I'm living in Germany and just finished the German tree - my exp with Duolingo and learning German
After 10 months I finally finished the German tree! I'm not usually one to post things, but I think that Duolingo is a great resource and I'm also living in Germany, so I thought I'd share my experiences with Duolingo, learning German and how far my German actually gets me in Germany!
I'm Australian and I started learning German when I came to Germany, one and a half years ago. I had never tried to learn a new language and had no understanding of basic grammar principles, so it was a very slow start! At first I tried using Rosetta Stone, which was a big waste of time. I learnt some basic vocabulary but the immersion thing really did not work for me, I needed to know the grammar rules. Later I did an intensive 4 week A1/1 course and after that I did my own study for a few months. I was travelling a lot for work and wasn't really able to commit myself to learning the language. About 10 months ago I discovered Duolingo and I think it is great. It is very simple, covers a good range of topics and presents a challenge. I'm stubborn so if I fail a lesson I won't stop until I pass it! For the last few months I've really been able to commit myself to learning German. I've been using Duolingo a lot, but most importantly I started taking A2/1 classes at a small language school. The classes are tiny and we are forced to speak German, which has really made a huge difference. I got past being afraid of making mistakes and am now even starting to speak German with my workmates. Before starting the course I wouldn't say anything if I didn't know exactly how to say it, which was a completely terrible approach and one that really held me back. Embrace making mistakes!
So where is my German now...well I'm far from fluent. I understand maybe 50% of most movies and TV shows, I can have basic conversation with people and can do all day to day things. But understanding native speakers talking to each other is still quite difficult. I've definitely got another year or two ahead of me before I'll be really comfortable with the language. But what is great is that I now know what I need to learn and I'm actually enjoying learning, because I can see the progress in my day to day life.
Duolingo provides a great means for learning the basics of German. Once your tree is done, I'd recommend practicing more complex sentence structures and expanding your vocabulary, but most importantly start speaking with people. Thanks Duolingo!
You're so right about speaking with people. I lived in Berlin some years ago. I went to the Verkehrsamt to find a German family to rent a room from. They didn't speak any English and it was a great learning experience for me. It got to the point where I was thinking in German. Many of the locals expressed surprise that I was an American. I was taken for an Austrian a number of times. The key to really learning another language is to immerse yourself in it.
The fear of making mistakes is holding me back. I have now lived and worked in Zurich for four years, completed A1 German at a big language school and reached level 11 on Duolingo. But I still cant talk to my colleagues or neighbours.
Just do it. Trau dich einfach! :)
Especially if people notice (or know) that you're not a native speaker (e.g. due to some accent, obvious mistakes or different skin color), most won't consider you dumb or anything like that. I've been learning and working with non-native Speakers for years and never took offense due to someone simply having bad grammar or using wrong pronounciation (I probably do it all the time myself when using English :P).
I'd even go a step further and say that in everyday life people are more likely offended by someone talking to them in English or any other language that isn't German. Even bad German is better than no German at all.
If you don't know some word, try to paraphrase it. If you're too far off, laugh about it and remember the word next time. Just don't be ashamed of mistakes. But even if you're ashamed a bit, it might help you to not do it again. :)
I remember an incident back at school, where someone said "I become a wiener." in English class. All started laughing, even the one making the mistake. Making stupid mistakes (here confusing the false-friend "become", which is similar to the German "bekommen" ("get" or "receive")) is one thing, but as long as you can laugh about it, in case you notice it ... whatever.
I think this advice is generally good and of course everyone should follow it; however, I want to point out that focusing on "different skin color" as an identifier for a non-native speaker is simply false. White people are not the only ones who speak European languages natively and one shouldn't simply assume that a person of color is automatically a foreigner in this day and age; it doesn't reflect the reality.
For some people it is really easy and for others like me, it was really hard. You need to have a sufficiently good understanding of the basics to build on but from there it is largely a mental thing. It also helps to gradually work up to it. Getting a tandem partner is great, that has helped me a lot. Start with basic one on one conversations in your everyday life and build on it from there. The other guys are exactly right in that people usually appreciate that you are going to the effort of learning and speaking their language. I also found that just the simple fact that you are actually communicating makes you enjoy and want to learn more and I also seem to retain the stuff that I have learnt through real interactions much better then if I was learning from a textbook or website. Viel Glück!
