German 3 month mission: Sit C2 exam

OK, I’ve had several months of a break from full language immersion, but it’s time to get back to what I know and love!

In a few short hours I’ll be flying into Berlin where I’ll be spending the next 3 months! The next mission is of course German.

My mission will be to convince Germans that I’m a Berliner by the end of June, and to sit the Goethe-Zertifikat C2: Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung examination. The level required for this examination goes way beyond fluency; it is for Mastery of a language.

So, you would have to be crazy to attempt it without years of intensive study. Or, if you plan to do it in 3 months time, you would want to already be speaking at an excellent level right now. The only problem is… right now, I don’t speak German!!!

The familiar story of a wasted academic background

All the languages that I am currently fluent in have been picked up through immersion, avoiding English, and applying a positive attitude while remaining committed to make sure my level was constantly improving; using the language hacking techniques I discuss on this site and will elaborate on in the guide. I have never taken academic courses (or audio/software based courses) in any of them.

Despite that, you may be surprised to hear that I actually studied German for 5 years before going to University – it’s the language that I’ve put the most work into, and yet, right now I couldn’t even order breakfast in German if I wanted to. You’ll notice that it is not one of the flags I’ve included on the right of this site as a language that I speak.

I know all about the Accusative/Nominative/Dative cases and the various ways to say the (der, die, das, den, dem…), I know that the order that words appear in a sentence goes by Time then Manner then Place, and that the second verb goes at the end if there is an auxiliary verb. I can reproduce tables of rules and I can read some text and have a pretty good idea what it’s about.

But I still don’t actually speak German.

Since I was an English teacher for several years, I know that there are good ways to teach a language. However, sadly, most of the English speaking world does not teach foreign languages well and even after years of investment, lots of us are still left scratching our heads when we actually need to speak.

I did try though – I spent several weeks in Munich and a month in Freiburg (both in south Germany) a few years ago. I felt like I was starting over from scratch, but even so, I managed to start speaking a little. I even lived with two Germans in Spain for several months and got to practise even more. But it was never enough to actually feel like I was really speaking; this was very early in my travels and well before I had improved my language learning technique.

Despite any confidence in my abilities in other languages, the countless times that I have met Germans, Austrians and (German) Swiss over the years have pretty much always required the conversation to be in English (or another language that we both speak). It’s embarrassing considering all the time and homework that I have done for German, and to be honest I’ve had enough of this feeling! :)

So I want to see if I can turn those wasted academic years into something useful, and achieve fluency in a short period of time. I feel like lack of vocabulary and familiarity with speaking are the main things holding me back, since I genuinely do understand the grammar of the language. I am not starting over from scratch; I want to make something of that academic background!!

This means that I’ll be aiming to speak fluently in just a few weeks! If that goes according to plan, then I’ll be ready to take on my greatest challenge yet.

The C2 level exam: Think “very hard” & multiply that by a thousand

The Common European Framework of References for Languages level C2 is one of the hardest possible examinations you can do in any language. The system used in Europe for competency in languages splits levels into A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2, starting from “breakthrough” at A1 where you may have a few basic phrases, and ending at C2 where you understand virtually everything and join in on conversations with ease.

I have the DELE Superior C2 diploma in Spanish from the Instituto de Cervantes, so I know exactly what this level means. It’s ridiculously hard! For those of you who think I should be realistic and do the B2 or C1 exam first… well, I did that in French and was annoyed that it wasn’t harder ;) I love a nice challenge! :D

You do not need to attend any course to sit the exam; you just pay the fee and show up on the examination day, and that is what I intend to do at the end of June. I can’t promise that I’ll pass it, but you can bet that I’m going to be trying my best to do so!

The exam consists of a written section: text analysis, essay and listening comprehension. Plus an oral examination. A passing grade is broken up into ‘very good’, ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’. I would of course be quite satisfied with satisfactory, if there is a chance that I can get it! :D

When I am more familiar with the exam itself, I can see what chance I have of passing it and what to aim for. I want to at the very least get quite a good grade in the oral section, even if I don’t achieve an overall pass. That alone will require huge amounts of work, and I intend to do my best in the other sections too, of course.

The Goethe Institut recommends 1,200 hours of advanced tutorials, but this will be nothing more than a part-time fun project for me (as the Spanish DELE was). I’ll also be working full time, and even trying to write a language hacking guide which will include several books and audio interviews, as well as trying to have an active social life and going out with Germans :). So, I may be aiming way too high this time! But, I tend to do that a lot :D – it’s good to aim for the stars even if you just land on the moon ;)

I’ll do the same things I did with the DELE to give myself the best chance of passing this exam, and of course will share all the tips and progress (and result, no matter what it may be…) on this blog :)

Convincing Germans that I’m German

The more fun part of this mission will be something similar to what I achieved with my Portuguese in Rio; I want to meet a native for the first time and talk to them, and have them genuinely and honestly think that I’m also German for up to 30 seconds. 30 seconds may not sound impressive, but this is a very long time to be in an active conversation and not slip up, especially considering my time limit of 3 months to do so.

This mission will involve me speaking German fluently first, then reducing my accent to be as imperceptible as possible, while adapting to German body language and mannerisms as accurately as I can. I will consider this part of the mission a success if several different people that I’ve just been introduced to, who don’t know me, thought that I was German before noticing a mistake, 30 seconds or more after the conversation has begun.

I don’t want to convince any linguists; just random people that I meet naturally in social events.

I’ve been told that the Berlin accent is hard to pinpoint and that many Germans in Berlin aren’t even from the city. I’ll work toward standard German, but I’ll be focussing on the northern dialect that would be expected more in Berlin, to have a specific dialect to aim for.

Considering the fact that I don’t speak German right now, this should be interesting :D

The great input experiment

Since vocabulary is a big weakness for me in my German right now, I will be changing my social learning approach slightly and trying some input learning techniques that so many of the site’s readers have gotten a lot out of!

I will be reviewing many different input techniques from a language hacking perspective. I want to know what way I can learn words the quickest and the most efficiently, and of course which one is the most fun! I’ll be trying out SRS, Livemocha, podcasts and several other methods, each one just by itself for 1-2 weeks and reviewing them for how good they fit in with my idea of language hacking.

Some parts of my reviews will go on the blog, more details will be included in the weekly language hacking league tips e-mail (sign up on the right) and the most important parts of my analyses will be a part of the guide. I’m also hoping to conduct audio interviews with those most familiar with these techniques, to include with other interviews in the guide. Hopefully I will find something that works well with what I do already, and I’m sure that my reviews will come in handy for people as I give the advantages and disadvantages of the methods as I see them, so a reader could pick one that that suited them best. All methods that I will be investigating will be free or very inexpensive.


So, join me over the next 3 months as I try to become a Berliner!

Do share your thoughts on this next mission! Do you think I’ll manage to convince Germans that I am German? Am I crazy to want to do the C2 examination? How do you think the input experiment will go? Let me know what you think in the comments!!



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  • oranje68

    C2 sounds very ambitious but you do already have some academic background in German and with three months effort I am sure that you will come near. From my experience most people score lower on the oral elements of those tests when they sit the exam outside of the target language country. You won't have that issue. I imagine that writing German correctly will be the big challenge.
    One good thing is that German television is excellent so you won't get bored. I guess that you can also start off reading the free Metro-type dailies to build up vocab.
    My own experience of Berlin is that it is a really friendly city and I think that people will love speaking to you in German. Viel Glück mit Deinem Experiment!

