I am struggling with the German tree and would like advice.

Hi, I have been learning German for a couple of months on and off but found out recently that I going to be going over there quite a lot for work now so need to make some actual progress.

Basically the further I go through the skill tree the harder and harder it is becoming (obviously) but to the point where It takes me up to 100 attempts to complete a single strength builder task because of the amount I don't know, in order to stop making this worse I've stopped going further down the tree and now just focus on working on what I have gone over in the past, the problem is that it doesn't seem to be helping at all, particularly with the grammar which I am struggling with quite badly. Does anyone have advice on how best to use this amazing language learning resource in a more effective way in times like this or is it that I'm just getting too far ahead of myself and need to keep working on the strength of the current things?

I spend around 3 hours a day on Duolingo and have reset my account a number of times in order to make the learning curve simpler for myself but I'm getting demotivated because nothing more than how often I'm getting things wrong.

Thank you all, good luck with learning the language you're working on.

Edit: I love the duolingo community.

April 6, 2017


Edited 07 April 2017 20:00 (GMT-03), including some suggestions of the other commentaries.

Dear all,

I have read all comments just now, and I have something to say regarding them.

  1. Each one has its best way of learning, That is true, So for anyone that does not know what is the best method for him, the solution is to try each one of the suggestions.

  2. Grammar is necessary and grammar is not necessary. As we all know, children learn grammar when they already know how to speak. We learn grammar while we are just studying the language, because we kind of discover which form of a word fits in the sentence, after some mistakes. The problem is to balance the study of grammar with the study of the language without caring for the grammar. Too much grammar makes us thinking in rules instead trying to say something, even wrong. The learner that wants to speak perfectly will not speak at all. I try to learn as children, not paying attention to grammar. After, when I am used with the structures, I study a little grammar and everything fits, as if I got free of a kind of fog. So it is necessary a balance, that each one must find his own point of equilibrium.

  3. Of course it is necessary to use other means, like reading books, even that more easy, writen for students. But it is no use to do this too early. If you are in the beginning of the tree, you vocabulary is kind of 100 or 200 words, you have problems in translating the simple sentences of the exercises, I don't think it is a good idea to try reading books or newspapers. But later, when the vocabulary reaches one thousand, of course it is a very good idea. Duolingo is a tool to learn how the language works, and bring us very high, but its vocabulary do not surpass 2.000, each single case being counted as one. So ich bin, du bist, er ist, wir sind, ihr seid, sie sind count as 11 words.

  4. Hearing spoken german, even do not understanding what is said, helps to learn the music of the language. I do not like this option, but I do not deny its usefulness.

  5. Writing down is good. Our hand also learns.

  6. To much time in learning the same subject is not good, the brain has to have time to digest the information. For myself I have a limit of 50 minutes for any subject. Even if I study a whole day, I will study different subjects, not to overload my brain,

  7. Time practice is good, and there is a script ( that will stop the clock after the answer is submitted, to allow time to understand the errors.

  8. Memrise (and tiny cards) are good to learn by heart the vocabulary.

Resources in web:;list=PLYzp2xhTw9W1Z9RvnCoveC0W7pkwUMHXy

Learn German with Jenny in Youtube (with exercises)

Learn German with Ania in Youtube (better, but without exercises)

Free course from deutsche welle

Another free course from deutsche welle, that proceeds at a fairly deliberate pace


April 7, 2017


First of all, it is no surprise that you are having this kind of problem. As you speak a quite simple language, without almost no inflection (you have some little remais of it) and the verb conjugation is also very simple, you should find German a difficult language. I am also studying German, I find it difficult (not as difficult as Russian, however, so in comparison it seems easy), but as far as I speak a language with a conjugation like German, only lacks to me the declension.

So I have some advices.

  1. Reduce the time you spend daily with German. Your head needs time to digest the information. I spend every day a little more than one hour and I study lots of languages at the same time. There are occasions that I have no better thing to do, so I spend more time in learning languages, but that is not the rule.

  2. Only advance when you start to make mistakes in the previous lessons using the strengh skill button because of distractions, because of pressing the wrong key, but you know that if you had paid enough attention, you would not make that mistake. You cannot build a strong house if the foundations are week. To many attempts to complete one task means that you have to go back and make sure you learned previous lessons. To learn is not to complete a lesson. It is necessary that your body learn it, that you know their words by heart, that you can make a similar sentence without thinking.

