What’s the best way to learn German free online?
Why, you have to get MOOCing, of course!
“MOOCing?” you ask. “Is that some sort of slang German expression to mean get moving?”
No, dear reader, I mean that you should take a MOOC!
The word MOOC is an acronym that stands for “Massive Open Online Course.” In short, a MOOC is an online course that offers open access to a certain subject matter (such as German).
Among the many subjects offered in MOOCs, languages are one of the most commonly taught subjects. As such, there are dozens of German MOOCs as well as other lessons that are structured like MOOCs available online.
Best of all, many of these German MOOCs and MOOC-look-alikes are free!
Top 8 Resources to Learn German Free Online
If you want to learn German for free online, you’ve got to check out these top eight resources. These courses are either true MOOCs or are structured a lot like one.
Some of them are self-directed while others have start and end dates with structured syllabi.
Regardless of your preferences, I know one (if not all!) of these brilliant MOOCs is bound to suit your fancy.
Let’s dive in!
This course is a MOOC offered by American University via Modern States, an organization that helps freshmen (first-year university students) take courses for free online. Courses offered by Modern States can act as university credits or preparation for equivalency examinations for future students.
This German language course is quite intensive. It covers all the basics typically taught in the first three semesters of elementary German university courses.
However, instead of being taught over three semesters, the course is only six weeks long. There are an anticipated six hours of work a week, but because this course is self-directed and six weeks is a rather short time to learn three semesters worth of material, learners can go at their own pace.
As for content, this course covers basic vocabulary and grammar in topics such as school and the workplace.
Furthermore, this course also prepares students to take the German CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exam. This exam proves a prospective college student’s proficiency in German so they can skip the first two semesters of German university classes and instead start as a more intermediate learner, despite the prerequisites.
FluentU is an online language learning program that makes authentic video and audio completely understandable, helping you learn German through online immersion. While not a MOOC in the truest meaning of the word, it’s structured like an easy-to-follow course, and its learning material is stupendous.
FluentU is available for iOS and Android and offers a free trial for those looking to learn German online.
Learners can access a wide variety of content for any level, with lessons ranging from beginner to advanced levels. Completing lessons in chronological order, learners build on previously learned materials as they go along.
Simply choose a lesson and plug in! After watching or listening to a clip, there are activities to help you learn vocabulary in context, such as fill-in-the-blank exercises.
FluentU also has a built-in dictionary so you never have to stray for translations. Furthermore, unknown words can be converted to flashcards for later review, and each word includes a progress bar to let you know which words may need more practice and which may have already converted to long-term memory.
The next course on our list is also a MOOC, but instead of being self-directed, it’s taught like a traditional university class, complete with a professor, course assignments and tests. As of April 2020, the course has technically already started, but it’s run semi-regularly during the academic school year, so new start dates may be continually added.
“German I” is offered by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Like a traditional German university offering, the course is 12 weeks long (a full semester).
Each week focuses on a certain topic (with associated grammar) such as hobbies, food and health. Each week also gives students an array of material for being successful in the course: grammar practice exercises, listening practice, readings and writing composition practice.
For students who successfully complete the course—or for those who already have a background in the German language—there’s also a German II course.
Learn German Online
Learn German Online offers 12 free online German lessons. While not technically a MOOC, this course follows a logical order and each of the 12 lessons can mirror a 12-week open university course.
The lessons are aimed at beginner learners who have little-to-no knowledge or background of the language. In fact, the lessons are an adaptation of the Foreign Service Institute’s German language course for American military personnel and other diplomatic and government professionals.
Each lesson starts with an audio clip featuring a variety of German words and phrases. Afterward, each lesson includes a vocabulary list, grammar and pronunciation notes as well as opportunities to practice through various drill exercises and conversation practice.
Deutsch am Arbeitsplatz
Deutsch am Arbeitsplatz (German in the Workplace) is a four-part German course offered by the Open University as a self-directed MOOC. It’s specifically made for learners looking to use business German in the workplace, but it can be used by all German learners as well.
If you choose to take a course with Open University, you can take one of the parts for free as an audit, but the additional parts come at a standard cost.
The first course is for “post-beginners”—those who have at least an A1 level or previous background in the German language. The following three parts proceed in chronological order after the first.
Each part is four weeks long and consists of about 20 hours, covering topics such as business communication, travel arrangements and meeting people.
The University of Michigan’s German Resources Page
Meant to be used in conjunction with a German language course at the University of Michigan, the “Resources Page” is a great way to take a German course without actually taking a German course.
In fact, this website includes a number of resources and ideas for self-studying German online for free, and if you’re feeling creative or organized, you could create your own syllabus and follow along as if you were taking a German MOOC.
All the pieces are there, after all—listening, speaking, reading, writing and grammar.
Additionally, there’s a section fully dedicated to learning strategies, and there’s also a complete directory of German grammar explanations.
Plus, many of the resources listed are available for free.
“Essential German” is a course offered for free by Udemy, one of the leading companies for taking MOOCs online.
There are nine lectures with a total of 43 minutes of video content. Each lesson focuses on a different facet of basic German vocabulary and grammar such as introductions, friends, family and weather. In fact, this course is perfect for those looking for a crash course in elementary German conversation.
Aside from looking at actual sample dialogues and phrases useful for basic German interactions, some of the lectures are reviews of grammar points or crucial vocabulary.
Learn German Easily
“Learn German Easily” teaches the German language through the “Storytelling Method.” In short, in this MOOC-like offering, learners study vocabulary and grammar structures through listening to and creating short stories.
There are 41 lessons available for free online. The lessons revolve around beginner topics such as modal verbs, noun cases and the future tense.
In addition to the course housed on their website, Learn German Easily also offers a free email course that comes directly to your inbox.
So what are you waiting for, German learner? Get a MOOC on, and start to learn German free online today!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.