When you begin looking for an online German course, it can quickly become overwhelming. There are so many options, but which ones are worth your time and possibly money?
And while the most important thing is that you commit to studying regularly, choosing the wrong course can lead to unnecessary frustrations and sometimes wasted money.
In this article, I’ll walk you through your options. I’ll help you figure out which courses do which things right and where their weaknesses are.
In total, there are over 20 courses included in this list.
Not all of them are good, in fact, several are terrible, and many others are just alright.
I wanted to be sure to include lots of options, especially ones I dislike, since you may find others enthusiastically recommending them.
I loosely organized this list based on how much I’d recommend each course. My favorite ones are near the top, and my least favorites are towards the end.
Let’s get started with my top recommendation.
Best for serious students who are excited to put in the effort to learn German.
One thing I’ve found since starting this website is that my favorite course for learning any language is almost never one that’s available in more than one language.
I think that’s because as companies expand their platform to teach more than one language, they end up making it too formulaic, where each language is taught exactly the same. That’s clearly far from ideal.
smarterGerman isn’t made by a big company, but rather an experienced German teacher. It’s more challenging than most courses as he really pushes you to figure things out for yourself while providing guidance along the way.
This course also takes an interesting approach as it’s based around a crime story, which you’re asked to read a chapter of at the beginning of each lesson. It can be quite intimidating when you start, but you’ll progress quickly if you stick with it.
The lessons cover everything you’d need to learn and include lots of activities and exercises along the way. The only real downside is that it’s fairly expensive, with a one-time cost of $429.
Best for improving oral communication skills.
Despite being one of the oldest and most well-known names in language learning, Pimsleur actually teaches much differently than nearly every other course.
They focus on the oral language, speaking and listening. So, while there are some written materials, those are much less prevalent compared with what you’d find elsewhere. Similarly, grammar is basically ignored.
This isn’t necessarily ideal, you’ll need to learn those things at some point. But, the benefit of Pimsleur is that your conversational skills will improve quicker compared with other options. Throughout the lessons, you’ll be prompted to speak in German and to build sentences from what you’ve learned.
In the past, Pimsleur only sold CDs and they were insanely expensive. But, they’ve since added a subscription option which lowers the price significantly, to only $15 or $20 per month, depending on the plan.
Best for beginners who prefer short lessons available on an app.
While not as well-known as some others, Lingodeer would be my favorite budget course. This app makes learning German much less intimidating. You primarily learn by completing lots of different exercises, but there are also some explanations along the way.
It’s especially good for beginner’s looking to get their first taste of studying German.
Lingodeer isn’t terribly unique – there are other courses I’ll mention later that are similar in more ways than not. The reason I prefer Lingodeer is that they’ve improved on some of the weaknesses of those other courses.
For example, audio recordings on Duolingo can sound really choppy and unnatural but this isn’t the case with Lingodeer. All the sentences are recorded by native speakers and sound great. The abundance and variety of exercises also keep things interesting while testing you in a number of different ways.
Overall, Lingodeer is a great option for beginner students to get started with. You can access a lot of the content for free and a monthly subscription only costs $8.99. Plus, you can get an extra 15% off by using the coupon code “ALR123”.
Best for somewhat casual learners who want a structured course.
There are currently two seasons of Coffee Break German available, with each season containing 40 lessons. The audio lessons are available for free from anywhere that you listen to podcasts.
Lessons typically last around 25 to 30 minutes. They’re very professionally done and well thought out. I’ve found that they do an excellent job of introducing new words, combining those to form sentences, and then putting it all together into a full dialogue.
Their style is perfect for anyone that may be a bit intimidated by learning German. It feels sort of like sitting in a coffee shop with a friend that helps explain things to you.
If you like the free lessons and want more, they also have paid extras which include a video, lesson notes, and bonus audio for each lesson. Each season costs $104 or seasons 1 and 2 can be purchased together for $183.
Best for intermediate learners who want to make their studying more interesting.
News in Slow German is a weekly podcast for intermediate level German learners. As the name implies, it consists primarily of current events being narrated at a slower pace and with appropriate vocabulary for German learners. Because of this, it’s an excellent bridge between the intermediate level and native German content.
The episodes generally cover a few different news stories, as well as important grammar and expressions. Additionally, on their site, you’ll find a large grammar catalog, including explanations, dialogs, and quizzes for various grammar points. News in Slow German is definitely one of the most fun resources around.
There are several three different plans, containing different features, as well as different subscription lengths. The monthly plans range from $16.90-$25.90 per month.
Best for learning vocabulary.
