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44 Free Online German Language Lessons and Resources
One of the hardest aspects of learning German is understanding what is being said to you. Native speakers seem to talk a mile a minute. It may all sound like gibberish at first and can be really hard to understand.
The best way to improve is to practise. That’s why it can be helpful to take German lessons and use German resources, so you can listen to German as often as possible.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a massive list of German resources and courses, which I’ve organised into five categories:
- German Lessons: With these lessons you can listen to German in a structured environment. More advanced learners can also use lessons to improve their listening skills.
- German Videos: Videos will help you understand body language. The visual cues are handy when you don’t completely understand what is being said.
- German Podcasts and Radio: Listening to podcasts and radio will expand your knowledge of a range of subjects, from national current affairs to the subtleties of German humour.
- German Music: Music will give you an insight into the creative side of the German language.
- German News: News anchors tend to speak in Standard German. Listening to the news will give you exposure to formal German, and teach you about current events affecting people in German-speaking countries. This will help enhance your conversational skills.
No matter what your level of German, you’ll find a German resource that works for you!
Free German Lessons Online
There are plenty of German video lessons to choose from. Some are very structured and others take a more humorous approach. All are excellent resources for improving your listening skills. Here are my favourites:
- Easy German: This is a series of interviews with native German speakers, conducted out and about on the streets. The channel has videos in other languages that follow the same format.
- German in Three Minutes: This is an eight part series that teaches you the basics of manners in German.
- Deutsch für Euch: Katja is from southern Germany and wants to put the joy back into learning a language. These are great lessons for beginners, with a backlog spanning two years. Katja covers topics from greetings and sentence structure, to swearing in German! Each episode is presented in English.
- Get Germanized: “Meister Lehnsherr” uploads punchy, humorous and beautifully crafted videos every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. There is a range of topics to choose from. In addition to German for Beginners, there are videos of German poems, fairy tales and slang. Meister Lehnsherr also creates videos of personal rants, such as denouncing trolls and footage from his travels abroad. Videos are either a mix of German and English, or filmed entirely in German.
- smarterGerman: Tutor Michael Schmitz believes you have the ability to learn basic German in thirty days. His channel features a free online video course for tackling the A1 level of German.
- FluentU German: Here you’ll find German videos from all over the web, with English subtitles, organised into the one place.
German Videos, Movies and TV
German YouTube Channels and Web Series
These German YouTube channels provide an excellent cultural insight into life in Germany.
- GERMAN-NESS: Known as an “alternative city guide”, this web show strives to discover the beauty and uniqueness of each German city. The series started in 2015, with a new video uploaded every week.
- Jojo sucht das Glück: “Jojo Seeks Happiness” is as ongoing web series created specifically for language learners by the German television company Deutsche Welle. The show follows a Brazilian girl named Jojo as she settles into life in Cologne. There are three series currently available on YouTube.
- Bravo 5: This is an 11 episode series from 2012. The show follows the plight of three German Special Forces soldiers who are summoned to face an inquiry into a failed mission in Afghanistan, which left seventeen civilians dead.
- Life Swap: This is an animated web series that follows the lives of two twenty-seven year old men – one German and one New Zealander, who swap lives for a year. This series is a mix of German and English, best suited for beginners.
Live Video Chatting in German
I recommend that you start speaking German as soon as possible – ideally from your first day learning the language.
You can use any one of these programs to have conversations with native German speakers, from anywhere in the world.
Some great resources for video chatting are:
- Skype: This is the go-to application for making video calls online. If you download eCamm’s Skype Call Recorder for Mac, or Pamela on Windows, you can record your conversations to review later on.
- Periscope: This is a streaming video service that anyone can use to broadcast live videos to their followers. You can search for videos from around the world, including Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Search for “polyglot” to find yours truly on Periscope!
- Apple FaceTime: If both you and your conversation partner have Apple devices, you can call for free using the FaceTime software.
- Google Hangouts: Of course Google have a video and voice calling system, which you can use to chat to a friend…or broadcast yourself live on the Internet!
You’ll need to find language partners to make the most of these resources. italki is the best place to find thousands of native German conversation partners, professional teachers and informal tutors .
How to Watch German TV Online
Many German channels are available for streaming online.
- Das Erste: Das Erste is Germany’s first public broadcaster. It features a range of shows online – news, sports and even soap operas!
- 3sat: 3sat is another public broadcaster and broadcasts cultural documentaries. The programming is in standard German or Austrian standard German, depending on what you’re watching. A great resource if you’re interested in gaining a better understanding of the different dialects across German speaking countries. You may need a VPN to watch this channel if you are outside of Central Europe.
- Sesamstrasse: This is an interactive learning resource, which features classic videos from the German version of Sesame Street. Learn the German Alphabet, count apples with GrafZahl or sing along to ‘Magst du mich?’ with Ernie and Bert.
