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Over a whole year of German and still no noticeable improvement

I've been taking the German course for the past year now. But I'm not having any noticeable improvement. At this point I personally need some way to vent out and express my concerns with the community. From my experience I feel like Duolingo teaches me more English than German. Not only does this issue put stress on me, but it also makes me lose hope in my ability to learn a 2nd language. At this point learning German doesn't even feel like a goal anymore. Instead it feels more like a chore. Not only does that make me wanna quit after I reach my daily goal, but it just hurts to see myself fall behind other learners that started around the same time as I did. I'd like it if Duolingo would add in ways to motivate users to learn more often than just daily streaks. :(

June 21, 2017



By all means, my friend, vent away!

Let's face it, learning, and becoming fluent in, a second language is by all accounts one of the hardest things to accomplish in life. It is no small undertaking! And while there are many great free resources available to us (Duolingo, etc.), one must fully immerse themselves in the language they wish to learn to become truly fluent. This is not to say that you are not experienced with the website/app, as your designation clearly indicates, but rather, perhaps this is an indication to take your knowledge to the next level.

Duolingo in itself will not make you fluent in a certain language. That kind of skill only comes with daily practice and immersion in daily life. Try to incorporate more and more of your skills into daily functions. For instance, I no longer say, "I'm hungry". Instead, I have replaced the expression with its German counterpart, "Ich habe Hunger". My friends/family/coworkers chuckled at first, but when they realized I was taking my comprehension of a second language seriously, they were very supportive!

With that being said, DON'T GIVE UP! Sure, you're in a rough spot with your learning, but think of all that you HAVE learned! Give yourself more credit, my friend! :)


Very well said, It is difficult when it is a third language (wich it is for me) but we shall all get there, they should form mobile chat groups with WA or Snap Chat or any other platform, for those of us who don't have friends learning a new language, as a support,


It seems like there might be a number of whatsapp groups already https://www.duolingo.com/comment/22982618 . I've not joined yet I want to get a bit further along myself.


If you have been doing Duolingo for a year, well, I'll just be honest: you've probably gotten as much benefit as you're going to get out of it at that point. Duolingo doesn't take you all the way to fluency; the general consensus is that at the very best, Duolingo may take you to somewhere around the B1 level. At this point you will want to start supplementing Duolingo with other resources to extend your learning, because Duolingo isn't going to take you much farther from here. I still maintain my streak here for the moment, because occasionally I see a word or phrase that I didn't know, but we're talking about individual words on a rather occasional basis; by and large I couldn't count on Duolingo to develop my German skills from where I am anymore. Don't be unhappy or discouraged: you are doing fine, you've just reached the point where you've outgrown Duolingo. :)


Can you provide some links to these other sources? I, and surely some others, would love to check them out!


I don't know any particular online sources. I meant the usual stuff that people use when they are in the process of getting used to a language: books, movies, classes, practice conversations with native speakers, that kind of thing. At some point, you have to go beyond translating single sentences and working with longer texts, which means doing things like reading newspapers or books; you need to practice hearing, which means German-language movies or maybe radio broadcasts from places like Deutsche Welle; and you need to practice speaking, which means having conversations with people in classes or through places that offer Skype practice sessions. (There are various places where you can meet native speakers online and practice with them through Skype; I don't know any off the top of my head, but if you search for some, you should be able to find several.)


I've been using Babbel with better results. I too found that I could say interesting things that nobody cared about (insects do not have shoulders, for example). Yes, you have to pay for Babbel, but it is a more conventional program with verb conjugations, explanations of things to help you understand what is behind the lessons, etc. Plus, it has practical stuff related to real-life situations (buying a train ticket, hotels, shopping, etc.) that will be useful when you travel.


Try finding DVDs you know and like with German language options. You can listen to them in German and check your comprehension with English subtitles, you can even have German subtitles to see it written.


You're certainly not alone. Just about every day some one starts a discussion asking how others stay motivated. I think the wisest advice I've read is to remember why you started this journey. Were your reasons valid? Do they still apply? If yes, then you've rediscovered your inspiration.

Don't compare your progress to anyone else. You're not in competition with anyone but yourself. There's no way for you to know what their circumstances are. If you try to compete with others, you may find it's not a level playing field.

If you decide to continue this journey, find the approach that works best for you. May that's not Duolingo. There are plenty of other resources available that use different approaches. It's your journey. Don't let some one decide how you will travel it.

Good luck!


How often have you spoken to German speakers in that year?

Duo is only here to teach you the basics. The fastest way to improve is to start speaking to people as soon as you're comfortable.

If you don't have any natives nearby, find a paid tutor or a free conversation partner on a site like https://www.italki.com/teachers/german. You need to be speaking several times a week if possible.


Thank you for the link :-)


Alternatively, you can chat with natives on language learning apps like HelloTalk. :) Look for it on Google Play / Apple Play Store and if it doesn't suit you exactly, there are numerous similar apps out there. :) You can pretty much use it like Facebook messenger, minus the games.


