The meetup on Sunday was sparsely populated because it was Easter, but that worked for me as it was a bit less intimidating. There were seven people there, including me. One of them was also a beginner, but she conversed pretty well for someone who had only been studying three or four months; the others had been speaking German anywhere from three years to their entire lives. I asked her what she was using to study, and she said she pretty much exclusively uses Duolingo and the Meetups.
Well… it’s clearly working for her, so maybe I shouldn’t dismiss it so quickly.
I didn’t get a chance to find out how everyone else learned (I was trying to keep my speaking to a minimum since I couldn’t really say anything in German), but there were two friends who said they’d been studying the same amount of time, about three years. One of them goes out of his way to practice his conversation skills regularly; the other is more of a book learner. The difference in their speech was pretty incredible. The former could carry on a conversation with little hesitation. He probably made mistakes (I know he made at least a few as a native speaker corrected him), but he spoke fluidly and without much hesitation. The other clearly had deep knowledge of the language; he could talk about it quite well and even knew some grammatical terms the native speakers didn’t know, but he couldn’t follow or carry on a conversation well.
I have no idea how long each of them practices, but it was an interesting contrast based on their different approaches. I’d like to be somewhere in between. Considering outside of this meetup group I don’t have any reason for conversational German, I think my goal is going to be a bit more literary if I stick with this, but I don’t want to be completely hesitant when in a situation where I do have the opportunity to speak.
Anyway… it was a fun day. I have a month before the next meetup, and I’m hoping to be able to say some pleasantries and maybe even a few sentences of substance.