    • Street-Smart Language Learning

      Hate to jump in as a naysayer, but I think Benny’s going to have a tough time of meeting his goal. I think fluency in 3 months is possible (by Benny’s standard, I did it myself with Portuguese), but his situation in Germany and mine in Brazil have some key differences that are going to make it harder for him than it was for me. My full thoughts are here.

      Benny, that said, I wholly encourage you to prove me wrong. And, just to make it interesting, you can count on a drink courtesy of me if you do prove me wrong.

      • Benny the language hacker

        Hello again! Don’t worry, I make my targets ambitious to make it more fun :) If it’s something that I would not be sceptical about MYSELF if someone else were to say it to me, then I need to aim higher :P I totally expect people to think I’m crazy :D

        However, I like you being open to being proven wrong. I agree with you that this situation is quite hard, and there IS a very real chance of me not passing the exam. It’s worth a try though :) As I’ll show in the blog accounts, it’s not a simple case of me sitting it for the sake of it, as some have suggested, but I do genuinely have a plan of action. Since I passed the equivalent exam in Spanish with less than a year’s exposure total (starting from scratch, and with no other prior language learning experience), I think that there may just be a chance of me pulling this off! Even so, I am sure people will forgive me if I don’t :)

        If anything, having done it in another unrelated language, will still be an advantage as I’m familiar with the standard required and the exam layout for the European system (I don’t know what the standard is for the Brazilian equivalent, but C2 is pretty damn high..). This “exam familiarity” is an extra dimension to my hacks ;)

        Thanks for your detailed blog post, you are right that my situation makes it harder for me. I can also add fuel to the reasons why my situation is made even more difficult: I am constantly maintaining my other languages. I’ll be going out this evening and speaking French the entire time, not German. German is the majority and the priority, and I speak that MOST of the time but I cannot ignore my other languages. This ultimately damages by specific missions, but not my overall (non-3-month) one. It would be a shame for example if I totally ignored my German after these 3 months. I did that intentionally with Czech and have lost all ability to speak it.

        If certain other (*cough*man) bloggers were as genuinely analytical as you have been, then maybe they’d see I’m not so crazy. My accent reductions aren’t claims that right now I have “zero accent” in Portuguese for example, but that in certain situations back in December, I did indeed convince Brazilians that I was from Rio. I’ll be attempting something similar for German.

        This is not something that can be put under a microscope by watching my videos, as they totally ignore the context. Of course I would have made mistakes in those 30 seconds in Rio that someone listening carefully would have heard, but when the presumption isn’t that you are a foreigner, there is a lot of potential! I’m pleased to see how much you achieved in those 3 months yourself :D

        I don’t like some people throwing the word impossible around so much, of course it’s possible – but maybe it’s very improbable. Scepticism and an open mind together is all I ask, and I’m glad to see I’m getting it from you!

        • Street-Smart Language Learning

          How much time did you spend in Spain before passing the C2?

          How much of your time in Spain was allocated to anything other than learning or using Spanish?

          • Benny the language hacker

            I spent 6 months in Spain with very little devotion to learning Spanish (see backstory here), and then started properly learning languages. I left Spain and came back, but had spent a total of maybe 8 months when put together, after the first 6 months before sitting the exam.

            In the first 6 months there was practically no allocation to Spanish whatsoever and my life was entirely in English with casual and unfocused learning of basics.

            In the second (broken up) 8 months there was lots of speaking and maybe a couple of hours a week studying. In the last month I got private lessons so that written exercises could be corrected and important grammar etc. learned and studied about an hour a day (was also working) and passed the exam with quite a safe margin.

            Apart from perhaps the two weeks before the exam I considered myself as good as an Erasmus student (even though I was working) and was out dancing etc. most days. To me socialising is part of the “work” in improving my language skills, but I was genuinely just having fun :)

            So if you count simply “being” in Spain, I had well over a year before doing the exam. However, to me it was less than a year. I would have occasionally spoken Spanish when abroad in the time between the broken up 8 months, but very infrequently (not as much as I would nowadays when not in Spain). I also would have been learning other Latin languages in this non-8 month time and that would have helped a lot with vocabulary.

            So it’s quite hard to quantify – I generally say “a year” of Spanish before sitting the exam, since I think it’s a fair mixture between the actual 8 months of speaking Spanish and the ingestion of Romance language vocabulary by other means. To make the DELE exam that extra bit difficult, they throw in lots of differences between Spanish and Italian/French, false friends etc. for natives of those languages sitting the exam.

          • Street-Smart Language Learning

            That a good deal more “countable” time in Spain than you’ve got lined up for Germany. That together with the issues mentioned in my post and those you note above mean that you’ve certainly got an uphill battle in front of you. Nevertheless, good luck!

  • Street-Smart Language Learning

    I'll agree with oranje68 that Berlin is a great city, but as I spent my 3 months in Germany in Saarland, I've become kind of partial to it.

  • TropicalMBA

    Super engaging read Benny, I'm hanging on every word. I'm really excited to be following this one!

  • WilsWords

    Awesome goal! I wish you the best of luck with it. I'll be very interested to hear what you think of the input-learning resources as you go along, especially how well they combine with image-association techniques.

  • Nicole

    I've been reading your blog for a while now, since your cousin Maeve recommended it to me. Why? Because I was in a similar situation to you now: I studied German in school, got top grades in my exams, but was faced with moving to Germany (for university) without being able to speak!

    I've been here for 6 months now, and whilst I've not been anywhere near as committed as you are in your missions, I've tried to take some of your ideas on board as well as taking free classes at my university. My understanding has shot way up – I can follow most conversations that my German friends have, and I even attend academic lectures to aid my subject-specific vocabulary. However, sadly my spoken German is still wanting. I guess I don't try hard enough to overcome the embarrassment factor, and I spend too long obsessing over the correct grammar. I'm still trying to work on this. It's funny – I can speak to my bank, shop, eat out, buy train or ferry tickets etc. but everyday conversation still seems like a struggle.

    Also Viel Glück! If anyone can “become” a Berliner in 3 months and pass the hardest exam possible, it's you! :) I'll be following your progress with great interest. Berlin is an awesome city, but I have to say that it's pretty nice up here in the north too ;)

  • Chuck Smith

    Ok Benny, du schreibst “join me over the next 3 months as I try to become a Berliner!” also, ich probiere das doch zu machen! Ich habe 2 Jahre in Heilbronn und jetzt 2 Jahre in Berlin gewohnt, aber ich habe ein ganz andere Problem als du… ich kann gut sprechen, aber ich habe nie Deutsch Grammatik gelernt. Ich plan dann die C2 Examen auch zu passen. Wieviel kostet das?

    Viel Erfolg!

  • wccrawford

    That's quite some dedication to it. If it were me, I'd be aiming for 'be able to talk' after 'years', instead. ;)

    Good luck on the mission! I'll be looking forward to seeing how it goes and what tools you use along the way. I do intend to learn German some day, so it should be instructive. :)

  • russ

    I studied German for 3 years in high school long ago, and like most who learned it in the US, I never got competent at speaking German, and forgot most of the grammar and vocabulary from long disuse. By good luck, a free German barely-post-beginner course opened close to my home, so coincidentally I'm (re)learning German now as well (albeit less intensely than you!) So I look forward to reading about how your German adventure progresses. :)

  • linguaholic

    Ha, I'll be following this mission with even more interest, being a Berliner myself! It is indeed a great city (if I may say so) and “standard German with a hint of a Northern accent” is the prettiest German you can speak, imho. ;) (Though I do like the fully-blown Northern accents as well.) It would be great if you posted a video in the end so we can hear some of your by-then-awesome German as well! Good luck with the exam. I'm sure most Germans wouldn't pass it, as what it tests are more academic skills than language proficiency, I think (though seeing as it is IN German of course you need an excellent level).

