Innovative Languages, the makers of GermanPod101, offer courses in 33 other languages, some of which I’ve already tried. So, before trying the course, I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect.
And while those other courses had many of the same issues, they were able to, for the most part, make up for it by providing interesting and quality lessons.
Unfortunately, the German lessons are much worse than those of the other languages I had tried. They’re some of the most lifeless lessons I’ve listened to.
If you’re looking for a standalone course, I’d strongly suggest any number of alternatives which I outline in this post. But, even if you’re just looking for some supplementary listening practice, there are better free alternatives.
If you search for “GermanPod101 Review” in any search engine, you’ll find lots of people highly recommending you to sign up for their service.
The problem is that those reviews aren’t impartial and I’m fairly certain many of them never even tried the product. Most of those reviews are nothing more than disguised ads. If you signup and pay for GermanPod101 via their links, they’ll earn a percentage of the sale. So, they’re incentivized to try to convince you to subscribe.
This site also makes money if you subscribe to GermanPod101 after clicking on a link but I wouldn’t recommend you to do so.
Instead, I’d rather give you my honest opinion and show you what the lessons are like so you can make an informed decision.
For this review, I took advantage of the free trial which gives you access to their Premium plan for 7-days. I really like that they don’t require you to give them any payment information, but they’ll spam the hell out of your email inbox afterward.
Let’s get into what it’s like to use GermanPod101.
GermanPod101 isn’t a linear course where you’ll move from one lesson to the next in a logical manner.
The lessons have been added over many years, and it seems like there was never a real structured plan about what to include or how the lessons should progress.
The lessons are organized into what they call Pathways. One lesson may fall into several different pathways.
When you first get started, it may not be immediately clear just how many lessons are available, or what you should do. They do put the first pathway in your dashboard, providing what looks like a clear path.
Each pathway consists of a bunch of different lessons, related to a certain topic, that falls within that difficulty level. There are four levels – absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
The total number of lessons are heavily skewed towards the absolute beginner and beginner levels. The intermediate and advanced levels have much less total content.
This is pretty disappointing to me and seems like the opposite of what an ideal course would look like.
If you click on, Add a Pathway, you’ll find all the pathways for the level you’re selecting.
There are lots of different lessons and formats found on GermanPod101. Often, even within a single pathway, the lessons don’t necessarily follow a clear format.
There are both audio and video lessons, and while the audio lessons are mostly similar to other audio lessons, and video lessons are mostly similar to other video lessons, there’s still a bit of variation amongst them.
I found the video lessons to be really disappointing. The vast majority are under five minutes long and I didn’t see a single video over ten minutes. Many of these videos last only one or two minutes.
I can see some people liking these quick bite-sized lessons. But I personally would prefer longer content that makes it easier to get into a nice study rhythm, rather than changing lessons every few minutes. This reminded me of FluentU, another platform that I found pretty disappointing to use.
Sometimes the videos explain interesting things that a learner might confuse and can be pretty helpful.
But many of them are basically just reading out some vocabulary words or phrases, with some English explanations added in.
The audio lessons are very bland. Many of these lessons last between 10 and 20 minutes, but quite a few are still very short.
Most of the audio lessons have two hosts, and while there are several different hosts throughout the levels, the most common two are Chuck and Judith.
Many people aren’t fans of their lessons, as shown in this comment on Reddit.
Looking past the pronunciation issues, a perhaps bigger problem is just how boring these lessons are. This really caught me by surprise.
Previously, I tried some of the other courses offered by Innovative languages, like the Spanish and French versions, and they were far more lively. The hosts of those courses had good chemistry, made jokes, and generally made things interesting.
The hosts of GermanPod101, not just Chuck and Judith, do an awful job of making the lessons fun. They’re impressively dull. It reminds me of Rocket German where the audio lessons felt too scripted, unnatural, and just painful to listen to.
Often, audio lessons follow a similar format:
- Annoying music
- Lesson introduction
- Replaying the dialogue slowly
- Listening to the dialogue with line by line translations
- Cultural information
- Final listen of dialogue
Although unexciting, the information is useful. But, not all lessons follow this format and many are actually worse. Other lessons are shorter and just basically say and translate some German phrases.
Another common complaint is that there’s so much English used throughout. With other languages, this isn’t ideal but can at least lead to interesting and funny moments. With GermanPod101, it feels more like your time is being wasted and you’re going to be put to sleep.
The lessons do use less English and more German as you move up levels, but the higher levels still leave a lot to be desired.
As you make your way to the advanced level, many of the lessons follow an audio blog format. They’re often under five minutes long, and basically, sound like a Wikipedia article being read in German.
Some of the topics could be pretty interesting if presented in the right way, but they’re lifeless here.
When you also consider how few lessons are available at the advanced level, using GermanPod101 would make even less sense if your German is already fairly good.
Lessons at all levels also contain the Lesson Notes.
More often than not, these consist of two parts – grammar and cultural insights.
The grammar can be pretty well explained, but given the disconnected nature of the lessons, if you only learned grammar from GermanPod101, it’d be very easy to end up with some gaps in your knowledge. It’d be much more effective to find a good grammar book to help you, or if you want to put extra attention on some challenging grammar points and don’t mind the high price – Grammar Hero could be a good option.
