There is already a question that asks for free resource for learning German. However, I would like to know what resources are good for learning German regardless of their cost.

The online sources I've tried so far are Tell Me More, LiveMocha, and Deutsche Welle. None of these resources have seemed to be ideal.

Tell Me More asks you questions early on that expect you to know vocabulary that the application has yet to introduce. This makes it quite difficult as I have to pull out flash cards for random words that they decide to use.

Deustch Welle doesn't really give any help for actually memorizing words and phrases. It seems proceed too rapidly through the language

I felt like I wasn't learning enough with LiveMocha.

I've looked into distance learning through the Goethe Institute, but I'm hesitant to spend a lot of money before I know if their courses are good. Traveling away from home isn't really an option at the moment and taking a class locally would be difficult because of work and distance from home.

Any recommendations?

  • 2
    I've heard that the quality of German language courses organised by the Goethe Institut is very different, depends on the country/city. You also could think about private language schools and their courses, quite often their students get better marks and the lessons are more fun/ relaxing. Do you want to learn a lot of grammar, just vocabulary or conversations? Nevertheless: I would say, the best way to learn a language is visitng the country for some weeks.
    – Daniel
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 9:03
  • 2
    Deine Fragen auf Deutsch zu stellen. :) Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 22:28
  • @Bob It's been 5 years since you posted the question. It would be interesting to find out whether you've followed any of the suggested ways of learning German and, if so, which one(s) you now believe to have been the most useful. Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 0:07
  • @EugeneStr. Bob's last seen is 2015 on his profile
    – Nilesh Pol
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 11:35
  • 1
    @EugeneStr. I thought I would go ahead and give a late response. I gave up learning German for a while, picked it back up, then gave up again. I finally started again and am now using italki as a way to learn by talking. I've only had a few lessons, but so far it's been immensely helpful. My italki teacher is a professional, native speaker. In addition to italki, I also study vocabulary on memrise.com and study grammar using's Schaum's book. I feel like I'm getting close to A1 and hopefully will keep the motivation to continue to A2 and so on.
    – Bob
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 19:28

17 Answers 17

  • Go to a German-speaking country
  • Talk (don't just study, don't just passively listen)
  • Drink alcohol (relieves your natural inhibition about your bad accent, grammatical mistakes, and limited vocabulary, and it's what people do when they socialize)

Buy a pocket dictionary. Has to be small enough to take everywhere and pull out for reading signs and interesting new words. Buy a phrasebook with either a tiny grammar or phrase building section but be careful not to choose one with phonetic spelling for the wrong English accent. (If you buy one in Europe it might be designed for British speakers and the phonetic guides will only confuse you if you speak American English for instance.)

I found the people in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria to always be friendly, easy to meet, and social, to be pretty good at teaching German and correcting your mistakes, to know enough English to get through the gaps, but not likely to just switch to English whenever you're around and prevent you learning.

Talk to people in shops. They show their appreciation the most.

Talk to your friends' parents. Their English will be much worse than your friends and they'll appreciate your efforts more.

Kids are great teachers. Not afraid like adults to tell you how bad you are and make you repeat it until you get it right. And they never get fed up with too many questions. They also know rhymes and songs.

Yeah yeah we don't all have the money/time to travel but you didn't ask that. I also don't have money but it's how I learned (though I didn't pursue it further). This is my answer to "What is a good way to start learning German?"

P.S. Re the alcohol tip. I learned Spanish as a teetotaller and took months to get the basics. I learned German with hefeweizen and the occasional drop of gluhwein and took ten days to get the basics.

  • 7
    The alcohol tip is a strange one but for experience I can confirm it works.
    – mikeyP
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 11:21
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    It's called 'drunklish' around here.
    – konkret
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 4:39
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    Learning German by Hefeweizen! That makes my German heart sing. It's not intended to get you drunk but to make you comfortable, smooth conversation and loosen your tongue.
    – hajef
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 10:43

I've used what I call the Maria Braun method. In the film "The Marriage of Maria Braun," the hero ask Maria, "Where did you learn English so well?" The gist of her answer was "By dating." I've dated one or two native speakers, and any number of German-Americans whose German was better than mine.

