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?
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 29 of your options. I’ll help you figure out which courses do which things right and where their weaknesses are.
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 into tiers based on how much I’d recommend each course.
Best for serious students Willing to Put in the Effort
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.
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, of which you’ll read a chapter 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.
There’s also a free German Articles Mini-Course that’s worth checking out.
Best for improving oral communication skills
Price: $15 – $20/month
Pimsleur is one of the oldest and most well-known names in language learning, and it’s got a unique approach.
Courses place a heavy emphasis on speaking and listening skills, meaning that written material is scarce and receives less attention. It also means that grammar is basically ignored.
This isn’t necessarily ideal, seeing as you’ll need to learn those things at some point. The benefit here 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. Pimsleur review.
Best for casual learners who want a structured course
Price: $104 for one season, $183 for both, Free audio lessons
There are currently two seasons of Coffee Break German available, each 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 them 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 helping 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. Coffee Break German Review.
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, but its strength lies in the intelligent design of its courses. The lessons are really well thought out and build on each other nicely.
They also have quality, clear grammar explanations that are in-depth. I like that 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 review.
Best for intermediate learners who want interesting Content
Price: $16.90 – $25.90/month
News in Slow German is a weekly podcast for intermediate-level German learners. As the name implies, it primarily consists of current events being narrated at a slower pace with appropriate vocabulary for learners. This makes it 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, you’ll find a large grammar catalog on their site including explanations, dialogues, and quizzes for various grammar points. News in Slow German is definitely one of the most fun resources around. News in Slow German Review.
Best for beginners who prefer short lessons available on an app
It may not be as well-known as some others, but Lingodeer is a good 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.
Lingodeer isn’t terribly unique – there are other courses that are similar in more ways than not. The reason I like 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. This isn’t the case with Lingodeer. All 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 looking to get started. Lingodeer review.
Great for learning vocabulary
Price: Mostly free; $8.99/month for Pro version
Memrise is an insanely popular platform for learning languages and many other topics. The methodology is quite similar to using flashcards, though it has been gamified to make learning more fun.
There are seven 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, 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. Memrise review.
free audio course for Figuring OUt how German works
Language Transfer is a pretty impressive free resource. The founder of the platform 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.
In the German course there are 50 tracks, 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. Language Transfer Review.
Solid Course + Language Exchange
Price: $9.99/month for Premium; $13.99/month for Premium Plus
Busuu is a hugely popular language-learning app with over 10 million downloads in the Google Play store. It’s fairly similar to Babbel but isn’t as good for grammar. However, they make up for it with their language exchange component where you can get feedback on your writing and speaking from other users. They even give you prompts in the form of pictures and videos to help you figure out what to write or talk about. This is free to use.
The interface and lesson variety is nice, but the content doesn’t feel as well planned. Important grammar concepts are often just lightly touched upon, leaving you searching elsewhere for a better explanation. Another annoyance is that dialogues are read at a painfully slow pace. Busuu review.
combination of curriculum and working with a teacher
Price: $109 – $379 per month, depending on number and type of classes
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 in that it doesn’t leave you 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 from a place like italki as it’ll end up being less expensive, but others may find the built-in structure and curriculum of Lingoda to be helpful. Lingoda review.
Learn Vocabulary in Context
Price: $6.67 – $19.99/month depending on subscription length
Lingvist is one of many apps that offers practice primarily through flashcards and a spaced repetition system. What makes Lingvist a bit different from the other options is that it teaches words in the context of sentences as opposed to purely word-to-word translations.
It also includes some extra activities to help users practice grammar, writing, speaking, and reading, but these aren’t the resource’s main focus.
The best things about Lingvist are that the platform is genuinely enjoyable to use and that it’s helpful to learn words as they appear in real sentences, but it certainly won’t bring you to German fluency on its own. Lingvist review.
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 and more than 85 languages on offer, it’s a giant in the industry. Amazingly, aside from 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 Babbel and Lingodeer are better.
Major issues are robotic-sounding audio and example sentences that you’d never actually use in the real world.
Still, it’s a great option for anyone struggling with motivation, as they excel at getting people to study a little bit each day. Duolingo Review.
University Courses Online for Free
Price: Free; certificate available for purchase upon completion
Both of these platforms offer free access to online university courses. For learners that prefer a more structured and academic approach to learning, they can make a great option.
Beginning and intermediate learners will be able to find courses at the appropriate level for learning German, and advanced learners should be able to find courses on other subjects taught in German.
free online option with lots of exercises
This free audio course is a good option for beginners. In total, there are ten chapters, each 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 loads of multiple-choice questions focused on specific grammar points. It’s not the most exciting course around, but it’s full of good material and completely free.
