Two years of high school German is enough to know the basics of how the language works and to think you know a thing or two. But it's also enough to realize how big a task it is to be fluent, and how much you still don't know.
In my experience, it seems most people observe the pace of their learning in school and equate that to their expectations over all. In school I thought, "if it took me two years to learn this much, it's going to take me 4 more years to be fluent!"
Well, that's not true.
I reached a reasonable level of fluency in Russian (a very complex language) in just one year. And in Italian (a much easier language) I flew to fluency easily. Sure, I've had some bumps along the way with Turkish and Greek, but those interruptions were the result of motivation, priorities, interruptions, or (recently) tragedies. My learning has never been hindered by the language, or by how difficult it is to learn.
And now that I have learned how to learn, I know that it's not going to take 4 years to be fluent, because time is relative. When you take the responsibility for learning, rather than leaving it up to the school, you can learn more in one day than you'd get in a week or two of school.
Because of the fact that I've already had some German in school, my task doesn't start from the beginning this year as it normally would — which is probably a good thing, since I'm starting several months late. So here's what I'm already doing:
I've found two blogs that I'm reading to pick up on some of the finer points of particular words and expressions: German is Easy and Marathon Sprachen. (The latter is really good!)
But just learning words and phrases isn't enough. I'm also jumping into the fire feet first and reading Blogging IT, a blog on topics that relate to my career, which is written entirely in German.
Do I already understand everything? No. But I understand a lot, and I can infer a lot... and that means I can learn a lot!
So, are you still letting your school experience set your expectations? Or have you decided to pick up the pace?
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.