The 12 Best Websites to Learn German Through Immersion
How much time do you spend procrastinating online?
Wouldn’t all that precious time be better spent focusing on some German study? Jawohl! (Yes, Sir!)
As distracting as the internet may be, it’s also a unique tool for learning German.
In this blog post, I’ll show you the best websites to learn German through immersion online—arguably the fastest and most effective way to do it!
- 1. Best Free Resource: Deutsche Welle
- 2. Best for Learning with Authentic Content: FluentU
- 3. Best Grammar Lessons: DeutschAkademie
- 4. Best for Learning While Relaxing: Netflix
- 5. Best for Learning with the News: Die Zeit
- 6. Best Online Dictionary: Linguee
- 7. Best for Learning Resources: BBC German
- 8. Best for Everyday Practice: Duolingo
- 9. Best for Multimedia Lessons: GermanPod101
- 10. Best Tried and True Method: Foreign Services Institute
- 11. Best for Learning Web Slang: Twitter
- 12. Best for Content Variety: YouTube
- Why Learn German with Online Immersion?
1. Best Free Resource: Deutsche Welle
Deutsche Welle is a German news website aimed at international readers, and it has a comprehensive German language learning program for all skill levels.
The video lessons are sorted by CEFR level and cover a huge variety of topics like conversational phrases, grocery shopping, apartment repairs and medical terms.
Deutsche Welle also offers lots of podcasts and audio clips (including slow-spoken news stories) to immerse you in the language and improve your German comprehension.
Though some interactive courses on the site have been phased out due to the depreciation of Adobe Flash, the material is being preserved through PDFs and YouTube. And there is still a great deal of video and learning content available on the site besides that — and all completely free.
2. Best for Learning with Authentic Content: FluentU
Price: $$ (free trial available)
The FluentU program immerses learners in the German language and culture through authentic German videos like movie clips, commercials and inspirational talks.
Videos are arranged by skill level, format and topic, making it possible to find and watch videos that are best suited for your interest and language skill level.
Learning with content made by and for native German speakers helps you get used to the way German sounds when spoken casually and at a natural pace. It’s important to learn to understand this sort of speech if you want to converse in everyday situations.
To help with comprehension, every video includes interactive captions in German and English, both of which can be toggled on or off to suit your needs. So if a word comes up that you aren’t sure of, you can hover over it in the subtitles for an in-context definition.
You can also look up words in FluentU’s video dictionary which provides definitions, example sentences, a pronunciation guide with native audio and a list of videos that feature the word.
There are also themed decks of multimedia flashcards, and you can create your own custom decks by adding words from the dictionary or the videos.
The videos on FluentU come with personalized quizzes to review the words, phrases and grammar that you hear and read. And if you’re using the FluentU app for iOS or Android, these quizzes even have speaking exercises that use your device’s speech recognition feature to let you practice pronunciation.
3. Best Grammar Lessons: DeutschAkademie
Price: Free ($$ for live courses with teachers)
DeutschAkademie is a free online German course that provides hundreds of hours of interactive lessons for learners of every level.
The course offers comprehensive grammar training organized by topic. You can learn and review different areas of grammar based on your own skill level and needs. These lessons contain information from 20 well-known German textbooks.
DeutschAkademie also has audio lessons with transcripts, along with vocabulary exercises and quizzes.
The learning content on DeutschAkademie is free, though if you want a bit more guidance and interaction you can pay for a live course taught by teachers to small groups.
4. Best for Learning While Relaxing: Netflix
No doubt you’ll already have a Netflix account. But have you ever thought about checking what the German version of this online streaming service has to offer? There’s a wide range of popular TV shows and movies from Germany on the website, covering comedies, dramas and documentaries—perfect for entertaining German immersion online, no matter what you’re in the mood for.
Once you’re immersed in a show or movie, your ears will be exposed to all kinds of German. Depending on what you’re watching, you could be listening to highbrow review shows or some easy-going sitcoms.
Checking out different genres will allow you to see lots of different aspects of German culture, which is essential if you truly want to learn to speak German.
5. Best for Learning with the News: Die Zeit
Price: Free with ads ($ premium version with subscription)
If you’ve been studying German for a while and feel you’re ready to move up a level, online German newspaper sites could be key.
As newspapers are often written in a plain and clear language, they can usually be fairly easy for intermediate learners to understand, while still using fairly high-level sentence and grammar structures.
Bear in mind, though, that if you’re reading an article that’s heavy on politics, you might come face-to-face with some lengthy and complicated vocabulary. Die Zeit is a great mix of politics, culture, lifestyle and current affairs, so you’ll be able to avoid the more challenging topics (if you want).
6. Best Online Dictionary: Linguee
Linguee is a great online dictionary but has one special feature that sets it apart. When it translates words, it shows you the translations in different contexts—you’ll see your word or phrase being used in a few different paragraphs just to show the full range of uses it might have.
And these paragraphs have all been taken from current content around the web, so you can be sure that these examples are flawless and relevant to modern speakers!
7. Best for Learning Resources: BBC German
The BBC language pages are definitely worth checking out for any language learner. They offer lessons in many different languages including Arabic, Chinese and Catalan. German is one of their most popular languages and there’s an invaluable amount of help, resources and lessons for those wishing to learn.
