Last Updated on March 13, 2023 by Anneke Schmidt, PhD
German is a popular language to learn for both personal and professional reasons. It is the most widely spoken language in the European Union and one of the three working languages of the European Commission. German is also the third most commonly used scientific language and one of the top 10 languages found on the internet. But what’s the best way to learn German today?
In today’s digital age, it has never been easier to learn a new language. There are countless resources available online to help you improve your German language skills. However, with so many options available, it can be challenging to know which language learning method to choose, how to get started, and what to do to stay motivated throughout the learning process.
This article explains how to learn German online in ten different ways and helps you set yourself up for success in your language-learning journey.
Why Improve Your German Language Skills?
Learning German can open up many opportunities for developing critical life skills. If you’re looking to travel, German is a great language to learn. Germany has a rich culture and a lot to offer tourists, from its stunning scenery and architecture to its delicious food and rich history. The German-speaking world is also home to some of the world’s top universities, so if you’re planning on studying abroad, learning German will give you access to a whole new range of educational institutions such as these top German universities.
In addition, being able to speak German can give you a competitive edge in the job market. Many multinational companies have a presence in German-speaking countries, so understanding common German phrases or business terms can give you an advantage when applying for jobs. German is also a language of science, so if you’re planning on pursuing a career in research or academia, improving your German skills will give you access to a wealth of resources and allow you to network with fellow scientists from around the world.
But German grammar rules are notoriously tricky, and the spelling can be a challenge, too. So, where do you start? And what mistakes should you avoid from the outset?
German Learning Mistakes To Avoid
One of the most common mistakes learners make when they first practice speaking or writing in German is using the informal pronoun “du” when they should be using the formal pronoun “Sie.” There are two sets of personal pronouns in German – formal and informal – and it’s essential to use the correct term depending on the situation. “Du” is only used when talking to close friends, family members, and children, while “Sie” is used when talking to strangers, superiors, or people you don’t know well.
Another common mistake is using the accusative case instead of the dative case. The accusative case is used for direct objects, while the dative case is used for indirect objects. For example, the direct object of the sentence “Ich sehe den Film” (“I’m watching the movie”) is “den Film” (“the movie”), while the indirect object of the sentence “Ich gebe dem Mann das Buch” (“I’m giving the man the book”) is “dem Mann” (“the man”).
However, the biggest obstacle to speaking German fluently is probably the fear of making mistakes. Many German learners avoid talking in German because they’re afraid of saying something wrong or sounding foolish. But the only way to speak German fluently is to practice, make mistakes, and learn from them. The more you speak, the more confident you’ll become, and the more quickly you’ll be able to speak German confidently in any situation.
Learning online, e.g., through professional one-to-one tuition, is not only a convenient but also a highly effective way to practice your German reading, writing, and conversational skills without fear of making mistakes. Online German lessons or tutor-led courses give you the opportunity to receive immediate feedback from your teacher and practice using the language in a safe and supportive environment.
The Benefits of Online German Lessons
So, what are the benefits of learning German online? Here are a few examples – you can:
Learn at Your Own Pace
The best thing about learning online is that you can tailor your learning to suit your needs and goals. If you’re a complete beginner, you can start with the basics and gradually build up your knowledge. If you’re already confident in speaking and writing German, you can focus on improving your grammar or expanding your vocabulary.
Learn From the Comfort of Your Home
As an online learner, you can access your virtual learning environment (VLE) from anywhere in the world. All you need is an internet connection and a computer or mobile device. You can even learn on the go with mobile apps.
Access A Wide Range of Resources
Choosing online German classes gives you access to a wealth of resources, including interactive exercises, audio and video materials, and online dictionaries. You can also listen to German podcasts or watch German films and TV shows to improve your listening skills.
Work With a Native German Speaker
Another advantage of online language lessons is that you can choose to learn with a personal tutor who is a native speaker. This means you’ll benefit from their authentic pronunciation and intonation and their expertise in the German language.
Honor Your Individual Learning Style
Everyone learns differently. Some people prefer to learn through listening and speaking, while others prefer to learn through reading and writing. With online German lessons, you can tailor your language learning experience to suit your individual needs and preferences.
What To Focus on When Learning German Online
Whichever learning methods or resources you choose, there are a few basic things your online German lessons should cover. These are:
- German grammar
- German vocabulary
- Listening comprehension
- Reading skills & orthography
- German pronunciation
- Conversational skills.
Other than that, the focus of your online German lessons will depend on your prior knowledge and the purpose of your learning. For example, if you’re a beginner learner, your studies might focus on simple conversation skills and everyday vocabulary. If you’re learning for professional-development reasons, your lessons might focus on business German or academic German, depending on your career plans.