  • Balint

    Haha, Benny you are crazy :D But it sounds very interesting and I'm pretty sure that you will have a good time in Berlin :D

    Aaaand, I can't wait to read your opinion on those input based methods ;)

  • Kissqueen

    I wish I could be your stalker for 3 months. I would love to SEE your process.

  • The Yearlyglot

    I love crazy and impossible challenges…. because there's the chance that you might actually succeed, which would be awesome!

    I think that you got the “shoot for the moon” saying backwards, though. I believe it's supposed to go: “shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you still end up among the stars”.

    I'll be particularly interested in your updates this time around. German is a favorite of mine, but my situation is similar to yours, in that I studied German in school for a couple of years but I never reached fluency. But I've been rekindling my love for German since starting my web site, and I hope to maybe spend a little time there myself some time soon.

  • Josephine

    That's interesting!! I started reading your blog not long ago. Since then, I have been curious for some time when you will take on German. It is a language that I love, and I would love to know more about what you will be learning in the coming three months. Good luck!

  • Pavel

    I agree, studying languages is mostly useless. You are usually taught tenses, cases and such, most of it is useless for speaking. It's like trying to become a good jazz player by studying musical theory.

  • Adrienn

    Wow! And… and… also: jeez! Yours makes my own goal seem such a ridiculous one :o) (from around A2 to C2 in Spanish in a year).

    Even to say I´m intrigued to see how this mission of yours is gonna go is an understatement. For a week or so I´ve been contemplating how to bring mine to a whole new level so… My eyes will be clinging to the screen now to read your reports and LHL updates. What an inspiration – exactly what I needed half-way through my mission.

    Keep putting out there your fantastic “Irish charm and cheesy positivity”! Thank you!
    Have a blast in Berlin.

  • Judith

    Good luck! You may want to try, it's a good place to learn vocabulary in context, and they also give you the chance to write short texts on various topics in German and have those corrected (for free!) by native speakers. The C2 exam definitely includes writing, and that part is the easiest to neglect when studying a language on your own.

  • The Yearlyglot

    One other note… I wonder how relevant your experiments with “input methods” will be in light of your five years of academic experience. In spite of not feeling fluent, you do *know* German, and many of those tools (you mentioned LiveMocha, for instance) are designed to start with no knowledge and build you up to a constructive basic level.
    Maybe you'd do better with a frequency list and a chat window?

  • ge0rg0

    That seems like a really tough challenge to accomplish. I hope you can make it. Viel Erfolg!

  • Alex

    Ab sofort möchte ich hier nur noch Deutsch lesen und hören, OK?

  • Steve

    I think that it is possible but I think your biggest problem will not be the language itself but outside influences again. Even if you studied hard all day every day and spoke a lot every day then it would still be very hard but I can't see where you're going to find enough time what with the Language Hacking Guide to do at the same time and of course your job! Are you planning to give up eating and sleeping!?
    I really hope you succeed and will be very interested in your progress as I'm going to be taking the B2 in Czech soon (C1 and C2 aren't available in Czech) so hopefully I'll pick up some good tips.
    Good luck

  • Quokka

    Sounds like an interesting challenge. It seems so doable yet very demanding.

    Learning grammar over years was certainly a slow and painful experience but now I guess it will pay off big time. As far as spelling is concerned you should be very thankful for not being a native German.

    For one thing we had the „Rechtschreibreform“ (spelling reform) some years ago. Many „clever“ guys were ask to simplify the German spelling. They came up with (in my opionion) a lot of stupid ideas and changed things over and over again so that by now many native speakers are very confused about correct spelling. Some newspapers still refuse to accept certain changes which makes things even worse …. (… )

    For another thing I suppose learning the spelling of a foreign language is much easier than learning the spelling of your native language. I think this is due to the fact that you learn your own language right after your birth. You don't deliberately look for patterns and therefore it is a lot harder to get it right. I make fewer mistakes when I write in English.

  • russ

    My experience is the complete opposite about spelling: I find spelling in foreign languages is generally harder than in my native language English, because I have a lifetime of experience with English, and however much I may learn some other language, it will never approach that much. I did and do notice patterns in my native language's spelling, but I agree that many native speakers don't. It probably also depends on one's education – I was fortunate to have some excellent English classes as a kid. So I am more spelling/language geeky than average. :) And more visual/text oriented than many people, which also helps with my English spelling (since I'm most accustomed to reading/writing English).

    An exceptional language is Esperanto, which has much more rational spelling than national languages, so it is easier than English for me.

    Another reason other national languages are harder for me to spell is that often theyhave sounds which are unfamiliar and hard for me to distinguish since they don't exist in my native language. E.g. consonant pairs like cz/ć, sz/ś, ż/ź, dż/dź in Polish. There are many very common Polish words which I STILL have trouble spelling (even though I'm more visual/text oriented, and I read/write better than I speak/understand Polish) because I can't hear which way they are, rather embarrassingly given that I've been learning Polish for over 4 years now.

  • Quokka

    I see your point which sounds quite reasonable, too. I guess it depends on the individual.

  • Johano

    Reading on Wikipedia, I don't think I've even reached C2 level in English—my native language. The C's seem to test one's reasoning abilities as well as language abilities!

  • Ida

    Well, since you already have a good background knowledge (i.e. if you can remember the basics of German grammar, etc.), then you're off to a good start already.

    I'll definitely be following your progress, since I'm about to begin re-learning German myself. I learned German in high school for 4 years , but (admittedly) wasn't too interested in it back then, despite my excellent grades. I' ve forgotten most of it by now, I can remember some of the grammar rules, but can only understand basic utterances or phrases and basic texts…

    Is it me or does it seem that a lot of people who posted comments here want to RE-learn German :)? It makes me wonder – does it have to do with bad teachers or lack of exposure and practice? It may be a combination of both, although I think its mostly the latter, perhaps mixed with a lack of interest.

  • Annette

    Benny, I'm torn. Of course I'm always cheering for you on your missions, but if you fool the Berliners into thinking you're one of them and if you pass the C2 exam, you'll do more than I've ever done in my years of study of the language. But whatever you do, it will be an inspiration. And one day, I too will sit the C2. :p

  • adventurerob

    Good luck Benny, what a challenge! I will be following your progress closely with interest.

