https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Learner805483

How long on average until you can hold a normal conversation with a German?

I have been learning German for the past two weeks and I am really enjoying it. Learning feels very comfortable, almost second nature sometimes. I have been learning German on the 20+xp daily plan and it's been working good for me. I have been working to get Gold on all the levels prior to moving on and periodically going back to practice. Learning takes a while doing this plan and going back to throughly review past lessons, but, If anyone here has learned German from DuoLingo, how long did it take you to be able to have a full conversation with someone else who natively speaks German?

August 9, 2019

24 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ally.x
  • 1190

Few years ... sometimes never. Some people will tell you less than a year or just few months. Well they are either real prodigies or they imagine something else under the term "normal conversation".

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Neilbradle3

Hello. I am 85% of the way through the Duolingo English-German course, with the first 3 sections all golden. I switched to making them golden when they changed to levels, it has helped a lot, but:

I was introduced to a friend's friend at church on Sunday. In the room was a language teacher, three multi-lingual people (not me), and we were discussing learning languages. The friend's friend was interested. It turned out they were German, so we thought it would be a fun test to see how far my conversational skills had progressed through Duolingo.

It was pretty awful. First, I had not recognised the friend's friend's name as a German name. I could only put together basic sentences talking with them. I made lots of mistakes, especially with simple gendered things like mein/meine - which I can read/write just fine, but not in the [relatively slow, but fast] speed of our attempted conversation. It pretty quickly became apparent that we wouldn't be able to have an even remotely interesting conversation in German. It was pretty embarassing, but the friend bore my mangling of their language with good grace.

The language teacher present then talked about how she had lots of students and friends who used Duolingo, and had tried to partake in extended family conversations etc. with about the same level of success I'd just displayed. The conclusion she had come to, was that Duolingo by itself gives a false sense of fluency. And I can see it in my children. I do well at the Duolingo lessons, generally test out levels 3 & 4 etc., but my German vocabulary is noticeably smaller than my 2-year old child's English vocabulary. This might give you a sense of how limited my Duolingo-taught conversational ability might be.

The point of my post: Duolingo probably won't be enough to get even a natural conversation. The topics are too limited, there is very little grammar taught. It is a fantastic resource to whet your appetite, but you're probably going to have to supplement if you really want to get conversational.

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Janet240859

Well said! Have a lingot

August 9, 2019

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

absolutely agreed

August 11, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/menino.leo

it depends a little on what you mean by normal conversation. if you mean the same thing you have with your close friends in your mother tongue, then I'd say years and years living in Germany. If you plan to use only duolingo to learn german, the answer is quite simple: never

August 9, 2019

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

Hello there!

I'm also learning German, today will be day 30 of the streak. I have a nice video for you, it's from a man called Evan Edinger. He used Duolingo to learn German and, well he tells more about his story in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ht-w2JriwSw

It really helps watching it whenever you feel discouraged. Because, as he describes in the video, he is able to hold a conversation. He also has some tips on how to learn the language through Duolingo. Give it a watch, I believe it's just the right thing for you. :)

Edit: The video is a bit outdated in terms of Duolingo mechanics, but the things about consistency, mindset and such that he talks about, in my experience, are correct.

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Janet240859

Duolingo on its own will not get you to the point where you can speak fluently with a German who knows little English. Try now to write the paragraph you have just written in German without using a translator - that is a short and simple paragraph that is simpler than any meaningful conversation. Duo probably hasn't taught you enough to do that yet, and if you don't do something more substantive than just earn 20 XP's a day, it never will.

August 9, 2019

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

With what you learn here you might have a conversation with a baby, not more.

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Simon937757

Duolingo is great for getting an idea of a language but it takes a lot more to get fluent. For me as a german native speaker it took me 4 years of English in school plus a year spend in Ireland to be at the level I am right now (I'd consider myself more or less fluent but I still do a ton of mistakes if you go into detail). That is only the case because English is quite an easy language compared to German if you look at grammar etc. (no gender like der die das, not a lot to conjugate...). Learning a language on duolingo is more about getting in touch with people and starting a conversation and then continue in any way possible because most people don't care about grammar mistakes. People will usualy be happy that you try and that you are aware that English is not the only language. I already had some nice basic conversation in Spanish only with the help of duolingo (about three months of studying). Just keep on learning, try your best and don't worry too much about small mistakes you make, which is 100% natural :)

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mwbrand1

There is another post in the Duolingo forum currently ongoing that is somewhat related to your question. It doesn't exactly answer your question, but the discussion is excellent and offers good insight as to what it takes to become conversational in a language. Here is the link: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/33534073

I'm also in agreement with the others that say you can't become conversational using only Duolingo at 20 XP a day.

