Will I actually be fluent in German?
I was wondering if this seems too good to be true. Has anyone actually gone from understand no German to being fluent enough to go to Germany and get around? If so...how long did this take? I've only been on duolingo for about a day, but I've been studying the lessons many times until I can memorise the words and patterns of the language. I think that if I spend enough time on the lessons and really work hard, I will be able to eventually be at least a little bit fluent in German, but I wanted to ask to see if anyone has actually done this. Danke!
From what I've heard, completing the tree will get you nowhere near true fluency if Duolingo is your only learning resource, but it's definitely a huge boon for getting your feet wet, and you should be able to progress nicely with help of outside resources to complement it.
I've never been to Germany so this is all totally theoretical - I think I could manage as a tourist in Germany but this is still a long way from being fluent. I've been doing Duolingo for around 8 months now (finished the tree maybe 3 months ago) as well as a class at my local community college for around 6 months.
You'd need to be a little more specific in "get around" in order to get a better answer. If you're really diligent with Duolingo and spend some time with a flashcard deck like Anki, you'd be fine getting around in the bigger cities and most of the travel spots in Germany. You will definitely "be at least a little bit fluent" and be able to have short conversations with people.
I started with Duolingo / Memrise / Busuu (when most of the good stuff wasn't behind a pay wall) and after a few months was fluent enough to get around on a trip to Berlin / Stralsund / Rügen. I would not feel totally comfortable testing my language skills in a really small town in a place where the accents aren't really close to Hochdeutsch but overall, people are pretty friendly and appreciate that you're making an effort to learn the language.
Just keep at it, have some fun and you'll get there!
(1) Has anyone learned L2 German now being able to speak near-natively? Yes.
(2) How long does acquiring fluency take?
It depends on several factors: First, your very own capabilities and abilities (which amounts to much more than just memorising). It is highly idiosyncratic, and this even includes that it may be the case that you will never be able to acquire the language in a manner you would love to. Second, your native tongue. Dutch, Scandinavian or English speakers will not be facing too much difficulty in acquiring German -- whereas Chinese or Koreans or Indonesians without any knowledge of a Germanic (or at least Indo-European) language will not. If you are a native English speaker (U.S. American), you may take a look here for estimates of how long it will take: http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty
(3) Be aware that immersion is the quickest and most reliable and least frustrating way to learn a language. By using duolingo alone you will not be able to master a language in the time mentioned. But it is a good starting point and provides a touch to the target language.
I think Duolingo would get you to a decent level as a beginner, but there are factors to consider like how fast native speakers talk here. (I'm an American living in Germany now :) ). In larger cities, they may even switch to English if they notice you having a tougher time keeping up. In smaller cities, there will be a lot of hand movements to try to understand one another. XD I would recommend listening exercises on the side. Someone mentioned an awesome site to me called "radio garden". You can tune into any radio station live around the world. So keep doing Duolingo, and also take some time to listen to the radio too. :)