Since you read an English blog about Berlin, chances are want to speak German better. So here comes an overview of ways to improve and learn German. Free ones, of course. 🙂
From all online language learning platforms, I find Duolingo is the best. They’ve “gamified” language learning! It’s like playing a computer game: You start at level 1, “playing” various sublevels, where you have a limited number of hearts (lives).
And playing means:
- You translate a word or phrase from German to your native language.
- You translate a word or phrase from your native language to German.
- You listen to an audio and need to type the word or phrase.
- You see a phrase with a gap and have to select the correct word.
- You see a word and 3 pictures and need to choose the correct picture for the word.
All tasks remain very practical and based on examples, you never get bothered with a formal grammar explanation or something similar.
Additionally, you can connect with friends, see their languages and level completions – and keep up your own daily streak (i.e. subsequent days of learning without a break).
This all makes Duolingo to a great learning experience. Currently, there are the following German courses:
- German for English speakers
- German for Spanish speakers
- German for Russian speakers
- German for Portugues speakers
- German for French speakers
Soon, they want to add these ones, you can already subscribe with your email address to get notified as soon as they open.
Book2 has a similar, informal approach to language learning. What you get is simply a list of phrases in your native language and their translations to German. It starts really low-level, beginning with “I and you” = “Ich und du”, and gets more and more complex over 100 lessons up to phrases with relative clauses.
And you get this list in 2 forms:
- written: on their website or as printed book (see below)
- and spoken, as freely downloadable MP3s.
Nice about Book2 is also their great coverage: The offer 50 languages, so even if your native language has a small number of speakers, as maybe Slovenian or Estonian, you can still find material for it.
As mentioned, for some of the 50 languages, they offer printed books:
- English – German*
- Spanish – German*
- French – German*
- Portuguese – German*
- Danish – German*
- Italian – German*
- Finnish – German*
- Dutch – German*
- Swedish – German*
- Turkish – German*
Deutsch.info is a EU-funded multilingual portal for learning German. You need to register but then you find courses starting level A1 and up above, explanations about important grammar rules, a media library and practical background information.
Pretty impressive is the number of source languages they offer: The courses and explanations are available in Czech, English, Esperanto, Arabic, French, Croatian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian and Turkish!
4 + 5. Deutsch-lernen.com & Wikibooks
I did’t test them myself but they look reasonably good.
6. Podcast Slow German
This podcast is directly made for German learners: Annik Rubens talks about interesting things to know when living in Germany. So you’re not only learning German but also about the country.
There is even an Absolute Beginner level with episodes in English where new German words are introduced.
The regular episodes are in German, slowly spoken, plus you get the whole text also written down so you can read what you hear.
For Advanced Speakers
7. Sitcom Deutsch lernen Extra
If you already know some basic German, then Deutsch lernen Extra could be for you. It is a sitcom series on Youtube, made for German learners. There are 10 episodes, all of them subtitled in German, so you can listen and read.
8. News to read and listen
And now we get to some sources that are actually not designed for German learners but actually can be useful:
- Nachrichten leicht is a news portal with news in simple German (comparably to the Simple English Wikipedia). It is actually targetted for mentally disabled people but can be also useful for you, as long as your German is not that good. You get current news, as text and audio, slowly spoken.
- If you are more advanced you can watch the actual TV news, subtitled. The main German news program Tagesthemen offers this. Once the video started, you can click on “UT” in the lower right corner to enable subtitles.
The nice thing about TV news is that they deal usually about something that you already are familiar with (since you probably follow the news in your language), and the clips are short. So even if you get lost at some point: Don’t worry, the next news clip on something different will follow.
- And when you become really good at German, try Deutschlandradio: It’s the nation-wide radio program, as well offering their whole content as audio and text.
9. TV show Tatort – subtitled
Maybe you’ve already noticed that on Sundays after 8.15 pm, Germans either stay at home or go to a bar – because it’s Tatort time. Tatort (“crime scene”) is the oldest ongoing crime show in German TV, and you can watch it online with subtitles as well (again, click on UT down to the right).
BTW: If you own a TV, many programs – like Tatort – are live subtitled (for hearing impaired). You can find these subtitles on the teletext page 150 or 777.
10. Lyrics Training
This site I just discovered recently – and it’s really interesting: On Lyrics Training, you select a music genre and a level – and then you can watch some music videos, read the lyrics as subtitles and need to type in the missing words.
If you need some specialization on economic language, check Wirtschaftsdeutsch.de: They give you learning material on labour, finance, commerce, consumers, institutions, traffic, marketing, tourism, gastronomy, politics, and startup founding – all for free.
Now, to remember all that new German, you might check out Memrise. It’s a user-generated learning platform, where people can create and share flashcards and multiple choice questions, incl. recorded audio of the solutions.
Its big bonus is the huge amount of registered users, so you can already find flashcards of any German niche.
Meet Germans to practice
Amikumu is a social network where you state your location, the languages you speak and the languages you learn. Then, you can find language tandem partners in your area.
In Berlin, there are plenty of language meetups. They are for people who want to practice a language, so the Spanish meetup is for practising Spanish. This maybe does not sound useful to you, since you want to learn German, not Spanish, right?
But if you are a native Spanish speaker, you can probably find some native German speakers there who are learning Spanish – i.e.: your potential tandem partners!
- English Conversation Club
- Spanish meetup Intercambiando
- French meetup Francophones de Berlin
- Czech & Slovak meetup Česko-Slovenský Stammtisch Berlin
- Danish / Swedish / Norwegian / Finnish: Scandinavian meeting point
- Russian meetup: Russians and their friends
- Esperanto: has not a meetup yet but a Facebook group Esperanto Berlin
Missed something good?
Then leave a comment 😉
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