Six Months of Duolingo

Just over six months ago, I started making an intentional effort to complete at least one Duolingo German lesson every day. I had had a Duolingo account for literal years (I think I signed up just to see how the process worked before having the children use it in school) without ever actually using it myself, but last September, I decided I wanted to give it a try. It was part of a broader effort to connect to my heritage (see my fashion and cooking posts), I think.

I studied German for four years in high school, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the language, but it had also been over two decades, and I was a fairly lazy German student, so I had a lot to learn (and relearn)…I basically knew just enough to get myself into trouble in Germany!

It’s been an interesting process. There have been days where I couldn’t put a sentence together correctly if my life depended upon it (I really struggle with word order in German…I always have), and other days where I it all just made sense, and I could have kept going forever. I still have a hard time remembering the gender of words, but that is no surprise. I do think my vocabulary has grown quite a bit, though, and in general, I feel more comfortable with the language, which is kind of the point.

I’ve come across some bizarre and hilarious sentences along the way:

The bear, in particular, has been a constant source of amusement:

There have been some very relatable translations:

And some that I wish weren’t quite so relatable:

Duolingo contains some deep truths hidden within the lessons:

I even came up with a great idea for a Spargelparty from the lesson on asparagus (stay tuned for that one!):

I’ve hit milestones along the way (my current streak is up to 187 days):

It might not seem like much, but I’ve cleared all of the lessons in just one unit, which is quite an accomplishment to me (see my above struggles with learning German):

I’ve also advanced to the Diamond League (once):

Last night was my big achievement, though:

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not done with learning German, not even with Duolingo. This achievement came from passing all of the checkpoints (which took way less time than I was expecting!), not all of the lessons, and I’ve just gotten started with the collection of stories (which are quite fun!). But I really feel like I accomplished something, both in realizing that I must have retained more of my high school German than I thought, and in committing to continuing my education as an adult. I’m really looking forward to learning more, and maybe someday, I’ll actually get to put my new skills to use!

Der Weihnachtsgottesdienst

Tonight, we had the opportunity to attend a German Christmas service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nashville, IL.

I took the children to a German Good Friday service this year, and that was an experience–very meaningful and somber. But there’s something about a Christmas service in German that makes you wonder if you’re actually in Heaven. The liturgy, although German, was familiar, even to the children. Even the sermon wasn’t impossible to follow, (although I did find the printed prayers, other than “Das Vaterunser,” more difficult to understand). And the hymns! All the standards you would expect: “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen,” “Von Himmel hoch,” Müde bin ich,” and, of course, “Stille Nacht.”

Following the service, there was even an opportunity for some good, old-fashioned gemütlichkeit in the church fellowship hall, where they had some delicious homemade cookies. It was a great night, and I’m so thankful we had the chance to go, and that the children got a taste of Christmas in Germany!


I had the opportunity to take the children at a German Good Friday service at Holy Cross, Wartburg, this morning.

It’s a beautiful old church. From what I was able to gather while there, the congregation is 170 years old, and the stone tower is almost 100–that’s some major American Lutheran history!

It was a wonderful experience. I’ve somehow managed to never make it to a German service before, even though I’ve always wanted to. I really enjoyed being able to worship in the language of my grandparents and great-grandparents, and I discovered that after all these years, my high school German stuck with me enough that I was able to (mostly) follow the service.

I was also impressed with how Turkey was able to follow along. That’s one of the beautiful things about the liturgy–if you know it in one language, you can figure out what’s going on, even in a foreign language. The rest of my children weren’t as interested in following the service, they just wanted to watch and listen. And it was quite something to hear all of those voices singing in German!

The part of the service that really choked me up (I knew there would be something!) was the Benediction. Not really sure why, but I really enjoyed hearing something so familiar and comforting in the language of my ancestors:

“Der Herr segne dich und behüte dich.
Der Herr erleuchte sein Angesicht über dich und sei dir gnädig,
Der Herr erhebe sein Angesicht auf dich und gebe dir Frieden.”