time. Best wishes.


Right now I am at a stage 2, and I have done exactly as you have said so fair. I think I will go through all of the stages sooner or later. I know I will get better, but now I am starting to go into a stage where I feel like I should be able to go to Germany and be perfectly capable of speaking to everyone in German, or reading a book without some sort of translator. That is not true, and this disscussion helps because now I know I'm not the only one who feels this way ;)


I'm a bit late to the party on this discussion thread, but I'm curious about where you are right now with your German, MagicalMaya13. When you posted this a year ago, what Duolingo level were you at in German? Did you stick with your study of German here at Duolingo or elsewhere? And if so, how would you rate your German abilities now (in reading, writing, speaking, overall comprehension)? Where on bastianbalthazar's "Stages of Learning German" would you say you're at right now?


Very interesting. I'm somewhere between stage 2 and 3 at six months of German. I’m past the shell shock, but still struggling with the grammar. Fortunately, I’m just doing this for fun. So I’m enjoying the learning process. Your post is helpful. Thanks for sharing.


my stages: 1. I want to learn Russian, but German will do. (This was about a year ago) 2. Oh this is cooler than i thought! 3. Gosh I'm confused 4. I quit 5. (two hours later) maybe I should keep trying... 6. Ok cool, I'm starting to understand. 7. I finished my tree!!! 8. Tree 2.0!!! Oh wait.... I have a lot more work to do.... 9. I quit. I'll just wait for Hungarian 10. (a week later) Hungarian isn't coming out any time soon, i'm going back to German. 11. Yay! I found a German speaking friend. 12. Gosh, I'm too shy to even talk to her in English, let alone German... 13. Oh cool, I have a German speaking aunt! 14. -Aunt gives me peptalk, I feel proud of myself again- 15. I can do this!!


Well said!

I kind of feel like I'm in that plateau area that could last a year, and it is quite difficult sometimes when you don't have the immersion of being around other native speakers.

I saw you mention that learning to write properly helped the most with your speaking ability. Any advice on how one should approach this? I'm unsure of what i should write about let alone where.

Anyway, nice job on your progress! Gives me quite a bit of motivation to study harder.


It is easy to plateau when using one source or forum, especially when not in a country that speaks the language you are learning. Some of the best ways to practice writing is join a forum where expressing your comments on pictures or videos is the form of immersion offered (without prompting or suggestions being given). You can find a few good partners there who are reliable and match your skill level. What I have done alternately is also start communicating with the well matched individuals via email and Skype. My one language partner and I wrote mock communications to each to other. Like letters of employment and complaints and asking for information, using topics from past tests.


That sounds like a good idea, though finding a forum may be a little tricky for me. I think my main struggle when it comes to stuff like this is: not commenting and not being active, out of worry of writing incorrectly and messing up. I find that is also the reason i tend to rarely use the immersive translation section of this site. Although, learning from mistakes would probably be good for me, so i think i will try these things out anyway.

Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it.


Sentence dictionaries like Reverso (my personal favorite) and Tatoeba (not bad either) may be able to help you formulate your sentences. With or without them, part of the challenge of learning a second language is that you've already learned one and by the time you're an adult you speak with a fluency and sophistication that is not possible when first learning a language. I believe forcing yourself to speak a foreign language without all the grammar and without all the vocabulary you have in your native tongue is a challenge, to be sure, but a talent that I truly believe will develop your fluency faster than focusing on vocabulary building or grammar lessons. Any foreign exchange student, past or present, will likely tell you the same.

I must confess, however, that I am a bit like you. I somehow think that if I could just get my vocabulary to some magic number, I'll be able to have a conversation with someone without too much trouble. The truth is, you're still going to have trouble, you're still going to struggle, and that will be true whether you know 500 words or 5,000.

Perhaps it would be an interesting experiment to pick two languages to study. With the one language, you don't allow yourself to have a conversation with anyone until you know 5,000 words; with the other language, you force yourself to have conversations with others after learning just 500 words. Keep a daily journal and make notes of your observations along the way, labeling each day with "Day, 1, Day 2, Day 3, ..." Then, go back later and compare notes. I have a feeling that jumping into conversations with just 500 words will take most people further faster. Why? Well, a lot of it has to do with personal experience and how much my Spanish improved after living in Mexico for part of a summer as an exchange student. However, this has been further reinforced by listening to the advice from others which include everyone from the founder of Duolingo himself (Luis von Ahn), to Olly Richards, and just about anybody who claims to know a thing or two about learning a language. I use what works for me and leave behind what doesn't. Olly Richards shares a lot of knowledge that would be good for most to at least try once. His advice isn't always some huge revelation, but I find that the way he encourages you to practice even some of the more basic activities of learning a language is incredibly beneficial. For one of Olly's podcasts on the topic of speaking a foreign language sooner rather than later, listen to this here:

Starting to speak with limited vocabulary

In this podcast, Olly is answering a question for someone who is learning Japanese, but this podcast can apply to any language. Olly also happens to focus specifically on the German language and if you want to skip the podcast above, you may still want to listen to the ones for German. You can find them all here:

Olly's Podcasts on the German Language

I would imagine what holds most language learners back from trying to speak with a limited vocabulary is the fear that it won't be a pleasant experience ... that the other person will be rude, annoyed, frustrated, and/or bored. And, there are no guarantees that something like that won't happen, but I have a feeling that most people who would enter into a language exchange are more patient than most. And even if they're not, it's a great way to develop grace and composure under pressure as well as resiliency in situations where civility, courtesy, and understanding are absent. The more I watch the news, the more I think this might be a really helpful skill to develop in addition to your language skills. The art of diplomacy no matter what the circumstances should never be underrated.



