How I Learned German in 2 Years

by Ryan | Case-studies | 13 June 2019

How it began

This story, like any other story worth telling, is about a girl. At the beginning of 2017 I met a German exchange student named Aylin and became motivated to learn German. I started gathering resources to study German online, but I unfortunately forgot about the Lingvist account I had made in early 2016. I learned a few words on other websites, such as Duolingo and Memrise, then rediscovered Lingvist on an online forum a few weeks later. I started using it and got fast-tracked, as the AI could tell I already knew 113 words in German. In March that same German exchange student invited me to stay with her in Germany for a month during the summer. Of course I said yes, although I had never left the country before, and I crammed a few hundred words with Lingvist before and during my trip in June and July. Although I had only learned fewer than 500 words on Lingvist, I learned a lot from Aylin and the internet.

how-i-learned-german

Germany and back

In Germany I worked through an A2-level coursebook, passing an A2 sample test in late June. Before I left, Aylin and I decided that we were going to try to stay together as a couple, and I promised her that I would be back in a year. When I got back, I learned that I met all the requirements for German universities except for the German proficiency level, which is C1. Because of my promise, I decided in that moment that I WOULD attend a German university, and that there was no turning back. I started to study German intensively, passing a Goethe B1 practice test in early November, allowing me to sit in during the German IV classes at my school. In early January I decided my self-evaluation was not really trustworthy at a B2 level, so I found a German tutor on italki who could evaluate me better. He confirmed that I was on a B2 level and ready to move forward.

Intermediate to advanced

I bought the plane tickets to make everything serious and got most of my documents together to send to German universities. I gave myself no option to not follow through with getting to a C1 level. I became lost for a short while trying to figure out how to make the jump from B2 to C1, and I stopped studying entirely for about 15 days. At the end of January I realized I was not going to find an easy way to make the jump, and that I just had to put in the hours and not complain. I began to read novels and parallel texts in German, which was extremely frustrating and hard at first, but I pushed through. The hardest realization for me was that I would not improve unless I constantly attempted to do the things that I was unable to do. I spent hours a day consuming German media by reading and listening, spoke at least an hour a day over the phone with Aylin, and pushed to finish my Lingvist course, which I did in March 2018. The last two or so months of Lingvist were very intense, and I pretty consistently learned over 100 words a day. I finished school at the end of May and sent all of my required documents to Uni-Assist, an organization that determines eligibility for studies in Germany.

Back in Germany

I arrived on June 5 and forbade myself from using any English outside of speaking to my parents or anyone who couldn’t speak German. I received acceptance from the university on the condition that I could prove my German ability by the first week of October. I signed up for an intensive course in August and set the C1 test date for August 25.

Results

I received the results too late to begin studies during the 2018/19 winter semester, which required me to sit out for a semester. This turned out to be a good thing, because it gave me a lot more time to develop my skills and get a larger amount of exposure to the language. The bad news: I failed the exam. In the oral portion I received 100%, but in the written portion I was one point away from passing (I received 98, and I needed 99 to pass). I set the next test date to December 15 for my second try!

During my second try, I passed with flying colors (a combined score of 185/214), and now I’m enrolled full time in university and spend my days studying and speaking German. If you told me at the beginning of 2017 that I would be here, living in Germany, speaking fluently and studying in German, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it is possible, especially if you study hard and use smart apps like Lingvist! Oh, and about the girl – we’re still together.