What’s in your bookmarks bar?
There’s something else you should add to your starred list of favorite websites, recipes, video tutorials and video game walkthroughs.
You’re overdue for bookmarking some good, solid German learning websites.
If you’re obsessed with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and personal blogs and you’re still not going online for your German lessons… what’s going on?!
All good students need to use the internet for their German studies.
That’s because there’s a huge range of online resources that can improve your listening, speaking, reading and writing.
There are numerous reasons why the web should be one of your main destinations for learning and practicing German, and we’ll come to them in a minute. For now, it’s important to realize that without the internet, your German progress will be moving a whole lot slower.
But there’s something you need to watch out for when you do get online. As with most things, there are right ways and wrong ways of using online resources for your German studies.
Intrigued to find out more? Well, you’re in the perfect place. Here’s our complete guide to the do’s and don’ts of using the internet to practice your German.
Why Practice German Online?
Firstly, there’s one very obvious reason why you need to start practicing German online. There’s so much free stuff out there! If there’s one thing that the internet does exceptionally well, it’s free resources. Beyond that, you’ll find some extraordinarily effective resources available for cheap.
There are so many diverse, international websites you can use freely. For instance, all of YouTube’s videos are free to watch. And lots of German news sites have yet to set up a paywall between readers and all their content. So no matter how much of a budget you’re on, you should always be able to afford to brush up on your German grammar and vocab online.
Thanks to technology, it’s now possible to take your practice with you on the go. German practice tools have never been so accessible! And it’s all because more and more companies are bringing out apps that can help German learners. For instance, if you already have Duolingo or the FluentU app, you’ll know just how useful learning on the go is for your language skills.
You can keep your practice up no matter where you are or what you may be doing.
Not only that, though, but almost every website is now designed to be read on a mobile screen as well as a laptop, so you can check up on your favorite German websites while you’re waiting for the bus!
The internet also puts you within easy reach of fluent German speakers. It’s super easy to get in touch with native speakers anywhere in the world, so you’ll be able to test out your language skills on them without having to purchase an expensive plane ticket.
Want to make sure that you’re using the internet as efficiently as possible on your quest for fluent German? Well, you just need to follow all the upcoming do’s and don’ts.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Practicing German Online
Do vary the resources you use
It’s super easy to fall into bad habits when you’re studying. That’s because you’ll naturally gravitate towards the easiest way to tackle all of your studies, and that usually means sticking to the same old resources that you’re very familiar with.
A task being easy doesn’t always mean it’s effective for your learning. In fact, more learning happens when you’re actively challenging yourself and surprising yourself with new tasks.
However, it’s very important that you mix up your online German sources as much as possible. This will keep things interesting and it will also keep your brain on its toes! Another amazing reason why you need to mix and match your resources is because each resource will target a different skill set.
For example, YouTube videos are fantastic for listening. However, they won’t be doing your writing or speaking any good if you just watch casually and go no further.
Here are a few ways you can go further with YouTube:
- Record your very own YouTube response video after watching your favorite YouTuber.
- Write your comments in German underneath the video.
- Reply to other subscribers’ comments.
Then, shake things up even more and:
- Start commenting on the bottom of Die Welt’s articles after reading them thoroughly.
- Start tweeting to your favorite German Twitter account.
- Mix in videos on FluentU, which really take the German learning up a notch.
Every video comes with interactive subtitles. Click any word for an in-context definition, memorable picture and links to other videos that use the word. This way you learn new vocabulary naturally while absorbing real German culture. If you want more support, there are professionally translated English captions you can toggle on or off (no more iffy, auto-translated YouTube captions!).
There are also flashcards, fun quizzes, vocabulary lists and full transcripts built into every video so you remember what you’ve learned.
The videos are organized by genre and level, so it’s easy to find the ones that work for you. Plus, FluentU suggests new videos based on what you’ve already learned. You can watch on your computer or anytime, anywhere with the mobile app for iOS and Android.
Mix things up and get a well-rounded study session!
Don’t stick to yourself
Do you occasionally get lonely studying German on your own?
It doesn’t have to be that way! In fact, there are many ways your friends can join in with you when you practice online.
Remember how we mentioned Duolingo earlier? This app allows you to connect with friends, compare progress and compete.