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SarahParke439977

I am a native English speaker, and I moved to Germany after learning the language for only three years in school. German is an incredibly difficult language to learn, but if you're willing to put a lot of time in, it's really fun to speak. I think Duolingo is a nice supplement for language learning, but it alone won't make you fluent.

If your goal is to become fluent, I would recommend combining three things: 1. Duolingo (if an actual course with a teacher isn't available) for some basic grammar rules and vocabulary 2. Reading children's books to help with comprehension. Reading simple stories like Ivy and Bean, The Magic Treehouse, or Ramona and Beezus translated into German will help you to pick up common phrases used in conversation, more unusual but still important vocabulary, and sentence structures 3. Finding someone else who's also learning German or speaks the language and is willing to speak slowly, simply, and clearly. It helps immensely to transfer your ideas to the foreign language of choice, and having simple conversations with someone is really important.

This comment section is a bit discouraging, but it is achievable (just difficult), and I wish you the best of luck!

August 9, 2019

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

I've been learning German for over 5 years, with Duolingo (and other resources, immersion activities, etc), and I'm still not conversationally great. I could probably have text conversation okay but actually speaking at a normal speed with words that sound correct via the verb tenses and what-not is a different story. If you find some way to immerse yourself it'll be easier, but still will take at the very least, months. I had a friend who had moved to Germany and (from 0 experience) learned the entire language (fluently) in around 3-6 months. It's all relative.

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sea-mist

Duolingo recommends to not put them straight up to level 5 but to spread out along the tree as levels also are being worked on. You wont have the vocab for the levels if you have not opened your tree up, you need to get things all to level 1 to do that.

You will take forever to get through things with doing only 20xp per day and duolingo does not take one up to a fluent level. You'll need to do outside sources of learning to do that.

Here's something on language learning levels from a website.

"When you start learning a new language, it’s easy to get carried away with huge, unrealistic goals. Maybe you dream of having deep conversations in your target language, or of reading advanced novels, or making play-on-word jokes. You may even want to talk about technical subjects for your work.

To do those things, you’d need to reach what’s often called a C2 level, also known as “mastery”. The C2 level is based on the awkwardly titled Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The CEFR levels are:

A1 Beginner A2 Upper Beginner B1 Lower intermediate B2 Upper intermediate C1 Advanced C2 Mastery" .................

I passed A1 level after working on this for 13mths AND using other sources. I usually spend at least 3hrs per day working on the German. I think by the end of this year I'll be able to pass an A2 level (that will be 2 years of working on German).

"The A2 level is your window to being able to get to know new people, tell them about yourself and learn about them. At level A2, you can make friends. You can enjoy comics and cartoons. And you can laugh and even feel at ease in the language.

There will of course be a lot of things you still can’t do. You may not be able to talk with a random in-a-hurry native speaker, but you can absolutely find patient speakers who love talking to learners and will be very friendly and helpful, and you will feel yourself having real conversations with them."

To have a very "basic" (struggling with the words) conversation with someone verbally, you need to at least be at A2 level. Duolingo will not teach you much more than this (it will only take you up to B1 or B2). Ive been having very basic written conversations with Germans since I passed A1 but certainly not ready yet after putting lots of time into it for 20mths ready for even a basic verbal conversation. I cant even get the sentence structures and word orders right yet.

August 9, 2019

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

The best part of my time learning German, is that my dad can speak it fluently! So whenever I need help, he can. Also, I have tried to hold a conversation with him, but I don't know quite enough to make a productive conversation!

August 9, 2019

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

But everyday I feel like I am getting better!

