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My first encounter with a German book

I've been doing Duolingo for a year (2 lessons a day). So I got a children's book called "Such dir was aus, aber beeil dich!" by Nadia Budde. It looked really cool with beautiful illustrations. I saw the words Darth Vader in it somewhere and got really excited.

However, I soon realized that reading the book was easier said than done. The advantage I have as a Duolingo learner is that I have a pretty decent vocabulary for a beginner. But the grammar has still not dissolved into my brain. Simple sentences are fine but once its structure gets complicated, it's hard. It was a little difficult to sit and translate each line especially when Google Translate is not very dependable. So I returned the book to the Goethe Bibliothek I borrowed it from.

I've started reading the German version of Harry Potter on kindle instead. I know that sounds way more difficult than the children's book I mentioned. But I already know the story and with Kindle, I can just touch a word and the meaning comes up. Finished a couple of pages and I think I'm going to finish it, and enjoy the process. Don't see myself giving up on it.

I've also been taking some german exercises online to get better at grammar. I hope to return to the library in a few months and borrow the book again - this time, with more success.

August 7, 2016



Congratulations on giving it a go, and on finding something that works even better! You are well on your way of learning to read in German.

I went through the same thing with French a couple of years ago, when I had finished the French tree here. The first book feels enormously difficult, but after a few books, things really start to fall into place. Make sure to keep challenging yourself with reading books on paper, too, trying different kinds of books, different authors, etc. And then reward yourself with reading something that feels easier once in a while, so you don't burn out.

Duolingo user GregHullender has written some really good blog posts on how to best read in a foreign language using a Kindle: http://gregreflects.blogspot.fi/2014/09/how-to-read-foreign-novel-on-kindle.html. Although Greg recommends skipping children's books (because he feels they are dumbed-down and contain vocabulary you don't really need such as names of kids' games), I've had a great time starting out with those and feeling a sense of accomplishment already after 50-100 pages rather than having to stick to one reading project for ages and ages.

Good books are good books -- whoever the target audience and whatever the language!


Thank you for such an encouraging, helpful and well-thought-out reply :)

I am a huge fan of Greg Hullender's blog as well. His post on memorizing German cases was a real lifesaver and helped unlock the language for me.


Bitte! Now, I wonder how I could get Greg to learn Russian and write a post about how to memorize Russian cases... ;-)


My 1st english book was "All the president's men" years (decades :( !) ago ,I still remember how lost I was and how difficult it felt.... But the feeling of pride and accomplishment when you turn the last page has no price !! I just want to feel it again when I'm through with my first "Wallander" in Swedish ... I'm currently on page 57 , only 315 more to go :) .....


That was a very impressive achievement because that's not an easy book to get through especially when English was still becoming a second language.


That sounds amazing. Good luck with your "Wallander". I can feel your excitement in that word :)


I have found that reading a book while listening to the audiobook is a really effective way to improve both listening and reading skills. The first one I did this with was Die Arena by Stephen King. If you buy the kindle book you get the audiobook cheaper. It was 40 odd hours long but by the end I was able to listen without the book and read fluently without the audio. I also did a memrise course to learn extra vocabulary at the same time.


I still haven't read my first German book, mostly because it's a bit technical with uncommon vocabulary. I found a copy of Ernst R. Sandvoss's Geschichte der Philosophie - Band 1: Indien, China, Griechenland, Rom at a thrift store for $0.99 and couldn't pass it up.


Wow, that sounds challenging. That's the sort of stuff I hope to get into once I have sufficient command over the language. German is so great for philosophy enthusiasts. So exciting. Best of luck and have fun!


This. Is. Awesome.


This is so exciting! I'm so happy for you! The passion for learning a language is incredible. When able to understanding a sentence or three is such an amazing feeling - ugh. I wish you nothing but the best on your journey to finishing your novel and your revenge on the children's book. The first German book I "started" to read was Alice in Wonderland with the English translation on the side but I was a fairly new learner and the book was a bit advanced for me so I had to put it aside for a while. Perhaps I should challenge myself again and pick it up once more. Then, I went with the German Classic: Der Struwwelpeter - I loved it!


Thank you :) Indeed, it's a wonderful thing. Wishing you also the best. I shall check out Der Struwwelpeter!