Memrise is an insanely popular platform for learning languages, among many other things. The methodology is quite similar to using flashcards, though it has been gamified to make learning more fun.
There are 7 German courses that have been added by Memrise, plus many more that are user-created. The user-created courses can vary significantly in terms of quality and content from one course to the next. Some example courses include Basic Medical German, Future Tense, Talk Dirty German, and a bunch more. Some courses are excellent, while others aren’t worth using.
Memrise really excels as a way to practice vocabulary. Some things, like learning to speak or write sentences, are outside the scope of what Memrise can do. As long as you use it as a supplementary resource and not as your only tool, Memrise is excellent.
It’s free to use but they also have a pro version that gives you some extra features and costs $8.99 per month.
Quality courses at a reasonable price.
Babbel is pretty similar to Duolingo, Lingodeer, and a number of other courses. It doesn’t have any special features that really make it stand out in comparison to others. However, their strengh lies within the structure of their courses. The lessons are really well thought out and build on each other nicely. They have good, clear grammar explanations that go rather deep. I also like how they use natural conversational language in their dialogues and the high-quality of the audio recordings. It’s not the most exciting or flashy app, but the content is solid.
Babbel costs $12.95 per month.
Best free audio course that will help you figure out how German works.
Language Transfer is a pretty impressive free resource. It started, and I believe still is only a one-man project. He has created courses not just for German learners, but for eight other languages as well. He has obviously put in a ton of time into making these courses but still has kept them available for free to everyone.
For German, there are 50 tracks, with each lasting somewhere around seven minutes. He explains the language in a straightforward manner and prompts the student with him to put together what she has learned into sentences.
It’s a beginner course that’s definitely worth checking out and is a pretty nice compliment to something like Duolingo which often lacks clear explanations.
Good combination of curriculum and working with a teacher.
Lingoda is only available in four languages, one of which is German. It’s quite a bit different than every other course on this list. WIth Lingoda, you’re not left to study the material by yourself. Instead, you use their platform and curriculum to book classes with native teachers.
You’ll have the option to take either private or group classes, with private classes costing more. It can sometimes be a little awkward to study with other students at the same time, but the teachers do a good job of getting everyone involved and avoid using English unless absolutely necessary.
Some students may prefer finding a private tutor for themselves as it’ll end up being less expensive but having the built-in structure and curriculum of Lingoda would be helpful for others.
Lessons are available at any time of the day, but individual classes are only available at certain time periods. It still works well as there are lots of different classes you can take at each level.
After the week-long trial which costs $23.99, prices range between $109 and $379 per month, depending on the number of classes and whether they’re private or group ones.
Good for getting beginners addicted to studying German.
I’m pretty sure Duolingo is the most popular language learning platform ever. With over 300 million users learning any of the 85 languages they offer, it’s a giant in the industry. Amazingly, besides adding a few unnecessary extras for paying members, they’ve kept everything completely free to use.
While I love that they’ve made it easier for anyone to learn a language, it’s not a course I’d go out of my way to recommend. It’s best for new students looking to get started with German, but even then, I think Lingodeer is better.
One major issue is that the audio recordings sound very unnatural – as if each word was recorded separately. So when you listen to a recording of a full sentence, it lacks the natural flow of the language. You’ll also learn a lot of sentences that don’t make much sense that you’d never use in real life.
Still, it’s a great option for anyone struggling with motivation, as they excel at getting people to study a little bit each day.
Good for the wide variety of instructors and topics available.
Udemy is a platform where anyone can upload a course about pretty much anything. So, not too surprisingly, there are a large number of courses for those interested in learning German – over 125 at the moment.
The prices can look intimidatingly high at first, but they have constant sales. If you find a course you like, you’ll never need to pay more than $10 or $15 for it. Because of the relative ease to add a course, not all of them are great. But, reading through the reviews helps, and they also offer a 30-day money back guarantee on any purchases.
Most courses are targeted toward beginners, but there are some other unique ones, such as learning German while discovering Berlin, German for job interviews, short stories, and a bunch more.
Good free courses with a lot of content but a dated feel.
The Foreign Service Institute has made their courses, which are available for learning any of over 40 languages, available completely free. The courses are very old but they’re extensive and will get the job done.
For German, there are five courses to choose from. These include audio files and ebooks ranging from 119-659 pages. Everything is available for download or can be read online.
Live Lingua hosts many of these materials on their site and they also sell Skype lessons with native teachers. Their lessons end up being fairly expensive, so if you wanted to use these materials and work with a tutor, you’d most likely be better off finding someone from italki.
Good for a free online option with lots of exercises.
