1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Finished my first book in Ger…


Finished my first book in German!

I've just finished reading "Charlie und die Schokoladenfabrik" which is the first book I've ever read in German. It's taken me about a week, reading every evening before bed.

I was actually surprised by how much I understood and how much vocabulary I could understand just from the context of the sentence. There were probably only two or three paragraphs in the entire book where I didn't have a clue what was going on (other than the Oompla Loompa songs) though there were often words and/or sentences I didn't understand.

What impressed me most was how well duolingo prepared me for it - I knew the word for "toothpaste factory" where Charlie's dad worked and could read paragraphs about chewing gum making machines and know exactly was happening. But there were so many words I read that I remember learning in my tree and thinking "when will I ever need to use that word".

Going in I thought it would be pointless and I wouldn't know enough vocab to make sense of it all or that it would seem like hard work or too difficult but by the end I was even laughing at the book because I could comprehend it so well. I'm very glad I just gave it a shot as I knew I'd never reach the point where I'd know every word before reading a book and I'd never start reading if I tried to wait until I could. So thank you very much duolingo!

EDIT: I should probably mention I'm level 18 in German (though duo sometimes says I'm only level 11) and am on the bottom row of my tree and hope to finish it this week.

February 5, 2015



Congratulations. I can't wait until the day I have the courage to attempt to read a foreign-language novel.


I wish I could hand you some courage. It's been a really positive learning experience for me.

Give it a go. Provided you don't go in assuming it'll be a breeze or you'll know every word, I think you'll really be impressed when you realise how much you already comprehend. And you'll only get better at it.


My first foreign-language novel was a rather easy and short book that I already knew pretty well in my own language (Harry Potter I). I think that is a good way to start - it was for me anyway. That is also how I started watching foreign movies - no subtitles but I knew the movies. And don't look up every word. You will understand enough without looking everything up and it will be a lot more fun.


for me, one of the reasons I learn languages is to read books in their native language so I don't want to read a book translated to the foreign language which I learn


Good point but since my first foreign language was English that was actually what I did. But there are good German books for children. I like Cornelia Funke and James Krüss as authors.


That's exactly what I did when I started to read in English (yep, Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone for me, too).


I wouldn't start with a literary novel in a foreign language, go for things like poems, short stories and young adult novels instead.


where did you get that book from????


cool, cause I've tried everywhere for a Spanish/german book!


Well, take my advice and try it. You may be in for a pleasant surprise!


Encouraging! Thanks for sharing.


I love it. Congratulations! It sounds like you had a lot of fun along the way.


thats awesome! I ordered a bunch of children's books in German from bookdepository.com

Amongst them I've got Hexen Hexen (The Witches) by Roald Dahl. Im hoping its easy enough to read. I wanted a story that was easy enough for German beginners but a plot that could keep an adult entertained.

Id be interested to hear what others first books were that they read, in any language, from only using Duo.


"Fred der Fisch" was my first one in German. It's for very young kids, but was just about my speed. I've been trying to read one called "Ronja und der Weinachtsman" for a year or so but I'm just not up to that level yet, not even on the Kindle where I can easily look up words I don't know. Some day! Gotta keep practicing.


My first was Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) but the first actual story that I could was Anna in Berlin which was posted here. I felt so happy when I finished it. I just couldn't believe how far I had come. Im only A1 level at reading at the moment but to be fair I am only half way through my tree.

How good are the kindles. When I bought it it was for reading in direct sunlight which I can't do on the iPad. I had no idea i could install a german dictionary and read german books on it without having to physically look up each word, instead just having to click on the words. Its so great!!!

Ive actually just made a post on the forum about finding german childrens ebooks. Thanks for the inspiration :)


Amazon is a treasure trove for language learners! Many of the books are in e-format and very reasonable in cost as well. I'm working through another one now that's a bit more difficult, "Vogel Strausse, Kannst Du Mir Helfin?". I get the gist of everything, and of course the pictures help a lot, but there's some vocab in there that I will need more time to digest.

I also find that reading out loud is a great help; my old French teacher in junior high started me on that. I read German children's books to my cat... I make her earn her three square meals a day!


every book I've tried to get on Amazon says Not Available :( or should i say, nicht verfügbar :P I've got an account and my kindle is registered. I wonder if being from Australia is causing the problem. In the past i have not been able to buy things from Amazon and get them delivered to Australia but I would've thought ebooks wouldn't be a problem as its just a download!


That's so sad! I don't know anything about how Amazon works in non-US locales but it does seem as though something like a download should work. I hope they improve their service to other countries; the market is certainly there and it would be well worth their while.


I see you took the tree very slow.. That is probably the key to good comprehension


Yep, I've taken the tree really slowly and always tried to keep it gold. I also practise my duo vocabulary with memrise so I think that helped to drill it it in further. I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea. I didn't comprehend the book like I would an English book and there were tons of things I didn't know the exact meaning of but I still understood more than I thought was possible.


I've found that aiming more for a general understanding than for getting each and every word is perfectly acceptable in reading a second (or third, or fourth...) language, and I try not to keep hitting the look-up-word function every time I hit a snag... I just keep going and if I get the basic idea I figure I'm okay. Afterwards I can go back and mine for some new vocab. Good job!


Congrats! I have also finished reading my first book in Italian "Il Piccolo Principe" by Saint-Exupery and understood about 90 percent of it. Thank you Duo for helping me navigate through the treacherous waters of the Subjunctive present/past/imperfect/ and also the Conditional present/past. I have gained valuable practice on Duo by keeping going over again and again until i get a near perfect score on Timed Practice.
I finished my Italian tree after keeping up a streak of 207 and achieving Level 24. I am now ready to move on to the translations! Thank you Duo for making it fun, exciting, challenging and above all effective.
Would love to hear any comments or suggestions from the DL community .


