Here’s how a German online course can transform your language studies:
Imagine yourself building German vocabulary while sipping coffee on your patio.
Or listening to authentic German without even taking your slippers off.
…and would you believe you can do all this without ever opening your wallet?
Ja! Natürlich. (Yes! Of course.)
Well, where there’s a will—and an internet connection—there’s a way.
An online German course is a great option for mastering the language on your schedule.
Plus, there are so many quality free online German courses out there, you can do it without making a dent in your budget.
We’ll get you started with six excellent courses to learn German online for beginner to advanced learners.
Before we start, to make sure you select the best online German course for your needs, here are three ingredients to look for in every German online course.
What to Look for in Your Best Online German Course
- It focuses on receptive (listening and reading) and productive (speaking and writing) skills. To effectively learn German online, you need to develop both receptive and productive skills. Receptive skills include interpreting what you read and listen to. Productive skills consist of producing an oral or written message using the language that you’ve learned through listening and reading.
Depending on the level of your productive or receptive skills, you can define which course to take. For example, many learners face problems in terms of listening. In this case, the best online German course is an audio course, as you’ll subconsciously get used to listening to German.
- It’s appropriate for your language level. Most online German courses will clearly state the proficiency level they’re appropriate for. It’s important to stick to courses that match your level, so that you don’t get overwhelmed or frustrated by aiming too high, or get bored by aiming too low.
Unsure of your particular German proficiency level? Here’s a guide to nine tests you can take to assess your skills.
- It’s entertaining. Nobody likes to be bored out of their mind when trying to learn something new. We all love to consume interactive content that engages us and makes learning German irresistible.
In fact, studies have shown that entertaining content actually helps learners stay focused and motivated. Without a doubt, mobile-responsive courses with appealing features and high-quality design are more enjoyable than boring, text-focused websites.
Of course, not every German online course can have all three qualities, so it’s important to balance your learning resources. Since all the courses below are free, you can easily pair, say, a straightforward grammar course with a more conversation-focused one.
You can also supplement your structured course learning with flexible tools like FluentU, an innovative program that provides authentic German videos supercharged with language tools.
Each video comes with clickable captions that’ll teach you any word you’re not familiar with. Then you can drill in that new knowledge with FluentU’s “Learn Mode,” which provides digital flashcards and exercises.
Your Best German Online Course Is Here, and It’s Free
Deutsche Welle (DW) is a German international media company based in Bonn, Germany. DW’s TV is currently available in 30 languages and reaches over 100 million people around the world every week. For language learners, Deutsche Welle offers several online courses to bridge the gaps between Germany and the rest of the globe.
DW’s “Radio D” is an online audio language course dedicated to beginners.
The course contains two audio series with 26 episodes each. You’ll get lessons covering a wide range of entertaining topics such as life in Germany, music, work and carnivals. Each episode comes with PDF transcripts and exercises, too.
All episodes are centered on realistic stories and situations that any learner might be exposed to within German society. In other words, you get to learn the necessary vocabulary to easily communicate and interact in German.
BBC Languages offers an introductory German course that teaches you how to react to practical and day-to-day conversations in German (for example, talking about your family, getting a hotel, buying train tickets, etc.).
Be aware that unlike many language courses, Talk German only teaches you the fundamental German skills you need to get started. Consider it a great first step to learn German online.
Getting a grasp of a language isn’t just about vocabulary and grammar. It also means learning culture, history, customs and the colloquial phrases people use every day. Open University has covered these aspects with a free online course exploring the cultural side of German, with a focus on dialects, regions, traditions, history and society.
This German online course is mainly targeted to upper-level learners with a strong vocabulary—the course content itself is in German. You’ll get both text and audio exercises to practice what you’re learning.
After taking this 12-hour course, you’ll demonstrate improved language skills and deep comprehension of German-speaking societies.
DeutschAkademie offers a basic audio course for beginners with little to no German knowledge. This course teaches you the essential vocabulary to start conversing and communicating in German.
DeutschAkademie’s audio course consists of 10 chapters (with several episodes each) covering a story of a man named Philip living in Berlin. It focuses primarily on improving your vocabulary and grammar skills while you’re listening.
The course can be accessed through your desktop browser and DeutschAkademie’s iOS and Android app. There you can find transcripts of all lessons with contextual translations into English.
After taking the course, you can expect to be able to react to and converse in day-to-day conversations (e.g. ordering food at a restaurant, introducing yourself to a stranger, etc.) and understand basic grammar concepts.
Deutsch-Lernen is a website appurtenant to the German learning school ActiLingua, based in Vienna, Austria. The school offers free step-by-step German language courses for beginners and advanced learners.
The lessons take you on a cruise through all essential grammar and conjugation rules in German with exercises and tests to examine your knowledge.
You should keep in mind that these courses aren’t really focused on teaching the more practical side of German, like vocabulary building or real-life conversations. Therefore, you must make sure you work on that in tandem.
Memrise offers an innovative technique to learn German online based on absorbing new vocabulary words and idioms through repetition. Rather than providing traditional lessons or tutorials, these courses present new vocabulary in a strategic way that’s designed to promote fast, effective memorization.
“5000 German Words (top 87%)” is a Memrise course featuring essential German vocabulary. The goal is to make German students less dependent on translations or dictionaries.
Dr. Jane Oakhill, a psychologist at the University of Sussex, has discovered that in the morning, we tend to be better at tasks that rely on our ability to recall exact details such as vocabulary, places, etc. Therefore, consider sticking to a daily routine to study one to five Memrise levels every morning.
Memrise also supports both iOS and Android users with a mouth-watering design and features.
There you have it: six free online German courses to kick-start your journey. Select the best German online course to fit your needs, and take off as soon as you get a chance.
Yassir Sahnoun is a freelance writer, polyglot and translator living in Morocco. He loves learning about other languages, peoples and cultures. You can learn more about Yassir at his website.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.