I recognize a lot here, but I have chosed a somewhat different path than learning all the rules. Well, I have picked up some rules, but I have focused on beating it into my brain by simply repeating it and not being shy when talking here in Vienna. I just go ahead, talk a lot and ask all people to correct me (many German-speaking folks seem to view that correcting someones language is unpolite - so ASK them to do it!).

I have know some German words for quite a long time, but I truly started to learn more systematically around January. I still get a lot of things wrong, but more often than not I have got some "feeling" for the articles, building the sentences, when to be really polite and some other stuff. My biggest obstacles are accusative and dative since we don´t have that in the same way in Swedish.

But I have just passed my goal, to get "some feeling for it" without knowing all the rules. I took the kids approach - they learn without any knowledge of grammar. It is just a question of being stubborn enough, not be afraid to try to talk and being in a German speaking country.

One state I miss though is when one gets really excited in a discussion, and all the German is gone. NO words left. Sometimes when I have tried to describe my passion for something - German Poff Gone. :D

Another thing for me as a Swede, is that it is hard to remember to be so "polite" all the time. We have had a lot of changes in Swedish, and "the borders" between folks have basically been erased. I am not used to call folks "Sie", "Herrn", "Frau", "Doktor" or similar words of respect. But that is not so much of the language, it is a cultural thing.

Now, just hit it again. And one more time. Aaaaand add some stubbornness to that. There we go! :D I know I will be basically fluent in a year. I will then speak and write with instinct, not by the rulebook (needless to say, I hate grammar...).


This was nice to read, I recognized myself in all those stages from when I was learning English a long time ago. Now, in German, I guess I'm in phase number 2, stepping to 3.

It's difficult, tons of genders to memorize, verbs to figure out their meaning or if they want accusative or dative, I'm still confused with some prepositions, but I'm having my "eureka, got it!" moments lol which is fun.

I like to get lyrics, read and see if I can understand them, most of the time I can't cuz I don't have enough vocabulary, but I can imagine sometimes what it's supposed to mean if I know the verb for example and now I kinda know a lil bit about the structure of the language and I'm not more like "wth, this sentence doesn't make sense at all, what is this adverb doing here, why the verb is at the end...help!".

We will prevail =)


I'm still at Phase 2 and you nailed the feeling. Part of my problem is that I am doing Spanish too and mix up my words a lot. But I'm 72 and don't care, as long as I'm learning something to keep my brain active, I'm going for it.


Interesting. Kinda mirrors my experience with Spanish. I started at 10 with school tv course, twice a week. Took HS courses, ended up getting a major in college. During my first year teaching Spanish, I had the realization that I was not a fluent speaker, so I worked very hard to improve. This all took place from 1965 to 1980. When I decided to learn French at the end of my undergrad time, it was surprisingly easy. After teaching French and Spanish for 32 years in high school, I retired and am learning languages for fun.


I went into it knowing a good amount of the basics and language structure of german, and instantly managed to finish the level 1 lessons in a matter of 3 days, but the thing that bugged me the most about german is just that every singe noun is gendered, since every other language i know doesnt require anything other than a gender neutral pronoun most of the time (English, Albanian, Turkish) It really feels so weird trying to remember every nouns gender, i mean i over time did do so miraculously and even idk how that happened but the stages for me with duolingo while trying to learn german would be:

  1. Oh, this was easier than i thought, i must be pretty good then, maybe even my pronunciation outloud is proper!

  2. (After talking to my german friends about what i know), i sound like a broken cash register, my knowledge is that of a second grader, treat everyone like Royalty. Military general or a War hero, and i suck at giving nouns their proper gender D':

  3. Improving better at stage 2 and hopefully getting a better grasp at the language, well, i must have done something right, because now they call me a 3rd grader xD


Stage One: I can say "Water" and "Bread!" Cool! Stage Two: This makes no sense to my tiny brain. Why do the words keep CHANGING? Stage Three: This makes no sense to my tiny brain. Why does the word order keep CHANGING! And the words? I think I will go play video games. Stage Four: Dang. There goes my streak. The heck with it. Video games it is. Stage Five: I can say "Wasser" and "Brot!" Cool!


This is great! :D


Oh, I'm in Stage Two for sure! Dativ Case is pushing me back more and more everyday. I think I understand it, but then I don't. Ho hum.


The Dativ tripped me up for a long time. Come to think of it, it still does in some ways. WE WILL PREVAIL! :-D


Yes! I practice it daily, waiting for it to click in my brain. (: I know we can do it! Wer rastet, der rostet!


