This question is one that I get the most often from people who I talk to about going to Germany. The short answer is yes, but not fluently. I started learning German when I was twelve because I was inspired. I was introduced to a woman at my Uncle’s annual Christmas party whose son was studying abroad with CBYX in Germany. Looking back, my Uncle probably hoped having me meet her would bring me to where I am today. I’ll have to thank him. She told me everything about his exchange, and I knew from that moment on that I would one day be an exchange student too.
After we talked for awhile, she could tell how excited I was and said, “I know you are going to go, Abby. I can feel it. You will go to Germany.” Apparently she can predict the future because she was right. Her words touched me and were what I thought of throughout the application process, so I went home and downloaded Duolingo. I practiced on Duolingo off and on until I finished the German course a few years ago. I also took German 1 in High School, which used a combination of Duolingo, German movies, dialogue with the teacher, and German history assignments to get us familiar with the German language and culture. I loved the course, but I was not able to fit german 2 into my Sophomore schedule, and subsequently my junior schedule.
That was the extent of my German language knowledge until I was chosen to go on program. Then, AFS Germany provided me and the other German exchange students with Rosetta Stone, free of charge. They require us to complete at least one level, any of our choice (there are five levels total), before our departure. They also monitor our progress and expect us to continue with the course during our exchange year. I have also been utilizing German language learning podcasts, such as GermanPod101, to supplement Rosetta stone. In addition, I have switched my phone’s primary language to Deutsch and have downloaded DER SPEIGEL, a German news source app, all of which have helped me prepare for total immersion.
Here are my thoughts on each language learning method:
Duolingo: a great way to begin learning any language. gives a solid language foundation but lacks instruction on German grammer, which can be difficult, and doesn’t have opportunities for advanced learning. good enough to get by with if you are going to Germany for a short trip. free!
Rosetta Stone: a very thorough method to learn a language. can be expensive, but covers all necessary components for language learning. the best program if you are going to Germany for an extended time or want to become fluent. offers offline options to study on the go.
Podcasts: a great way to hear conversations and specific pronuncations in German, although it shouldn’t be your only resourse
Newssources: my teacher had us do this in class. a great way to improve language skills and keep up to date on German news. again, shouldn’t be only source of learning
Total immersion: the best way to learn a language and become part of a culture. hands down.