This free audio course is a good option for beginners. In total, there are ten chapters, with each chapter containing between 8 and 17 lessons. Throughout the bite-sized lessons, you’ll learn new vocabulary and grammar. There’s also a transcript so you can follow along as you listen.
I love that they have lots of practice exercises. You’ll have access to lots of multiple choice questions focused on specific grammar points. Although it’s not the most exciting course around, they provide a lot of good material, completely for free.
Good for an overall solid mixture of all important language skills.
Rocket German is an often recommended course but one that I think is only alright. On the surface, it’s a very sleek looking product with a nice interface, clear explanations, and lots of opportunities to practice various skills.
However, I’m not a fan of their teaching style. Their lessons rely too heavily on rote memorization. You’ll basically practice the same things over and over again until they stick in your head. Sure, it’ll work, but I think most people would get frustrated and bored with it.
I also don’t like the overall feel of the audio lessons. They’re overly scripted to the point that they’re not natural sounding, boring, and filled with cheesy jokes.
Still, it’s not an awful course by any means. Grammar is explained pretty well, the conversational dialogues are useful, and there’s a nice mixture of skills that are practiced.
Rocket German costs $99.95 for level 1, $249.90 for levels 1 & 2, and $259.90 for all three levels.
Would be great if smarterGerman weren’t an option.
German Uncovered is a beginner course created by Olly Richards of I Will Teach You A Language. Similar to smarterGerman, this course takes a story first approach to learn the language. Even before you’ve learned vocabulary, you’ll be asked to read a chapter from a story.
In addition to reading and listening to a chapter of the story, each lesson contains videos to help you recognize cognates, learn vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. There’s even a lesson on speaking where you’re advised to work with a tutor or language exchange partner. Additionally, there are worksheets to help you practice what you’ve learned.
I really like this approach to language learning, but I think smarterGerman does it better. If you like this story-based approach and would like some more focused grammar practice, it may be worth checking out his Grammar Hero course. German uncovered costs $297 and Grammar Hero costs $197.
Good for getting lots of speaking and listening practice.
Glossika is a course that can help you improve your German by listening to and speaking lots of sentences. It’s somewhat basic and definitely overpriced. However, by repeating lots of sentences, your speaking rhythm and innate understanding of vocabulary and sentence structures will improve.
It would be a bit too tough for beginner students, but those around an upper elementary level could benefit from using it. They also have materials in a ton of different languages but the sentences, unfortunately, are the same for each language. This completely ignores the cultural context and uniqueness of every language.
Glossika becomes much more useful for those who are studying multiple languages at the same time. However, most people will find that it isn’t worth the $30 per month price.
Good for learning German pronunciation.
The Mimic Method is different than every other course on this list. It doesn’t aim to teach you German at all – no vocabulary, no grammar. Instead, the focus is 100% on learning German pronunciation.
It’s a pretty heavy and technical course which includes lots of diagrams, explanations, and even homework. There are also some audio drills there to help you nail down the pronunciation. While you learn how to produce every sound, it felt like there should also be more emphasis on sentence cadence.
It’s a fairly thorough course, but given the high cost of $197 and limited scope, I would hope for a bit more.
Good for the language exchange aspect.
Busuu is a hugely popular language learning app with over 10 million downloads in the Google Play store alone. I actually think it’s worth downloading and using, but paying for a subscription isn’t really recommended seeing as there are better resources out there at a similar price point.
They have a language exchange component to their app that is very well-done. And because they have so many active users, you can get feedback on your writing and speaking very quickly. They even give you prompts in the form of pictures and videos to help you figure out what to write or talk about.
But, their paid courses are mediocre. I’d consider them to be like a worse version of Lingodeer or Babbel. One of the main reasons for this is because grammar was explained so poorly. Important concepts are often just lightly touched upon leaving you searching elsewhere for a better explanation. Another annoyance was that even at the upper-intermediate level, the dialogues were read at a painfully slow pace. Despite this, the actual interface of the app itself is both clean and intuitive.
Busuu costs $9.99/month for Premium and $13.99/month for Premium Plus
Okay for improving listening comprehension through dialogues.
GermanPod101 is a platform that has a bunch of podcast style German lessons, along with some video lessons. The vast majority of the content is targeted towards beginner students but there are some (not very good) lessons available for higher levels as well.
The biggest issue with GermanPod101 is how incredibly boring the lessons are. The hosts have no rapport and any type of joke feels very forced. This is especially troublesome since much of the lessons include space for casual banter, and not pure language instruction.
In a typical lesson, there will be two hosts that discuss a dialogue. You’ll listen to it, then they’ll go through it adding in translations, explaining grammar, and cultural information.