  • Ceci_27

    Wow, C2 is really impressive! Like you, I've had a substantial amount of training hours (in high school), which makes me able to read German novels but also scientific stuff. It annoys the hell out of me that I cannot hold a conversation in German, let alone fool someone that I am German. I think the 30 second test is a really good measure and a nice (albeit ambitious) goal. I managed to reach it for English (my native language is Dutch) and it made me feel really good. I glad I found your blog, and I will follow your attempt to become fluent in German (I'll try to hide my jealousy). Und nächstes mal kommentier ich vielleicht auf Deutsch! Hals und Beinbruch!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Tut mir leid, aber mein Blog muß auf Englisch bleiben! Jedoch ist mein Twitter auf Deutsch :)
    Ich werde auch Videos auf Deutsch machen ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yeah, the writing will be hardest – not because of its own inherent difficulties (as I keep telling people, that's all in your head!) but because it's low down on my priorities since I don't require writing at a professional level in any of my languages. Hopefully I'll get a passion for that aspect as well as the speaking one :)
    I've only been in Berlin for a few hours but I'm finding it an amazingly friendly city!! Everyone has been so helpful with me in general and with my German! So glad with the choice to spend 3 months here :D

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    and I'm excited to be living it! :D So far loving Berlin!!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Very briefly dabbled with flashcards today – I absolutely had to combine them with image association for it to stick, but the presentation is at least interesting. I'll share my thoughts when I get to the more complicated ones :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Maeve is a part of my vast marketing team :P :P
    Actually your situation isn't similar to mine because I did NOT get top grades in my exams! So you've already got a huge advantage over me! :)
    Glad to see my advice has been helping you! Seriously, forget about perfect grammar. My first day in Berlin here I've spoken only in German and I doubt I said a single sentence correctly, and yet I didn't need to fall back on English :)
    Thanks for the encouragement and don't worry about the grammar, just speak and the grammar will come your way in its own time :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Der ZOP ist wirklich teuer… 265€!!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    You are able to talk on the first day! Open your moth and say everything you know, even if it's just a few words and phrases :)
    Hope my story inspires you to try the same ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Berlin is awesome!! I've only been here a day and I love it already :D
    The only reason I'll progress faster than most would is because of commitment (not talent), you could easily do the same without my past accomplishments. Give it a try :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    So far I am LOVING Berlin – it's awesome here!! I'm going to have a fun 3 months for sure :)
    Glad my vague aim for accent is the right choice – you can bet that I will definitely be posting videos in German!!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I love being crazy :D Hopefully you'll like my analysis on input ;) One conflict I've noticed so far is that my focus will be very different to others who use input – as I want it to augment my current approach rather than replace it.
    This means I'll be writing specifically for how input can be used in combination with actual human beings :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    How can you SEE someone's progress in a language? I'm not trying to lose 5 stone :P

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Really? I always view the stars as higher (and definitely further away) than the moon, but I'm vague on the expression itself so I imagine you're right!

    I can see from feedback that my input experiment will not be universally useful for all for a few reasons – my academic familiarity (this time) with German is one of them, and another is that I will analyse them for the purposes of improving immersion techniques, whereas from what I can see most people use pure input as a means to reach fluency, which frankly I am less interested in.

    Despite this, hopefully my thoughts and reviews on the various techniques will be useful to people!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks!! :) Hope you like my random language learning tips ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Adrienn!! ;) Glad I'm giving you that extra push to make more progress :)

  • Jessica

    Yay Benny! Ich freue mich dass du Deutsch lernst, es ist wirklich die beste Sprache! Ich wünsche dir viel Glück beim Deutsch lernen!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the link Judith! I've made a note of it – I'll get back into that when I'm more focused on writing :) I'll be more interested in speaking for these first weeks

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yeah, time is going to be an issue! This may turn out to have been a ridiculously crazy idea :P

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yeah, I've noticed quite a lot of comments of people in the same boat as me!!! Funny, I didn't get so many comments last year saying “yeah, I also want Brazilians to think that my accent in Portuguese is as good as a native” :P :P Seems like I've picked a goal this time that more people can relate to :) Glad I managed to share this one with people, while maintaining the ridiculous objective aspect of it :D

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Another one!! :D There are so many of us…

  • Kissqueen

    I said process, not progress. Id like to see exactly how you study, etc…. I suppose I learn better by seeing not reading.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Sitting the C2 is easy – just pay the entrance fee and place your ass on a chair :D Why not give it a try? :) Having that looming date in the future to force you to achieve something will make you make huge progress in the language, even if you don't pass the exam :P (but I'll worry about that “minor detail” when I come to it :P )

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Good job on reaching the 30 second goal in English!!! It was hard work for me to do it in Portuguese, but I've picked up a few tricks that I hope will help me in German!
    Good luck with your German :)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Whoops! You did indeed :) Sorry about that :P
    That's why I'm writing the guide – hopefully it will help those curious in my process to see it better!
    Otherwise, you can “stalk” me this week as I'm writing a day-by-day update on my first week trying to speak German on the learn language forum, and that may give you hints to parts of the process that I'm trying to convey on the blog/guide.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Danke Jessica!!! :)

  • GlobalButterfly

    Good luck love, I know you can do it!!! Fingers crossed I can come visit you in Berlin soon. :)

  • NuNomad

    Hi Benny,

    Don't know why it's taken me so long to find your blog. What a great one it is. I've been a language lover all my life and will enjoy reading more as time goes on! By the way, here's one for you – How are you? I am fine. in Okinawan. Sounds like, “Oo gan ju ya miseh mi? Oo gan so bin”

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yeah what took you so long? Haven't you seen the crazy Irish guy waving his arms around the interwebs for the last 10 months? :P
    Glad you've found me! Hope you enjoy language hacking :D

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Hey Jay ;)

    Well, just to be clear, the goal is not to pass the exam. The goal is to pass myself off as a Berliner and to sit the exam and to do my best. A few weeks before the exam itself, I will be way more familiar with its layout and my likeliness of passing, and then I can make a more concrete goal (i.e. pass it, or just pass the oral and aural sections etc.)

    Your tip is great! However, I try to do something that would be possible on the go. Most words I come across are when I'm out and about, and it's not so easy to make a note of them. Image association means it sticks in my mind permanently, and there's no need for spaced repetition. I will however be trying that soon enough to see if it can indeed improve my current approach! :)

  • Chris Fritz

    Hi Benny, this sounds very ambitious, especially for a part-time project – I wish you luck though! I'm not sure if you're familiar with the Michel Thomas audio courses, but I'm a huge fan. They're MUCH different from “traditional” methods. The introduction course (which brings similar proficiency to many 1st-year German programs) only takes 8 hours to get through. There's also a “vocabulary builder” module and “advanced” module if you really like it.

  • Ed


    A few years ago my wife was in an airport when someone sneezed, and my wife automatically said, “Gesundheit”. A woman with a very thick German accent approached & told her that Germans don't say 'Gesundheit' anymore, because it insinuates that you think the other person is unclean or unhealthy.
    Now, I'd never heard this before & I haven't found any corroborating info on the web. Could you find out if this is true or not?

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I've been hanging out with Germans only since I got here and I sneezed today (was a bit chilly) and they definitely said “Gesundheit”. I'm not sure if it's regional or whatever, but they definitely say it ;)
    Maybe they were also implying that I am unclean as you suggest, but I seriously doubt it :) I will indeed say “Gesundheit” myself when someone sneezes!

  • Ed

    Aha! I thought so; it sounded just a little odd to me. Thanks for clearing up that linguistic curiosity for me!

  • cindy

    Hey Benny! I bumped into your blog today, and wow, you are amazing!
    I've just begun learning German, and the only thing ''bothering'' me is the pronunciation, but I'm getting through it :)
    Can I ask you a question? How do you manage the vocabulary? Do you have a plan like, 10 words a day or something like that? Because fluency in 3 months I'm guessing you'd have to use a lot of memorization.
    You'd help me a lot by answering me :D

    Muito obrigado!
    PS: adorei a sua missão brasileira ;)
    PS2: I'll be following you and your missions from now on, your blog is in my favorites and I just subscribed you!

  • Bloggeries

    I have no doubt that you will pull this off, just dress extra “euro” and you're in! Awesome blog, trying to learn some Vietnamese, not much but it's a start.