Hello! I also read on Kindle and I love its dictionary too. :) For me HP was a bit too tough in German, there were simply too many unknown words in it. I recommend Michael Ende's novels: Die Unendliche Geschichte and Momo. They're lovely books and it's way easier to understand them. If you're looking for something modern: Andy Weir's Der Marsianer's text is also quite simple. I've read only these three in German, I'm proud of them. :D And I hope you'll enjoy them too!


Awesome!! I'm going to add all of them to my list :)


Reading a foreign book on kindle is a great way to go. I finished two French books that way. Unfortunately, the German book I really want to read, (Drei Kamaraden) is not available, and my reading skills are not yet up to tackling it on my own. So I have started on children's books (grade 2-3 level) and fairy stories and plan to work my way up.


German is so great for fairy tales though, isn't it? I love Hans Christian Andersen!


but do the words we learn in duolingo, if we reach the last level 'i think it is 25' will make us apt to read an intermediate book?. i tried the same strategy after i finished the frensh tree one year ago 'by another account' and now i can read an advanced novels 'with an aid of a dictionary' but english and frensh are lexically similar and that helped me alot yet german words is different , longer, and harder to be memorized.


I think that's the point of the original post. The words alone are not enough, it's the different ways in which the grammar is used in writing that makes reading more difficult than just being able to translate individual words. Wait until you hit one of those famous single paragraph sentences German authors seem to love so much.

Neither do I think duolingo exposes one to enough of a language to get through an intermediate level book. You simply must augment what you're exposed to on duolingo with other sources. Luckily there are all kinds of ways of doing that.


Completely agree, Bruces123.

Duolingo can't give you everything you need and I'm not blaming duo. You simply have to augment your duolingo learning with other stuff and it's a fun process. I've been using the deutsche edition of buzzfeed. I'm not a big buzzfeed fan otherwise, but for learning German, it really comes in handy. I also decided to memorize poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (one of the reasons I started learning the language) which I had enjoyed immensely in their English translations for many years. It's funny to think that even though I can't hold a conversation properly, I can leave any German expats I run into in my country dumbstruck by launching into perfect recitations of complex literary, philosophical works in their language :D


can you gave me some links to download free abridged german stories' the ones which for foreign learners and classified in levels. or if you can't , what about links of any sort of german books' especially easy and intermediate ones'


I don't know about any other links but if you make a kindle account, you'll have access to many free German books. You don't need to own a kindle to do it. You can just get the kindle app on your smartphone or on your computer.


Seconding this!

I have the free Kindle app on both my Android tablet and my Android phone, and I've actually ended up reading a lot on my phone -- it sounds like the small screen would be annoying, but it's very comfortable (once you adjust the text size, spacing, screen colour, etc. to fit your needs) and so convenient, since I always carry it with me anyway.

For anyone not familiar with using these apps: You can "buy" free dictionaries and then just click the words you want to look up, and at least the French monolingual dictionary is very good... Usually between the good French monolingual dictionary and the (also free, but not as good) French to English dictionary, I can figure out what a hitherto unknown word means.

I have other free reading apps as well, but the Kindle one is the one I've ended up using the most.


I just started listening to German pop music today - with the song "nur noch kurz die welt retten". It's a fantastic way to learn. Might become my favourite and most effective alternate source of learning.


Answering your podcast question here, duo doesn't want me responding to your last question. I like the following podcasts. They're not language learning podcasts, so if you're not used to listening to natives speaking at full speed this will be challenging.

Fest und Flauschig - Only available on Spotify. This is where Jan Böhmermann and Olli Schulz went to after they did Sanft und Sorgfältig.

Sanft und Sorgfältig - See above. No more new broadcasts coming out, but 2+ years of old ones you can listen to on youtube.

Wer redet ist nicht tot (WRINT) - Holger Klein's podcast on all kinds of stuff. History, science, wine, sometimes just day to day chit chat.

Das Podcast UFO - Florentin Will (from Neo Magazin Royale) and another guy whose name I forget. Mostly just them cracking jokes.

LateLine - Radio call in show in podcast form. Hardcore listening practice because audio quality on phones and occasional strong accents make the listening tough.

Easy German on youtube is a great resource, and the various things published under the language learning section on dw.de.


Ah, thanks a bunch! The only German podcast I have been listening to is Slow German by Annik Rubens. As the name suggests, they talk about different topics but slowly. For a beginner like me, it's really helpful, at least till I develop an ear for it.


I can suggest listening to podcasts, interviews and the news too. I really think I've learnt more German from doing that than anything else.


Oh, I love podcasts. Any specific podcasts you would suggest? Throw in whatever you think might help.

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