It’s not a standalone course where lessons clearly guide the student to learn everything they need to learn. Instead, lessons are sort of random and you’ll need to jump around a bit.
A subscription costs somewhere between $8 and $47 per month, depending on the plan you choose and gets cheaper if you subscribe longer.
Okay for 1-1 online instruction.
Live Lingua takes free German courses from places like the FSI, DLI, and Peace Corps and arranges private 1-1 lessons over Skype. It describes itself as a “boutique” language school probably due in part to the fact that their teachers are higher quality than most.
The lessons are actually pretty affordable, starting at $29 per hour and becoming cheaper if you purchase more. However, you could just as easily use these free materials, and find a tutor on italki for about half the price. I tend to prefer the cheaper and more flexible options, but the fact that the teachers have more experience with the materials could make it worthwhile for some.
If you’re willing to purchase a large amount of hours to bring the cost down and/or take part in their specialized courses that you probably couldn’t find elsewhere then Live Lingua may be for you.
Okay if you’re studying multiple languages at once or get it free from a library.
Mango Languages is pretty good for beginners, but probably not worth paying for. There’s a good chance you may be able to use it for free as many public libraries carry a copy.
The platform has a pretty sleek layout. I especially like the way they color code words in a sentence, so the English and German words that mean the same thing will be written in the same color. They also do other unique things like giving you the literal translation and a written description of what a word sounds like.
They have over 70 languages available, including some pretty rare ones, and access to all courses is included in a subscription. Overall, it’s not a bad course but probably isn’t worth paying $19.99 per month.
Bad unless you strongly believe immersion is the most important factor.
Nearly everyone reading this review will have heard of Rosetta Stone. Some people may love the way that they only use your target language and never rely on translating and using English. However, I’m not one of them.
The idea is that kids learn languages from pure immersion, and so should you. I disagree with this concept. Adults learn differently than kids and it doesn’t make sense ignore the advantages that adults have when it comes to language learning.
Rosetta Stone involves lots of matching pictures with words in a manner that would become very repetitive and boring after using it for a long period of time. It’s not necessarily a bad course, and I like that they’re at least original, but I’m not a fan of their methodology.
The subscription starts at $79 for three months.
Mondly is basically a worse version of Babbel, Lingodeer, Duolingo, and Busuu.
The content isn’t very well-structured, leaving some things taught in a way that’s far from ideal. The exercises are nothing special, in fact, they’re not as varied or useful as the ones offered by others. The platform is functional but less appealing than most.
Many things are explained poorly, or not at all, and other times there are mistakes. The content is the same in all languages and all languages are taught in the same manner.
In short, it’s not a good product and definitely not worth the $9.99 monthly cost.
Transparent Language offers beginner-level courses in over 100 different languages.
While this is impressive, their courses are not. The only circumstance in which I’d consider using one of their courses if I were studying a super rare language, but even then, I’d try to find other alternatives first.
The problem with the courses is that you won’t really learn to use the language. There are very few explanations and you won’t actually learn to put sentences together. Despite having lots of exercises, they basically amount to repetition and memorization of words and phrases in isolation. A method which isn’t particularly enjoyable or effective.
The courses are also more expensive than competitors – costing $24.95 per month.
Remarkably, the Michel Thomas Method is one of the biggest names in the language learning industry despite their courses being among my least favorite.
The biggest issue I have with these courses is Michel Thomas himself. Perhaps, it’s just because he comes from a different era but his teaching style really rubbed me the wrong way. He never praises his students, often interrupts them, and is very critical.
The content isn’t the most exciting but it could be reasonable with a different teacher. For example, Coffee Break German is similar in some ways but is a much more pleasurable (and free) way to learn German.
The cost of Michel Thomas’ courses varies from $11.99 to $100.
It’s aimed at teaching beginners, yet it offers absolutely nothing in the way of explanations, reading or writing practice, or grammar instruction. The courses, available in ten languages, are supposed to be able to take beginning students to the intermediate level, but only with speaking and understanding skills. It does this poorly.
The teaching method involves parroting German phrases and progresses at extreme speed. The course progression is messy and the lessons aren’t well thought out.
Not only does Language101 have almost nothing positive going for it, it’s outlandishly expensive. Prices for access to one language range from $147 to $342.
As you can see, there are a lot of online German courses worth considering. While I have my own preferences, not everyone will agree with me. Each person has their own learning style, strengths and weaknesses, along with their own time and money constraints.
I highly recommend using a course to give you structure and guide you with your learning. However, there are a lot more resources available to help you learn German than just these courses. On this page, you’ll find over 130 resources to help you study.
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