This advice is not suitable for a married person unless your spouse knows German better than you.

  • 4
    It's like recommending someone to buy a cooler when the weather is hot instead of getting his/her long hair cut off!
    – user508
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 14:48
  • @Gigili: From you, much appreciated. But it's an honest answer, one that probably doesn't surprise you, given how much work you've down on my poetry.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 15:34
  • It's a valid way to learn German in my eyes. If you're interested in German and Germany, it's natural to try to get to know Germans. If a relationship develops from it, it's even better. But I wouldn't date Germans just for the language. Date for the person and learn how to stand the Germanness.
    – Kage
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 20:38

I've used Babbel for learning German, Swedish and French with pretty good success. I'm currently fluent in Swedish and speak pretty decent German and French.

  • Started using Babbel yesterday. So far I like it better than the other programs I have tried.
    – Bob
    Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 22:15

I suggest watching German films. You can watch with translated subtitles first, and then try watching with the original German subtitles. (They are usually prepared for the hearing impaired - and the accuracy varies widely.) I find that helps me to connect the spoken with the written language. And you can also often find the subtitles in a simple text format online, so you can study the text at your leisure and lookup any unknown words and then try watching the film without any subtitles.

Once your German is good enough you can watch the classic detective show Tatort online every Sunday on the ARD mediatek.


Read a lot and write a lot. Listen a lot and speak a lot. Encourage people to correct you and let them know that you appreciate it whenever they do correct you. Find any topic that interests you personally, and read about it in German; that will force you to look up words and expressions, and you will easily memorize them because you have learned them in context.

For example, that's how I learned most of my early English: by playing the Magic:The Gathering CCG, which was available in English only at that time.

Most important is to keep learning steadily. Doesn't matter much how much time you spend each day, as long as you do a little every day.


You could order the magazine "Deutsch Perfekt". I think it's indeed PERFECT for learning German as it offers a great mixture of articles about current issues about politics, culture etc. (The level of the articles varies from easy to demanding and the most important vocabulary of each text is always translated in a box). Furthermore, it offers excersises with solutions, flash cards, online audio texts etc. http://www.deutsch-perfekt.com/ (They also offer an e-paper.)

I also found some sample pages here: http://www.deutsch-perfekt.com/files/deutsch_perfekt/e_paper_Beispiel_DP_0709.pdf

I used those magazines when preparing students for their A-levels in GB and they always enjoyed the material. :)


I've recently found this nice youtube channel which has a round-table format about current events. https://www.youtube.com/user/phoenix

Try reading the newspaper, the articles are short, and have pictures, which will help with context.

Some German radio stations available online


Start learning German in your own country. Universities and their language centers are usually a good place to learn in a small class with a pace suitable for fast learning.

As soon as you can, try to find a tandem partner exchange student at your university. Find resources on the internet, find chat partners on the net, join our community on this site here.

When you're able to read some texts and involve in conversations without getting lost, it might be time to spend a year in Germany.

Unlike in the US, German university tuition is relatively cheap. Some provinces don't even charge any. It's entirely up to the province, because education politics are by-province and not a nation wide issue.

During all those phases, expose yourself to anything German as much as you can. Whenever you find something German, try to understand it. Find any kind of media in German. Read, listen, translate, speak.

Viel Glück und vor allem viel Spaß!


I suggest, you start with a beginner's book. I have used the Assimil method for learning Swedish and liked it very much. Spend some weeks to get the very basics, then buy newspapers and simple books and read them with the help of a dictionary. Also watch German films with English subtitles. Try to read, watch and listen to as much material as you can.


I'm currently using an old-fashioned grammar book. I simply read the particular rule and do the exercises. It's a very traditional book with no fancy figures, just text organized in categories. I follow it pedantically. But before I was able to avoid getting bored with this method, I had to understand how the German language works (it's quite different with respect to my mother tongue).