Congratulations! I always love hearing stories about what other people have done to help with their language learning.


I laughed when I read what title you read. I just bought this book as my first "big" read book for German too. You've motivated me to start it today!


Well done! I am ten years old an my mum is German. I started about a week ago so i can't read anything yet but i love reading and i want to be an author. :)


Congratulations. I bought "Der Pate", or the Godfather, and am anxious to finish it. I read the book in English and am a fan of the movies as well. What are you reading next?


I started reading the German version of an Enid Blyton book called The Ragamuffin Mystery when I was about half way down my tree, so I might try picking that up again now I know a bit more German. Otherwise I might pick another Roald Dahl book (The Witches and Fantastic Mr Fox were my favourite). Harry Potter seems to be a popular choice on duolingo but it's quite a big longer.


Very nice choices.


That's amazing! I should be starting to read small German books, like childrens books in German. If their are any books you could recommend, I would very much appreciate it! Danke, und habe eine toll tag! :)


This is great!!! I haven't the skills (or courage as ashbolt said) to attempt this either. However, I'm gonna look up the books here and looks like Charlie und die Schokoladenfabrik might have a word or two I would recognize. Ok, I understand Charlie lol


Congratulations, that is great. How long did it take you to finish the tree? Do you think you can also understand conversations.


Thank you! I've just finished the tree today too! So 191 days - I did start duolingo longer ago than that but I never got very far or remembered much so started over. I'd say I really couldn't understand conversations. I might be able to work out the topic of the conversation and how the person felt about it but other than a few simple sentences here and there I don't think I'd understand a lot. It's definitely something I need to work on - I haven't actually practised speaking with anyone yet. Watching movies I've seen before makes it easier to understand what someone's saying, especially with subtitles or if I've seen the movie 10 times before but still wouldn't be confident enough to say I understood everything but it's still an infinite amount more than I could before I started duolingo.


funnily enough i was thinking, hmm toothpaste is a strange word to learn ( not really i suppose) next thing i know it turns up in the house sections!



I just finished reading my third book in Spanish (I read the three books in the Divergent trilogy). I understood more reading the third book than the first one. I read the books in English so I didn't get lost. It took me about a month per book though.

I have yet to read anything in German, but I will probably start when I get to the end of my tree.

Do you write down the words that you don't know so you can practice them later?


I started to for the first couple of chapters but it was very slow and tedious and I wasn't actually remembering any of the words I looked up so I stopped bothering. When I got to paragraphs where I didn't understand anything I'd go and read the English version of the book and then go back and read the German.


Wow, this is the first book I'm reading in German as well! I'm almost finished and I totally agree with you about the Oompa Loompa songs :) My husband got me the German versions of the Grimm fairy tales for Christmas so that's up next when I'm done... congrats on finishing and understanding!


Hi well done i am just wondering if you know around where on your tree, your DL level you began reading a book? i know Harry Potter is a popular choice and its what i will probably read as i have meant to read them again anyway and its one of the few books i have gotten into. i found PDF's/ epub versions online and glanced through and i recognised some words/sentences.

how did you handle it if you did not know what was being said? did you translate word for word if you didn't know that word? or the sentence? or carry on until you recognised something?


I started reading an Enid Blyton book when I was probably around level 12 and the third check point - before duolingo introduces you to any tense other than present. I really struggled to understand anything, especially vocabulary-wise although I've just had a quick skimread over a page of it and there are still a lot of words I don't recognise. So I gave up (or rather put it on hold).

I started reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I was maybe two or three lines away from the bottom of the tree and level 17. For the first couple of chapters I tried looking up every verb/adjective/noun I didn't recognise but I found that didn't really help. So from then on if I didn't understand what was being said, I'd continue to the end of the paragraph to see if I could work out what was happening from context if not the exact meaning of the sentence (never ever trying to translate it). I wasn't worried about trying to understand everything but if there was a long section where nothing made sense I'd grab my English copy of the book and read the same section then go back and read the German.


ahh i see thank you for the quick reply and elaborating on the process as i had never before understood peoples process of reading the book to learn/ improve. have a lingot and congrats again!


Irrelevant but I was wondering why the level indicator next to your avatar is 11 although you are level 18 in German. Strange.


Good Job :) this really motivates me


Where did you get the book? I can't find a book in another language anywhere.


Amazon - on the left hand side of search pages for books there's the option to pick which language you want the book in which makes everything a lot easier.

It's also possible to find ebooks online but I haven't found a way to do it legally yet. German amazon doesn't allow downloads outside of Germany.


Just curious and I hope I am not too snoopy. What is your native language and are you learning all those other languages in addition to German. You are brilliant (and very nice). A Lingot to you


Not snoopy at all! My native language is English and at the moment I'm just learning German though I'm working on the reverse tree (ie. German -> English) and am about 3/5 of the way down. I studied French in school so saw how far I could test out of the tree with English->French, French->English and German->French and back when I started duolingo I dabbled in all of those trees too (but that was before I took things seriously and before my streak). I also dabbled in Danish and Swedish when they came out and got just beyond the first check point with both of them but decided to focus on just one language at a time.


I took the plunge even though I'm a complete novice at german and started reading Harry Potter as I know the general overall story. I have just finished the first chapter at first I was really slow as I tried to do the translations word for word, or few words and as I knew about 5% of. The words (which I don't think is bad for 3-4 days learning) this took about an hour per page and I did nearly lose hope and give up but I want to re read the books anyway I decided I would do a mixture of pre reading the german and then the English translation after or read the english translation at the same time as following the german book. The translate function on the Ebook reader I use is very handy


Doing a mixture is a good idea. You don't need to know every word. Try to only look up the ones that are recurring. That way it is fun and you still learn some words.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.