  • Samantha

    This is great! I'll be watching your progress in German closely, and trying to apply it to my studies of Dutch. My mission is to become employable in Dutch-speaking companies by the end of June. Right now I'm a beginner.
    Good luck! :-)

  • Friedemann

    I am a German and I will never be mistaken for a Berliner. Your goal is completely unrealistic and it is also irrelevant to language learning. If you have the guts we can have a skype conversation in German sometime in June. I really like your enthusiasm but your “lose 10kg in a week” attitude is really off-putting,


  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Since I had been exposed to German audio in school, the pronunciation isn't worrying me too much. I am temporarily using my French 'r' for the German one. They can tell, but at least it doesn't give me a strong English accent, until I can figure out how to properly say that. Other than the 'r' I don't find the pronunciation hard at all. It's a very phonetic language compared to say French and definitely compared to English.
    For vocabulary, I have a little pocket book of categories in my jacket pocket and I take it out every opportunity I get. Since I will likely be taking the bus or metro every day, the time I spend there will be for studying vocabulary. Also, anything else I hear in a conversation I'll try to apply to memory. This is the technique I use.
    Don't forget to join the language hacking league e-mail list on the right if you want more tips ;)
    Thanks for the subscription!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    [yawn] I've already answered you enough on Steve's blog Friedemann – unless you have something worthwhile to say please keep your pure opinion and worthless empty claims there ;) I don't know how you see reducing my accent and sitting a difficult language examination, and encouraging a lot of others to try the same, as irrelevant to language learning, but please oh please, don't elaborate as I expect it to be something really dull.

    Seriously, commenters on Steve's blog are like children on a schoolyard. “If you've got the guts”. Really?? How old are you? In the brief time I looked at comments there, I saw plenty of this childishness. What's next, calling me chicken?

    I'm happy to have many in-person and Skype conversations in May or June with natives who'd like to have a mature discussion with me in German, and they can put them online for others to hear. But I'm too “yella” (Back to the future reference) to do it with you because you are BORING from what I've seen and you refuse to hear my arguments about efficient immersion. Any discussion with you would turn into nothing more than a one sided rant. Sorry but you'll have to hear my German conversation with someone else.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Samantha!! Best of luck with your Dutch :) Best of luck with your June target!!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks!! :) So far so good, we'll see how I make it in 3 months :P

  • Glavkos

    Does it means the “The ZOP is really expensive …265 euro!!!

    Believe it or not I learnt to read German 20 years ago in 10 months, without a teacher ….I could not speak of course , but I could read literature and other useful staff as a student.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I don't like Steve at all. He admitted that he writes about me because it brings the most traffic to his otherwise dull site. He criticises my goals without doing anything more than looking at the title of them. I don't think he's EVER read a single post of mine, and yet he has talked endlessly about me.

    For example on his site he said that I will fail on the two goals, and he lists two goals that I am NOT actually aiming for. It's very sloppy on his part to make bold predictions without even bothering to see if that's what I actually am aiming for.

    His minions are way worse though, with needless insults just because I'm being ambitious. They are nothing more than dull linguists who love to study languages and can't see outside of that.

    • Jeff

      Good luck with this latest mission. And don’t let the likes of Steve Kaufmann and Keith Lucas get you down. They don’t seem to be able to see the merits of other ways of learning (as you mentioned), and they seem to have a major hate on for you. In fact, you seem to have replaced Rosetta Stone as Kaufmann’s dislike. Good for you! :-)

      Anyway, it’s people like them who discourage others from putting their goals on the Web. If you don’t reach those goals, they jump all over you. If you do, they find fault. It’s a no-win situation.

    • Jeff

      Good luck with this latest mission. And don’t let the likes of Steve Kaufmann and Keith Lucas get you down. They don’t seem to be able to see the merits of other ways of learning (as you mentioned), and they seem to have a major hate on for you. In fact, you seem to have replaced Rosetta Stone as Kaufmann’s dislike. Good for you! :-)

      Anyway, it’s people like them who discourage others from putting their goals on the Web. If you don’t reach those goals, they jump all over you. If you do, they find fault. It’s a no-win situation.

      • Benny the language hacker

        Totally right – they don’t see the benefit of having ambitious goals. The “purpose” of this 3 month mission isn’t truly the end goal but to vastly improve my German, have fun doing so and to inspire others to learn languages. I’m going to try really hard to reach my objectives and I have succeeded for some (recent Portuguese goal) and not for others (Czech fluency), but I still think the journey was very important to share and clearly lots of people have been appreciating it.

        As you say, it’s a no-win situation with those guys. If I don’t get the C2 or convince Germans that I’m one of them, they’ll proclaim from the hilltops that I’m a fraud and this is proof that nothing I say has any merit… and if I succeed they’ll probably say that I already had a great level of German from the start or tricked people, or bribed the examiners or whatever.

        People like that can never get me down – they have constantly said that they aren’t “impressed” with what I do, and I really don’t care about impressing people. I have a story to share, simple as that :)

        • russ

          Your comment about the apparent vs true goal reminds me of a good quote about playing strategy games:

          “When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning” – Reiner Knizia

          I.e. even if you don’t achieve the goal, if you are striving to do well, you receive a benefit.

          • Benny the language hacker

            Well said Russ! I love playing board & computer games, and even chess, which I’m not so good at. It’s all about enjoying the process – whether you win or lose is just something that happens at the very end, the true test of your worth is how much you put into it.

        • Jeff

          The biggest differences between you and certain other individuals is that 1) you’re putting your goals out there, 2) you’re not just sitting around watching DVDs or listening to podcasts; you’re doing something, and 3) you’re having fun. The last part is the most important and, to some, the most infuriating.

          I could write about you taking destiny into your own hands, throwing caution to the wind, all those cliches. But you’re doing what YOU want to do in the way you want to do it. And that’s what irritates a lot of people — they don’t have the will or courage to try things like that. I’m not much of a language learner (only speak three) but I remember when I decided to travel the world for six months and when I decided to go to work as a freelancer. I was called irresponsible, was told that I had unreasonable goals, and that I’d fail. Guess what? I didn’t.

          As you said, it’s not whether or not you reach the goal. It’s what you learn along the way. If you reach C2, then great. If you reach B1 or B2 then great. In the end, you should have learned something and improved yourself — both as a language learner and a human being.

  • Friedemann

    Accent reduction is ok, but that is totally different from being mistaken for a Berliner by other Germans. Setting unrealistic goals is setting yourself (and other learners) up for disappointment. I like your enthusiasm as I said before, but you should be more honest as to what is achievable in three months. @ skype: I didn't say I want to record and post this, as a seasoned language learner I just want to find out if your you are really that good. Those who make bold claims invite scrutiny.


  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I was mistaken for a Carioca on several different occasions in Rio, and they weren't in “controlled” repeated conversations. So that's not unrealistic.

    Other comments on Steve's site say C2 is also unrealistic but since none of them (including Steve) have bothered to ever read a post of mine beyond the title they wouldn't have seen that I have a C2 in Spanish and know what is involved. I got that from 1 year of Spanish starting from scratch before I had even improved my method. With my head start in German and way faster way of going about languages, yes I do think that I have a chance at passing this exam.

    So what's unrealistic here? I've achieved each of the goals here before. If I don't achieve it, I don't achieve it, but there are no unrealistic goals, just unrealistic limitations in many people's minds.

    I don't mind scrutiny, but people on Steve's blog call me a con-artist, a fraud etc. without even looking at what I have to say. It's ridiculous and Steve should be ashamed of himself for encouraging these comments and constantly trying to knock me down when I've clearly encouraged many to take on the task of learning a language, so my message is indeed relevant to language learners. If you think the time limit is unrealistic then fine. Someone will work hard and achieve fluency in a year or 6 months instead of 3 using my efficient immersion suggestions.

