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Am I wasting my time and effort?

Hello everyone!

I've finished my German tree but haven't perfected it yet. I try to do 3-4 lessons each day.

When I was starting out, my goal was to be able to read German material (obviously children's books etc) directly and then progress from there. This is because I find grammar lessons extremely boring but I love, absolutely love reading, especially fiction. I've read a lot of children's books, read Die Welle and am currently reading Mein Herz blieb in Afrika and the Harry Potter series in German. I have a few places that I get stuck in (then I either use the dictionary or just skip it) but overall I really enjoy the process.

But sometimes I worry that I am not making any real progress. What do you guys think? Any suggestions are welcome

May 21, 2018



It's everything else than a waste of time. Reading novels will give you a much better understanding of the context of words than Duo can do. On the other hand you might think about something to improve your "active" language competence, e.g. discussing, writing essays, having a conversation, plus gaining some listening comprehension. That's the most tricky point also for me, start actually speaking. Mostly I read, listen and write.....


Yeah, but I find writing quite tough. Especially articulating my own thoughts. I try to use lang-8 for that but unfortunately I am not very regular at it. On the other hand, reading just comes really naturally to me. But yes, I should practice all aspects of a language, not just the one I find easiest.


I think that reading books in languages that you are trying to learn is a great way to improve your fluency. If you find a word that you don't know, write it on a flashcard. Drill your flashcards 2-3 times per week and you will make good progress. At some point it would be a good idea to get a basic understanding of German grammar by picking up a grammar book. Doing so will make the books you read easier to understand.


Yeah, will try to do that. Thanks :)


It seems you are asking others to make up your mind, when that's up to you. I don't mean to sound harsh, but I've studied German most of my life and I'm still learning. If you enjoy reading, I suggest "Knulp", a short story by Hermann Hesse. I think it's available on Amazon. Ich wuensche dir alles Gute!


Yeah, I realised it might sound like that. What I actually feel is that sometimes I see people who've made a huge progress, quite on their way to being fluent, and yet here I am after 3-4 years, struggling to read children's stories.

But yeah, I realise that's being short sighted. I'm making progress and that's all that matters (given that I can't afford to take classes and all that jazz).


When you started you couldn't read childrens books - now you can - progress. Compare yourself with yourself,not others in different circumstances. Keep going if you are enjoying it and still want to learn more.


I agree with Caleb. Reading books in your target language is a great way to make progress. Actually, you are following the exact same process I have been following. I have bought children's books, including the entire Harry Potter series in French, Spanish, and German, and write down words that I don't know. It has helped to cement the vocabulary into my brain. I think you are on the right track.


Thanks, glad to hear that. :) Which books did you enjoy reading?


Try doing some more german related stuff maybe. Personally once I'm done with this tree I'll try to live in german(language, not country) for a while,reading german, playing games in german, watching movies/series/youtube in german, listening to german music, staying on the german side of the internet. imo true fluency starts when you manage to think in the language you're learning. Also make sure to look up the correct translation if you don't know a word. Maxing each skill is also another way to force it into your long-term memory I guess lol

I know it's a bit nerdy for some, but I'd recommend trying runescape in german, when I was young I practically learned english through that game. It's not fantasy-based, all the stuff in there exist in real life(apart of the monsters but those are common, like dragons,goblins,trolls, the kind of stuff you see in common fairy tales. Most of the vocabulary you learn on there can be used in modern life. I've been trying this recently and right now I'm learning the name of pretty much every fish in german/fishing vocabulary lol

Another thing I'm going to try, reverse-learning. Doing the english/french trees using german


You are definitely not wasting your time. Keep at it, and I'm sure it'll help you further your German skills. I don't think I could read like Harry Potter in German!


It helps that I've read it in English almost a million times ;)

[deactivated user]

    You have made a lot of progress, you really have, I can barely make out a basic sentence in German. I have spent over 40 years learning French and I'll be 45 in 2 months. I still need to learn. I decided this New Year's that I would really ramp up my French so I joined Duolingo and I work at French for several hours a day and I do see marked improvement when I read a difficult philosophical text or watch a movie or stand-up comic. Keep at it, it may feel like treading water or plateauing, but you are building momentum and critical mass.


    Reading is the very best way to improve skills after the initial kind of artificial learning phase. You can take your time, which you can not so easily with movies or would be awkward with a native speaker that has to wait for you. You read as fast as you understand. Any new book will make you faster and once you don't have to look up a lot of words, because you could not figure out a whole paragraph, you soon should be able to read as fast as in your native language. Although you might still not able to understand each and every word, you will get the meaning of what is said and quite likely figure out the meaning of the unknown word on the fly.


    i think reading is a great way to improve language skills. especially then it comes to grammer. and i think that if you continue doing that, that one day you will realize that didn't use a dictionary in quite a long time. and thats the point there you will know how much progress u have made :-)


    if you are reading a novel you are doing great, an example to me anyway


    I've seen this question pop up many times. And so I wrote a whole thing about it called Are your language goals holding you back?.

    Before anyone here gives up learning another language, no matter the extent of their goal, I hope they will read Have you used your language skills in an emergency situation?.

    And with that, here is my answer: You are not wasting your time. You will meet friends you could not have connected with otherwise, you might even save a life. Neither of those necessarily requires being fluent.


    Thanks! Your posts gave me so much perspective. :)


    Oh good! I'm really glad. And thanks for the feedback! :)


    but overall I really enjoy the process.

    It doesn't matter how well you think you are doing. If you're enjoying it, it's worth it! It sounds to me like you are doing fine. The doubts that you have are very common. You may find the following YouTube video to be helpful: Give Yourself the Benefit of the Doubt When Learning a Language


    Am stuck in the same boat! :( It's a struggle to speak in German. Nevertheless, I am not gonna quit. Maybe I am slow at learning languages and therefore the progress isn't much to write home about. But, just so you know, you are not alone in your situation. Just....don't give up. I am sure u (and I) will internalize a lot of the vocabulary, grammar and phrases in this language eventually and get a handle on Deutsch! Dontcha worry!


    Hello there. I don't think you are wasting your time and effort. Your wishes aside -which as a matter of fact even enhance your German progress I believe-, reading books is a tremendous exercise! In order to see any real progress you'd have to compare your German knowledge with a few months back so that it becomes noticeable (and I think you'd find plenty of progress)!


    I think a really nice thing to do besides reading books is writing kind of a diary. Listing all the thing you've done that day, conversations you had and things you've used. But of course, conversations are always the best.

    [deactivated user]

      Yes, I started a French diary today. I wrote 332 words.

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