You could probably learn some things from the cultural insights section but I’m sure you could find the same information presented in a much more interesting manner elsewhere.
GermanPod101 lists a ton of extra things that are included in their Premium plan. Doing so likely makes prospective students see the huge list and convinces them to upgrade their plan. However, most of these extras aren’t particularly useful.
Instead of wasting time looking at every little thing their Premium plan includes, I’ll just look at a few of the more prominent ones.
This is fairly useful as you can read and listen to individual lines from the dialogue, as well as see translations. You’ll sometimes be given the option to choose formal vs informal versions of the dialogue, which is a nice touch.
You’ll also see that there’s an option to record yourself. This is a much-needed option but hardly sufficient or impressive. Actually speaking German is obviously very important if you want to be able to have conversations in German, but GermanPod101 isn’t the best course to get you speaking.
For those looking for more speaking practice, I’d recommend Speechling. Their free version makes it very easy to record yourself speaking lots of sentences in German and compare your recordings to a native speaker. Plus, there are a bunch of other free features. Additionally, if you subscribe to their plan, you can submit an unlimited number of recordings to be corrected by a German teacher.
Pimsleur is another course that has a very heavy focus on the audio language. It’s the course that I think would get you to a conversational level the fastest.
You’ll also find a list of important vocabulary that was used in the lesson. I like that you’re able to listen to it in both full and half-speed, and also that example sentences are given.
Again, you can practice recording the words and comparing them to the native speaker. You can also add the words to a flashcard deck or word bank.
The slideshow isn’t very useful. It just takes the words and sentences from the vocabulary section and reads them here.
The lesson quiz is the section that most people would expect to be very useful. But, this too is disappointing.
Instead of giving you some comprehension questions to test how well you’ve understood the material, or get you to practice the grammar points, they take the lazy way out.
The quiz is only useful for practicing vocabulary and are simple translation questions. First, there are true-false questions and the other option is to write the translation, in either German or English.
From the vocabulary section, you’re able to quickly add words to either your flashcard decks or to your word bank.
Like many online resources, GermanPod101 uses a spaced repetition system (SRS). These are like regular flashcards, but the interval with which you’ll review are spaced out, making it more effective for retaining vocabulary. While useful, many other courses also offer this. Two popular options are Memrise and Anki.
I really like how images, example sentences, and audio recordings are automatically included in the flashcards.
There are also a huge number of word lists that you can find related to a wide number of subjects. So, if you’re wanting to figure out some German words related to the Super Bowl, you’ll find them here. It’s nice that it’s so easy to add them to your flashcard list.
Similar to how you can add items to your flashcards, you can also add them to your word bank. The word bank is kind of nice because it makes it possible to print out the words or export them to another platform like Memrise or Anki.
The grammar bank stands out as another reason I found GermanPod101 so disappointing when compared with my experience using SpanishPod101.
I found the grammar bank for the Spanish course to be awesome. For Spanish, this section contained 192 grammar points that gave good clear descriptions and examples, all sortable by difficulty level and searchable.
But, for German, this list only contains 31 items. Everyone knows German grammar can be a beast and it looks like GermanPod101 didn’t even bother trying.
One thing I find really annoying about GermanPod101, and all the other language courses offered by Innovative Languages, is the way the list their prices.
It’s not until you go to check out that you realize that the prices they advertise everywhere require you to signup for their two-year plan. That’s pretty shady in my opinion.
The cost of signing up for one month of each plan are as follows:
Basic – $8/mo
Premium – $25/mo
Premium Plus – $47/mo
In addition to the monthly and two-year plans, they also have 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month plans. The longer the commitment, the lower the price per month becomes.
They do a great job of making it appear like there are so many useful features in each plan that you’d be stupid to not sign up. Unfortunately, much of what’s included is pretty pointless and can be found elsewhere for free.
Here’s a quick look at some of the main items in each plan.
Basic – The lessons and lesson notes.
Premium – Same as basic plus the line-by-line dialogue, quiz, flashcards, word bank, and voice recording.
Premium Plus – Same as Premium but also includes 1-1 instruction. They include shockingly little information with regards to what exactly this includes. I’d be very surprised if this option were good value. Anyone looking for 1-1 instruction would almost certainly be better off finding a German tutor on italki or taking classes from Lingoda.
I expected to like GermanPod101, but not love it, much like how I felt about the other courses created by Innovative Languages. While the other languages have their weaknesses, the strength of their content makes up for them.
Unfortunately, I came away from my experience with GermanPod101 feeling extremely disappointing. Listening to the audio lessons was painfully boring. There was no chemistry between the hosts and the lessons left me wanting to take a nap.
GermanPod101 is definitely not suitable as a standalone course, but even as a supplementary resource, it falls short. There are lots of good courses available for German learners and plenty of other resources I’d recommend instead.
But, if you still are interested, they offer a 7-day free trial, and you don’t need to submit any kind of payment information to try. Just be ready for the barrage of email spam.