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Contrary to popular belief, German can be an exceptionally beautiful language. It’s logical, rhythmic and full of quirks! Whether you want to learn German so you can converse with family overseas or you’re planning a move to Germany, you need to learn the language.
But where do you start, and what do you do once you know the basics? We know you have heaps of questions, and as luck would have it, we have the answers right here.
Before we get into the full lists however, here are some personal recommendations.
Start by downloading the Babbel app to get the basics. Rocket Languages and Pimsleur offer comprehensive but useful audio courses to keep your lessons structured (trust me, you need this when you first discover modal verbs!). Next, Italki is your best option for finding German tutors on any budget, plus they have options to learn different variants of German (Swiss, Austrian, etc.). Finally, subscribe to Easy German on YouTube and listen to the podcast Auf Deutsch gesagt for fun, easygoing learning.
With that said, here let’s get down to business. Los geht’s!
Best apps to Learn German
Choosing the right apps to learn German is so important, especially for beginners. Using apps is where many people choose to start learning a language, and here are six of our favorites!
Babbel: If you’re serious about learning German as a beginner, I’d recommend Babbel. Firstly, the design is straightforward and easy to navigate. Secondly, you have the option of starting at a level that suits you. Finally, the lessons are better organized and the content is more valuable than that of their competitors.
LinQ: LinQ encourages you to learn German naturally, at your own pace. LinQ’s curated audio library has everything from news transcripts to book extracts. From the moment you sign up, you’re in charge. Everything is personalized, from lessons to resources.
WordDive: This app is great for people who want to have an intensive beginner’s introduction to German. Word Dive was created by top notch Finnish teachers who know a thing or two about teaching, so the methods are backed up by research.
Mondly: If English isn’t your first language, Mondly could be your best app for learning German. They offer German lessons in 33 languages (English being just one of them) and their satisfaction score speaks for itself. Mondly uses a blend of state-of-the-art technology and traditional, effective methods. It’s a great app for beginners to get a taste for the German language.
PixWords: Download this when you get bored of “lessons”. This is a word game app which will have you reeling when it comes to spelling German compound nouns!
Best German language programs & online courses
There are almost too many language programs and online courses to count. But, quality over quantity. Unless of course you can have both. Here are our top five German online courses that deliver both!
Rocket Languages: If you’ve never tried an online language course, you can’t go wrong with Rocket Languages. Auditory learners, this course is for you. Lessons are capped to 20 minutes to improve memory retention and increase productivity. You also get access to their mobile app, a forum with fellow learners, and pronunciation tools.
Pimsleur: Pimsleur’s courses are audio based and can be done anywhere, any time. You can use Pimsleur on all your devices including Amazon Alexa, and lessons are only 30 minutes long. Added bonus: Pimsleur teaches you how to improve your German intuitively, rather than through rote learning.
Loecsen: This is the Duolingo of online German courses; it’s free and doesn’t require you to sign-up. The website is poorly designed but overall the content is high quality. Great if you’re a beginner on a tight budget!
Das Akademie: Berlin-based Das Akademie für Deutsche Sprachen offers comprehensive courses for all levels. They swear by the immersion approach, and combine an e-learning platform and virtual classes to get results. Pricey, but in this instance you do get what you pay for.
Wunderbla: Wunderbla is a great option for intermediate or advanced German learners (lessons are mostly in German). You get interesting and varied lessons for a decent sum of €21 a month, which I think is reasonable. Their courses come with access to their app, and you get a proficiency certificate at the end.
Deutsche Welle: Media moguls Deutsche Welle don’t just deliver news. They have free German courses available on their website, either in German (for intermediate to advanced learners) or English for beginners.
Best podcasts to learn German
All of the following German podcasts are available on Spotify (or Apple Podcasts), and each adds something to your learning regime. Give them a listen!
Coffee Break German: Marc is one of our favorites here at Hey Explorer, and not just because he’s an awesome polyglot. Coffee Break’s podcasts are as interesting as they are insightful. This podcast covers interesting topics and the content is always refreshing, even when it covers modal verbs. Highly recommend.
Alltagsdeutsch: Made by Deutsche Welle, Alltagsdeutsch is a German podcast that hones in on fresh topics and teaches you German along the way. It’s part of their Deutsch Lernen course series, and you can learn a lot from these short but sweet episodes.
Auf Deutsch gesagt!: I love this podcast. If, like me, you really appreciate idioms and learning linguistic nuances, listen to this. The host, Robin, explains German colloquialisms and expressions. Episodes are two minutes long so you can squeeze them in whenever you have time!
Expertly German: Get translations of important topics and grammar advice by listening to this podcast. Tom covers everything from Brexit to German business etiquette, and the lessons are neatly organized and logical (as you’d expect them to be!).
Der Anruf: Another one of my favorites. This one is best suited for intermediate to advanced German learners because it contains some complex language, but it’s just so…German. “Der Anruf” means “the call” and the hosts call up strangers with emotional or interesting stories. It’s fascinating. It covers some heavy (and some funny) topics.
