If you’re just starting to learn German, here’s a free, one-phrase lesson for you:
Aller Anfang ist schwer.
It means “All beginnings are difficult.”
Ouch! Why am I telling you this at the start of a post about German lessons for beginners? Shouldn’t I be trying to encourage you?
Well, look at it this way: If you are having a hard time getting started with German, that’s fine! It’s normal, and you’re not alone. And I’m here to help you.
From easy-to-follow YouTube channels to slowly-spoken podcasts, there’s something to suit every type of German beginner out there. The sheer variety of options, however, can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help.
The range of courses and resources can make it difficult to find a starting point, so before you get going, you need to figure out what type of learner you are.
Find it hard to motivate yourself? Sign up for some courses at a local school. Don’t want to get out of your pajamas? Try out some online resources. Not ready to commit to a course? Watch some videos in your free time.
But remember: Taking a course (be it online or face-to-face), watching a few videos or listening to a couple of podcasts is usually not enough to become fluent. If you really want to take the leap from beginner to pro, then you really need to commit to learning and put in the study time.
If you’re looking for something to get you started on your language learning journey, then check out these six great places to find German lessons for beginners.
7 Gold Medal Resources with German Lessons for Beginners
Goethe Institut is a great resource, no matter where you are. Germany’s best-known language and cultural institute is active worldwide and offers courses from A1 (total beginner) and up.
New courses are starting all the time and there’s a range of different intensities and learning speeds, so you’re bound to find something that suits you. You can find clear price lists, dates and locations on the Goethe website—it’s very easy to enroll in your first course and get the ball rolling. To find out where your nearest beginners’ lessons are taking place, check out the German courses section of the Goethe website.
Goethe Institut courses aren’t the cheapest—they cost around $30-$40 per lesson. However, you really are getting a good deal! All of your lessons will be taught by fully qualified teachers (many of whom are native German speakers), who can help you as soon as you require assistance or correct you as soon as you make a mistake—something you don’t get with an online course.
You’ll also be able to practice all skills required to master a language (speaking, writing, reading and listening), and activities are varied to avoid boredom and repetition. What’s more, you’ll have the chance to get an official Goethe certificate, which will be recognized worldwide and help you when applying to jobs or university courses.
For the total immersion experience, Goethe also offers courses in Germany and Austria. There are many great things about learning a language in a country where it’s spoken. You can meet up with locals to improve your speaking skills, watch the local news to perfect your listening skills and read signposts, newspapers and books to pick up lots of new vocabulary. An immersion experience could be perfect if you’re a procrastinator, or if you simply keep putting off those beginners’ lessons, as you won’t be able to avoid learning new words while taking in the culture!
If you live in one of the few countries where Goethe isn’t active, don’t worry. Their website has lots of top-notch resources for beginners. Whether you want to learn new vocabulary, get a handle on some business terminology or try your hand at some language learning games, there really is something for everyone. What’s more, these resources are free of charge and can be accessed whenever you want and wherever you are, so there’s no excuse to not get started right now!
Online language learning can be a little tricky. It requires your undivided attention and some serious dedication. If you follow these rules for smart online language learning, however, you’ll be improving in no time!
While online lessons require commitment, they can be a great option for busy beginners! The flexibility of online courses means you can take lessons wherever you are and whenever you have time. They’re also perfect for beginners, as you can repeat any lessons you didn’t fully understand the first time.
There’s a huge range of websites and online resources that offer German lessons for beginners, but Babbel has a reputation for being one of the best. Babbel’s lessons only take 15 minutes, which leaves you with lots of free time or allows you to take multiple lessons a day. What’s more, each lesson is created by a team of expert linguists, ensuring that you come away from each 15-minute slot with a deepened understanding of the German language.
The website has a set of courses for those who are just starting out, which introduce learners to topics such as numbers, colors and travel. Beginners’ German lessons also introduce students to basic grammar rules such as personal pronouns, genders and cases.
Babbel is a great option if you’re searching for budget lessons. The cheapest course starts at just $7 a month (if you sign up for 12 months) and you can even get the first lesson for free!
So far we’ve focused on more traditionally-formatted courses, but now let’s look at an innovative and entertaining option to learn German: FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU’s frequently-updated video library has nearly a thousand different German videos about a huge variety of subjects. There’s really something for everyone!
FluentU is great for any level of German learner, too, from absolute beginners to native-level speakers who want to keep their skills fresh. In addition to choosing videos based on your interests, you can also sort them according to your level. FluentU is particularly useful for beginners because the program’s scaffolding makes it easier to learn German quickly and in a fun way.
The interactive subtitles, vocabulary lists and custom-made flashcard decks will help you learn actively while watching your favorite videos, giving you an extra boost in German reading and listening practice.
Wait, did I say “interactive subtitles”? You bet—FluentU’s subtitles are on the next level! As you’re watching a video, you just need to scroll over any word and the video will momentarily pause, showing you a pop-up box with a definition and a photo of that word. Then, another click will show you how that same word is used in all the other videos, and you can see and hear the examples! And as if that weren’t enough, you also have the option of immediately adding that word to your flashcard deck so you can review it and be quizzed on it in a future session.
