I got a place at a German university and I would like to learn some essentials from the scratch during the summer.
My main concern is to be efficient while learning. I don't mind paying for an online course if I get a better learning environment or better materials.
Currently I am considering Babbel and Rosetta Stone course.

I also found this chart, but I cannot evaluate whether it is objective or not.

Can you recommend anything better for the start?

P.S. Here is a link to a similar question about free courses.


5 Answers 5


For online courses, I highly recommend Duolingo (especially if you're a relative beginner) - it's entirely free and without ads as well. I honestly wouldn't even consider paying money for an online course / language learning software before trying Duolingo and seeing if it works for you. Also, as you get more advanced, you can use the Immersion area and practice translating documents which is really good.

As far as online tools go, I would also recommend Memrise and Quizlet for vocab. This little game is good for obscure words as well.

And of course, read the news, watch TV, watch films, listen to music, and read books in the language! I recently finished reading a translation of the first Harry Potter book, fortunately, on my Kindle, as that makes it very easy to look up words in a bilingual dictionary. There are lots of discussions on the German section of the Duolingo forums about good music/films/TV etc. for learners to consume.

If you like your music then lyricstraining.com is amazing. You basically choose a song and a level, and then you see the lyrics going by and have to fill out the missing words (higher levels have more missing words). This is great for training your ear in the language.

Also, I would recommend Deutsche Welle and I sometimes read the news on spiegel.de.

Viel Erfolg :)

  • 1
    Well, thanks to GEMA, some songs in lyricstraining.com are not available in Germany. +1 anyway
    – c.p.
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 23:17

From personal experience:


The German state channels have big media libraries with tv shows. Start watching them with subtitles to get familiar with the language (If you like crime check the "Tatort" series).

ARD: http://www.ardmediathek.de/tv

ZDF: http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek



For a head start try the Tim Ferriss method:

  • Learn the 100 Most Common Written Words
  • Learn the 100 Most Common Spoken Words
  • Learn the 3 basic tenses:
    • Present tense: Präsens / Gegenwart
    • Past tense: Präteritum / Vergangenheit
    • Future tense: Futur I / Zukunft

This will give you a basic knowledge of the language and help you start communicating.

More: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2009/01/20/learning-language/ or in his book "The 4-Hour-Chef"


Online Courses:

I've only used Rosetta Stone so far, but Babbel looks pretty similar. I don't think there are significant differences.


I've started learning English only by watching tv-shows and learning the basics, the rest came with experience. And don't worry: You'll get a big boost as soon as the language will be all around you (Language immersion), and also most German students speak pretty decent English.

  • Btw: Soon Netflix will be available in Germany, so you get even more "learning" material fully synchronized and with subtitles ;(
    – Victor
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 15:07
  • that should've been a happy ;)
    – Victor
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 16:24
  • Well, I'd never advise that method/book of "Tim Ferriss". He looks like a ... Gernegroß, at least when referred to languages: he claims to speak German and does it, well, not so nicely. He claims to speak Spanish – he does it bad as the f*, with severe phonetics mistakes. I'd advise not to suggest sources that are not for languages.
    – c.p.
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 20:57
  • @c.p. As far as I know he claims to speak it at a very basic level, with the intent to communicate with a native speaker. I agree with you that this isn't enough for most learners. But it can give you a head-start and help you get a feeling for the language, which makes using other learning resources easier. I can't comment on his Spanish but his German isn't that bad. (Considering the amount of time he invested in learning it, it's pretty impressive: youtube.com/watch?v=4q4wGEH1l_k )
    – Victor
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 12:26
  • I don't think that's impressive–but whether is it or not, doesn't really matter. The crucial point is that the method you provided, quoting him, fails for German: people following it won't able to say "I want an apple". That's why I doubt he can German (even though the video suggest he does – without tryng to get rid of his accent :D), 'cause if he would, he would know the structure of German is complicated enough, not to be understood with that simple advises.
    – c.p.
    Commented Jun 6, 2014 at 12:49

I would add the Deutsche Welle website, www.dw.de - there are courses and materials for A1 (Beginners) level students and beyond, an it's free to boot.


I agree entirely with Alex Coplan's answer, especially with regard to Duolingo and DW. Rosetta has a rich environment, but moves so slowly and at such a cost. Duolingo is snappy and, for me, has become addictive. DW's website has an astounding range of learning aids, and while it is not primarily a set of drills, the material really sticks with you.

  • Agree. Rosetta has recently removed an option to buy a 3 month online course, which immediately made it too expensive. Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 9:25

I'm using courses from http://www.babbel.com/.

They grouped by themes and levels, you can immediately use it in the real life conversations.

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