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This huge mountain keeps getting bigger the more I climb...

I've been learning German by myself for over an year, so by now I should be able to at least speak it at a beginner's level. But I don't. I've been climbing this huge mountain for so long, but I seem to be stuck in the same place. Even when I feel like I've made some progress, the mountain seems to grow bigger and bigger and I'm getting so demotivated...

The only foreign language I managed to learn to decent level was English, but I don't remember learning it (from childhood to early-mid teens), so I can't use this experience to help me now. In school I only had like two years of French and Spanish each, so I was never able to get to a good level (not that I remember, at least, and my french is forgotten anyway...)

I know that this mountain doesn't have a peak, but at least I should be able to notice some progress, right?

I know nothing...

This is so demotivating...

How did you overcome this?

Can you remember learning a language to a decent level? Or at least a beginner's?

Can you remember that first time you successfully learned a foreign language?

How can I learn how to do something I've never done before? Or that I don't remember doing? This has been a challenge in my personal life, and I still haven't find a way to beat it... It's scary to recognize the same pattern in language learning too... This is my curse...

This is probably the worst feeling related to language learning...

July 18, 2017



Three years ago a Duolingoer named Oliwa created this nifty picture to illustrate a language learning curve:

Language learning curve graph.
Click for enlarged image.


Also, here are some language-learning related comics by Itchy Feet.

Learning a language is a long journey. I am surprised anyone expects to make much more than just a little progress in a year. (Though, Duolingo attracts some super learners. And, that paints an unrealistic example for most of us here.) So, don't be hard on yourself. You are still relatively new to German. :)


That looks very accurate. Yeah, you're right about the high expectations on the language learning community. Sometimes I forget about that...


Don't become demotivated; becoming proficient (even at a beginning level) is really hard work! Trying the reverse course can improve your skills as well, and possibly trying one of the German courses on Memrise can be a tremendous improvement as well! Keep in my mind that working at a steady pace is better, whereas rushing through at a much quicker pace and forgetting much of the material won't be as effective.


Oddly enough, I'm experiencing something quite similar and I agree that these struggles are a curse. Though, I cannot honestly say anything motivating since I'm pretty unmotivated too... However, I would suggest going to this link: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/23575697

The comments there may not apply exactly to you, but most of them share wonderful, motivating tips, such as breaking up the steps to achieve what you want and appreciating every small advancement you make.

If it means anything (which I'm sure it doesn't), don't look at the whole mountain because that's just a bad idea. Instead, look at each individual step that trails up the mountain. Before you know it, the mountain won't seem so big anymore.

Hope that helps in any way... And I wish you luck on your future of learning.


Remember that when you learned English (as a foreign language) you were learning it for about ten years or so. How long have you been learning German for?


Hello, this is unrelated to the post but I wanted to ask how you got such a high streak? The highest I have got is 50 or so.


Never give up. Trust me, the mountain will shrink. One day, (trust me, this day will come) you will be fluent in German, if not completely, than at least almost completely. I have not learned a foreign language (yet) but I advise rewarding yourself for your current and impressive level with some cookies.

Sorry if that doesn't help. Cookies usually help for me.

Also, if English isn't your native language, what is your native language?


Ya, cookies can help a bit when you don't have any motivation left... I'll take it one day at a time, one cookie at a time...

My mother tongue is Portuguese.


Maybe instead of seeing it has a really huge mountain, see it as many small valleys. Just set a goal a day- that could be your duolingo goal and/or the amount of words you want to memorize a day. Then you will feel more motivated because it seems more reasonable.


Try to get as much exposure to the language you're learning as possible. Visiting the country where the language is spoken is obviously the best, but if that isn't possible, try online experiences. Listen to German radio and songs, watch German movies or tv shows (in the beginning with subtitles in your own language), read German newspaper and books, try to participate in German online forums, etc.

Many European countries have special newsprograms for learners of that language (mostly aimed at refugees), try to find one for German.

Personally I was amazed about how much I learned from one year Duolingo Swedish when I visited Sweden last summer and was actually able to speak Swedish in the shops and understand the answers.


I know how you feel. When I started to learn French I thought I could speak the stuff I knew. However my mind just kept going blank every time and I forgot nearly everything :(


Don't get demotivated, learning a language on your own for a year really isn't much. I wouldn't expect much progress in that time unless you either have a lot of experience in languages or speak a very closely related one. I'm sure you're making progress as the grammar, words and structures settle in your brain, but it might not be very noticeable progress. Have you had a chance to actually test how well you manage to speak German?

There's always a first time for everything. What does it matter if you haven't done it before? If that were an argument, you could never learn anything. I'd never before managed to do a cartwheel, but I joined a capoeira group last autumn and have since learned to do a passable cartwheel in my late twenties. Not having done it before doesn't mean you can't learn it.

No, I don't remember the moment when I realised I was actually speaking fluent English (first foreign language) either (it would have been sometime between ages 12 and 15), but I do remember it for other languages. And I can tell you, the mountain gets smaller with every language. If you don't remember your strategies for learning English, you need to find them again. There are many different ways of learning a language and not all of them will work for you. If motivation is a problem, try and break up the dry learning with more fun stuff. Find media aimed at children, for example. It will help your knowledge and can usually help make you feel good about how far you've gotten.


I believe it is pretty normal to get bored and frustrated (and even think of giving up) at some point while learning a new language. You are not bad at it; You just have to actually use it. Try speaking with foreigners. Speak to yourself (helps!). Read out loud. Train your mind to translate dialogues happening around you fast. задачи!

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Keep at it! German is a difficult language, much more so than any of the Romance languages or the Scandinavian languages. I've spent 11 years learning German in school, without much success. I've spent the last 3 years learning it on and off here on Duolingo, and I am still not fluent, though I understand it a lot more than I used to.

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