You can try out FluentU with their free trial, so what are you waiting for?
There’s a big variety of fantastic German podcasts that can help transform you from beginner to pro, but “Slow German” is perfect if you’re just starting out.
“Slow German” is a podcast by Annik Rubens, a journalist from Munich who began creating podcasts as a hobby in 2005. She started to produce the podcast in 2007 and has won three prizes for her podcasting work.
Annik speaks slowly and clearly, using basic vocabulary and uncomplicated structures, which makes “Slow German” the perfect resource for beginners who want to improve their listening skills.
Head to the “Absolute Beginners” page to find podcasts suited to those who are just starting on their language learning journeys. This page is extremely useful since Annik includes a short description of each podcast (in English), including some key vocabulary, in case you don’t quite understand her spoken German or can’t work out certain spellings. The “Absolute Beginners” podcasts cover a huge range of topics such as fashion and travel, so you’re bound to find something that interests you!
Be careful not to be too ambitious when it comes to podcasts. It’s easy to get carried away when confronted with a long list of topics and it’s tempting to simply choose the one that’s most interesting to you. To really accelerate from beginner to advanced, however, it’s sensible to pick something basic to start with and then work your way up.
It’s also important not to just passively listen to podcasts. Remember to keep vocabulary lists and do further reading about interesting cultural topics or confusing grammar points to really deepen your understanding. For more information on how to use podcasts to accelerate your language learning journey, check out these useful tips.
If you’re too busy to commit to beginners’ German lessons and you’re too easily distracted to learn from podcasts, then “Easy German” could be the perfect fit for you.
All videos are spoken in clear, concise and slow German, and you might find that watching people’s lip movements helps you to understand the content. There are also subtitles in both German and English, meaning you can easily follow the videos. You can perfect your reading skills and pick up some new vocab at the same time!
“Easy German” covers a huge range of topics. If you’re a foodie, check out their video on how to talk about your favorite dishes. If you’re a gym bunny, you can learn how to discuss sports and fitness. If you simply want to get to grips with German grammar, take a look at the channel’s videos about the perfect tense or genitive case. If you want to learn about something entirely different, you can find more videos that are designed for new learners in their “Super Easy German” playlist.
What’s more, “Easy German” often uploads videos featuring interviews with people on the street, meaning you can hear various accents and dialects. This is great for your listening skills and is something you might not get in a face-to-face beginners’ German lesson.
“Easy German” uploads new videos every week, so you’ll never get bored. But if you do fancy some variety, there’s a huge range of other YouTube videos for German learners. Be sure to pick a video or channel that’s suitable for beginners. It’s good to be optimistic and ambitious, but being unrealistic will only hinder your progress.
Deutsche Welle offers many resources for German learners at all levels, but its beginners’ lessons and activities are particularly helpful. The A1 courses aren’t only completely free, but also offer new and engaging ways to learn. There really is something for everyone!
The beginners’ activities offer students interactive lessons that allow them to be independent learners. The multimedia courses focus on all areas of language learning (listening, reading, speaking and writing), so you shouldn’t get bored or find that certain skills progress more slowly than others.
Alongside German beginners’ lessons, Deutsche Welle offers two podcasts that are specifically aimed at students at A1 level: “Mission Berlin” and “Radio D.“ “Radio D” even provides you with the manuscript, so you can read along as you listen and pick up any vocab you might not have understood while listening.
The website also offers a fantastic basic vocabulary list, to assist you with your beginners’ German lessons. Each list focuses on a different topic such as days of the week or travel. They’re also accompanied by videos that allow you to hear how to pronounce the words in the respective list. Remember to write down unknown words and repeat them as often as possible, so that they really stick in your mind. For more information on how to successfully pick up new German vocabulary, check out these helpful tips.
If you’re too busy to commit yourself to beginners’ German lessons and can’t find a YouTube channel or podcast to suit you, then reading could be a great option.
It can be tricky to start reading books in your target language. It’s easy to get hung up on those few annoying words you don’t know, or to translate every new unfamiliar word. It’s important to have a strategy when reading in a foreign language for the first time and to start with something basic, like a children’s book or a graphic novel. If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth to get you started, however, then get your hands on “First German Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book.”
This book includes over 50 short German texts—such a poems and stories—with English translations. Each text aims to educate the reader about an aspect of German culture or history, so it’s a great way to get to know about Deutschland while picking up the language, too. What’s more, the book won’t break the bank: Copies sell on Amazon for under $11.
But don’t be a passive reader. Make the most of German books by keeping a vocabulary list while you read and trying to use new words in conversations. Take part in online discussions about the book to keep you engaged and make the most of your online language learning community. Finally, quantity is more important than quality when it comes to reading as a beginner. If you enjoy German books, then don’t stop after this one. There’s a huge range of texts out there to help you advance from beginner to pro!
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of all of the options out there for German beginners. You can use any technique or resource that works for you, but you now have no excuse to put off starting your language learning journey!
Leah Martin is a German and History student at the University of Leeds. She is currently working as a Social Media Intern in Munich as part of her year abroad, and will be returning to Leeds to complete her studies in September.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.