https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Gilded German in 40 days: what you need to know

So after 3 years since I first started using Duolingo to learn German, today I finally finished the skill tree for the first time, with everything golden. It took me around 50 hours of studying, but it could be done in much less time, with the same learning curve.

After finishing Duo's tree, I'm currently being placed at B1.1 according to Expath (44 right answers out of 100). Awesome!

Here is what I discovered about my learning process, and I suppose this could be helpful for many of you out there in order to speed up the process and avoid mistakes.

Don't stop.

This is the single most important tip I could give. In all those years, I would go long streaks (I believe my longest streak was 90-ish or something a few years ago), quit for a while and once I came back, I would discover I had forgotten most of what I learned. Once you get back after stopping for a while, lessons feel a lot harder than they actually are. You start making many mistakes and this is very frustrating. You will start to doubt yourself and what you learned so far.

Faster is better.

The faster you commit yourself to finish the tree, the better. I know this may sound counter-intuitive, but by doing it like this, you'll always keep what you learned fresh for the next lessons. This will make them feel easier, and easy lessons equals a faster course and the building of confidence in the target language.

Forget grammar.

German grammar is hard! If you focus too much on it, you'll find yourself hitting barriers that, with the little understanding of the language you currently have, will feel impossible to trespass. By following the two previous tips, you won't have problems to finish Duo lessons at all. It's all about keeping the Woo Woo Train of Knowledge moving.

Most Germans can't even explain you their grammar, they just know it. The same goes for all the other languages around the world. Kids don't learn to speak their mother tongue by going through extensive grammar textbooks.

This quote was a game changer for me:

“Communicative competence is not a matter of knowing rules, but a matter of knowing a stock of partially pre-assembled patterns” (Widdowson, 1989).

Once I understood that, my mind exploded. I'm a sponge now! Slowly absorbing German. :)

Make your daily goals based on words learned, not skills learned nor XP.

I only decided that I would finish the tree by day 40 when I was around day 20. So, during half of the time in these past 6 weeks, I wasn't as committed as in the past few days. Having a definite goal will keep you on track.

And the best way to keep track on the vocabulary you're learning with Duo is using Memrise. Here's the course that has all the words used here for the German course. Memrise is going to be your best friend if your goal is to actually retain new words in your long-term memory. It's based on spaced-repetition and many other scientifically proven mnemonic methods.

So, our German course has 2348 words. If you want to finish it like I did in 40 days, you divide it by 40 and that will give you roughly 59 words per day. I know this may sound like a lot, but it's not. Memrise keeps it very simple and fast to do. I recommend doing the equivalent Duo lesson in Memrise first. This way, you'll move faster through the tree without the need of clicking on the words to know their meaning. You'll already know the vocab, now you'll be learning how the words are arranged and interact with each other (aka grammar) in a natural way.

If you have the time and enthusiasm, do more than your daily minimum goal.

This will give you a safe margin for those days you can't study, no matter what the reason is. There will be days that you'll lack the time to do it, other days the motivation, and some days you'll just be plain tired and only want to chill. Compensate this by learning more in the days you feel like learning or have more spare time, like weekends.

But even in the days that you just can't do your self-established minimum goal, don't forget tip #1. You still have to show here at Duolingo and Memrise and keep your streak alive.

Well this is it, hope that helps! I'm starting to understand German, what was once just gibberish now makes sense. The next 2 months will be crucial to consolidate what I learned with Duo. I'll be using Glossika and Yabla. Cheers!

Bonus: This is how I felt after hitting the bottom of the tree and getting that beautiful golden owl trophy after all the waiting for the past 3 years.

June 28, 2017

42 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/annika_a

Herzlichen Glückwunsch! You've got some nice insights there. I love the Woo Woo Train of Knowledge! X-)

I absolutely agree with the strategy of learning the corresponding words of a Duolingo lesson on Memrise first, and only then doing the actual lesson. (I wouldn't have survived the Russian tree without using this method.)

Going through the tree quickly is indeed a nice way to keep it interesting without getting too bogged down in the (tricky) details. But with a grammar heavy language like German (and Russian...) one does have to tackle the grammar eventually. But I guess having some idea of how the language works and knowing the words one is using helps once it's time for the serious grammar learning. (At least I hope it does.)

