https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

If I can learn a language, so can you!

Today I finally got to level 25 in Spanish!

About four years ago, I was sent a link to Duolingo by a friend. "Learn a language! For free!" Man, that sounded like a fantastic idea. How cool would it be to be able to speak another language? For free! And, to top it all off, it was dressed up like a game. All I had to do was answer questions and collect coins. And Mario had given me loads of practice with the latter.

I am not a language learner. My brain is simply not wired for it. Numbers, great. Rules, great. So computers and I got along splendidly. But languages, with their intricacies and their unexplained nuances. Ew!

Being an English speaker didn't help, either. "What's the point in learning a language? I don't want to go anywhere. And everyone can speak English. Anyone who can't probably isn't worth listening to." It felt so pointless and so impossible. So I hated German in school. With a passion.

Seven years later, and I had forgotten all my school-learnt German. The only words I could remember were, 'Tisch', 'Kaninchen' and 'Pferd'. And one phrase that was, for some inexplicable reason, drilled into me from the start: "Darf ich meine Jacke ausziehen, bitte?"

So I really felt like I was starting from scratch with Duolingo. I still chose German because I had this background. That meant everything was slightly familiar and I knew there were some funky rules. After a 'because' you'd throw some words to the end. That helped a lot, I think, because I wasn't quite so surprised when German started doing crazy things with its sentences.

It took me over three years and most of my PhD to get to a point of comprehension. It wasn't fluency, because everything was still so stuttered, but I could get by. That was three years of Duolingo, way past completion, reading German kids books and watching series on YouTube (I have @extra, Deutsch Plus and die Mumins to thank for a lot). Despite having a couple of German friends I wouldn't dare talk to them for fear of embarrassing myself.

Then I went on a two and a half month trek around Germany. It was always my plan, having started learning the language, to go move there, but I didn't know where I was going. So I visited 19 of Germany's finest cities (and Mannheim).

Now I am living in Heidelberg and my German is more-or-less fluent. Given that I have had to teach myself for the most part, I have no idea what level I am. I'd probably venture a guess at C1. I can have a good, fluid conversation with someone in German, but I'll fall down on some constructions, and accents throw me.

But 6 months ago I started learning Spanish with Duolingo. From scratch. With no prior experience whatsoever. And today I finally reached level 25!

Party hats on!

German, I learnt for myself, but Spanish, I started learning for a girl. And now I'm at a point I can have a really, slow, uninteresting conversation with someone. Sure, it's by no means fluent, but I can send messages and hold a written conversation with the help of a dictionary.

And you have no idea how exhilarating that feels. Now I feel like I could learn any language you give me.

So, coming from someone who really struggles with languages, I hope that this somehow inspires anyone starting out or coping with some language blues. Despite all the stories you see floating around the forums, not everyone learns a language after three months. That's not normal. It's hard. But it's still doable. All it takes is a ton of practice, gallons of time, three tablespoons of patience and a light sprinkling of obsessive behaviour to taste.

October 6, 2016

30 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Tuman88

Congratulations! I would say your next steps are DE->ES, DE->EN, ES->EN and ES->DE language trees ;)

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Sjodni

I agree, that would be a really smart idea, and a great way to practice. Good idea, and good luck to you with both of those languages!

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/81cheney

Congratulations! I hope to get to where you are someday.

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90

Felicidades!!! What a great achievement. You hiked for 2.5 months? That is even more impressive.

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

Nooo, I wasn't hiking. Just general travelling. With couch surfing and Mitfahrgelegenheit, for the most part. An occasional bus. Although it is a fantastic country for hiking :-)

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/HalJam
  • 1571
October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

I met a lot of people on my travels who hitchhiked. It's something I really need to do one day.

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/valexite

Germany also recently opened up a highway exclusively for cyclists! It definitely sounds like a place filled with excellent riding and hiking trails and of course you could always start from Germany and then get lost in the beauty of the Alps

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Roji-and-Salsa

Great work and a challenge for me. Like you I was a MINT type at school hating the English and Frensh lessons. But as a student I developed some interest in English. At the age of 45 I got obsessed and started reading hundreds of books. Meanwhile I follow American and English newspapers on a daily routine and try to watch English and US movies, but even after alI that experience I find it difficult when people talk really quickly like in movies. One has to stay a longer time in a country like you did to get more easy with this.

3 month ago after my retirement I started Spanish from Zero. It's really a good tool to learn the basic vocabulary. My wordlist contains nearly 2000 words, much more than I thought I could handle in that short a time. I think it will take me another 3 month and some reading and grammar studies to reach level 25 - same like you. I value that as pretty quick. Not everybody can be a wizard in languages.

But here thanks to all those like Tuman88 who gives his free time to develop and improve a course.

@Tuman88 I will do exactly what you have proposed. After finishing this tree I start En-Spain or Spain-En My wishlist for Duolingo would be -like called for from so many other users - an easy switch between source languages, so I could see courses DE-SP EN-SP and SP-DE all at once.