August 9, 2019

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

Original poster, as everyone else has said, a long time. Maybe you'll never have a completely natural conversation exactly how you would in English in day to day life. Unless you devote a lot of your life to it. I've been learning German somewhat casually for almost 2 years. In my own little mind I know a lot (and had an irrational idea that I could read a German version of Mein Kampf someday! I'm not a Nazi though lol), but if a speaker approached me, I'd have no idea what was going on. For now, I have my husband say an English word or sentence and I try and think what it would be in German. I think I do pretty well at the level I'm at. A lot of it has clicked for me and the different gender forms are starting to become automatic. But a normal conversation wouldn't flow for me. I'd probably end up saying boring things lol. I need time to think of what to say. Which is why typing it works best for me. Like if I'm commenting on an Instagram post or something, I can take my time and figure it out. Even so, what I say is probably basic and boring to a German speaker lol. I was all happy I commented on a German post "Deine Katze ist süß!". But in reality, they're probably thinking "whatever, no big deal" about that comment. It's not particularly interesting lol. I think forcing yourself to live among the people would be the best way, while using a language learning tool at the same time. And my advice is to comment on things on social media or forums. Look up words you don't know and fit them into sentence structure that you DO know. I think talking online would really be a good start and that's what I plan to do more of.

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Christian5049

Well I take mostly personal classes at a german class. I can hold for as whatever subject I like. As long as its interesting. German is the most easy language to become fluent in because English and German are Germanic languages

August 9, 2019

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

This isn't true. Firstly, German is ranked as harder than Spanish, French, and other Germanic languages (Swedish, Dutch, Norwegian IIRC correctly) by the FSI. Secondly, Esperanto and other such designed-to-be-easy languages exist.

August 9, 2019

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

I agree. I am taking Spanish three as a freshman, and I find it easier to learn than German, although both languages come easier-than-most to me

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/V.L.15

There are a lot of variables. Immersion is one. Age is another.

To me, German was easy; in the 1980s, I was in my thirties. As in, I was younger. I was also living in Germany. But I felt as Christian said, above, that German seemed easy because of, among other things, similarities between German and English.

Today, Spanish can cause me fits because the last letter, usually a vowel, and often just an accent mark, can change the tense of the verb, often requiring numerous "helping" or modal verbs ("Did you have to get used to," &c) just to express the same nuanced meaning. But maybe it's just me being older. Much older.

As an aside, I agree with others that learning a foreign language helped me learn English so much better. In my case, it was German; another blog topic is how someone else learned English better through her study of Spanish.

Last of all, remembering the main thread was, can Duo make you fluent, I think the answer is NO.

Not enough vocabulary and no real conversation taking place. Hopefully, with some basic grammatic structure, using external reading sources, we can expand our vocabulary and get up to speed reading and writing.

But we need something more than just Duolingo. Duo is good for "whetting our appetites," but for a good meal, let alone a banquet, we will have to turn elsewhere.

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Janet240859

They were very similar around 1200 years ago, but their grammars and vocabulary have taken different journeys to the present. French grammar is more similar to English, and the linguistic link is more recent (1066 and all that - so under 1,000 years), so most people actually find that easier. No-one has to worry about word endings in accusative, dative and genitive in English, or even thinking about which case to use after a preposition in terms of its context as well as the chosen word. The first lessons are always easy, and 1-2-1 with a tutor is very different than conversation with a stranger.

August 9, 2019

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

English does have vestigial cases (e.g. I/me, he/him, she/her, they/them), but I agree with your general gist.

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Janet240859

You are, as ever, right! Lazy English from me

August 9, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/V.L.15

Speaking of "lazy English," it has gotten so bad that, much of the time, no one expects to hear "whom" anymore, and when we do, it may sound "stilted," even when it is entirely correct.

The same with a lot of "me and her went" and other abominable constructions heard just about all the time.

I, for one, found great comfort in the German cases: They made me think about what I was trying to say - in English. And I find the even greater lack of cases in Spanish that much more frustrating. None of the Spanish pronouns show any inflection whatsoever, though the language also requires a lot of "se lo" prior to verbs, and "a" (not an article) before nouns to help us figure out what are the direct and indirect objects in a sentence.

I find English to be a rather sloppy language - and I was born in the U.S. While I'm not that crazy about German's three genders, I have come to appreciate its overall structure.

I may never be a native German or Spanish speaker. But I am enjoying the journey, anyway.

August 11, 2019
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