And if you know any native German speakers already, you can always arrange a quick Skype call with them to catch up in German.
One of the benefits of chatting on Skype is that you can see each other via a webcam, so you’ll be able to see your friend’s body language, gestures, mouth movements and expressions in action. This can be extremely useful for beginner and intermediate language learners who can understand better with more visual clues.
So, why not start off by organizing a group Skype call with multiple native speakers? Even if you don’t live near each other, this gives you the chance to get together with your other German-speaking friends to practice your skills.
If you still need to meet native speakers, italki is the place for you. It’s the perfect platform to track down friendly native speakers looking to learn English (and who will, in turn, help you practice German) and private German tutors.
You can also interact with native speakers on social media sites such as Twitter—but more on that soon.
Not sure what you can all talk about? If you’re struggling for ideas, you could all pick a YouTube video or Netflix show to watch. Then your Skype call can be an informative discussion about what you watched.
Do combine online and offline methods
Just because you should practice your German online doesn’t mean that the internet has to be the only place you practice. You’ll actually really benefit if you combine some online and offline methods.
For example, you could arrange to meet your online language exchange partners in person, if they live in the same city. When you get back to online chatting, the relationship and whole conversational experience will feel so much more real, since you’ve met them in the real world.
If you all live very far apart, you can start writing to your exchange partners by hand, turning them into A+ penpals and Skype partners.
One of the best ways to combine online and offline learning is to keep a vocab list while you’re reading online articles, chatting with friends and watching video clips. Make sure that you continually review this list until you learn all of the words and you’re able to slip them into your German conversations.
Avoid exclusively studying vocabulary by digital means. Be sure to enhance your learning with some handwritten notes, as writing by hand is proven to improve memory.
Don’t get distracted
Okay, so this point is probably easier said than done, but it’s important to try and cut out all distractions.
Yes, this includes things like Facebook and BuzzFeed. You may find this difficult at first, but with a little practice, you’ll forget that these distractions even exist.
If you’re finding it extremely tricky to spend ten minutes online without checking your Facebook page, you should think about downloading a desktop app that blocks these annoying websites.
Still finding it hard to keep focused on your studies? You can always try downloading your study materials from the internet and then going offline. That way, there’s no way any other websites can tempt you to procrastinate!
Okay, final straw—let’s say you’re still completely addicted and have zero self-control. Take your distractions and turn them into study materials.
Rather than reading your usual listicles in English, read on German BuzzFeed. Rather than mindlessly scrolling through your news feed, change your Facebook to German and check out German-language pages.
Do chat with natives
The internet puts you just a few clicks away from chatting with native speakers, so you definitely need to grab this opportunity by the lapels!
We noted a few ways to find native speakers earlier, mostly ones that involve video chatting and language exchanges. However, it doesn’t have to be as formalized as all that. Just hop online and start chit-chatting in small doses via text.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to hunt down natives on Twitter, which is quite easy since everything is open to the public.
As Tweets can only be 140 characters long, you won’t have to worry about writing a huge essay to introduce yourself. Just a quick “hey, wie geht’s?” should be enough to get the conversation started!
Two of the best German Twitter accounts to follow are @NeinQuarterly and @GrumpyMerkel. Tweet back at them in German whenever you’ve got something to say about their Tweets.
Once you have built up your confidence on Twitter, it’s time to move onto commenting on national news articles. As many of these discussions will be politically driven, it’s a good idea to wait until you’re at an intermediate level before you dive on in.
Do challenge yourself
I’ve mentioned before that it’s very easy to fall into not-so-good habits when using the internet. Another one of these pesky habits that you should try to avoid is the tendency to take it easy and stick with videos and articles that you know you’ll definitely be able to understand.
This won’t do you much good. Your German won’t progress and you’ll just end up getting bored and frustrated with your studies. So whenever possible, you need to be seeking out videos and articles that you know are going to challenge you and push your German knowledge further.
One of the best ways to challenge yourself while watching YouTube videos is to lose the subtitles. Beginners will find subtitles useful to help them follow what’s going on, but once you get a bit more confident with your language skills, you should turn them off to see just how much you understand without them.
Were you worried that your online German practice wasn’t really hitting the right notes? Had you never considered studying German online until now?
Now that you can follow all of these do’s and don’ts, you’ll be able to get yourself right on track!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.