GermanPod101 Review: Useful Learning Program with Conquerable Drawbacks
GermanPod101 has carved a name for itself in the German language learning community with its combination of audio and video learning.
You can even head over to YouTube to watch some of their free language tutorials.
After hearing about all the hype, I decided to try it out for myself.
Here’s what the process looked like and what I thought of the program!
- Getting Started with GermanPod101
- Anatomy of a GermanPod101 Lesson
- Main Features of GermanPod101
- Can You Actually Learn German with GermanPod101?
Getting Started with GermanPod101
I signed up for the free trial of GermanPod101, and I was immediately offered a $1 plan. This plan would give me all the premium features of the $10 per month plan for the special one-time offer of $1.
Right off the bat, I was impressed. This is a great way to have new users try the full extent of the program for a month at a lower entry point.
The next screen opened up into the actual GermanPod101 program. First, I was asked for my level of German. Even though I have already studied German before, I chose the “Absolute Beginner” option to try it out. Most people looking for a German course are at the beginner stage, so I figured this level would be the most useful to try out.
Immediately, my dashboard populated with options for “pathways.” I chose the “Level 1 German” pathway, but there were more than a dozen other options, including options like “3-Minute German” and “Essential German for Emergencies.”
Anatomy of a GermanPod101 Lesson
In the “Level 1 German” pathway, I completed multiple lessons as part of my trial.
Most of the lessons follow the same format. Each starts with an audio or video in German revolving around a topic. This topic can be self-introductions, asking for help, the alphabet or any other beginner topic imaginable. I noticed right off the bat that many of these videos were also available on YouTube.
Next, some of the audio clips and videos come with a line-by-line transcript in German, an English translation and voice recording tools for you to try actually speaking German for yourselves. This corresponds to all the German spoken in the video—often the conversations—but not the English preamble in the beginning and end.
There is then a list of vocabulary with audio that can be slowed down. This list usually includes all the German used in the video, and the words tend not to repeat too much from video to video.
This is followed by lesson notes that include a short tutorial on German grammar basics, vocabulary usage and cultural notes related to the lesson. These notes are particularly helpful for understanding why something is being said a certain way and how to navigate German’s formal and informal language.
Each lesson also comes with a practice component such as a multiple-choice test or a written assessment. These are only available to premium users. I got to try them out through my $1 trial, and they were pretty standard activities where you had to fill in the correct German word.
Lastly, there is a complete transcript of the entire video or audio at the end of the lesson.
Main Features of GermanPod101
Authentic German Audio and Video
A big draw to GermanPod101 is the fact that native German speech is central to its language learning platform. In fact, all of GermanPod101’s audio and video lessons include authentic German from native speakers.
These native speakers are also German teachers, so they are good at explaining German in a way that can be easily understood and retained.
GermanPod101’s Grammar and vocabulary explanations are also given in a mix of German and English. This is a great way to hear the native German you need, but also to get quick usage notes in English.
As you progress through GermanPod101—and you inevitably leave the beginner pathways—German explanations become more prevalent.
With authenticity comes actual usage. The lessons don’t just include German speech, but they have German as it is actually used by native speakers.
In fact, the content is accurate, and it includes slang, informal language and regional variations. That is often lacking from other German courses and textbooks, so it is a nice touch.
Plenty of Content and Learning Paths
Choice is big in GermanPod101. In fact, the program offers five levels of German proficiency. These levels include German pathways (courses) based on a level and range from Absolute Beginner to Advanced. This means that GermanPod101 is apt to teach and support you at all levels of your German journey.
As previously mentioned, each course has a variety of pathways to choose from. These include general courses for the level such as simply “Level 1 German,” as well as courses related to specific skills such as speaking, listening, reading, writing and grammar. As far as I know, you can switch your pathway at any time, and you can even work on multiple pathways concurrently.
In addition to leveled lessons related to a specific skill, there are courses that focus on different types of German such as medical, business and academic German. This is fantastic for learners who already know the contexts where they will use German.
In short, there are literally thousands of lessons. With GermanPod101, you will never run out of material.
Vocabulary Building Tools
In addition to its base course offerings, GermanPod101 offers a number of tools to support vocabulary building in tandem with its lessons.
With a free lifetime account, users get access to vocabulary lists, a word of the day service, a German dictionary as well as the 100 most common words and German key phrases. These are fantastic for learning the most common and useful words in the German language, especially at the beginning of their journeys.
Premium users get a couple more features to enhance their learning. These users can select words from the “Vocabulary” section of lessons in order to create and review flashcards.
Furthermore, premium users also have access to a word bank and a list of the 2000 most common German words.
As you have probably guessed, there are different price points to GermanPod101 that give you varying levels of access to the program.
