Duolingo Milestone

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And so, the ETH Frau has conquered Duolingo’s German skill tree. One hundred and sixty-six consecutive days later, I have gone through every lesson that Duolingo.com has to offer in German. (Disclaimer – Duolingo offers you a chance to “buy” a day off without affecting your streak. I have used that chance two or three times.) This nearly coincides with our 5-month in Zürich anniversary which is tomorrow.

Except, this glamper does not yet feel fluent. Not quite. This learning (or relearning) a foreign language is a funny thing. There will be days when I feel as though I can read 20 Minuten with very little help looking up words. I even read a whole long article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung about a composer without looking anything up. Or, I can have a conversation where I do not have to ask for the other person to repeat something more than once. Sometimes I can even read things and understand the meaning without putting it into English in my mind. Those are happy times.

And then, some days I wonder if I will ever feel totally comfortable in German. Maybe I now know enough to know just how much farther I still need to go.

This past weekend we had a 6-hour orchestra rehearsal for our upcoming concert. Over half-way through, I found my mind wandering more than usual and my focus dropping off. It occurred to me that it wasn’t that the music was too taxing, but I am not used to thinking in German for more than two hours at a time. (And to be fair, some of the talk was in Swiss German, and my mind was trying to parse if I wasn’t understanding because of the vocabulary or because of the language itself.)

However, three of my orchestra colleagues mentioned to me how well I spoke German, which gave me the boost I needed for now.

Even though I have been through all of the Duolingo lessons, I am redoing them so that I can transfer some of those words into my long-term memory.

(Anne, I wish that I had been this diligent when I was your student many years ago! However, know that you started me on this great journey, for which I am very grateful.)


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