Best websites to find German tutors
Tutors can step up your progress and help you achieve your goals quicker and more efficiently. But where do you find one? Luckily, you don’t need to go looking. Here are the best websites to find German tutors!
Italki: Make Italki your go-to website to find a German tutor. The service is incredible value for money (so much so that you’re in control of how much you want to spend). Money isn’t the biggest factor, though. Variety, interesting lessons and meaningful tuition is. And that’s what Italki does best. Get lessons on how to speak German, Austrian German, or Swiss German – it’s up to you! Italki is our tried and tested favorite, so sign up now! Need more info? Read our full review on Italki.
Preply: Preply is an incredibly flexible service with great tutors. Whatever branch of German you’re interested in, time zone you’re in, or other preferences you might have, Preply will have a tutor for you. They have 650 German tutors to choose from, and lessons are insightful and informal.
Fluent City: Specialized lessons, taught by experts – that’s Fluent City. You can either join a group class or get one-on-one tuition, all handily delivered via Zoom. Tutors are handpicked so they know what they’re doing. However, it is slightly pricier than Italki or Preply.
Lingoda: Similar to Fluent City, but available on a monthly subscription. Lessons are held in video call format, and you can either go it alone or join a class with a couple other students.
Rype: Rype prides itself on taking total novices and turning them into German masters quickly. Again, this is a digital service. With Rype, you get your tutor all to yourself. Better still, you receive lessons designed by your teacher to suit your needs and proficiency level.
Best books to learn German
The digital world has endless possibilities when it comes to resources to learn German. Be that as it may, books are still a vital component if you want to achieve fluency. Here are just seven of my personal favorites, but check out our full list of 20 books to learn German for more options.
Wort fur Wort: New Advanced Vocabulary (German & English Edition): A staple for any German learner. If you only buy one book to help you learn German, make it this one. Includes core vocabulary, synonyms, and so much more. A must have.
EasyDeutsch German Grammar Explained Easily: It won’t take you long to discover that German grammar is insanely complicated. Make life easy for yourself by getting this book. It contains easy, logical explanations that won’t leave you confused.
The Everything Learning German Book: Some people swear by textbooks, and if you’re one of them, here’s what I’d recommend to beginners. Each chapter has practice questions, and the content is both useful and contemporary.
Sammelsurium: A Reader & Workbook for Intermediate German: Intermediate to advanced learners, this one’s for you. It contains enough variety of lessons and practice exercises to keep you interested, and doesn’t skimp on details. Highly recommend.
Learn German the Easy Way 2019: The German Language Learning Audiobook: Don’t despair auditory learners. This audiobook introduces vocabulary, German grammar principles and assists you along the way. Great for self learners.
Short Stories in German for Beginners: It’s always helpful to see what you’ve learned in context. These short stories give examples of German sentence structures, and help increase your vocabulary. Beginners, don’t hesitate to reach for this once you’ve got the basics. You’ve got this!
Die 50 schönsten Märchen der Brüder Grimm: As far as German story books for beginners go, this one’s my favorite. Who didn’t love reading fairy tales as a kid? Enjoy them even more as an adult as you delve into these beautiful stories.
Best websites to learn German
As we all know, the hardest part about finding online resources to learn a language is sorting the diamonds from the garbage. Don’t worry, we’ve done the dirty work for you! Here are five genuinely useful and fun websites to help you learn German.
Sporcle: Sporcle has a number of German language quizzes to test you in a fun way. Time yourself and see how quickly you improve over time! There’s also a fun Geography quiz in German, if you fancy it.
Reddit: /r/German is a great resource if you’re struggling or need some advice from fellow learners. Learn more about Germany from Germans by visiting the forum r/Germany, and soak up some classic German humor. Both are frequently updated and easy to navigate.
German news sources: Reading German news, or news written in German, is a great source for expanding your reading comprehension. Some examples: Der Spiegel, Die Welt or Deutsche Welle. If you’re interested in a particular city or area, a quick google search plus “nachrichten” (news) will point you in the right direction.
Deutschwortschatz: To learn German is to fall in love with the language itself. This blog is dedicated to obscure, interesting and sometimes downright bizarre German words. Some will stick in your head, others will remind you why German is a great language to learn. It’s full of the unexpected!
Seedlang: The website is just as good as their corresponding app. This German learning website is full of trivia quizzes, lessons and videos. It’s also pretty funny. A question I got was: Welches Zimmer ist nicht in meiner Wohnung? Answer: Hans Zimmer. If you know, you know. (Psst: It’s also run by the same people behind Easy German on YouTube, more on them next!).
Best Youtube channels to learn German
Hands up if you’re addicted to YouTube. That’s fine, because YouTube is a great way to learn German and enjoy yourself at the same time. Plus, of course, it’s entirely free. Danke, YouTube!
Easy German: Fun videos covering language tips, humorous exchanges, and what absolutely not to do in Germany. Great content, easily accessible, and has English subtitles so beginners can keep up. I also love their Q&A live sessions which are also uploaded to the same channel.
