At what point should I be able to comfortably read real life German?
Is there roughly a point on the Tree or a fluency percentage where I should be able to start reading German websites, news, Wikipedia, etc.? Or perhaps I need to go even further, beyond Duo, before I can do that?
Also, why was the Immersion feature removed from Duolingo? The only thing I can imagine is that Immersion was costly for storing the data of all the uploaded documents. It sounded like a great idea, but I never got far enough along while the feature was still around to take advantage of it.
2017-6-12 EDIT: Great responses, everyone. Thank you for your input and perspectives, I appreciate it!
Start whenever you feel comfortable- you might want to start with beginner materials for practice, as it's not a good idea to jump into reading higher-level stuff immediately after finishing the tree. Duo is only meant to make you proficient in the basics, and it can be quite demoralising to not understand the majority of what you're reading.
There's http://www.tivi.de/fernsehen/logo/start/, which is a news website aimed at children. There's also http://www.stern.de/neon/, aimed at teenagers. Starting with easier stuff will gradually prepare you for more advanced reading.
I also highly recommend finding a speaking partner or paid tutor through a language exchange website such as https://www.italki.com/home, as speaking practice will also increase your reading and writing proficiency. Reading alone won't make you better at speaking, however.
As for immersion, it was removed because less than 0.5% of Duo's users used it on a regular basis.
I finished the tree several weeks ago, and I can read Harry Potter (I ordered a German copy and have been working through it), but I can't do it comfortably. It takes a lot of translating and patience. However, it IS getting easier as I go.
My opinion is that Duolingo will put you in a position where the structure of the written language will not confuse you. But, vocabulary is limited in Duolingo so you will, at least at first, find yourself doing a lot of translations in the real world. Since learning vocabulary in a foreign language is actually the easy part I don't see this struggle as anything unexpected or annoying.
Think of it like learning Tennis (I'm a tennis coach). I can teach you the strokes and explain how the game works and how to move efficiently, and you'll feel like you've made lots of progress after several dozen lessons. And you won't be wrong! But then you enter your first tournament, march out on the court to play, and you get pounded. Why? Just experience. That's it. Play more matches and you'll feel more comfortable in real matches executing all the things I taught you in isolation. You might come to me and say I wasn't a good enough coach, but I would tell you that you would never have even walked out for the match in the first place if you didn't know how to play! Even being able to participate means you got somewhere! :-)
No, in my experience there isn't a point on the tree/fluency percentage... Try yourself to read as soon as possible! Sometimes you'll be astonished what you can already read/understand! You definitely won't understand everything, but here and there some words (or rather part of words, because it's German), but maybe you'll even be able to translate 1-2 short sentences!
I experienced this with Portuguese myself and was really astonished, because these weren't sentences which were easy or for beginners... The sentences were (for example) from magazines...
Or maybe try to read some German discussions here on Duo... From native speakers :-) Sometimes I read some Portuguese answers in sentence discussions and I'm happy to be able to understand some of it... It still needs a bit of time to "translate"... It's nothing like reading in English... But with time I'll get there... And so will you! :-)
now, the point to start reading is NOW. go to wikipedia - pick something you like and know about (chocolate, queen elizabeth I, etc), go to the german language page and see how you do. the yahoo germany homepage is another good resource. the media chains ARTE and ZDF media have free app with lots of german language content. don't worry if you can't grasp more than 10%, keep trying. you'll get better.
There won't be a point where you can suddenly start comfortably reading any foreign language. The more you study, the more you'll be able to read. You will probably have to learn outside of Duolingo before you can fluently read 'real life' stuff. I believe the general consensus is that Duolingo can teach you to about an A2 or B1 level, and I would say you probably be at least B2 to be considered fluent (though you'll be able to read a lot at a B1 level).
Immersion was basically removed because it took up too much server space and a very small percentage of Duolingo users were using it.
I would totally recommend www.readlang.com for reading practice. They have different levels of reading material and if you don't know a word you can simply click on it to reveal the translation plus when you click on a word to check the definition it will automatically go into a flashcard list for review later. I only wish they had a mobile app.
I find reading something you already know works well. I'm reading Harry Potter in Swedish. I look up lots of words, but my guessing skills are increased by knowing pretty much what is going on already. when I was learning German the first time in school I loved to read my mother's book of Grimm's fairy tales - the language obviously isn't current, but I loved the stories and knew them well in English, so it gave me a boost into 'reading real German' and helped reinforce my lessons. But oh, that Gothic font! >.<
I have tried watching Netflix in German language movies. I watch them sometimes with English subtitles to get more vocabulary and experience. I downloaded a free Andriod app called Der Spiegel for news. I get news and gossip along with more practice and experience reading in German. Both of these activities are a struggle for me. My Duolingo fluency rating is 52% today. I feel I will get as much from my activities as the effort I put into them.
I'd like to add just a single comment to all the excellent comments that have already been made ... a lot of social media websites (like facebook) are multi-lingual. So within those specific websites, change your target language to German! If a key to learning a language is exposure and repetition, doing this one simple thing just might pay huge dividends without any significant effort on your part.