Somewhere between one and two for me. I'm still picking things up fairly quickly, but it's definitely slowing down. I knew from the beginning that learning German was going to be hard because I've been learning French for 7 years and Spanish for 2, and still struggle to hold a conversation in either language. I have to admit that I've been pleasantly surprised with how quickly I've caught on so far (but maybe that's just evidence that I'm still in phase one, lol)


Stage two for German, stage 4.5 for Spanish.


Stage 2 for me and I hope in a year I will be able to get to a good place, but it is hard with no german speakers around :(


Ich kann mir vorstellen, dass es schwierig ist, kein Gesprächspartner zu haben, mit dem du Deutsch lernen kannst! (I can imagine it is difficult not to have a language partner to practice with.)

Honestly though, I do not know how much good it has done me to practice out loud with native German speakers. In fact, I find that learning to write properly helps most with my speaking abilities (probably because I am very much a visual learner). Oddly enough, I get more solid practice when I speak to others who only speak a little bit of German, or just practicing at home by myself out loud. But maybe I am underestimating how much it has helped to be living in Germany and to hear the language on a daily basis.

And the beauty of the internet is that you can make friends here or on places like tandempartners.org. Most likely, you can find people in your area with whom to practice. Or, you can start skyping with strangers if you want to test your speaking abilities.

I wish you much fun and lots of success in learning German!


Thanks for the advice :D


That is AWESOME stuff !!!!!! Here are 3 lingots.


What a great text, Lance, and so true. Way to go ;-)


Thanks a bunch!! :-)


Very nice read! Thank you for sharing.

This applies more or less to my experience in learning Italian. I've been at it for over a year now and I would say I'm stuck in Stage 4 now.


How funny -- and true! Very well written! Thanks for posting! :D


I'm kind of falling into these phases myself. The stage that i would be on at this point in learning German would have to be the third or just into the forth. And by the sound of how your last phase was, i hope mine can be just like yours or even better.


I was smiling throughout the whole thing. Both aspiring and inspiring. Thank you for putting the effort in writing this. made my day brighter.


Awesome post!!

I think I am in phase somewhere between “The insufferable bragging rights phase” and ” The long and lonely plateau”. Maybe the “Starting to wonder if I will ever be able to speak German” phase.


Wonderfully put! I hope to at least reach stage 3! :)


Oh my gosh. I am doing pretty well, considering. But sometimes I want to punch the computer when I don't speak a word "correctly" and I get it wrong. I'm from the south so things don't always have the same sound, lol. I now live in Chicago and find myself trying not to sound so country. I knew learning a new language would not be easy, and why I chose German I have no idea. I have a huge interest in history, WWII in particular, and that was my major influence for learning the language. It's not easy. And I haven't worked on it in three weeks...I was at level 9 within a couple days. I found myself having to start completely over. So it certainly takes dedication. But I feel it's incredibly worthwhile!


Thanks for sharing this. I never have gotten past stage 2. Think I'd need immersion to bump me past that.


I'm at no. 4 and it's terrible... Any tips to get out of this rut?


Practice, practice, practice, practice .... although it helps to have a user friendly expert language partner to keep correcting you in a constructive manner. You are at the conscious competence stage - you can get it right when you focus enough. If you slow down now you will go backwards and only after the next and final stage - unconscious competence - will it become habitual and you get it correct without having to concentrate too much.


very interesting and true


Sounds pretty familiar to me so far somewhere in stage 2!


I was learning dutch here once upon a time and starting deutsch now. My work on duolingo was on and off and I finally stopped somewhere b/w stage 4 and 5. I knew enough to understand meetings at work cause, duh, context helps a real lot.

Going to the cinemas was often quite nice because of all the subtitles. Those helped significantly during stage 4. I could articulate emotion, work and a little more before getting frustrated with my lack of vocabulary. Grammar, incidentally, was a breeze. Duolingo prepares you really well for it!

I expect something similar with German too. Armed with prior experience and een beetje Engels, getting to stage 4 should be simple. Once I hit there, I'm gonna start watching english movies with german subs and transition it to german movies with german subs (haha!). I'm a little crazy for fast progress now, so getting to mediocre speech level and writing official documents in about 2 months is the goal. Godlike difficulty? Yes but where's the fun otherwise :)


sound about right... stage 3 is really helping me getting to stage 2 right now haha


Hallo Bastien. Since you described your struggle with a new language in English I will try it also. I was a physics graduate during my student days and finding a job was difficult without having a master's. I tried many things, took many exams to find a job but was not able to find one. I was becoming a bit anxious . Then someone suggested to try learning german and search for a translator,s job. I did a six month course from goethe instt. Delhi. I planned to complete the course. But it was time for other courses to start and I opted for a bachelor s degree in education. I got a job after completing the course. My german took a backseat. I liked the language very much and tried it on everyone around me. I moved ahead with my own family and left the job at school. Then I was a full-time homemaker. Now my children are grown up and have their own lives. My son insisted that I start german again. It will keep me happy. This is how I started Duolingo. I tried some online courses also, paid ones, but did not make much progress. Here I find it interesting. It's to keep my brain functioning and in good shape that I started it. Happy learning bis bald


So true hahaha, this is me just about every month honestly

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