Am I ready for Immersion
I've seen this question pop up often in the short time I've studied here, which has prompted me to also ask. However, the question has been answered just as many times if not more as folks jump on threads. Therefor, I should already know the answer if I just read the feed.
And I have. Most answers follow one of three strains- 'Do it 'til it works', 'Take your time' and 'Test the waters'. All three are reasonable. I am a beginner in German and Immersion is frightening to me still. About a week ago Paulx589 posted a link to some children's books, which I checked out. I was lost.
I seem to be suffering from American English Demonic Possession of Grammar Syndrome. Apparently, the US Public School system often produces graduates who had no freaking idea how they speak their own native language. The resulting AEDPGS is a significant factor in the general worldwide reputation for monolingualism amongst Americans. If a person cannot articulate the rules that govern their native language they will be at a disadvantage when beginning study of a new language.
This does describe me. Some folks here might argue this due to my fluency in English, but let me assure you- it is but rote. Intimate rote, yes- but rote none-the-less. I'm trying to learn German; a Teutonic Language just like my own, yet simple concepts of grammar are like alien mind tricks. I don't get it.
This is causing me to believe that it is not how many words i know that is crucial to translation. Rather, it is knowing how to put words together. Therefor if I look at a German text and have an idea of what is going on, what tense it's presented and so on but just don't know some of the specific words it's a good thing. If not, I'm not ready. I know that in English, context controls everything and if you can't discern how something's said- regardless of the words used- you will likely miss the point.
After six weeks of German studies here, I actually know about 10% of the grammar that the Illuminati Owls claim I know. I fail far more lessons and reviews than I do pass them. I am just too ignorant about how my own language really works to grasp a second one and translate it.
Yet, even now, this is changing. Through learning German I'm also starting to change my thinking about my own language. Or rather, I'm starting to actually think about it at all and why I say what I do. Nonsensical gibberish from Junior High School and jingles from SchoolHouse Rock are bubbling up from the depths of my past. For the first time in my life, Grammar finally means something to me. If I'm going to learn German, I really do need to know Grammar if I have any hope of not sounding like an idiot to anyone of German fluency.
Therefore, allow me to speak for all AEDPGS sufferers in apologizing to our teachers and parents. Yes, each of us rebellious souls cried out to them, "C'mon, when am I REALLY gonna need to conjugate a sentence in real life?"
The current set up of the immersion section allows you to approach it in many different ways. I think level 8 is a bit early to expect to do any translations although easier sentences will exist that you can try -it's just a matter of finding them. Maybe a worthwhile strategy would be to use the subject index to find topics you are interested in and read the German along with the translations and add whether you agree with them.This will build up confidence and the points you acquire will reflect your progress. Also don't be discouraged by not being able to understand children's books as they may written is a way that is simple for the native reader but in many cases for the foreign learner they contain pretty complex constructions as children everywhere tend to use lots of pronouns and prepositions in their sentences.As for the grammar , although it seems a dry slog it really is worthwhile and is a transferable skill set and framework not only for your own language but in any subsequent language you learn.
I have a paperback called "English Grammar for Italian Students". It has been a lifesaver!!! It is available in all of the Duolingo languages except Portuguese, and can be purchased on the publisher's site or other bookselling sites. More about this series:
Pretty much exactly like you, I've had to learn a fair bit of the grammar governing my own language to know what in the world all these different sorts of words are called so I an understand the explanations of how they work in other languages. I'm so ignorant of English grammar mostly because I think we diagrammed sentences in school for all of about two weeks back in 5th grade, but also because I found it deadly dull to try to memorize rules I didn't need to know to speak my native language. As soon as I was introduced to the same concepts in the context of a foreign language, I found them useful, and even somewhat interesting. It seems we really should try to teach kids grammar in the context of a foreign language. (Though with the way some American's speak English, I think we might be doing well to get them up to fluency in just one language.)
As for the immersion, I say give it a shot. The worst that can happen is you go in and click on a few articles, can't make heads or tails of any of it, and you go back to the lessons for a bit. When I first tried the immersion while I was pretty low level I found I could translate a few basic sentences with the help of the hover over for words I'd never seen. It got boring pretty quickly since I realized I really had no idea what was going on most of the time, so I just went back and did some more lessons for a while and came back to the immersion again later. According to Duo, with my Spanish skill tree completed except for the new lessons, I now "know" 96.2% of words in the average article. It still takes me ages to translate any given article, but the progress is noticeable at least.
Also, moogy is completely right that children's books may be simple in concepts, but complex in language. I think I do better on a lot of the articles on here than I have with some children's books.