    I get accused of playing the game and such on his site, but he's just as bad – he has said that posts about me have invited more comments than anything else he has discussed, so it seems like he's going to take any opportunity to have his minions come and tear me to pieces with needless insults. That's NOT scrutiny.

  • Friedemann

    What's the point of being mistaken for a native for 30 seconds? I listened to your Spanish, you are VERY GOOD, but you don't sound like a native, and that is perfectly ok. You will always betray being a foreigner at some point. I am a seasoned and passionate language learner myself, I live abroad and have done so for many years. I speak six languages. I can only think of two or three cases where a foreigner had me thinking he/she was a native of a particular country and that was always after 10years+ of immersion. Me and some others at lingq have in fact checked out the German C2, I think I'd pass it but it is tough. Again my main criticism is that your goals are unrealistic, maybe not for you if you are extremely gifted, but for the average learner, including myself.

    Thanks and good luck in Berlin, Friedemann

  • Samantha

    I just had a quick look at Steve's blog and found some very pompous and immature comments concerning this topic. Generally speaking, I'm less keen on reading blogs that assume an air of false superiority and attempt to patronise their readers. I prefer ones that are lively, enthusiastic and fun to read.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the compliment, but I have never intentionally tried to eliminate my accent in Spanish, so using that language as an example that what I am attempting doesn't work is moot.

    I agree that you will eventually betray being a foreigner, but why should it be 2 seconds into a conversation? It's important to note that this blog focuses on the social aspect of speaking a language, that is largely ignored by many courses and language learners. To me, blending in with locals and not having them feel uncomfortable is equally if not way more important than having the right conjugation.

    A lot of people are genuinely interested in making it less obvious that they are a foreigner so that they can integrate and relate to locals better. Maybe it's impossible to achieve over hours of talking, but passing off as a local for the first 30 seconds of a conversation can dramatically change your experience and the way people treat you and this is something that is surely worth trying, discussing and experimenting on.

    I don't doubt your language skills, but if you have never intentionally tried to eliminate your accent at the level of focus I'm proposing then it is something that would take years to “naturally” occur. I'm saying that if we look at it logically, there are ways to do it. My Portuguese post outlines precisely the nitty gritty details of how I did that with regards rhythm, vowel importance, musicality etc. No amount of input will ever give you these, you need feedback and lots of it.

    Please don't pull the “extremely gifted” card either. That's a cop-out that others can't and shouldn't try and the purpose of my blog is not to brag about how great my achievements are. I constantly say that I am NOT talented with languages; I have an IT background and love the concept of hacking things for shortcuts, and feel that it definitely applies to languages. My advice is universal for everyone, especially those who feel like they should be categorised as “untalented” with languages as that's precisely how I felt 7 years ago.

    Please stop saying “unrealistic” because nothing I'm proposing is impossible or even requires huge amounts of work, but it certainly requires large changes in perspective and conceptual acceptance of unconventional ideas.

    Thanks for your comment.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I agree. I tried to join in on the comments in Steve's blog when he first started talking about me, but a lot of people there dismiss me based on nothing more than my blog's name, or otherwise find fault in everything I say. To say that I was never given a fair chance there is an understatement.

  • Katie

    I disagree with you, Friedemann. His goals are realistic. Being mistaken for a local is not a big deal. I've done it. And not on purpose. It sucked actually. Long story.

    And sitting a C2 exam (he didn't say pass, but try his best) is also not imposibble, but probably scary, so it counts.

    Most people who learn languages for fun are pretty smart. We can judge for ourselves what's bunk or not. But thanks for trying to protect us, I guess.

  • Katie

    Why not chill out Friedemann and let the dude go through this experience and see what he learns? Your attitude is terrible.

  • Friedemann

    I think I have always tried to emulate the sound and melody of the target language and thereby reduce my German accent. But I think to have no accent at all or even a local accent is something that strikes one as odd unless your command of the language is like a native and most of us will never achieve that level. It sounds really odd to hear someone use odd phrases and words in a perfect bavarian accent.

    In Germany there was a football manager from Eastern Europe who had lived a long time in Germany and he certainly had that very distinct accent of the Frankfurt area, but he still made a lot of mistakes typical for people from Eastern Europe and his Eastern accent was also still in there. Many people actually made fun of the way he spoke. I am a hobby musician and I have a good ear. Accent is something so subtle and so difficult to nail 100%. But if you do, your words and phrases better be 100% authentic too (including the authentic mistakes) otherwise the result is really odd.

    In summary, accent reduction is ok, no accent in three months or three years for that matter is IMHO an unrealistic goal and undesireable if you are not near perfect in the target language,


  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Change the record Friedemann – you are only repeating the same thing over and over again that “your opinion” is that it's unrealistic. I get it, geez…

  • Friedemann

    You're doing the same thing you accuse Steve of: I was polite and civil yet you are personal and dismissive (yawn, geez, change the record…). Since the truce is up, here is one goal far more realistic than your current mission: lose 8 kg in three months.

    Signing off,

  • Milan

    If you can learn Cantonese fluently in 3 months in Hong Kong I will praise you like you are Jesus himself.

    If you can fool a Chinese person you are a local Hong Konger on the telephone after only 15 seconds I will call you God.

    How about try at least 1 eastern language after German? That's what I call a real challenge.

    Anyway…. I wanna speak German too after I saw Richard Simcott speak 16 languages fluently. But French for me now… I'm so ashamed of my French that nearly puts me to tears on how shizen housen it is.

    Regarding fooling someone for 30 seconds you are a Berliner. I myself have a native aussie accent…. I can't even fool anyone I'm American or British even after 5 seconds! So if you could fool me you are an Australian after only 5 seconds, I would be just as impressed.

  • Milan

    Let us know if the Germans force English upon you, as I would like to verify if Germans will refuse to speak German to less than incredibly German speaking foreigners that I read so often on

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I will always give my new commenters benefit of the doubt but from what you've said before about me you don't deserve it. I've also been very civil and extremely patient with you and would like to throw plenty of insults your way, but I'll stick with saying that you are immature and don't have a clue what you are talking about. If you had a blog or photos etc. I'm sure I'd have plenty to tease, but you are hiding behind nothing more than a name. Sign off for good now please little boy

  • Jeff Lindqvist

    I wish you the best of luck. “Fluency” is a pretty high goal, but who knows… There is more to “appearing as a native” than the obvious “language” elements. For many people, even half a minute is difficult. Most (if not all) Germans I've ever met, couldn't fool a Martian even if they just said “Good morning”, due to accent, body language and more.

    I'd be happy if I had just 1% of your extrovertness. :)

    Go gcuire Dia an t-ádh ort!

  • Ramses

    Benny, are you sure you want to spend €265 to sit that exam, knowing you're in no way going to pass it? You know what you're talking about as you already have your DELE certificate, so I'm wondering while you're willing to waste that amount of money…

    Also, you goal of fooling someone for 30 seconds seems rather low. I don't want to be negative, especially because you'll be working on something that's not in German, but fooling someone for 30 seconds is *not* fluency, no matter how you define fluency.

    If I were you I'd just enjoy these three months in Germany, learn as much as I can and not set myself such bold goals.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Ramses, I really wish you would read my posts carefully before writing such silly comments.

    Where did I ever say I “know in no way” I'm going to pass it? That's ridiculous. BECAUSE I have the DELE I know what's ahead of me in terms of the level required and I think it's worth a try. Please don't be such a downer telling me I'm going to fail it.