Learn German with Anja: For videos full of energy, pronunciation help and practical demonstrations, there can only be Anja. Her videos cover modal verbs, pronunciation and German cultural references. She also has a video that teaches you to embody your inner cat hiss for the German “ch” sound.
My German Teacher: Youtubers Luzi and Johannes guide you on all things German. They upload tutorial based videos on grammar, vocabulary and German cultural references. Their thumbnails also have a handy sticker system so you know if the video is suited to your proficiency level.
Kurzgesagt: Unleash your inner nerd and learn something new with Kurzgesagt. Curious minds will love this channel, since they discuss topics such as the universe, philosophy and ethics, and politics. All videos are in German but have English subtitles.
Made My Day: If you’re into trashy YouTube videos, add this channel to your guilty pleasures playlist. Life hacks, pranks random facts, it’s all here. Take it with a pinch of salt, and see the more lighthearted side of German culture.
Best FREE resources to learn German
Don’t let money be the reason you shy away from learning German. Certainly, you’ll find these useful if you combine them with paid-for services, but they’re great substitutes if money’s tight. Here’s how to learn German online for free!
Free apps to learn German
As we mentioned earlier, Duolingo is a free app that will help you learn the very basics. It’s a foot in the door, however, you’ll soon find your progress is stunted by repetitive lessons.
Registering for Babbel is free, and every first lesson for each course comes at no cost. Put that into context, you could get anywhere from 30-80 German lessons for free. However, we recommend that you upgrade to the paid-for version to get the most out of the app.
Again, Reddit is great for putting you in contact with likeminded people. Use it when you need advice, motivation, or just for fun. /r/German has tons of great resources for German learners, utilize them!
HelloTalk is an awesome platform that allows you to practice German with fellow learners and speakers. It’s basically a digital pen pal service, and as an added bonus, it corrects any mistakes you make in your written responses.
Free German podcasts
This one’s easy as can be. All the podcasts we’ve listed are free to listen to on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Hooray!
Free German classes
Learn German with Deutsche Welle has many advantages. Most importantly, it’s free and written by fluent German speakers, so accuracy is guaranteed.
Otherwise, The German Project takes an easygoing approach to deliver you high quality lessons. There are loads of lessons available, ranging from correct umlaut pronunciation to incorporating German slang. Highly recommend for beginners.
Free German books
Before you invest in your own copy, remember to check out your local library. Many offer PDFs and language learning books. Also, don’t forget to ask if they have a foreign languages section – you may be able to pick up German texts to practice your reading skills.
Another option is to give the 30 day free trial on Audible a chance. Many of the audiobooks we mentioned in our best books to learn German article have PDFs attached, so it’s worth giving it a shot before you commit yourself.
The best way to learn German online
You know what’s coming, don’t you? I can’t tell you how you learn best, but I can point you in the right direction. If you do the following things, you’ll definitely see some improvement. The rest is on you!
Consume German culture: I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important this is. Radio, TV, movies (we’ll give you some pointers in the next section), all have something to offer you in the way of learning German. Especially if you want to sound like a natural German speaker.
Speak German daily: Even if it’s just to yourself. But it’s better to speak to another person if you can. Most Germans don’t mind interrupting you mid-sentence to correct you – use it to your advantage. Don’t take criticism as an indicator of your competency.
Be prepared to mess up: On that note, however…being corrected is helpful. Not knowing why you used the wrong word/preposition/word ending/case/tense isn’t. Find out why you made a mistake, and try to repeat the sentence until it’s correct. Banal, but useful.
Try everything once: Don’t be one of those people who claims they can’t learn another language. Everyone can. The only way to find out which method is best for you is to try them all. Courses, books, audiobooks, podcasts, YouTube, apps…leave no resource behind!
Enjoy yourself: If you’re struggling, it might be that your course, book, or resources are too advanced for you. Learning German shouldn’t feel like a slog. Set achievable goals and celebrate when you reach them!
Best Netflix TV shows & movies to learn German
When you don’t feel like taking a lesson, alleviate your guilty feelings by curling up in front of Netflix. You can’t Learn German exclusively by binge-watching German movies and TV shows, but you can pick up new words and practice your listening skills. Here are my favorites:
Dark: Fans of Stranger Things, here is the German equivalent. The storylines are unpredictable, it’s mysterious and will leave you feeling confused in the best possible way.
Weissensee: I couldn’t resist putting this on the list. It’s a period drama set in ‘80s Berlin, and you know what that means: Berlin Wall, DDR and GDR, etc. It follows two families separated by the wall and highlights the differences beyond the boundary line.
3 Türken & ein Baby: Germany has a large Turkish-German population, and this is a comedy that comes from the perspective of three such brothers who are left to look after a baby together. It’s funny, and gives an often neglected side of German culture much-needed attention.
All is Well: Just so you know, this movie is harrowing and comes with trigger warnings. It won The Stockholm Film Festival prize and has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the storyline is gripping. It tells the story of a young woman battling with a traumatic life event. Moving and powerful.
And that just about concludes our list of the best resources to learn German. If you know of something we don’t know about yet, tell us in the comments below! Now all that’s left is to wish you viel Glück, und bis später!