The bottom-tiered membership is the “Free Lifetime Account.” This allows you to have an account with GermanPod101, but it is quite limited. Users with this account get new weekly lessons, the first three lessons for each pathway and the free vocabulary-building features mentioned above.
The next tier is a Basic subscription that runs for $4 a month. This subscription level gives you access to all the lessons and the same vocabulary-building tools as the free lifetime account.
The prices for the following tiers are current as of October 2021, but GermanPod101 often has sales and special offers so keep an eye out for those.
The Premium subscription costs $10 a month, and it gives you access to additional language lessons, flashcards with Spaced Repetition System technology and word frequency lists. This seems to be the most comprehensive and useful plan, in my opinion.
Lastly, there is the Premium Plus plan. This gives you everything from the Premium plan as well as a professional assessment, a personalized learning plan and 1-on-1 instruction. This costs $23 a month.
To be honest, the Premium Plus plan seems a little lackluster. From what I’ve gathered from my research online, the “professional assessment” is an automated multiple-choice test.
Further, the personalized learning plan is simply a suggestion from a tutor about what lessons to complete to meet certain goals, and the 1-on-1 instruction is simply chat-based messages with a tutor with an evaluation of an audio recording of you speaking German.
There are multiple reviews from other Premium Plus users of other Pod101 courses online, and many suggest that this plan is not worth it.
Can You Actually Learn German with GermanPod101?
There are several positive features of GermanPod101 that are awesome for learners.
For starters, the reliance on authentic written and spoken native German content is superb. Frankly, you cannot master German unless you are using native language content to learn. In this way, GermanPod101 is fantastic. There are native German speakers as well as native German teachers. This is invaluable to learners.
Closely related to my first highlight is the endless supply of lessons and learning materials. I honestly believe that it would take a lifetime to do every single lesson in GermanPod101. That is an amazing wealth of material. Not only does this offer a lot of German to learn, but it also makes GermanPod101 accessible to all learners. You will definitely find something to interest you!
GermanPod101 also has some awesome features to reinforce vocabulary skills. Not only does the program have useful vocabulary lists for users, but the power of Spaced Repetition System flashcards is unmatched.
Despite GermanPod101’s highlights, there are definitely some drawbacks.
The first is GermanPod101’s lack of substantial grammar exercises. While there are tutorials for grammar, there really are no meaningful exercises. Most exercises within the GermanPod101 learning program are focused on vocabulary usage, and these tend to be in the multiple-choice format. These can be tedious, and I do not personally believe these provide a great way to master new vocabulary or grammar topics.
Further, there is also a lack of ability to practice spontaneous written and spoken German. While there is authentic German to read and listen to, there really are no opportunities to write or speak German.
Further, even when you are given a chance to write in German, there is no support network to help learners improve.
It is worth noting, however, that there is a comment section in each lesson. Users do write in German there—and sometimes representatives from GermanPod101 respond—but that is it.
In my opinion, it is crucial to write and speak German spontaneously to master the language, and there are just no opportunities for that in the program.
Lastly, it seems that the Premium Plus membership may not be what learners expect. As mentioned earlier, the language assessment is automated, the personalized learning plan is something a learner could determine on their own and the 1-on-1 lessons are simply a text message chain. I do not believe this plan is worth the cost.
These shortcomings make it essential to pair GermanPod101 with another resource, so that you’re improving your skills evenly.
For instance, you could hire a tutor on italki to help you practice your writing and speaking. You could even use the material from the GermanPod101 lessons you studied to write a response to talk over with your tutor. Plus, a tutor would be able to point out your mistakes.
Another option is FluentU, which pulls from a library of authentic material to help solidify your language knowledge in context, while also improving your overall comprehension skills. The program lets you customize vocabulary lists, take quizzes on each video you watch, create flashcards and more. A program like this is a good way to reinforce a lot of the terms and concepts you learn in GermanPod101 in more authentic situations.
The Verdict: Is GermanPod101 Worth It?
Despite some of GermanPod101’s drawbacks, I can safely say that yes, GermanPod101 is worth it.
That is, however, if you are aware of the product’s limitations.
As previously mentioned, the amount of authentic German content on offer is unmatched and can teach you a lot of German. In fact, it is entirely plausible to start with GermanPod101 as a beginner and continue to use it through all stages of learning German.
In light of its shortcomings, I do recommend seeking supplementary materials for speaking and writing practice. This can mean getting a tutor, a language exchange partner or even a way to complete writing and speaking exercises on your own.
I’m not sure, though, if I can recommend GermanPod101’s Premium Plus plan. While it sounds good on paper, it seems slightly misleading and not worth the extra money. I would put that money toward an actual German tutor, especially if it is the 1-on-1 lessons that you’re really after.
“I’ve Learned a Lot of German from GermanPod101″—how’s that for a YouTube video featuring you! Regardless of your level, GermanPod101 has lots to offer for learners if they match it with other German learning methods.