Hey Crouching Narwal,

It's good to vent (as long as it's not you just yelling and not saying anything specific), as the folks at Duolingo can see how they can improve. As for me, I understand how you feel. So much of Duolingo is translating to English, which is pretty easy when the words look like English words, so you just make smart guesses. I remember being far into Duolingo, and realizing I have no idea how to say the most basic things (the French one), which got me annoyed.

As for the German version of Duolingo, I don't use it much as it is so difficult to understand what the robot voice is saying. I use Memrise daily for my German as they pronounce words more and they have you spell them out more often.

But anyways, long story short... there are other programs that you should use! Try YouTube videos and Memrise if you want something free (me, I pay for Memrise). I also use Babbel which is my favorite, and I feel the price is reasonable. I use other programs as well, but so I don't drag on with this post, I'll leave it at that for now.

I wish you the best in your German! LOL, I realized I have no idea how to say that in German! :-P


Alles Gute mit Deinem Deutsch ;-)


Danke, Hannibal-Barkas! :-)


Don't give up. The lessons can become tiresome if you don't apply them here and there. I like to read short stories in German...the books by Andre Klein are perfect for exercising what you've learned...and they even make me chuckle sometimes. Try Café in Berlin. It is simply written - about 50 pages and only a couple of bucks. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18806935-learn-german-with-stories You may not understand everything in it, but let the words wash over you and before you know it....you know it. I read a chapter out loud every night. It irritates my wife and kids, but that's just an added bonus.


Have a lingot for that last sentence haha!


Everyone else's suggestions are great, but just to add, if you enjoy using Duolingo you could also try the reverse tree (English for German speakers). There will be a lot more translating from English to German, which will help you improve your knowledge. The interface will also be in German, and all of the tips&notes.


it just hurts to see myself fall behind other learners that started around the same time as I did

language learning isn't a competition. i joined this website in 2014 and as you can see, i'm yet to reach lv.19 in any of my languages.

one year really isn't that long, especially if german is your first language learning experience! cut yourself some slack. yes, you can do this, you just need to find the approach that works best for you. if german has become a chore, you need to shake things up. best way to learn is by having fun.
find some german content (podcast/show/etc...) that you enjoy, find a partner to practice speaking, add singing in german to your daily routine...

but seriously, as someone that can read fluently in 4 languages, my goals at the one year mark are super low. my brain simply needs more time and trying to rush things (like i did with russian) simply sucks the fun out of learning.

so pace yourself. otherwise you'll burnout before you get anywhere.


I think you got enough comments, but let me add one more.

I feel that Duolingo German is not efficient. Duolingo is great because it engages you, you keep coming back and learning even if it is only a little, you keep reviewing etc.

But Duolingo does not have the right structure to be efficient. You will learn faster if you hack the grammar and learn vocabulary. But your time in Duolingo has not been wasted, all you need is to experiment with more resources in addition to Duolingo (no need to abandon Duolingo). Try to write stories and have natives correct them (Lang8), try to get a phrase book and a grammar book or websites, try to watch youtube videos and if they have grammar drills do them (I like German with Jenny), try audio courses such as Pimsleur German, etc. There is a paid course called Smarter German, you can try some videos for free. Do not get discouraged, keep trying.


Quote Lorel: I feel that Duolingo German is not efficient

Do you think this is only related to German?

How about the Romance languages Portuguese (PT), Spanish, French, Italian?

I have some (my) doubts even for PT here https://www.duolingo.com/comment/23179201$comment_id=23185180 because of the lack of "real / useful sentences" (which would be fun to learn/review), which should push someone more into the right direction:

  • to learn some useful phrases
  • and (actively) bring the learned vocabulary together in sentence form with grammar
  • for being able to speak (produce active productive sentences)
  • and inter-connect two to three sentence sub-parts


I know the German tree and reverse tree very well, but I think in general Duolingo is a tool and part of a program to learn a language. It should not be used as the only tool.


Granted when I started Duolingo slightly less than two years ago, I felt it wasn't a good way to LEARN German, but was better as a refresher. I was using Memrise in conjunction with it and getting more out of the memory tricks and (since at the time I was only using the app and didn't know about these lesson tips that the website has) actual explanations that Memrise provided. However, over time it was just too much to do both every day. So, I reverted to just Duolingo. It really has helped quite a bit. I'm reading the daily Facebook postings of Austrian friends mostly with no help. I am answering questions faster on Duolingo, not working out WHY I'm thinking a certain way "sounds right", just going with it. My fluency is up to 71%. My Duolingo list of words is up to 2850, with a few new ones each day. So, I think the daily practice is doing some good. I'm pretty sure that my fluency now is higher than it was forty five years ago when I lived in Vienna and far higher than five years ago when I visited briefly. Just keep chipping away at it.


use wikipedia in german to read up on an already familiar subject. read a familiar book in german - bookstores will have foreign language sections. Find videos of familiar shows on youtbe and dailymotion (star trek deep space nine episodes in german) . google a show name and deutsch staffel folge. I stress working through things with which you are familiar. you will be familiar with the plot, history, and piecing together the german will be easier. don't give up!!!


What makes you think you haven't improved? I bet you have!


