Another conquered tree post
did it! I just finished two minutes ago, having worked slowly and steadily since mid-March. I used one streak freeze (internet issues in a hotel), but other than that, I chipped away a little bit each day.
A few notes:
1) I did Deutch als Fremdsprache courses here in Berlin in 2006 (2 mos.) and in 2008 (4 mos.), but in the six interim years, I'd forgotten enough German that I started over (and found the first several lessons really, really easy, as old synapses fired up again).
2) I made a rule for myself: no new lessons until the tree is golden. This meant that when I was about 2/3 finished, I felt like I was playing whack-a-mole; I don't think I completed a new unit for at least a MONTH there. Honestly, I repeated some lessons enough that I felt like I was memorizing the sentences more than actually learning how German works. The flip side of this is that when I finished the tree, I finished a GOLDEN tree.
3) I believe in vocabulary supplements (like vitamin supplements for language acquisition?) About two months ago, I started working on the Comprehensive German Duolingo Memrise course, and then added a 5000 German Words course, both of which really, really helped my Duolingo progress.
4) I'm finishing German at a higher Duo level (22) than most--for two reasons: a) the above "golden tree rule" and b) immersion, which I didn't do intensively, but enough to definitely boost my point levels (word to streak addicts: literally 30 seconds on immersion is enough to keep a streak going on a time-crunch day).
5) Am I fluent??? Ohhhh, my, no. Not even close. I'm living in Berlin until January, and I can tell you that I know enough to order food, talk to people in stores, and chat with my son's daycare teachers, but I'm only beginning. As with most beginners, I know that my passive understanding of the language is considerably greater than my active knowledge. And I know enough of the dative case to pass a Duolingo lesson, using hints, but not much more. Duolingo is a wonderful, fun tool, but as so many have said before, not a standalone for German language acquisition.
6) What next? More immersion (perhaps English -->German would be helpful), the reverse tree, more Memrise, and finally reading Rico, Oskar, und die Tiefferschatten, the YA book I bought for myself in August. Oh, and I'm going to keep this tree gold, too.
Danke Duolingo Team! I love, love this resource.
Nummer Funf: I don't think anyone gives enough credit to how great a 'passive' understanding of a language actualy is. It may not mean that you are finished learning, or completely competent or eloquent, but you can't really wish for a better starting point from which to actually start talking. After such a point, even if it takes years to develop a level you are satisfied with, at least you are not lost in the wilderness anymore, which makes practicing much more pleasant.
A good passive understanding of a language means that you've basically burned enough of the dictionary into your synapses to not need to carry a dictionary anymore, which is no mean feat on its own, and besides, I have always found that people have much more patience talking to you when they know you at least hear what they are saying - even if you happen to be answering them in sign language or pictionary diagrams.
I think pragmatically, people care much more about understanding and being understood, than any actual measure of the persons skill with language. Obviously someone learning your own language to a high level is something very flattering and a feat to be admired, but you don't end up judging people with less skill as a result of that. For me it is very flattering when anyone talks to me in my language, in fact in a way I feel even more charmed the harder someone seems to be struggling with it.
It's even perfectly possible for two people to have a conversation in two different languages, when both have a strong passive understanding of the other person's language, but a weak 'command' of it. It's quite a unique thing to see, but I think it says a lot about how the human mind processes language, information and such. When you understand what the other person is saying, and you can be reasonably confident that the other person understands what you are saying, it wouldn't matter if they were speaking Klingon and you were speaking Welsh. I find the fact that we can deal with this kind of asymetric conversation without batting an eyelid fascinating, its probably one of the main reasons I want to drink as many languages as I have minutes of free time...
And I'm pretty pleased by my passive understanding of the language--it's amazing how much more I understand now than just a few weeks ago! It's a necessary part of language-acquisition journey, and a fun, rich place to be its own right. I'm also grateful for the patience and good humor of the native-German speakers I see every day, as they listen carefully and wait for me to piece together my thoughts.
I do the very same thing too. It is nice to hear that others like golden trees too!! Although i must admit that i often use the time practice, making things quicker. With four or five answers correct before the time runs out i have the cell golden again...
DITTO. I think I nearly always use the timed practice, and that's also part of the reason I've got so many points--a possible 20 pts w/timed practice, vs. a possible 13 w/o (and sometimes, just one or two points, enough for the very temporary gold of exasperation).
What I'd recommend, and here in Berlin it is particularly easy, is to find someone (a native speaker) for a language tandem and just chat away. Practice makes you overcome any inhibitions and gain much fluency, up to the point when you think in German. It is what I did with French, and what I hope to do with Spanish as I'm at a point where I need input and be forced to actively engage en español.
YES--I definitely agree; I've got the good fortune of a German friend who is willing to listen patiently to me as I hack away in German.
Thanks for sharing. I know that these posts come up all the time but I like reading what suggestions people have. Can I ask what brought you to Berlin?
I'm here for a total of seven months while my husband, a history professor on a sabbatical, digs around in the archives for his next book project. (I am very thankful that I've got a freelance career that lets me work anywhere I've got internet access!)