  3. Use the tiny cards of Duolingo, or your own deck in Memrise to make sure you know the words by heart.

  4. Be patient. You are learning a difficult language. Take your time.

Please, believe in my advice number 1 and do not spend so much time in learning German. Have pity of your mind. It is like one sedentary start to run three or four hours each day.

Good luck and be patient.

Edit: You can also copy and rewrite words and sentences. Your hand is also an instrument of learning.

April 6, 2017

There were days I learned 10 hours a day or even more.
After 3 months I felt somewhat "burned out" and stopped learning altogether for more than a month.
Now I've to do a lot of strengthening exercises to my trees.
That what happens when you over do it. It was too demanding.
The reassuring thing is, that I actually retained most of my knowledge in German, even when i took a long break from it.
My fluency score actually increased after I returned.
It seems to concur that most of the stuff are in my long term memory now.

April 6, 2017

My progress has definitely slowed the further down the tree that I get. And that's a good thing - there is only so much "boy, girl, bread, water" that I can stand :)! Lately I have been focusing more on review (keeping the tree golden) than learning new skills. And I'm slowly remembering the harder lessons, but It will definitely take longer to finish the tree than I assumed it would at first.

Difficulty aside, I don't think that using Duolingo by itself is enough, particularly for grammar. There are some pretty useful (free) things on YouTube that you might look at for Grammar - I like "German with Jenny." You might also try taking notes on some of the difficult vocabulary - I do that sometimes, and just the act of writing something down makes me remember it better. Good luck and keep at it!

April 6, 2017

Thank you! its nice to hear that other people do experience the same thing. When it comes to online learning its really hard to judge progress since its solo learning for the most part so its good to hear your strategy as well! I'll definitely check out German with Jenny now. Also I've never actually thought of taking notes outside of duolingo as I've previously considered it a complete package.

Thank you once again! Good luck :)

April 6, 2017

I would recommend doing no more than an hour per day of Duolingo, and using the second or subsequent hours to learn in different formats. For example, listen to the Pimsleur audio tapes and read beginner books (I recommend the Arme Anna series or the Learn German with Stories: Café in Berlin series to start -- both available on Amazon). Listen to some German songs or TV shows on youtube, even if you don't understand them. Talk to yourself in German (wo sind meine Shuhe? Dort sind meine Shuhe!) and if you get stuck (wo ist mein <wallet, what's wallet?>), look up that word or phrase on google translate. By learning in different ways, you'll get a better sense of what sounds correct.

April 6, 2017

Perfect. But I rather prefer Wiktionary (in English) to look up german words, instead of google translate. Wiktionary is marvelous. And just one dictionary for lots of languages...

April 6, 2017

True. is also a good online dictionary. But Google translate helps with a phrase rather than a word.

April 6, 2017

It is true what you said about google translate, and you can even write a sentence in a language you do not know just going both ways (you translate into the language you do not know and translate back, rephrase it, and translate again, and so on, until you are satisfied with the results) with simpler sentences, and adding the words you need until you get the sentence translated.

About it seems to be a good dictionary also, but wiktionary in ease of use. I do not need to choose the language you look words up, only the language of the desired explanations. So I study 8 languages and use one dictionary...

April 6, 2017

tip: go slow in order to go fast, don't rush it. Enjoy the learning process.

also, you'll benefit significantly by taking this free course from deutsche welle

alles Gute,

April 7, 2017

I would recommend using timed practices instead.
They're less stressful as they last an exact amount of time, and you can make an actual progress in the tree, so it wouldn't look like a daunting unachievable task, which might make one quit.
I'll suggest using it in tandem with this script:

It will stop the clock after you submit your answer, which will give you time to review and check what you done wrong, and you can even enter the discussions.
Your xp points will also rack up much much faster and you'll advance the levels quicker.

I wish duolingo would focus less on grammar, in the advance lessons, as they can be disheartening and also slow progress. My focus now isn't grammar but acquiring a really large vocabulary, so it only feels like it's getting in the way of that and slowing me down.
If it is ein, eine or einen, it isn't really all that important but rather first acquiring a high level of understanding from listening or reading and expending on your vocabulary.