Top 10 Ways To Learn German Online
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at the best ways to learn German online. From online forums and authentic German TV shows to online courses and virtual German tutors, there’s a wealth of online resources available to help you reach your language goals.
Here are the top ten options to consider:
#1 – Free Digital Resources
One of the best things about learning German online is that there are many free resources available. You can find free online courses, dictionaries, grammar exercises, and more with just a few clicks. Two useful online resources to start with are:
Both websites offer free courses and learning materials for self-study at all levels, from beginner to advanced.
#2 – Online German Classes
Online classes are another possible way to learn German from the comfort of your own home. These group classes typically take place via video conference and are led by a qualified German tutor. Some local language schools also offer hybrid German language classes. This means that you can take the class in-person or online, depending on your availability and preference.
#3 – German News Sites
If you want to improve your German reading and listening skills, a great way to do so is by using German news sites. Not only will you be exposed to authentic German content, but you’ll also learn about current events happening in Germany and around the world. Some popular German news sites include:
- Die Zeit: This online newspaper covers a range of topics, from politics to culture.
- Der Spiegel: This news website covers various current affairs topics.
- Stern: This magazine covers celebrity news, pop culture, and current affairs.
#4 – YouTube Channels and Tutorials
YouTube is an excellent resource for German learners of all levels. You can find videos on grammar, vocabulary, culture, and more. Plus, you can filter your searches by language level, so you only see videos that are appropriate for your level.
For example, Deutsche Welle Learn is a channel aimed at beginners that offers videos on German grammar and vocabulary.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more advanced, you might want to check out channels like Deutschlandfunk Nova, which offers news and current affairs programs in German.
#5 – Popular German TV Shows
Watching German TV shows is a wonderful way to improve your listening skills and gain exposure to authentic German culture. Plus, they’re usually more entertaining than traditional German lessons. As a beginner, you might start with Die Sendung Mit Der Maus. This educational show is aimed at children but is also enjoyable for adults.
Another option more suitable for intermediate German learners is Tatort. This long-running popular German crime series features a different detective team in each episode, so you can choose your favorite and follow their cases throughout the series.
Or, if you’re looking for something more light-hearted, you might want to try Pastewka. This is a German comedy series that follows the everyday life of a famous German comedian living in Cologne. It’s a great way to learn about German humor.
#6 – German Songs and Song Lyrics
German songs are another excellent way to learn about German culture and language. You can find songs for all levels, from beginners to advanced. And, if you’re struggling to understand the lyrics, you can always find the English translation online. And what’s more, singing along to your favorite songs can be a fun way to improve your pronunciation.
#7 – Online Forums and Social Groups
If you’re looking for a more interactive way to learn German, you might consider joining an online forum or social group. This can be a great way to practice your German skills and make friends with other German learners. Plus, you can get feedback from native speakers on your writing and speaking skills.
You might even find a tandem partner, which is someone who wants to learn your native language in exchange for you learning their language.
#8 – German Learning Podcasts
To develop your active listening skills, you could listen to German learning podcasts. These are usually audio files that you can download and listen to in your own time. They’re often shorter than traditional audio lessons, so they’re perfect for busy learners on the go. Moreover, they can be more engaging and enjoyable than self-study, for example.
One popular example is Slow German. As the name implies, each episode is spoken slowly and clearly, making it easier for beginners and intermediate learners to understand the podcast.
#9 – Interactive Games
Interactive exercises and games are another fun way to learn German online. They can help you practice your grammar, vocabulary, and listening skills. There are many different types of interactive games available online. For example, you can find:
- Grammar games that test your knowledge of German grammar rules
- Vocabulary games that help you learn new German phrases and words
- Listening games that improve your ability to understand spoken German.
#10 – Online One-to-One Tuition
However, while all of these methods can be useful and enjoyable when you first start the language learning process, the most efficient way to learn German online is probably with professional one-to-one tuition.
This can be via Skype, Zoom, or another video conferencing platform. It allows you to practice speaking with a native language teacher in real-time and get immediate feedback on your pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. In contrast to self-study or group lessons, one-to-one tuition allows you to focus on the areas of German that you find most challenging, thus accelerating your learning process.
The Bottom Line
Whether you want to learn German for business or pleasure, there are various ways to learn German online. Different learning methods will suit different people, so it’s crucial to find the approach that works best for you. From free self-study courses and news sites to German TV shows and popular music, there’s something for everyone. And, with a little effort and commitment, you’ll be speaking German in no time.
However, if you’re serious about learning German and want to achieve lasting results, you should probably invest in professional one-to-one lessons provided by an experienced German teacher. That way, you can concentrate on those areas of the German language that you find most difficult to learn and get immediate feedback, ideally from a native speaker.
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