  • So I've used online resources as Duolingo It's basically a way to be introduced to vocabulary, and it's quite good. Moreover, it has a great purpose, but this is another story.

  • I've watched small videos to get the pronunciation, the ones on Deutsche Welle are good for this.

  • I've tried to practice with LiveMocha as well.

In any case, studying now with the old, boring grammar book is a real pleasure, because I really understand what I'm doing and I'm building my metalinguistic knowledge. Other tools are welcome, and I recommend them as a preliminary step, but I would suggest that after that one needs to study the hard way.


If cost is not important, I really recommend the Goethe Institut Fernlernen programs. They are computer-based and you have 6 months to complete each level. They focus on reading, grammar, and vocabulary, but there is listening comprehension involved and the voice recognition system allows you to practice speaking. You need to be self-motivated, and it is expensive (almost $800 per level). I have completed levels A1, A2, and B1.1, and I am thoroughly happy with my progress.


Fluenz is supposed to come out with a German version really soon now. I'm using it to learn French and like it a lot, so it might be worth a look when available.


memrise.com -- Start to read easy german articles, everytime you come to word you don't know, look it up and start creating a deck on memrise (get a dictionary that has spoken versions and upload the audio, trust me, that helps). Practice with that deck and keep reading.

Obviously, getting immersed in the language by getting to know germans and traveling to germany are the ONLY way to get good - but this is a very good way to learn on your own.


Software called Rosetta Stone is the best resource I could find. The best thing about it, is that it works without any translation; everything is in German. It immerses you into it right away, and you learn it as if it was your first language - you didn't need a translation for that, did you? Don't worry, the first CD is for absolute beginners so it will feel really natural and easy.

Books can be boring and/or hard sometimes, but Rosetta Stone, with a combination of online resources like http://german.about.com/ will make it very easy and pleasant. It includes activities for listening, speaking, writing, grammar, reading and so on - everything you need to be able to start speaking German.

The only downside is that it's really overpriced and would cost you a few hundred dollars, but that's not your only option ;) cough...thepiratebay...cough


I would recommend to read German literature written by non-native German speakers. These authors tend to use a simpler language than native speakers. However, the language may be influenced by their native language or the social milieu.


Get a basic grammar and a dictionary for beginners and start with the simplest children's stories for beginners. There are hundreds of such illustrated stories for German children beginning to read. Some are even available in English and German, as the well-known Story of Ferdinand, the little bull by Monro Leaf. But I would not begin with Ferdinand, there are simpler stories.

I would recommend the amusing stories by Tomi Ungerer, available in German and English, especially Crictor. [Link1


I would recommend the combination of Duolingo for practice and spelling and the Michel Thomas CD course for pronunciation and understanding the grammar.

  • Duolingo is free, but it works, and for most people it is very good at keeping them motivated.
  • Don't let anyone confuse you regarding the fact that Michel Thomas was not a native speaker of German. On this level it just doesn't matter so long as the teacher doesn't make any mistakes, and Michel Thomas didn't make any mistakes. (Obviously I can only speak for the recordings, but that's all that matters.) The Michel Thomas method is excellent for actually understanding grammar the way a native speaker does. For German this is particularly important.

I must confess, though, that I don't quite understand your complaint about Tell Me More. Asking you to use words that you don't know yet is generally exactly the right thing to do in order to create motivation to learn these words. Without this kind of motivation it's much harder for them to stick in your mind. Maybe Tell Me More doesn't get the balance right. Or maybe your frustration tolerance is unusually low or you always feel like you are being graded. If it's one of the latter problems, then the Michel Thomas course should be just the right thing for you because it proceeds in a completely logical way.

The combination of Duolingo and Michel Thomas provides change because they are so different, and it gives you the flexibility to always advance in the one that currently feels easier to you. Whatever you learn in one will make the other easier to follow.

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