With 76 million people who speak German around the globe, German is one of the most popular foreign languages among native English speakers. German is a rich language with a deep history. It's also a major language in the international business scene.
In this blog post, we'll look at the best way to learn German. Whatever your learning style, and no matter your reasons for learning German, you should find an approach that's right for you.
What is the best way to learn German?
Here's a list of the top resources for learning German.
Rocket German is a comprehensive and effective course for learning German. The real strength of Rocket German are its two lesson types. One lesson type (the interactive audio lessons) teach you conversational German. With these lessons you'll learn German phrases and words you can use to start speaking right away. Each audio lesson features a dialogue between two native German speakers.
The second lesson type teaches grammar (they're called the language and culture lessons). In these lessons you'll learn how the German language works. You get to look under the hood of German phrases and conversations and see how you can use grammar to make your sentences. Often the phrases in these lessons are from previous audio lessons.
Tradition German courses often focus too much on grammar and leave you with nothing to say in a real conversation, or they give you phrases to say but never explain the logic behind them. The Rocket German approach strikes a wonderful balance between grammar and conversational vocabulary. With Rocket German you'll be able to speak from day one, and you'll learn to understand the nuances of what you're saying.
Rocket German also features lessons on reading and pronouncing the German alphabet. There are also a range of review activities to use and practice the German you've learned.
Germanpod101 is the ultimate resource hub for anyone learning German. The bulk of Germanpod101 are it's audio podcast lessons. Each lesson uses a real recorded conversation between two German speakers to teach you grammar and useful vocabulary. Each lesson also features two hosts who act as your personal German teachers. They breakdown difficult grammar, explain important vocabulary, and share insights into German culture. They also make jokes, share personal stories, and by and large keep the lessons fun and engaging. There are show notes for each episode, which include full transcripts in both English and German.
In addition to its audio lessons Germanpod101 also offers a slew of other useful German learning resources. There's a German to English dictionary, a flashcard system that let's you add words from the podcast episodes, and phrase lists of the most often used German phrases. One of my favorite resources is the pronunciation guide. It features learning videos, writing tutorials, and a downloadable ebook which all teach you German pronunciation.
Germanpod101 is available via their website or through their mobile app. You need a premium account to access the majority of the podcast episodes. But there's also a free lifetime account which gives you access to some of the podcast episodes, and a lot of the bonus features (like the pronunciation guide!).
Pimsleur German is an audio course with one goal: to teach you to speak German. Pimsleur uses a unique questions-recall-correction approach, which comes very close to simulating speaking German with a real person. In each 30 minute lesson you are taught German phrases word by word and syllable by syllable. Then you are asked to answer and ask questions in German using those phrases. You have a limited amount of time before the correct answer is revealed. This method puts enough pressure on your brain to get it thinking in a new language.
Pimsleur focuses on conversational language that you would likely use while traveling and staying in Germany. There is also a reading portion where users are taught to read the German alphabet phonetically, and then for meaning (using the phrases you've already used in the program). Pimsleur is available on line or via their app. Pimsleur is a great way to start speaking conversationally, but you won't find in depth grammar explanations. If you main goal is to speak German, then you may want to checkout Pimsleur.
Odds are you've heard of Duolingo. In fact it's probably the most popular language learning app in the world. The effectiveness of Duolingo varies, depending on which language you're learning. It's German course is an effective way to learn grammar and basic vocabulary.
You won't get much speaking practice from Duolingo. In fact the vocabulary you learn on the app sometimes feel strange or even useless in a real conversation. What Duolingo is great is at is helping practice and understand basic German. You'll be doing a lot of translating to and from German with Duolingo. The app works under a freemium model. For the most part it's free use with ads. There is also a premium paid option which removes ads and gives you full access to the site.
Do you ever wish you could watch German tv or movies with subtitles and be able to pause the video and easily look up words you don't know, or add them to a flashcard deck? Well here's a trick...with FluentU you can.