I've now switched my bulk of my study to Memrise because of this reason.
At my level I only want to know the bare minimum of grammar I need to get by.
I would like most of my grammar to be absorbed passively and gradually, at very small increments, by high exposure to the language.

April 6, 2017

The reason Duolingo does a lot of grammar, at least in my opinion, as that its goal is to give the learner enough knowledge to go learn by him/herself. If you come across a word you don't know, you can easily search it up in a dictionary, but figuring out how a sentence is constructed, or how a word is inflected, is harder. If you know the grammar, you can read essentially anything, as long as you have a dictionary.

April 6, 2017

I already understood the main points about dative, accusative, all the other cases, verbs inflection, pronouns, sentence structure, long ago. I've figured out the "code", so to say. I've a basic but solid understanding of how a sentence behave, but it is enough for my current needs.
If I read an unknown sentence and know the words in the sentence I can understand it and dissect it.
Now I'm just marked wrong, for small stuff, because I don't know the gender or use the incorrect inflection for the case. It is just annoying. I feel like the only thing I get from this now are grammar lessons and I'm FORCED to study it, otherwise my progress would be painstakingly slow.
The word count you learned is growing super slowly too, and they even count each inflection of a word as a "separate" new word, I think.
Too much time spent, for not enough results.

April 6, 2017

If it takes 'painstakingly' long, you're probably not learning it well enough. Having bad practices, even if it seems like 'little mistakes', will come to bite you, so I strongly advise getting them not just 'good enough', but as good as you can.

April 6, 2017

There was an IF in my statement.
I'm forced to concentrate on my grammar which I don't like, and it becomes more and more demanding as you progress.
If I spend a lot of my time researching grammar rules I'm not happy about it.

Most of the time I can't put the correct answer even if I know what to do, because I don't remember the gender and need to guess. And of course then get punished for it. Even when already the sentence is very complex, as it is, and I did everything else correct.

April 7, 2017

I have literally just figured out today that timed practice is something you only buy once so I've never used it before about an hour ago - maybe this could really help!

Thank you so much for your advice, I think I will do this from now on because you're right it absolutely is daunting especially when I set a minimum of 100xp per day.

Good luck learning other languages as well!

April 6, 2017

Sorry, I don't know if you made an edit or whether but just seen this looks longer now haha!

I've downloaded and installed that script as well and that will be really helpful - thanks for linking me to that! I totally agree, grammar isn't in my eyes too important for early learners since its much easier to understand what someone is saying just based on the adjectives, nouns and verbs they use rather than the way they say it. I have thought of using mesmerise but the thought of having to go right back to 'Der Mann' seems like a huge drop right now! Might give it a go though.

Thanks once again

April 6, 2017

The German Memrise course is subdivided to 7 courses..
I'll recommend that you start from course 3 or 2. You don't have to start form the begging, necessarily. You can also view the words that are covered in each "skill" before you start, and decide based on that. It doesn't lock you out from jumping forward like duolingo does.

April 6, 2017

Please, what is mesmerise?

April 6, 2017

Sorry, I had a typo. It is called Memrise. It is a flashcard app for android.

April 6, 2017

Ok. I thought it was a typo, but it happened four times in different posts, both of you and B3008442, so I thought that there was another resource.

I use memrise to learn words by heart and improve the vocabulary of languages I already know, duolingo to learn and hello chinese to learn mandarim. All free.

Mandarim is quite interesting and completely different. We have to change our mind to learn it. The app is very interesting, and even teaches you how to write that drawings that stand for words :).

April 6, 2017

Yes, I find it a bit difficult to remember the name (and spelling) of the app, that is why. I do the exact same thing as you actually. Also with the Hello Chinese app which I'm half way through. ChineseSkill might be better but I don't know it really well. Memrise is indeed not very suitable as a starter course, but rather as complementary one. I try to get to a point where I can understand the majority of what being said in German videos, and then I can drop the flashcards app (which are kinda boring) and do more interesting and real stuff instead.