I wouldn't mind about making mistakes as long as they weren't corrected for me in English!
Often Germans who speak some English as well can help you. Just say what word in English you're trying to say in German and if they know they can help you!
It was my experience that the best way I learned was by Germans" correcting my many mistakes. One kind of amusing example: I came in to the house where I was staying and announced "es ist kalt drauaussen" to the approval of my landlady. I then stated "ich bin kalt" to the great amusement of her son who informed me I'd just said I was fridgid (sexually). He then went on to correct me. One says "mir ist kalt". I never repeated that mistake!
I'm actually really glad you wrote this because we're going to a birthday party tonight and it's probably going to be cold. :-D
You've almost written my story. I came to Germany with the US Army, and stayed after marrying a local girl. I went through the Integrationskurs at our local Volkshochschule, which was really a fantastic class. My problem, even though I didn't realize it at the time, was that I was trying to have my cake and eat it too; I was trying to live as an American in Germany, rather than truly integrating into German society. I did ok in the course, but we spoke English at home, and I watched American DVDs or TV on the computer with a VPN... and surprise: my German was still crap.
After being away for an extended period of time for work, I came back with a new outlook on my experience here. I am going out and talking to people (which is really the hardest part), despite how embarrassing it can be. I watch German TV, and take advantage of some podcasts and things online which Deutsche Welle provides. And of course, I'm doing Duolingo. I can't say enough good about it. I'm competitive by nature, and this is a fun way to learn, earning lingots and trying to beat past study times and test scores.
Your story is very similar to mine. Lived in the USA, go to Germany, wast money and time on Rosetta Stone, took extensive classes, got frustrated, and I bumped into duolingo and it got me the jump start I needed. I wish this website has an extension where there are 5,000 words used instead of the close to 2,000 words. But hey, I am not an developer. Good job and it is good to see people who are extending their knowledge.
Gut gemacht! If you live in Germany, there are a few things I found very helpful when trying to acquire vocabulary: One was the magazine Der Spiegel--its variety of German is overloaded with English words! Just find an article you know something about--current events, movies, etc. and read away. I also found those relatively cheap supermarket magazines--not Aertze-Romane or scandal sheets, I mean the magazines with recipes and articles meant for (in my day) Hausfrauen. You can learn all sorts of vocabulary related to food, cooking, fashion and household topics, and thy are written at an easy reading level They usually also have simple puzzles like Kreuzwortraetsel. (My problem was that I arrived in Germany able to hold forth on, z. B., the Marxist interpretation of a piece of literature, but completely tongue-tied when attempting to tell the butcher there was too much fat on the pork chops!) I also found that talking to the children helps when you are visiting or staying with a German family. Their sentence structure is simpler, and they love having a grown-up to chat with.
Well done! Everyone keep going! I'm having a tough day today and so to everyone out there who is to (and just everyone in general, too) good luck and keep going! Cos I really didn't want to do this today and I did and I am SO, SO, SO, SO, SO, SO, proud of myself.
I too finished my tree yesterday. I am so happy now, it has taken my 14 months to complete. Certainly, I believe that Duolingo gives you the basics and it is up to you to go for it and try to talk to people in German. Speaking is perhaps the most important exercise when learning a language and can be quite liberating, regardless of your level. Also, another great way to improve is watching movies. I am looking forward to seeing a test certificate for German, similar to the one which is already in place for English. The work that is being done by the Duolingo team is simply revolutionary and I am willing to contribute as much as I can. I have no doubts in the future of Duolingo as long as it continues to build a strong community and enrich the learning-a-new-language experience for everyone in any language.
It's good to know that people are learning languages and actually /applying/ their new knowledge to real life. I know some people at my school that only took German because foreign language classes look good on college applications, and that German is most like English.
fantastic! great story. sounds as though you're having a great time learning german.
I can WRITE things, but it's very hard for me to remember how or what to say something.... :( but hey, just gotta try harder I guess. My mom speaks French, and my uncle German, so I'm attempting to learn both... Love your story though, i REALLY want to visit Germany one day! :)