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My German language learning journey to date:

My name is Bill. I am a retired Surgeon from Ireland. Six years ago after a serious illness I decided to learn German from scratch and travel in Europe. I had no idea where or how to start or how my German learning project would evolve.

I enrolled in a language school and had one-on-one tuition from a native German teacher, one hour weekly for forty weeks. Simultaneously I worked on a variety of internet German language offerings. My progress was brutally slow and after one year I felt that my task was impossible.

I enrolled at University as a mature student to further my project. I attended four(4) formal lectures each of an hours duration weekly for twenty four weeks yearly for three years. Mastery of German grammar was the key to my ultimate success.

During the Summer breaks I travelled to Germany to undertake 'Superintensiv Deutschkurse' each of two weeks duration with a notional 80 teaching units (hours) at Goethe Institutes in München and Stuttgart.

At the end of four years hard work I felt that I had finally mastered the language when I gave a ten minute talk (auf Deutsch), without a script to my C.1 level Class in Stuttgart. Since then I have attended night courses at my university (B.1 level only). I use Duolingo daily to keep my vocabulary fresh. I have a subscription with the monthly magazine 'Deutsch Perfekt' which I strongly recommend.

When I travel in German speaking countries I introduce myself auf Deutsch but immediately inquire if the person with whom I am speaking can speak English. This appears to set the tone for any following conversation where I find that a little German goes a long way.

My conclusions:

-Learning German as a mature student is a long hard tedious process

-My learning effort to date included seven hundred (700) hours of formal Tuition, four thousand hours (4000) of personal study and, €15,000 of direct expenditure.

  • The German language is now part of who and what I am but I will never become fluent in German unless I choose to live in a German-speaking country.

-Mastery of the German language requires prolonged expert tuition in it's fundamentals including grammar, vocabulary, literature and syntax.

  • Online offerings ,including Duolingo, are useful tools in the learning process but I believe that it is impossible to master German using only these tools.

-My language learning adventure has just begun. I will continue with my German project indefinitely. "Gibt es nicht über das Ziel der Reise, sondern über die Reise selbst".

-as I now proceed along my Chinese/Mandarin learning journey I am finding that skills learned to date help greatly with my new project.

-Duolingo appears to facilitate the learning of English from Chinese but not the other way round.


May 3, 2016



"Mastery of the German language requires prolonged expert tuition in it's fundamentals including grammar, vocabulary, literature and syntax."

I completely disagree. Conventional teaching and tuition in grammar and syntax is a horrible way to teach most people a foreign language. And "mastery" of any skill is not something that can be taught anyway, it can only be obtained through immense experience in using said skill.


I'm not sure that when WilliamFCashman referred to "expert tuition" that he necessarily meant "Conventional teaching and tuition in grammar and syntax". Having a tutor/teacher/friend who is knowledgeable in the language and how to help with the learning of the language would seem like a huge help. To have someone who (unobtrusively) points out grammatical problems, coaches you on literature and history and provides a quick help on the word you're trying to think of beats DuoLingo hands down (And, BtW, I really enjoy DuoLingo!).

So if that's what was meant by "expert tuition", I'm all for it! If he meant diligently studying tables of article/case, memorizing convoluted hints on grammar, etc. then maybe not so much.

BtW, I'm looking for entertaining ways to spend my retirement years and am finding learning German to be harder than expected. Fun. But hard.


Interesting story, and very true. I've easily spent 1500 hours studying and practising German and only now am I passing over to B2 -- many people underestimate just how large a task it can be to master a language. Nevertheless, with the right attitude (passion, dedication, diligence, etc.), it really can be a delightful adventure :)

P.S. Please do split your post into paragraphs!


Congratulations on your German. WOW, very interesting.

You are right online is not enough, and Duolingo does not promise fluency. In Duolingo German you can reach at the very most B1, but it is mostly A1 (ready for A2). And after A2 there are not many resources online. I think personal tutors are the best option, those classes are very slow. I wonder what do you think of these videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yxyy5wseG9A


Guten Tag Lorel 90.

I find all learning aids useful. I simply don't believe exaggerated claims for any individual offering.

Young children have amazing oral language skills while knowing little or nothing about language.

For adult beginners the process of learning a new language is very tedious. I regard it as a Marathon requiring similar preparation and application.

Examinations are unimportant for me as a retired person but the personal satisfaction of achieving something special is priceless.

Good luck with your learning.



Nice effort... However, you make it sound as if it is hard. Certainly one could have some fun when on the way :)


Different strokes I guess. After a year and a half's study I can understand a fair bit of German and even feel like I can speak a little bit too, and can't say that much of it has been tedious so far. In fact, I continue seeing progress month by month and every step forward to me is a reward.

Who knows, maybe the tedium comes later. But I continue to learn (both here and doing other things in German) and enjoy doing so. So I figure all I need to do is keep a fresh open mind, find joy in the experience of learning, keep mastering small skills one at a time, and time will turn those small steps into me climbing the mountain.


I'm so impress. Your story and your determination really inspire me.It seems that you have achieved something after all the hard work you've done, congrats!

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