Even though I said that Mermrise is not very good as a starter course, since there is no Japanese and Arabic at Duolingo, yet, I've tried them both yesterday. I've managed to learn in a few hours both the Arab and Japanese scripts, which was pretty sweet.
Their mnemonics are also not too bad.

April 7, 2017

I find Hello Chinese to be better organized than Chinese Skill (and it teaches a wider variety of skills), so Hello Chinese would be the one I'd recommend. It may be interesting to do Chinese Skill afterwards though, since it contains more vocabulary.

April 16, 2017

Deutsche Welle has several beginning German courses that focus more on understanding the spoken language. I am going through one called Deutsch Warum Nicht? in parallel with Duolingo. It proceeds at a fairly deliberate pace which is good for me as I am a beginner. I don't know if this is the best course they have, as I haven't tried the others, but I found this one helpful. It makes a change from "the man gives his horse bread" too.

April 7, 2017

Hallo B300!

I've only been working on Duolingo German for 40 days, so I can only give advice on what's helped me in this time period. I also struggle with grammar, I don't have a good head for it.

I have the duolingo app, and when I have a free couple minutes I try to strengthen the tree with skills. This helps me feel motivated because I can be successful with some of the easier things I've already learned.

I do this a few times during the day when I have a chance. (this may depend greatly on your schedule though!)

When I am learning new Duolingo level, I do it at home on the Duolingo website. I like this better, as I feel more focused towards the lesson. and I'm less likely to be interrupted.

I try to translate and say what I am doing in german during the day. Example this morning,

"Ich laufe mit hunde. Mein Hund ist wiess und schwartz. Mein anderer hund ist braun. Dieser Hunde sind gross!"

It is both fun and difficult, because sometimes I don't know the words for what I am doing, and have to look it up on google translate. I am probably making mistakes, but as I progress I will make fewer.

Good luck! Viel Gluck!

April 7, 2017

Duolingo doesn't really teach grammar well. Especially with the amount of synonyms and not teaching the differences.

I would say pick up a grammar book like Practice Makes Perfect Complete German grammar should help up.

There are quite a few German teachers are on Youtube. German with Jenny is good.

Put words in Anki, because Duolingo (at least in German) the SRS doesn't really throw the words out much (particularly the adverbs), because I kept getting them wrong left and right, yet they rarely ever came up for review.

Use these for dictionaries, because Duolingo's internal dictionary is crappy (the hover over).

I would also recommend getting something like Assimil German to learn Colloquial German and build up listening comprehension.

Duolingo is decent (for German), but it should be a supplement, not a main course.

April 7, 2017

I would recommend acquiring a German grammar book or using any number of the marvelous internet resources available to improve your grammar. For me, it's easier to understand grammar in context if I already have an idea of what the rules are. I would also recommend finding more "authentic" ways to practice German. Practicing speaking with someone else, watching movies, listening to the radio, or reading books or magazines in German are all excellent ways to practice, and I find that words stick better in my head when I've used or heard them in a realistic context like that. Duolingo is great for practice and review, but it isn't the only resource to use if you want to make real progress in a language.

Viel glück!

April 6, 2017

I think you already got great advice, but let me add some more. We all have our unique way to learn something, so try to mix things up, get a book from the library or find grammar resources online, there are plenty. I like some youtube channels such as:

Also German with Jenny and many others. I also recommend memrise official courses, it does have grammar, but it is nice.

April 6, 2017

I've watched about 100+ videos of Learn German with Ania.
She is the best language teacher I've ever seen. Always so energetic, cute and full of life.
Her travel series is the best and the most fun I've had with German thus far. So enjoyable.
You feel you learn a lot and understand everything she says without even trying.

April 7, 2017

Yes, Ania is fantastic. I think I also watch most of her videos. I also like Jenny although she is not as entertaining as Ania, Jenny has exercises.

April 7, 2017

My belly fat tells me exercise is not my thing :'(

April 7, 2017

Duo is good but you need other resources so that they all give meaning to one another. Music, tv and books in German: get to it now.

April 7, 2017

Here's a link to the Duolingo German sentences course on Memrise. One thing also is that you don't have to start at the beginning on memrise - you can pick any point on the course - I think Casper_duo has already pointed this out. Furthermore this course is a tapping course so it concentrates less on your ability to spell and more on word order practice and translation. You can also ignore sentences once you've mastered them if you wish.