    My current intention is to definitely do well in the oral section, and later on I will have a good look at the entire examination process and see if I can aim to pass overall or not, or if working hard on writing etc. is something that I am willing to do. I made the commitment to do this with the DELE in the end, so we'll see if I do it with this. This isn't something I will consider until later, but I'm sitting the exam no matter what because even now the oral result of a C2 exam is something I'm very interested in. I said clearly in this post that I still think passing overall is a realistic option.

    Then what's this silly rant about fluency?? What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? The mission is about the 30 seconds. Fluency will come way before then, probably even this month, and once again I clearly said that in this post. Read this post for what fluency means to me and if you have some other definition of it then fine, but don't force it on me. This is not a fluent-in-3-month experiment. The fluency aspect will come very soon and accent reduction and body language / cultural adjustments will be the next step.

    I thought you said you were going to avoid flaming? This comment shows little regard for the content of this post, going off on things I never talked about like “knowing” that I'm going to fail or defining 30 seconds as fluency. I thought you were beyond this immature excuse to stir the pot for no reason Ramses.

    I “enjoyed” being a tourist in Thailand for 2 months but not achieving anything worthwhile in terms of getting to know the local culture made the experience emptier for me, compared to everything else over the last years of applying these missions. Doing this is how I enjoy my time in a country and having boring goals is not something I can do. If that's not the way you'd do it then fine, but don't tell me I'm wasting my money etc.

    Please filter your comments before mindlessly sending. I still have hope for you to contribute positively to comments on this site some day.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    If you get a chance to read my latest post you'll see that I think Germans forcing English on you is hogwash ;)
    I have spoken NO ENGLISH in the entire week I arrived apart from with an American and a Canadian. Others being 'forced' to speak English is due to creating awkward situations with their attempts to speak, which can be avoided.
    I am actually quite sure I'll meet a few Germans that will genuinely prefer to speak English with me, but up until now that has not been the case at all.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    My challenges depend on where I feel like living – I will be back in Asia and attempting fluency at some stage, but to be honest I feel more at home in Europe and South America so most of my missions will be here. Some polyglots learn languages to have an impressive number to show off, but I genuinely just want to have fun with the locals and culture clashes makes that a little trickier in the East. I will however be trying, and Chinese is definitely something I plan to learn.

    Note that I already convinced Brazilians that I was a Carioca several times for 30 seconds back in December. There is a scientific method to go about analysing what really makes an accent, and when you study it purposefully, it's quite easy to 'fool' people. If you got lessons in British accents for example, I have no doubts you'd make it way past the 30 second mark, but if you are just going by TV references and such, you can't fool anyone.

    It's not that impressive when you break it up and analyse what makes an accent ;)

  • Ramses

    Did you just delete my comment? Wow! Anyway, here's the comment I wanted to post:

    Oh, I've read your posts, and this post in particular. It seems you didn't read my comment at all, because I'm not being a downer, I'm just warning you.

    You call me silly, while you're claiming you'll be fluent within a month, and will have reached C2 within 3 months. You're a smart writer, that's why you wrote *sit* an exam, instead of reaching the C2 level. You know as good as me that you won't pass the exam, but admitting that will just destroy the mission beforehand.

    The thing is, I'm reading your blog and every time I'm amazed by the lack of knowledge regarding linguistics you demonstrate. Do you have any idea how language acquisition works? Every post your claims and goals are getting bolder, and you're lowering your standards in order to comply with your goals.

    I understand why you've called your blog “Fluent in 3 Months” and why you're starting all kinds of missions (without completing them, and I mean really completing them). It's called sales. I knew you'd come up with some kind of guide, because that's what this blog breaths. You want to sell your upcoming guide, tricking people into believing that they can learn a language in 3 months, while that's not true. Your definition of fluency is misleading, and you're tricking people into buying something that's a scam.

    This post can be regarded as flaming, but I'm just telling the truth, and every sane person will agree with me. What's your target niche anyway? Serious language learners? Casual learners? I hope the latter, because that's the only group that can use your advice. Serious learners need to get some *serious* immersion and should not half-ass their way through a language, thinking they'll become fluent (ie. understanding everything and being able to express themselves freely on any subject they know about) within three months.

    And don't start about how this is your life, that I'm not taking language learning seriously. Every day of my life is filled with doing research to language acquisition (against learning a language) and actually acquiring languages. I'm not misleading people, or saying what they should believe. On the other hand, I do want to warn people against lies and false promises.

    P.S. Don't try to attack me personally, but attack the points I'm making. You're writing a blog, so take the criticism and debate like an adult.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Ramses, you continue to send pointless negativity my way, this time I'll be frank: are you blind? I didn't delete your comment, it's right above this one. This post has lots of comments so you have to click the very very large button that says to view more.

    I will delete your comments in future if you keep this up, you are this site's longest term flamer and I am getting sick of it. You have NOTHING positive to bring to the table, just pure opinion on what counts as useful advice. Your site is prettier than mine but has very little content in my opinion, but you don't see me there reminding you how I think you're wasting people's time because I have better things to do. Apparently you don't.

    Stop commenting on my site. I haven't added you the black list but I will next time – I've given you plenty of chances but you are a flamer with nothing useful to say and can't even navigate a blog to see that your comment is there.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Hi Jeff!!
    There is certainly more to appearing as a native than speaking – body language, clothing, reaction to situations, facial expressions etc. I incorporated these as best as I could in Rio and was successful, so hopefully I will be this time too!
    lol, come on! 1% of my extrovertness?? Read this post – there's nothing holding you back from being the life of the party but thoughts like this ;)

  • Ellen

    Good luck in Berlin! My favorite input method I've found so far is Byki (“Before you know it”) and their free demo of their software in approximately 30 bajillion languages. I downloaded it last semester to start poking at Irish Gaelic and still remember how to say (not spell! XD) good morning, good evening, etc. The program uses flashcards with the words also spoken aloud and tracks your progress in learning new vocab and phrase. For example, you're given a phrase in English and have to type back the Irish, and let me tell you, at one point I had all the spellings down pat. XD

    Anyway, I'd be interested to know what you thought of the software. To me it's all shiny and awesome because A) I've never really made a serious stab at learning about language outside the classroom and B) I don't know a lick of Irish, so I'm hoping the translations are correct. :)

  • Jeff Lindqvist

    Alright, you have an Aussie accent but you hid it pretty well in that youtube clip (although some of the watchers, myself included, managed to spot it). What do I mean by this? You can hide your mother tongue accent if you want, and if you're particularly good at imitating accents AND are extroverted, good at “acting” and so on, you may very well be able to fool natives. At least during a brief conversation. I've been taken for being Irish (and Canadian) in Ireland, and American in Germany. And here in my Swedish home town , people still ask me when I moved here (I've been living in the same neighbourhood all my life for chrissake…).

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    People never believe I'm from my own hometown in Ireland because my accent and way of speaking has had to get watered down over the years. Maybe I should work on convincing Cavan people that I'm from Cavan as some mission :P

  • Daisy Chain

    Viel Glück mit deiner Mission! Der Berliner Dialekt ist sicher einer der schwersten. Ich würde maximal einen Satz schaffen und den auch nicht wirklich glaubwürdig :).
    Ich bin gespannt, wie die Sache ausgeht!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the tip Ellen! I've bookmarked the site – I'll be going through a lot of sites over the coming weeks to find the best one to augment my current learning strategy!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    I've used the same musical metaphor many times myself :) I learned how to play the piano, and from DAY ONE my fingers were touching keys ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Danke Lex! “jdm. die Daumen drücken” – das habe ich gerade gelernt :D

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Berlinisch ist nicht so schwierig!! Ich habe gerade diesen Artikel gefunden:

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks Steffan! Hope you are enjoying reading the site :) I don't mind sceptics, as long as you are giving me a chance, and open to be “proven wrong” ;)
    I'll be experimenting with SRS over 3 weeks – it's going very well so I'll likely incorporate it permanently into my study strategy, but I'd still like to review it at the 3 week point to share it with my blog readers.
    Thanks for the comment!