You should start as soon as possible, there's no such thing as 'the best time' to start reading. To quote Shia Labeouf: "JUST DO IT!" If you know some words you can start reasing, it's as simple as that.
At first when you start reading, it will be very difficult to follow. It will be hard and confusing that's for sure. But when you get into it, when you start reading more and more the difficulty will fade away and you'll find yourself actually learning new words just by seeing them! (no dictionary needed) How do I know this? It is what happened to me with English. At some point it got to the point that it would be difficult to remember if I had read a Dutch or an English book, both languages just felt so very natural to read.
I'm in no way 'fluent' or even 'conversational' in German but I'm currently reading Heinrich Böll's "Und sagte kein einziges Wort". Wwhile some words just go over my head and I don't understand everything, I can generally follow the plot.
I was able to start reading YA novels after I finished the tree, (I read the Rubinrot series by Kerstin Gier.) but it was a real struggle at first. By the end of the series, it was a lot easier for me.
You can go from the tree to reading native materials (so long as you don't pick up anything crazy like a physics book or the news - both require lots of special vocabulary Duo doesn't teach). However, it won't be easy at first.
If you have an e-reader or tablet, I strongly recommend reading on one of them. Download a German-English dictionary, so looking up new words is only a finger press away.
I would say this depends on the person and the difficulty of the reading. For example, ios has "bots." Early in the tree, I tried the "bots" and became very frustrated. It wasn't until I absorbed or was exposed to significant vocabulary before the "bots" became much easier. Now, I repeat them and try to be more creative. Also, originally, the "bots" were very restrictive. But now, the hints are almost too liberal. For some time, the "bots" were being released at a fast and furious pace. That has stopped. Also, if you're interested in fluency then even upon completion of the entire tree, you will be less than 60% fluent.
Finally, you must realize that repetition is the key to learning. So, repeating lessons is critical to your learning. In my case, I am working to complete the tree and then transforming completely into review mode. Anyone who races through the tree is doing themselves a disservice. I recall reading a comment by one user about completing the tree. I will paraphrase:
"I've finished the tree, so now what?"
I responded that finishing the tree was merely a preliminary step and I encourage repetition and more study. In any case, it's a good start.
Now, if Luis would make a determination regarding funding, this entire "health" concept in ios MIGHT go away. It is absurd to punish users for incorrect answers.
Duolingo is a great resource, it's like an isolated incubator for grammar and sentence structure, but it's not the same thing as reading, writing, or talking in real-life contexts.
The only way to learn that is to get out and do it!
My suggestions for getting started:
Children's books: This is a great site of free to download illustrated stories (you'll notice some have ... a little bit of a Catholic slant to them) http://www.childrensbooksforever.com/childrenpages/German1.html
News: No, not full-on German news, that's crazy talk. Try this 'simple' news site instead. http://www.nachrichtenleicht.de/
Social Media: Let me preface - in general, I avoid clickbait / list articles like the plague. However, I have found Buzzfeed Deutschland helpful because the themes are immediately obvious, there is a constant stream of new content, and it helps you understand how the colloquial language is formed. https://www.buzzfeed.com/?country=de (or on Facebook)
I strongly agree. "Leichte Sprache" is very artificial; I actually sometimes wonder if it really reaches its target group. For language learners, it's definitely not recommendable.
There is a magazine, "Deutsch perfekt" (Spotlight Verlag, I don't want to add the link because I'm not sure if this would be considered unauthorized advertisement).
I have subscribed to the English, French and Spanish magazines of that same company, and I like the fact that they offer articles on various topics, with vocabulary and explanations, at different language levels that are marked.
Maybe you can get a copy at your railway station newspaper stand or a bookshop (that's where I see them)? I agree with others here that you should simply start and see what you can understand. This will improve over time, and it will be a very rewarding experience (says someone who enjoys "decoding" Polish aphorisms with the aid of a grammar book and a dictionary ;-))
I actually have a number of Austrian friends, some of whom don't post in their regional dialect (the ones that do drive me nuts!). This has given me access to a lot of varying levels of German reading material. I've noticed a significant improvement in my ability to just read the material without much thought after about a year of daily strengthening AFTER completing the German tree AND getting to the highest level. Some of the stuff is still pretty heavy going due to the word order. I tend to translate individual words and then have to assemble the idea. Non-English-type word order ignoring the cases of nouns can really trip you up, as I've discovered on occasion.
I found this series of books helpful: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Learn-German-Stories-Karneval-Beginners-ebook/dp/B00IYGD7NE/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1487187575&sr=1-2&keywords=ferien+in+frankfurt
They're quite short, but also quite cheap. I use them alongside duo and I think they're helping my progress.
I'm also reading Alice in Wonderland in French. I chose that book because it's one I've read hundreds of times so I know roughly what the text should be, which leaves me free to concentrate on the words (rather than trying to follow an unfamiliar story as well as translating).
My German teacher had us watching a German sitcom in German 1 and we could understand most of it, so you don't have to be too far along to understand more simple works. We will be reading short stories in German 2, so I'd say that you should be able to read somewhat comfortably with the basics plus some slightly more advanced things.