Would be great if smarterGerman weren’t an option
Price: $297 for German Uncovered; $197 for Grammar Hero
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 in teaching 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 review and Grammar Hero review.
solid mixture of important language skills
Price: $99.95 for one level, $249.90 for two, $259.90 for all three
Rocket German is an often recommended course that I think is only alright. On the surface, it’s a very sleek product with a nice interface, clear explanations, and lots of opportunities to practice various skills.
Digging deeper, I’m not a fan of their teaching style. The lessons rely too heavily on rote memorization, and I don’t like the overall feel of the audio lessons. They’re overly scripted to the point that they’re unnatural, 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 are opportunities for practicing a nice mixture of skills. Rocket German review.
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. Repeating sentences will improve your speaking rhythm, vocabulary and understanding of sentence structures, but the course is somewhat basic and definitely overpriced.
It would be a bit too tough for beginner students, but those around an upper elementary level could benefit from using it. While material is available in a number of different languages, the sentences are unfortunately the same for each language. This completely ignores the cultural context and uniqueness of every language.
Glossika could be a useful tool for those who are studying multiple languages at the same time. Most people, however, will find that it isn’t worth the price. Glossika review.
Good for the wide variety of instructors and topics
Price: Varies by course
Udemy is a platform where anyone can upload a course about pretty much anything. This includes several that teach German – over 125 at the moment.
The prices can look intimidatingly high at first, but there are frequent sales. If you find a course you like, you’ll never need to pay more than $10 or $15 for it. Because it’s relatively easy to add a course, not all of them are great. Reading through the reviews helps, and they 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.
Solid Content but Very Dated
The Foreign Service Institute has made its courses, which are available in 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.
improve listening comprehension through dialogues
Price: $8 – $47/month
GermanPod101 is a platform with a bunch of podcast-style German lessons and some video lessons. The vast majority of the content is targeted towards beginner students, but some (not very good) lessons are 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 instead of pure language instruction.
In a typical lesson, there will be two hosts that discuss a dialogue. After an initial listen to the conversation, they’ll go through it adding in translations, grammar explanations, 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. GermanPod101 review.
Save 25% on a subscription to GermanPod101 with the coupon code ‘ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES’.
Okay for 1-1 online instruction
In addition to hosting free German-learning materials from places like the FSI, DLI, and the Peace Corps, Live Lingua arranges private language lessons with a tutor over Skype.
What makes this site different from other online tutor platforms is that learners are assigned a personal class coordinator and teachers are supposed to tailor curriculums specifically for their needs.
The lessons are actually pretty affordable, starting at $29 per hour and becoming cheaper if you purchase more. However, you could find a tutor on italki for about half the price.
If you’re willing to purchase a large number of hours to bring the cost down and/or are interested in a customized curriculum, then Live Lingua may be for you. Live Lingua review.
A reasonable Option
Price: $7.99/mo for one language, $19.99/mo for all languages
Mango Languages is pretty good for beginners but I prefer other options. However, 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. Mango Languages review.
Immersive, But Boring Lessons
Price: $36/three months
Nearly everyone reading this article 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. 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 to 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. Rosetta Stone review.
Worse Than Similar Platforms
Mondly is basically a worse version of Babbel, Lingodeer, Duolingo, and Busuu.
The content isn’t very well-structured, the exercises are nothing special, and the platform is less appealing than most, though functional.
Many things are explained poorly, or not at all, and other times the information is incorrect. The content is the same in all languages and all languages are taught in the same manner.
In short, it’s not worth paying for, especially when there are so many better options available. Mondly review.
Transparent Language offers beginner-level courses in over 100 different languages.
While the number of languages they offer is impressive, their courses are not. The only circumstance in which I’d consider using one of their courses is if I were studying a super rare language. 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 that isn’t particularly enjoyable or effective. On top of it all, the courses are also more expensive than the competition. Transparent Language Review.
Not Worth Paying For
Price: Varies by course, from $11.99 to $100
Despite their courses being among my least favorite, the Michel Thomas Method is one of the biggest names in the language learning industry.
The biggest issue I have with these courses is Michel Thomas himself. Perhaps it’s simply 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 super exciting, but it could be reasonable with a different teacher. For example, Coffee Break German and Language Transfer are similar in some ways but manage to be a much more pleasant (and free) way to learn German. Michel Thomas review.
The worst We’ve Tried
Price: $147 – $342
It’s aimed at teaching beginners, yet it offers absolutely nothing in the way of explanations, reading or writing practice, and 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. Language101 review.
As you can see, there are a lot of online German courses worth considering. I have my preferences, but I also acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me. Each person has their own learning style, along with unique time and money constraints.
I highly recommend using a course to give you structure and guide you with your learning, but supplementing any resource with additional materials is almost always a good idea.
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