You've no doubt been told that listening to music is a great way to pick up the language, but what I've found to be useful is translating these songs. I open a Word document, set it to two columns, and have the original lyrics on one, and the English on the other. When listening to these songs, it's easier to remember and learn these words, and remember the song lyrics, as you now know what it's about. www.lyricstranslate.com is a great website devoted to this, for when you want to check your own translation.


Well, then try the reverse course, turn off audio in your settings and use Camilo's user script "DuoLingo tree enhancer", which also has been updated for the new Duolingo Portal (new website code).

This will prompt you for much more of L1 source (German) target / right-hand side translations.

Have you tested / finished Memrise 1-7 courses (see their blog about introducing some sentences) and available advanced (vocabulary) courses in parallel?
Have you tried 50languages and their real / longer sentences (also available on Memrise including audio provider user script).

This is my own experience after ~8 months, which I wrote down yesterday (longer posting!): https://www.duolingo.com/comment/20450828$comment_id=23172254

I do not have currently the feeling that those experienced issue will suddendly go away after 12-18 months (total)....we will see how my overall progress will be in Portuguese/Romance languages after ~1,5years ;)


I've been doing Duo for like 6 months and I've seen a HUGE difference. Ok, I admit that I do many other language activities (shows, story books, speaking to natives, singing, all in German) besides Duo but I know that Duo was the foundation that made them all possible. Maybe you need to change your approach? Do some other activities outside of Duo?


The problem is some of us don't know any natives, and don't have acceess to German stories or songs, but still it is all fun with Duo, and the bots, I enjoy it a lot.


I don't either but there's the internet.

conversationexchange.com and speaky.com for talking with natives

Go to amazon.com and buy yourself some Andre Klein books. They are cheap.

Download Spotify or look for music on youtube. For example, I like to listen to Nena and Faun.

Extra@ in German on youtube is a nice easy show to watch.

There are tons of resources out there and I'm having tons of fun with them. Things like these take everything you learn in Duo to the next level, trust me.


You tube is full of German songs and many of the clips have the words on the screen or in the comment section. Or you can find them via a google search of the song title plus text.. Just explore until you find music that like and then study/translate/ learn them. It makes learnig a lot of fun. I've learned a lot that way.


I try to use German outside of Duolingo whenever I can, just little things like phrases, and that really helps reinforce how to say things. I'm always thinking "Hmm? I wonder how I would say this word/phrase in German?" and using Google Translate, Wikitionary, and random websites discussing grammar and word usage have really helped me.

When you learn a language, you really have to be passionate and curious about learning more, beyond what you're necessarily provided with. Duolingo is an EXCELLENT way to make learning a language from scratch less intimidating for beginners. But you can't expect a language tree with only so many words to get you as far as you would need to go. It helps you get a good head start with vocabulary (2100+ words for the German tree), but you need some extra help when it comes to grammar. Look on Amazon for some German grammar workbooks.

Also maybe try Deutsch für Euch on YouTube? She's really sweet and teaches German grammar in a nice, casual way.


I noticed that Duolingo was going rather slowly and not helping all that much, so I decided to find a second website to go with it. I've been using Duolingo and Memrise daily and it has really helped me improve. I wouldn't cut out Duolingo, but Memrise is definitely better with vocabulary and pronunciation.


Maybe you should do some other things, which are described here, to stay on track. For instance listening to some German groups on youtube.com and studying the lyrics.

Perhaps you try "Rosenstolz - Auch im Regen find ich dich" or "Unheilig / der Graf - An deiner Seite" or Schlager Musik e.g. "Udo Jürgens - Ich war noch niemals in New York"

Keep going. I know you can make it


I have not read all of the replies, but if noone has suggested Memrise, that is a great (free) resource as well. There are many German programs there that you could supplement your Duolingo with.


Even though you are an English speaker, you could also try using Duolingo to learn English as a German speaker. I've learnt a bit more German that way.


I've spent over a year doing the German course and I feel like it's a chore too. I've done the entire tree, halfway is now gold, and still I feel like I've just plodded on for completion's sake but still can't construct a decent sentence I could use in a practical situation. At least I tried, however, I don't enjoy Duolingo's German course at all. :(


As I said above about three years back.. I don't think Duolingo is the right way to learn a language you don't already have some background in. I started taking German 50 years ago in college. Then I lived in Austria for a year. I could get around okay, but really only by parroting the same sentences again and again. I couldn't really have an open ended conversation for any extended time. I went back on a number of trips over the years and tried now and again to learn via tapes and videos. But since I'm not living there, and am not a natural linguist, it's never really improved. But I've now been doing Duolingo (with brief excursions to Linguist, Clozemaster, Memrise and others) for almost six years. I'm currently on a 1000+ day streak. I've found that from a READING perspective, I can read way more than I could before I started, to the point that I'm telling Google News to also show me German language articles. But composing new sentences on the fly about most topics is still beyond me. And understanding anything but Hoch Deutsch when someone is speaking to me is a chore for both of us. It takes regular actual conversation to really feel like you're getting anywhere. All my Austrian friends started learning English in grade school. I think some people do pick up language easily, but I'm not one of them.

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