- Verbotene Liebe: Verbotene Liebe or “Forbidden Love” is a German soap opera that began airing in the mid-1990s. The show is set around Düsseldorf and Cologne and focuses on two families: the well to do Anstetten family and middle-class Brandner family. The storylines range from humorous to downright bizarre. It was unfortunately cancelled a little while ago due to a dip in ratings, but over 4000 episodes aired during its twenty-year span – more than enough material for any German language learner!
- Streema: Streema features links for live-streamed German TV channels around the web. Try searching for Austrian and German-Swiss channels as well.
Watch German Movies
Here are some websites I use to watch German films:
- The Vore: This page links to a selection of legally viewable films in German.
- SBS: SBS is Australia’s multicultural and multilingual broadcasting channel, which streams movies in many different languages.
- XMovies8: XMovies8 features German speaking films that have been posted on sites such as YouTube.
German Resources: News
News anchors and journalists usually have clear pronunciation, which makes news channels an excellent resource for improving your listening skills. It will also keep you up to date on both national and international topics.
- Deutsche Welle: This channel is Germany’s international news broadcaster and streams TV in many languages, including German. They feature run-of-the-mill news coverage as well as programmes.
- Slowly Spoken News: Deutsche Welle also provides a Monday-Friday podcast of news in German, spoken slowly and clearly. Each recording comes with a transcript that you can read as you listen to the audio recording.
- B5 Aktuell: B5 Aktuell is a news based radio station that you can stream online.
- Deutschlandfunk: This is a public broadcasting news radio station with an emphasis on cultural affairs.
- NDR: A German broadcaster set in the north. Perfect to listen to if you are interesting in gaining a scope over a wide range of German news.
No matter what your interests – sport, comedy, a specific genre of music, there is almost certainly a German radio station out there that will have a show dedicated to that topic.
Radio varies quite a lot from city to city. This will give you a good sampling of the wide variety of accents across each German-speaking country.
- Deutschland.fm: An online directory for radio stations all over Germany.
- Listenlive.eu Listenlive.eu has a list of online radio from around Germany, with additional notes on the type of music each station tends to favour.
- Deutsche Welle: Deutsche Welle is a name that keeps coming up on this list! This company has a gigantic online media library. With cultural programs, music, language learning podcasts and news, there is something there for any language learner.
- FluxFM: A radio station for all the die-hard indie fans out there.
- Klassik Radio: If contemporary music isn’t your thing, this radio station offers a range of classical music.
Where words fail, music speaks. – Hans Christian Andersen
Across countries and cultures, people turn to music to help them express the words that they often have trouble saying.
A go-to German music playlist would not only improve your listening skills – it will give you a unique insight into the culture and views of the native speakers of this language.
Use these resources to find German music for free online:
- Last.fm German: This site recommends popular German music and allows you to download mp3 files.
- Surf Music: Surf Music is a German online radio directory. It has a list of stations all over Germany as well as across the globe.
- TuneIn Germany: Click on your German city of choice to see available radio stations based there.
- Spotify: Use Spotify to look up the German Top 100 Single Charts, which features a mix of English and German songs.
- 8tracks German Playlist: A site where people can create German playlists to upload.
Podcasts are an excellent resource for language learners. This is because they force you to improve your listening skills, since there are no visual cues to rely on as with television.
The following podcasts are directed towards German language learners.
- GermanPod101: Comprehensive German lessons for all skill levels.
- Coffee Break German: Learn German through short podcast episodes about the length of a coffee break.
- Slow German Podcast: Annik Rubens is the pseudonym of a journalist living in Munich. This is a podcast about day-to-day life in Germany that she created as a hobby. Slow German has videos for beginners presented in English, with explanations about important German phrases and words. She also narrates episodes in German, but at a slow enough pace so that intermediate learners will understand.
- Deutsch – Warum Nicht?: This audio course tells the story of a journalism student called Andreas, who works at a hotel. The course is structured to cover A1-B1 of the CEFRL, making it perfect for both beginners and the more advanced.
- Survival Phrases German: This podcast is designed to provide a basic level of German to those travelling to German speaking countries. Although the lifetime membership is not free, joining gets you access to ten free lessons.
- Radio D: “Radio D” reporters Paula and Philipp travel across Germany to investigate strange cases. Each episode is a lot of fun, featuring the two German-speaking detectives, an English narrator and plenty of amusing sound effects.
- hr3: German humour can appear quite confusing at first glance. Listening to hr3’s comedy podcast will provide you with a better understanding of how to tickle a German funny bone.
What German Courses and Tools Do You Use?
Using these resources give you more exposure to German and help improve your comprehension and fluency in the language.
Are there any other resources you use to improve your German? Additional suggestions are more than welcome. I’ll see you in the comments!