And at last. Now learning Spanish I understand that people say German is a difficult language. English and Spanish sentences have always SPO but in German it's sometimes SP1OP2 the order within a sentance can change a lot and there are 3 Artikels.

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

I actually find that immersion like reading and watching films, TV series or the news is a lot more beneficial than completing more trees. The DE -> EN tree, for instance, had a little bit more vocabulary, and it was an interesting having everything in English, but the practice from immersion was far more valuable. I will likely do the DE -> ES tree just to experience translating between and thinking in two foreign languages, rather than using my L1.

Would you like any corrections on your English, btw?

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Roji-and-Salsa

Yes, I would appreciate this. That's what learning is all about. Try something new, make mistakes, get corrected, try again. Every mistake is due to a lack of concentration or an opportunity to learn. That's one of the major problems at school. Pupils try to avoid making mistakes by going simple. So now I'm curios for the mistakes. There are a few sentences where I should have used progressive form? Your are right: to really advance you have to go native by immersion (heard this word for the first time)

October 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

Indeed. I always appreciate corrections, although I'm often aware that Germans don't do it out of sheer politeness.

Also, it's really good as it is, but I've chosen not to add commas, cause I know I can be really anal with them sometimes. You've used loads of sub-clauses here (which is great), but commas will make it all easier to read.

I can't get the 'strikethrough' markup to work on here, so I've italicised stuff that should be deleted and bolded stuff to be inserted.


One has to stay a longer time in a country longer like you did to get more easy confident with this.

What you put with the 'longer time' just sounds a little awkward, but I don't think it's incorrect. You could also say stay longer in a country, but again, it sounds better after.

3 months ago after my retirement I started Spanish from Zero scratch. It's really It really is a good tool to learn the basic vocabulary. My wordlist contains nearly 2000 words, much more than I thought I could handle in that short a time such a short time. I think it will take me another 3 months and some reading and grammar studies to reach level 25 - same like as you. I value consider that as pretty quick. Not everybody can be a wizard in languages.

Also, what do you mean by wordlist? Do you mean vocabulary, as in your mental 'wordlist', or are you talking about a concrete thing, like the Duolingo's list of words?

But here thanks to all those like Tuman88 who gives his free time to develop and improve a course.

This one doesn't quite make sense on its own. The But here ... starts the sentence, but then it feels like you switch to a sub-clause with the ... thanks to all those .... If you took out the second sub-clause (the like Tuman88 ...) it reads like this:

But here, thanks to all those like Tuman88, ...

@Tuman88 I will do exactly what you have proposed. After finishing this tree I will start En-Spain or Spain-En. My wishlist for Duolingo would be - like as called for from by so many other users - an easy switch between source languages, so I could see courses the DE-SP EN-SP and SP-DE courses all at once.

And at last.

Do you mean finally here? If you do, it can't really be a sentence on its own, it should probably follow into the next sentence:

Now learning Spanish I understand that why people say German is a difficult language. English and Spanish sentences have always have SPO but in German it's sometimes SP1OP2 the order within a sentance sentence can change a lot and there are 3 Artikels.


Perhaps that's not complete, but it's the best I can do at the moment, and I hope it is helpful. Also, if you have any questions, or if I've done something wrong (which is still possible), please let me know.

October 8, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/QuadraticLingual

Great work!

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/BassettMahayla

Wow!! That is so amazing! 5 lingots for you!

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/valexite

5 lingots to you for being so generous!

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/BassettMahayla

Thanks

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

I don't need the lingots, but thank you :-).

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/BassettMahayla

You are welcome.

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/HalJam
  • 1571
October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

Why would I ever go back to Mannheim? ;-)

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/valexite

What's about Mannheim?

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

It's just a city. Compared to many of the other cities in Germany, it's particularly unimpressive and underwhelming. Especially next to a city like Heidelberg down the road. Ugly and functional.

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/michaelscalero0

i'm only on level 3

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/britte13289

Congratulations and thanks for the inspiring and great story :) To learn for or because of people you want to communicate with is most probably the best motivator ever.

October 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

Actually, she's a native English speaker and ironically we're not speaking at all anymore ;-).

October 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/AlanAlza10

Congratulations!

October 7, 2016

[deactivated user]

    Congratulations!

    I think for me the situation is switched. I started Spanish with some background experience and German with literally no experience.

    Which language do you like better?? German or Spanish?

    October 7, 2016

    https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

    They are both so unique and have their own interesting aspects. But I probably prefer German because of how different it is from English, and how regular it is. The rules are the rules. I also like the German culture a lot. They're really interesting, underrated people.

    October 7, 2016

    https://www.duolingo.com/valexite

    Totally! From Kepler to Einstein, Leibniz to Peter Thiel and Bach to Nena! Absolutely wonderful people and that's excluding the massive goldmine of German philosophers and writers. Germans also had a huge influence in Renaissance and Age of Enlightement and of course Gutenberg was German!

    October 8, 2016

    https://www.duolingo.com/Druckles

    Actually, I just meant the everyday, normal German people. But the famous ones are cool too.

    October 8, 2016
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