FluentU has hundreds of online German videos including music, news, commercials, and more. All clips have interactive subtitles. You can switch between German subtitles and English ones (or you can have both). You can turn off the subtitles completely. You can click on any word in the subtitles to see its translation, definitions, and example sentences. You can even add it to FluentU's flashcard system and create your own personal flashcard decks.
FluentU is a powerful approach for learning German vocabulary from real movies, tv, and media.
How can I learn German at home?
Of course there tons of ways to learn German at home on the internet and with apps (many which we list in this post). What many people don't know is it's also possible to have the classroom learning experience while at home.
The best way to learn German in a class while at home is Italki. Italki an online marketplace where anyone learning a language can find teachers from around the world and book private classes with them. The classes are booked on the site (or the Italki app), and lessons typically take place over Skype.
Italki teachers provide everything you need to learn a new language, whether it's a textbook, audio or video files, or pdf downloads. Teachers offer language classes in their native language (though some offer classes in other languages too). There are currently 570 German language teachers from around the world, offering classes on Italki.
In addition to paid private classes Italki also offers some great free features. My favorite is the language exchange. You can search the profiles of other Italki members to find a German speaking language partner. He or she can help you with German while you help them with English. Italki also has a language learning blog, with articles written by teachers of different languages. There's even a public journal where you can practice writing in German, and have your entries corrected by native speakers.
*With a purchase of $20 or more. After you complete your first lesson 10 free Italki credits will be added to your account.
What's the best way to learn German for free?
Many German learners aren't looking to plop down a load of cash just to learn a language. Here's some of the most accessible and effective ways to learn German for free.
The most obvious resource for learning German for free is Youtube. There's plenty of content related to German. Here's a list of some of the best ways to learn German with Youtube
Germanpod101 Youtube channel
The folks behind the Germanpod101 app also have Youtube channel with a ton of resources for anyone learning the German language. You'll find videos on essential phrases, reading exercises, listening exercises, grammar videos, pronunciation videos, and general language learning tips. It's all free and on Youtube!
Easy German provides videos of everyday German speakers being interviewed on the street. Videos have subtitles in English and German. There's also videos which give grammar tips and teach new words too. Listening to real people is the best way to level up your everyday German speaking skills, making this channel an awesome resource. The are plenty of videos to choose from.
Get Germanized features videos on the German language, culture tips, and even covers travel in Germany. The channel is run by a German native speaker, and has tons of great content for anyone studying German as a foreign language.
Language exchanges are a great way to learn a language while helping someone else with their target language. The idea is to find a native speaker who is learning English, and help him or her while they in turn help you practice in German. There are several websites that connect language learners from around the globe. Here are some of the most notable ones you can start learning with:
Free apps to learn German
Apps are the best way to learn German while on the go. Here we've listed some of the best apps to learn German for free (you'll notice that some of them we've already mentioned in this article).
As mentioned before Germanpod101 has free a lifetime account on their app. This gives you access to the first three podcast episodes of every season on the app, as well as many bonus resources like the pronunciation guide, videos, German dictionary, downloadable ebooks and more. All are great tools to help you learn the language.
It's hard to mention a free German learning apps and not mention Duolingo again. If your looking for a way to get your feet wet in language learning, then Duolingo is a great free option. Their German program was created by volunteers who are native speakers. All in all Duolingo is a great way to learn basic to intermediate vocabulary and grammar in the German language.
DeutchAkademie is a free ad supported app that offers 70 German textbooks and thousands of German grammar exercises. The exercises are designed according to the European Framework of Reference for Languages. All the exercises are sorted by different proficiency levels, ranging from A1 to C1. DeutschAkademie was designed by German teachers. The app wasn't designed for native speakers of other languages. The interface is completely in German. It's a great way for intermediate and advance students to practice their reading.
That concludes our post on the best way to learn German. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced student, there is a learning resource out there for you. Learning a new language is a fun an exciting adventure, so don't let a lack of resources keep you from your language learning goals. Get started today!
With bit of practice, patience, and the right approach you can reach fluency in German!