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Thanks for your reply! And yes, eventually grammar will come in, but it's best to avoid it if you have no idea what's going on (beginners). Along those 3 years, venturing in grammar was always my dead end. Every time I would study it, I felt overwhelmed and would simply stop and lose interest in everything at once. So much time lost because of this mistake! If I were to study grammar now, things would go a lot easier. But I will push it a while longer, and Science is backing me up on this decision.

This quote was a game changer for me:

“Communicative competence is not a matter of knowing rules, but a matter of knowing a stock of partially pre-assembled patterns” (Widdowson, 1989).

Once I understood that, my mind exploded. I'm a sponge now! Slowly absorbing German. :)

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Casper_duo

Excellent post. I support your conclusions fully. That is indeed the way to go!

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Good to know!

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/aegkagee

I fully agree with learning the vocabulary using another system. I used Anki, and Memrise seems a good option too. Duolingo (at least the website) involves too much typing for drilling the vocabulary. I used the Anki default of maximum 20 new words a day though, and that ends up being a serious load in steady state once the spaced repetition fully kicks in. Personally I wouldn't generally recommend going beyond 20 words a day before trying it for a couple of weeks.

In case the 40 days is intimidating for anyone, I'll say I did first did the German tree in 90 days and don't think even that was necessarily sensible. It was fully gold when I finished, but the reality is I couldn't keep that pace up and keep it all gold. It wasn't until much later that it stayed gold most days. I don't think I could learn the material in the German skill tree in anything like 50 hours.

Similarly I rushed through the "reverse" English from German tree, but when the realities of everyday life kicked in, most of it rapidly degilded. I'm working back through it more steadily, but the last section is currently all not gold. I don't think I should have rushed it all.

Some advice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aOO3oBZnAY

English dubbed version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q_JYYcBP2Q#t=14m45s

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

I've used Anki in the past, and for what I've read, Memrise's algorithm is better than Anki's. If you never used it before, try checking it out!

Honestly I think it could have been done in about 30 hours, but that is very personal. People learn differently, and that is also the beauty of it :)

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Thanks, I'll check it out!

June 29, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Casper_duo

could learn the material in the German skill tree in anything like 50 hours.

There are about 450 lessons, as I recall, and at a pace of 6m per lesson, your estimation is quite accurate.

June 29, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Elizabeth528513

Except I have 2709 words. Even if you're gilded, you're not done. I get new words everyday.

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

I don't know why the word number difference, I did find people saying different numbers too, but it's probably just a different counting system between the guy who created the course in Memrise and Duo. I can safely say that because not once I ran into new vocab in Duo after doing Memrise first. Also, the creator of the course at Memrise is constantly updating it and you can shout the new words at him in the thread for it on the description of the link I gave. He usually replies within a day.

Also, nobody said that gilding the course was the end of it. This is just the beginning.

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dannylingbot22

Very insightful. I am currently using tiny cards and I love it. It works. I will try the method that you mentioned of studying the vocab beforehand. Thanks! And how fluent are you in German. I've been learning for 2.1 months and I can have a basic basic conversation. I am also using pimsleur though.

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Just did a placement test at http://www.expath.de and according to it, I'm at B1.1 (44 out of 100)! Awesome!

July 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/chrisphillips71

Great job

July 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slamRN

Das ist sehr gut als das ist nicht einfach.

July 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Danke, Disziplin ist das Geheimnis!

July 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Not sure how fluent I am, I'm trying to do that placement test at DW.com but the webpage keeps crashing... I'd guess I'm between A1-A2. I can read and understand simple stuff but when it comes to conversation, I'm still not there yet. But my German will grow a lot in these next 2 months!

June 29, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slamRN

I have Pimsleur (you are talking about the CD's correct? I bought the entire set.), but my CD player got misplaced during a move 2 years ago. I know I can go back to that at some time. I go from learning system to learning system; I've used Memrise (I should go back to that to augment vocabulary). Last half year or less I've been steady on Duolingo, and I watch any German movie, TV show or listen to any German podcast that I can get my hands on. I had 3 years of German in H.S., and 1 year in college. I was stationed in Germany in the 1970's- 1980's and because I was married we lived off base; which meant a lot of time speaking with locals. I did horrible in German in H.S. It was probably my worse grades but we were told that we had to take a language to go to college and I was into science so German seemed like a good choice. Little did I know that I later would be in the Army and stationed in Germany. I am determined to get back what I once knew and go beyond. - Susan

July 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

You go, girl! I put my faith in you! Just started Pinsleur, currently at day 5... looking good!