Maybe it would be beneficial for you to get a basic grammar book for English, so you can relearn the basics in a language you really understand (what's a noun? What's and adjective? What's dative?) and if you feel confident in that you may start with a grammar book for German schoolchildren. They have to learn the cases as well, and they learn it with easy sentences. Aside from that, I think you should try to read German anyway, not the immersion texts necessarily, but anything that is of interest for you; novels, short stories, webcomics. Even if you don't always get why the grammatical form is as it is, you will get a feeling for the language just by seeing it. Personally, I prefer reading over listening to radio or TV, because if I really don't get something I can take the time to examine the sentence intensely.
And yet you write a most literate rumination on the nature of learning a language :)
There is a flip side to this. Many (I'm not saying how many) decad... um,... years ago I spent a few years in an American school. It's true, the grammar was very thin on the ground compared to my own language (the most archaic of the Slavic languages, with weird and wonderful structures), but one thing that was hammered into us was spelling. Spelling! Once I got the fact that spelling mattered hammered into me, French, for example, was a much more straightforward thing to learn.
German pronouns, however, remain an arcanum.
First, I must offer both my sympathies and congratulations- the former for having had to experience Hell on earth and the latter in celebration of your successful escape from said Abyss.
Do they have spelling bees in Europe? They do in America- and the winners are usually introverted, ugly 12-year-olds with thick glasses. Grammar bees, on the other hand, don't exist.
In France they have something called Les Dictées, if I recall correctly. I think there's actually an official national one that's like an annual national grammar/spelling bee. But you can have any sort of text. Generically, it's a long text that a highly literate speaker orates, and you are graded on your ability to correctly transcribe it from the spoken version. I think that's how it works, anyway. A Frenchman mentioned it to me once because he thought I would do very well on it, but I never actually tried it. You can find Les Dictées all over the web: http://www.tv5.org/TV5Site/dictee/dictee.php
I don't know if this is a "thing" in other languages than French, but it's particularly challenging in French since the pronunciation of singular and plural forms is often identical, as are several conjugations which sound the same but would be spelled differently. And it incorporates spelling because French has a very rich set of sounds produced by many different combinations of letters, and you have to have a good ear and understanding of context and vocabulary to understand and transcribe what you hear.
I did try the link but French is a planet I've never visited (I'll re-visit that topic shortly). Anywho, you have described a most interesting insect. Spelling is as complex as our US scholastic hive gets so the idea of having to actually use a word or sentence well is just... alien. There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. There are those people that, for some unknowable reason, have been created by God to like grammar. He can wire whole nations in specific ways and often has- perhaps the French are His Divinely appointed grammarians. I'd wager that Dominique Bouhours would agree with that statement.
Now back to planet French. Since I married a linguist our personal library has no less than one hundred volumes about and in various languages. One of them is a French Bible. Once in a while I'll pick up this Bible, open it to a random page and start to read whatever I see as if I were one of the Beverly Hillbillies. It makes Knoxienne cringe.
I know exactly what you mean. When I first started studying German and learning grammar, I was thinking to myself "I don't even know what the dative case, definite/indefinite articles, preterite, etc are in my own language!" Some of the books I have basically assume that you know what every grammar term means in your own language. Which I don't think I ever really learned in school, or at least teh more advanced ones. And when I took English in college, they assumed you already learned that and taught more advanced critical writing techniques. So I am studying books on German grammar, and trying to pound into my head the cases, etc. Although none of that really matters until I get the gender of all the nouns down pat.
DL does give some definitions in the lesson briefs and in many cases what they're saying gets through my skull- but not all. I never went to college so I also don't have a good history of study habits. No wonder I didn't bother with this stuff! It's too much like work!
the same problem you have with not knowing the english grammar it happens with spanish not knowing spanish grammae, so when they tried to learn a foreign languges, sooner or later the have to face the "grammar" problem. So, don't worry too much, The grammar is hard to learn but necessary to improve your skills in any foreign language. From my point of view, Duoling is a good "starting point" for learn a foreign languages for its flexibility, but i tell you the same i tell people in Spain when they want to learn english in a "effective" way. Once you have the "basis" the only way to really learn another language is going abroad non less than 2 weeks and "struggle" with the natives..... good luck
A few key terms: conjugation: inflecting verbs for subject and past/present, indicative/subjunctive
indicative: I am; subjunctive: If I were
declension: not taught as "declension" in English (at least in my childhood), inflecting articles, nouns, pronouns, and adjectives for type of usage
adjective, noun, verb, pronoun, adverb -- easy enough
simple past/preterite: I was; compound past/perfect: I have been; impefect: I had been (as in, "I had been eating, when I saw an old friend walk into the restaurant")
Speaking of which: "I had (auxilliary) been (past participle) eating"
modal verb: can, could, will, would, should, yadda yadda
I've long forgotten what a "gerund" was (I'll look it up), and there are other fairly obscure terms as well, but you know, one can get by without knowing everything...