  • Pauline

    Hey Benny!
    I stumbled about your page and found it very interesting. I really don't know if you will reach your aim but I do hope so. I live near Berlin and I find it difficult to speak Berlinerisch. And by saying Berlinerisch, I mean the classical Berlinerisch that my parents and grandparents still speak. I only use it for fun. I think that the younger people here don't speak Berlinerisch in the classical way but… well, I can't describe my own accent.
    Langer Rede kurzer Sinn: Hast du auch so einen Unterschied bemerkt?

  • covjim

    Hi Benny,
    Forget the naysayers (I am sure you will).
    I believe that in the best case scenario, your challenge can be met.
    If you fail, it won't be the end of the world but I think the important thing is to give it a go.
    The least you will gain is a much better knowledge of German.
    An English guy went to live in my girlfriends Catalan speaking village. He spoke no Catalan when he arrived and she says that after three months, you could hardly tell that he wasn't native Catalan (in other words, he probably would have fooled some people, at least for a while). In that village, everyone speaks Catalan and virtually no one speaks any English so he had the perfect learning environment. As I say, this is a best case scenario but I think it is possible.
    Best of luck,

  • Robert Robbins

    I've been studying German for several months to prepare for a trip to Berlin so I'll definitely read your blog. I recently bought a lot of material on “Englisch”. I find it useful to see how Germans translate English for language learning. I know a little French so books on “Allemand” are also interesting. That really helps me to abandon English.

  • TorukMaQto

    Und? Wie ist es gelaufen? Haste den Test ganz einfach so bestanden oder gab es Probleme?
    Der Juni ist schliesslich vorbei! 3 Monate ohne Vorkenntnisse und dann in die C2 – Prüfung – Du bist echt WAHNSINNIG :)

  • PAul

    Heh. I wish you luck and I”ll be following. Well then again I don’t see a date on this post so you might be finished. But the whole convincing someone you’re German reminds me of when I was in Berlin and studying German. I barely qualified as intermediate but I’ll never forget one train ride where I met two young German girls. They were sweet and and really out going. I am naturally a bit introverted and don’t talk a lot. I was sitting across form these girls and they struck up a conversation with me. It’s been a while so I forget the details. But basically one girl would go off talking to me and then after before I got a chance to respond (and declare that I didn’t speak German) her friend jumped in basically answering for me with what she thought I was going to say. This actually went on for like 5-10 minutes where the other girl would literally supersede on my behalf to answer for me. It was amazing. I achieved your goal without any skill in German at all! I’ll never forget it. The girls were really nice me when they found I was American and suddenly they were the shy ones after that. I should have tried to hook up but I’m terrible at that.

  • cheerfulmum

    I love your attitude! i have only a german gcse (A) from years ago, i have a busy job & 4 kids but i have achieved learning spanish, french, a little polish & hebrew just by trying & being positive. keep up the good work! x

    • Benny the language hacker

      Thanks! You too :)

    • Benny the language hacker

      Thanks! You too :)

  • cheerfulmum

    I love your attitude! i have only a german gcse (A) from years ago, i have a busy job & 4 kids but i have achieved learning spanish, french, a little polish & hebrew just by trying & being positive. keep up the good work! x

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Bogus excuse number 17 “I’m not naturally talented in languages”. Then how the hell are you writing in a language right now? :) These excuses are what should stop.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Please read the conclusions to the mission. I decided that the C2 exam was enough work so I didn’t work on my accent at all. I’m very glad I did. There’ll be plenty of time to work on my accent next time I’m back in Germany :)
    In future I’ll only aim for one major goal when it’s such a bold challenge, not two.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    The Spanish C2 is less expensive than most other European equivalent C2 exams. I say go for it, force yourself to do as well as you can, and if you don’t pass entirely (as was the case in my German) you will have forced yourself to improve in a dramatically short time and be very likely to pass on the second attempt.

    If you don’t need the diplomas for a particular purpose (CV or studying), then doing lower levels if you really want to have the C2 is too slow a process in my opinion.

    Glad you’re enjoying the blog!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot
    Finding a job abroad depends on too many factors to summarise in one comment, but you’ll find lots of info online if you get specific ;)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot
    Finding a job abroad depends on too many factors to summarise in one comment, but you’ll find lots of info online if you get specific ;)

  • tim m

    When learning German as a foreigner, the accent one should learn is the Standard German dialect. This is true in many other languages.

    In Germany, a regional accent is a part of your identity and where you come from. A foreigner speaking Standard German in a regional accent sounds for the most part rather silly but most Germans are too polite to laugh in their faces.

    In the GDR you had the “Herder Institut” which was in charge of teaching foreigners who came to the GDR for work. The Herder Institute used Standard German from the radio is radio is often a very good example of the Standard Language and the language which foreigners should learn. 

  • Benny Lewis

    This post is from over a year ago, please read through the archives to see how it turned out here:

  • Marteria Finch

    I still think it’s possible in three months from my starting point
    (vague familiarity). However it has been a stressful and anti-social
    three months for me so I won’t be doing it this way in future and I’d
    recommend people give themselves more time because of that
    What about the accent part of the mission? Well, since I was focused so
    much on the exam, my spoken German suffered and, despite speaking very
    well, I still definitely have an accent. I could actually eliminate the
    main foreign aspects of my accent in my last two weeks with some
    intensive work, but I have worked very hard recently and need a break –
    so I will not be pursuing the accent reduction part of the mission. In
    future I will aim for just one crazy 3-month objective at a time!

  • French_please

    Benny Lewis

    May I see your “Preparation for C2″ log ?

    Your guide est tres utile! ( is very useful! ) merci beaucoup!

  • Fransiscus Michael

    hey man, you’re a great man I think. Me myself just learned Germans for 2 years and already passed the B1 and B2 tests, and I’m also aiming for C1 and C2 tests soon. I find your posts are cool, I’d like to learn some Language hacking. Keep it up. I’m following you :D

  • pcrx

    did you finally pass the exam? Any tips and tricks?

  • natasha setal

    Can you help me with german A1 please? I have an exam this month…I don’t know how to write a letter in german :”(

  • Asumu

    Hi Benny I’m very curious about your daily study schedule in these 3 months. Would you like to tell me?

  • sagarsonak

    Recently I have been studying German for my A2 on The websites seems okay but I need advanced level German websites. Can anyone help me out with this.

    • Brandon Rivington

      How advanced are you looking for? Being that A2 is still a beginner’s level, I don’t want to give you stuff that’s too advanced.

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

      • Guadalupe Gonzalez

        do you have any for preparation for C2

  • Marco Lau

    I am definitely resurrecting this thread, but I wanted to iterate how much I reflect with this right now. As an American I’m currently trying to apply to a German university next fall, with applications due in 4 months. I’m currently at around A2/B1 CEFL. That leaves me with 2 or 3 months to raise that up to near fluency at C1. Wish me luck!

    • Guadalupe Gonzalez

      tell me if you make it because I am trying do the same exact thing but i heard you neeed a C2 for heidelberg university or for frie university