100th day ruminations
To mark the 100th day since I began my Duolingo journey, I thought I'd write down some reflections on the progress so the far, and how things are currently looking.
As a background, my foremost aim was to get a hang of the basic German grammar for the purpose of being someday able to actually produce some output in German. I already had rudimentary reading and listening skills, so that I was able with some effort to decipher texts in my field of study (philosophy) and to get the gist of most news articles. However, my active skills in the language were largely non-existent. I had never learned any of the articles of the nouns for example. Therefore I failed even the first placement test, and started the tree from the very beginning. Since then, I never even tried to unlock any of the other shortcuts.
On the 60th day I got to the end of the tree. (That's when I stole a part of the owl's scarf and photoshopped it into my picture as a small trophy, just in case you are wondering ;) ). However, I don't count this feat as "finishing" the tree, since a large part of the content is only first encountered when restrengthening the skills afterwards. This is especially the case with the important English-to-German translation questions. I have continued restrengthening the skills every day and even now, 40 days after "conquering" the tree, the later skills on the tree are still quite difficult (some even much more so than the first time I passed them, since during that first pass almost all the questions were from German to English, and with my rudimentary reading skills, it was fairly smooth sailing).
While passing through the final skills, I also started the reverse tree, English for German speakers. Having thus far done the first two sections of that tree, I can already say that it is a very useful addition and complement to the material in the other tree. The obvious reason for this is that there the situation regarding the direction of the questions is the opposite: the English to German questions are most frequent when first passing through the skills. In addition there is a lot of different vocabulary. (I can sort of understand why the German for English speakers course did not want the learners to encounter a word like Meeresschildkröte (turtle) in the very first section of the tree). Lastly, as the interface, hints and discussion are in German, one feels much more immersed in the language.
Besides Duolingo, I use Anki for creating and studying flashcards for words and phrases. For nouns, I always include both the article and the plural endind, which I check from www.canoo.net. I have Der Spiegel on my twitter feed and my daily German learning session includes reading the most interesting news articles and collecting the unknown words to Anki. I have found www.linguee.com as the most useful resource for checking the meanings of unfamiliar words. Often when creating the flashcard I include some German example sentences from Linguee, as well as the sentence from der Spiegel in which I encountered the word.
For listening practice and for chilling out before going to sleep I watch a couple of episodes of Gronkh's let's plays, mostly the Minecraft one at http://gronkh.de/lets-play/minecraft-lp/ They are always of excellent quality, he is constantly talking, has a clear and pleasant voice, and his monologues become quite philosophic at times :) Lately, when I have watched these before going to sleep, I have found parts of my "inner speech" in the next morning to be in German! (Verbally expressed thoughts like "Uh, where did I put the alarm clock. Boy do I need some coffee. Oh, that's just perfect, I forgot to buy milk yesterday and now it's finished... )
So, have I accomplished my aim of getting hang of the basic German grammar? I would say I am well on my way to that goal. Duolingo has taught me some very important and tricky things such as the adjective endings. The later skills on the tree are still kicking my backside, so I have still a lot to learn from those. The community is a huge asset for Duolingo, and I want to thank all the people who have posted helpful information and/or motivational content.
One thing, though, that I feel should be covered a lot more thoroughly, is the verb + preposition + case combinations. Things like "it depends on" = "es hängt ab + von + (dative)", or "I'm angry at" = "Ich ärgere mich + über + (accusative)". Practicing these is really mandatory for being able to speak naturally.
It looks like my three current trees (I also recently started the reverse Indonesian tree) will give me plenty of work for my next 100 days in Duolingo. My goal is to get to the end of the reverse German tree by then and to master all the skills on the German for English speakers tree. As for keeping the tree golden, it seems that the timed practice offers a bit too easy way to accomplish that, as the skill is usually marked as strengthened even if one runs out of time or gets a lot of the answers wrong. On the other hand, the tree decays quite fast, and the regular practices have become really tough for some skills, so it's good to have some means of alleviating the frustration :)
I hope this post was of some use for some of you, perhaps giving some ideas or perspective. If you have any suggestions e.g., regarding resources or methods of learning, those are naturally most welcome.
Thank you for the kind words. It's interesting to hear from someone who has gone through the formal European levels, as I've only seen the outline description of the required capabilities on each level, and have no clear picture about what parts of the language are actually taught in relation to those.
At any rate, I find it surprising that the verb/preposition combinations are pushed back until the late intermediate level, as expressing many common and basic things naturally (or at all) requires them. Also, after the cases and prepositions themselves have been learned, it seems that one mostly just needs to memorize which prepositions are used with which verbs. Doesn't seem like a rocket science, but something that needs a fair bit of practice.
Yeah, it's been an interesting learning experience in every way! The language is a bit complicated, so there are things they simply don't tell you in the early phases, built in mistakes you make because they haven't explained larger concepts that simply must come later. You can only do so much at once! Wish I could think of a good example of this, but I'd have to dig through my old notes. Hmmm. But yeah, it's tough at times! But I promise, things that at one point seem just impossible/overwhelming later become very natural. Last night when I couldn't sleep I stumbled upon a website called Quora and ya gotta go check it out. People ask lots of questions about learning German and there is a German polygot named Judith Meyer on there who has some brilliant answers, brilliant. (I wanted to link to some but it didn't quite work) Seriously, go there and read now! :) I think if you just google her name and the name of the site you'll get good results. :)
Thank you so much for the recommendations. I have been visiting Quora for quite a while, but my reading there hasn't really been focused on answers related to the German language, as I'm following a huge number of topics (I'm interested in so many things :D). It seems that Judith Meyer is also the host of GermanPod101, which got me thinking that I might also check out the courses there. I was briefly subscribed to IndoPod101 for while back, but found that they didn't really have enough intermediate level material for the Indonesian language. The situation with German will probably be different. Anyway, I will definitely take a look at more of Judith's answers at Quora.
As for hueber.de, they seem to also have a huge collection of free online exercises from A2 to C1.. Tried them a bit and it seems really promising.
I've been using GermanPod101 for a couple of months and I really like Judith as a host. In case you wanna try it out, I'm pretty sure you can get 7 days of a free premium membership to try it out. If you like it, DO NOT buy the subscription right away, since they'll email you progressive discount codes as you continualy neglect to adhere to the basic/premium membership. There are also several other free podcast out there, though I've been having trouble with sticking to any of them.
Finishing your tree in 60 days is really impressive! I'm almost at a 60 day streak but I've only now reached the lessons about People/Travel. Good luck with your next 100 days :)
One other thing: would you recomend doing the reverse tree simultaneously with the german tree or waiting until you're done with the entire german tree?
Nice tips about GermanPod, thanks! So you have been using that for about the same time as Duolingo. Sounds like a nice combination. As for the speed of progressing on the tree, it of course depends on how much prior knowledge of the language you have, and how much time you have daily etc. It was comparatively easy for me, as I already could read some German.
If you are wondering whether to start the reverse tree, I don't see any potential harm in just trying it out. If you get stuck, you can then postpone it until later.
Thank you. Actually on most days my active learning for German only takes between one and 1,5 hours. About half an hour of that goes to Duolingo, and the rest for reading and Anki. For the passive watching of let's play clips I typically use about an hour.
Thus, more than half of the time I use with the German language consists of things I would do anyway: reading news and relaxation.