Good luck

April 6, 2017

From a teacher's perspective, it's worth considering how your brain learns new knowledge (from a neuro science perspective). You can only take in a limited amount of 'new knowledge' each day and it takes considerable work to transfer 'new knowledge' through your working memory and then on to your long term memory. I've heard different numbers, ranging from revising 'new knowledge' between 4 - 24 times in a short period of time to ensure it remains in your working memory for a few days, but you also need to revise this 'new knowledge' after a week or so in order to transfer it to your longer term memory. I've heard the magic number for revision is 3 days, 6 days, 31 days and 60 days after learning your 'new knowledge'.

This can get a big much if you are trying to quickly progress with your tree.

I recommend starting your study with new knowledge early in the day, revising the new knowledge a few times over that day and finishing by revising old stuff (it may not be a day - however you organise your study session).

I personally can't learn more than 2 different topic module things in a day.

There's a lot more to how your brain learns languages in particular, but this is probably the main stuff you need to know.

April 8, 2017

Seems like you are having the same problems as I and most other German learners I know have. Don't worry about it and the mistakes will give you a surprising advantage when you go to Germany. I went there to work 30 odd years ago, and used to like having a drink in the local after work. My German was so bad I always ended up chatting with friendly Frauen who were very willing to help me learn and pronounce German. Very fast way to learn, and very enjoyable too. Never stuck for something to talk about, and the beer is great. There are some great books to read. "Aus dem leben Gegriffen" Authors like Sefan Zweig, and Hans Bender are good to read. Just keep at it, and don't get discouraged when you think you know less than when you started.

April 8, 2017

Let me ask you this: what do you find particularly challenging? If you can pinpoint what it is that is difficult, than you can surely improve it.

Another question: warum lernst du Deutsch? Why are you learning German? Weil du es interessant findest? Because you find it interesting? Für die Arbeit? For work? Etwas anders? Something else?

I think these questions might help you locate what drives you to learn German and hopefully bring more fun into the equation too!

Ich wünsche dir viel Spaß und Erfolg beim Deutschlernen. I wish you a lot of fun and luck with learning German.

April 8, 2017

Hello! I find Duolingo really good fun for practising, but it doesn't really explain the grammar very much. Have you tried the Michel Thomas method? It comprises a set of CDs where you "take part" in a lesson with a teacher and 2 real students. The teacher explains a construction or a word and then asks "how would you say ..." questions. You then pause the CD and try to construct the phrase/sentence. Then you hear one of the students try to do it, and the teacher corrects the grammar or pronunciation if necessary. The students make mistakes (of course), which helps you understand if you also made a mistake (or if you got it right then you can enjoy feeling smug!) Also, the teacher gives good tips on the link between the German and English words, or other tricks for remembering. I was a bit sceptical because I'm usually a very visual learner and this method is only listening and speaking, but you'll find yourself putting together quite complex sentences very quickly. And the best thing is that you're supposed NOT to try to remember - you're supposed to just relax and work through the CDs, and they'll keep coming back to things you've already done so you don't forget. Maybe if you try more than one method then it will help to reinforce what you're learning? Very best of luck, in any case!

April 15, 2017

If you'd like two-in-one German grammar explanations+entertaining blog, I highly recommend your daily German:

Especially starting with the Online Course section:

Their series on adjective endings alone saved me so many German-learning headaches:

And remember... often it's when we feel stuck that we're just on the edge of making a leap of progress!

April 16, 2017

I had a nice long streak going a few weeks ago, but I got really busy with my course work and my golden tree progress isn't there anymore. I usually like to keep my tree golden. I found that upon returning to duo after 'forgetting' to do my daily lessons that I can recall more conjugations, nouns, etc. Try not to force yourself to do too much at once.

I also decided to sign up for a German class taught year-round in my area. If I can use duo as a reference instead of a source, I feel like I will be more likely to finish the tree. I only have three and a half branches left! I think if I took an actual class where I was forced to speak and listen to other people I'll be able to retain more of what I'm learning.

April 7, 2017
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