Everything’s split up into topics so you can dip in and out depending on what exactly you want to learn. There’s also a lot about the German culture and tips on what you might need to know while visiting the country. Since it’s from the BBC, you can expect polished, top-quality resources that hold to their reputation for professionalism.
8. Best for Everyday Practice: Duolingo
Price: Free with ads ($ premium version with subscription)
Duolingo is terrific for learning grammar and writing and it’s one of the more popular options to learn German for free, especially for beginners.
Even though you can easily while away an hour or two procrastinating here, it helps your language progress steadily. Once you’re signed up, you’ll be thrown in at the vocabulary deep end.
Through constant and varied forms of repetition, this great website and app helps it all stick in your brain. If you’re more of a beginner, it slowly begins to show you how exactly to go about constructing sentences. Before you know it, you’ll have progressed to quite complex grammar structures without even realizing you were studying.
You’ll even get to listen to audio recordings of dialogue in Duolingo’s “Stories” feature and try your hand at pronouncing words if you like.
For more info, check out our full review of Duolingo.
9. Best for Multimedia Lessons: GermanPod101
Price: Free for limited access ($-$$$ for different subscription levels)
GermanPod101 specializes in teaching German with short audio and video clips. The aim of the lessons is to increase your comprehension so you can understand any German you hear.
GermanPod101 lets you start at any skill level, and each level has its own library of lessons for specific purposes such as “Conversational Phrases” or “Ordering at a Restaurant”.
Each lesson starts with a German audio or video clip and features a transcript in German and an English translation. The lessons also include a vocabulary list, grammar notes and (for premium users) practice tests/assignments.
To learn more, check out our full review of GermanPod101.
10. Best Tried and True Method: Foreign Services Institute
If you’re the kind of person who thrives off of verb tables and hardcore grammar study, the Foreign Services Institute is the best way to learn German for you!
The FSI courses are quite old-school in their structure. Don’t be expecting any flashy graphics or sound effects—these lessons are wholly dedicated to the pursuit of grammatical perfection by using to-the-point texts and clips of natives speaking.
All the resources here have been developed by professional linguists. In fact, the lessons were used in the past to train diplomats and other US officials in foreign languages in preparation for their work abroad. So you can be sure that these are high quality lessons—even if a little dated. But it’s worth a try, considering it’s all completely free.
11. Best for Learning Web Slang: Twitter
As with Netflix, you’ve probably already got a Twitter account. Well, now is the time to start following all those German tweeters out there.
Not only is this social media platform fantastic for your reading, but it also gives you the chance to get interactive and converse with native speakers. This is highly valuable for learning casual speech, internet lingo and general slang.
You can also pick up a lot of German related to current events, pop culture or whatever topics you choose — depending on who you follow!
Not sure what accounts you should be following? There are accounts like @LearnXDGerman that are specifically aimed at German learners. Otherwise, news and culture resources like @dw_deutsch can be a good way to be exposed everyday German about current events and society. Or if you’re up for some more challenging German, @GrumpyMerkel is a humor account that focuses on current events in German and around the world.
For more ideas, see our list of German Twitter accounts to follow.
One advantage of Twitter is that there is a built-in translation tool that you can use if you see words or phrases you don’t understand. But be aware: it’s an auto-translator and the accuracy can be uneven, so it’s best not to rely on it too much.
12. Best for Content Variety: YouTube
Price: Free with ads
If you’d rather watch short videos instead of entire programs on Netflix, head on over to YouTube. You can check out the hottest music videos in Germany right now or try out clips of TV shows so you have a bit more of an idea about what you might like to watch.
You can also head straight to the Popular on YouTube – Germany channel to get immersed in the latest authentic clips that native German speakers are watching.
The great thing about YouTube is that there are also many videos aimed at language learners, and you don’t have to be that advanced to understand them. In fact, there are quite a few dedicated to beginners.
Why Learn German with Online Immersion?
The internet may be full of distractions, but if you can face going online without looking at all the videos and memes, it can actually become the best way to learn German.
German immersion online can be a great supplement to all the learning you’ve been doing in the classroom—or you can use it all on its own to teach yourself German.
What makes this better than learning from your teacher and classmates? You can tailor it to your own needs. For example, if you’re having problems with word order, you can focus entirely on this for hours or days. Just because you’re learning about the subjunctive in class doesn’t mean you’re restricted to studying this at home—if you’ve already mastered it, then just go wild and practice noun genders on your own. This way, you learn to speak German on your own terms.
The range of options for studying on the internet is vast, and German immersion is no exception. You can practice all your skills online—so that’s reading, writing, listening and speaking. And the door is well and truly opened to interaction with native speakers. You can converse with them on social media or see what they’ve been writing on the current affairs blogs.
Or, of course, use all the best websites to learn German that we’ll show you below.
Are you raring to go and log on to the best websites to learn German? I hope so! Even if you just do a quick 20 minutes per day on one of these sites, you’ll be sure to eventually see an improvement in your Deutsch (the German language). That’s just how powerful German immersion online can be!
After studying German and Philosophy at The University of Nottingham, Laura Harker relocated to Berlin in 2012. She now works as a freelance writer and is also assistant editor at Slow Travel Berlin.