July 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JimMellon

It seems that the faster you go through the tree, the lower your word count. I have seen many reports on here of people having 3000 words. I am on a slower pace, being on a 213 day streak, yet having 22 skills yet to get through, and my word count is currently 1578. I go back and re-gild my tree frequently, rather than moving forward faster. Duo adds new words to skills I have finished previously.

July 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Could be. My word count in Duolingo is currently at 1601. But if you finish the tree fast that's not a problem, because if you're really committed to learn German, you'll keep doing the tree for it to stay gold. I'll review 20 skills today, so if there is new vocab in those, I'll learn it anyways, and so on! But by finishing it faster, I've gained the described benefits in the thread.

July 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

PS: after today's review, my word count rose to 1661 :)

July 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JimMellon

There are at least 3,000 words in the Duolingo German vocabulary. The list expands as you continue working on the course, attaining higher levels, etc. I do not know if the vocabulary will continue to increase after you reach level 25 and 3,000 words, but it does go at least until that point.

November 23, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/chrisphillips71

Congratulations. I have seen you on Memrise. You are an animal. The amount of points that you rank up is phenomenal. I am curious what you method for utilizing Memrise is. Do you use pro mode?

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Never the phrase "you're an animal" sounded so flattering before. Thank you! And yes, I'm a Pro Member... and there's no secret to it, I just make myself a daily word goal and stick to it! The points come naturally. If I wasn't using so much the "Turbo!" feature, I'd have a lot more points since the Normal Review racks up a lot more, but currently I don't have enough time for it, unfortunately.

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/chrisphillips71

What is the turbo feature? Is that part of pro mode? Recently, I have run into a fair number of words that will not stick in my brain and I am looking to possibly upgrade.

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

I think its name in English is Speed Review... not sure if it's only limited to Pros, but they'll give you 100 words and you have to tap the meaning of them in a short amount of time. You can only make 2 mistakes, the 3rd one will resume the Review. This is good if you're short in time, but terrible for getting points. You get like 50 points for each right answer (the Basic Review will give you 150 each).

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jimnicholson

Speed Review requires Pro on iOS, but on the web it is available to everyone. Not sure about Android.

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Also, about these words you're having trouble with, try sticking to the basics and create mems for them. Use images and stories for them (the weirder, the better).

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Casper_duo

How come your word count is so low? Did you reset your progress? Why? https://www.memrise.com/user/sujiro/courses/learning/

I'm actually doing the exact same in Memrise like you with the speed reviews.
We seem to have very similar methods and approach to learning.

I've followed you there to see how are you progressing.

June 29, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Yesterday I reseted my Duolingo course there to see how fast I could go through the tree after finishing it once, didn't know they would also reset my word count...

June 29, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RuthMehner

thanks a bunch for your advise .

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Cheers, bro.

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RuthMehner

hey ich bin eine frau aber es ist kein problem . I am newbie of learning german . your link is really useful for me . dankeschon

June 30, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Tut mir leid, Schätzchen! Weiter so!

July 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kerrycol

Helpful advice .Thanks

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

You're welcome!

June 28, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/szarka

Good advice, all. I think consistency is the key. It took me longer, but doing something every day is what made the difference for me this time.

June 29, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Definitely! This is why tip #1 is the most important... the other tips are just there to help you keep tip #1 flowing!

June 29, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jeanmartinie

Danke!!!!

June 30, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slamRN

Hast du ein leben? ;-) I just lost 9 levels in German because I was trying to correct my profile. So I've been spending the day testing out of stuff I already worked through. Aargh! Oh, I'm going to give you a Lingot for working so hard. - Susan

July 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sujiro

Haha studying is just one of my many hobbies, I work out 6 times a week and run twice a week. Just came back from a family's barbecue. Currently taking Law classes in College, but since I'm on vacation until August, I can really focus on my German. Thank you for the lingot, dear! xoxo

July 2, 2017
Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.