If you have a busy schedule (and who doesn’t?), taking advantage of online resources is a convenient way to learn German.
You can practice grammar and build vocabulary at a pace that suits you, and even when you are on the go.
For some people, it is a matter of convenience, while others simply prefer that method of learning.
These days, there is no shortage of sites that offer German courses, each with their own advantages and drawbacks. You want to know what you are signing up for (literally) before you make an investment of precious time and hard-earned money.
With that in mind, below is a review of the Everyday German Course offered by smarterGerman to help you determine if it is the right online course for you.
SmarterGerman Course Review: The Structure, Pros and Cons of Everyday German
What Is smarterGerman?
SmarterGerman is a set of online courses created by German instructor Michael Schmitz. The Everyday German Course is specifically constructed for beginners in the language, with courses directed at B1 and B2 on the CEFR scale also available. The material is designed to present a holistic approach to picking up German, as opposed to isolated rote learning.
Here is an in-depth look into the smarterGerman online course, giving you all the information you need to know if it is right for you.
The Scoop on the Everyday German Course
What the Everday German Course Promises
The central promise of the Everyday German course is that it delivers a more comprehensive way to absorb and participate in the German language. Instead of learning grammar tables and memorizing vocab from lists, smarterGerman seeks to teach the language through context, giving learners an intuitive sense of how to speak and write it.
The lessons are designed to offer simple explanations of grammar, as opposed to pedantic ones typically found in traditional textbooks.
The course is programmed to bring a learner to a B1 level by the end of its lessons. It claims that course users can reach a B1 level in 90 days if they spend an average of four and a half hours per day studying with the program.
The Everyday German Course is divided into 54 lectures, with approximately six to eight segments per lecture.
Most instruction is delivered by video, although there are also some short written hints. Each lecture contains writing and listening exercises, as well as general information on how to learn German more efficiently.
All the lessons can be completed at the user’s own pace, and with opportunities to track progress through the course.
Level of Support Provided
There are no live tutors in the smarterGerman courses. However, there is an opportunity every week to join an online meetup with founder Michael Schmitz, during which you can post your questions and have them answered. These meetups last for 30 minutes and occur at the same time every week.
Currently, the writing assignments within the course are corrected within 48 hours. This is meant to ensure that you receive the prompt feedback you need to move on to the next lesson in the program.
Advantages of the smarterGerman Everyday German Course
Learning occurs in context.
As per the more comprehensive learning strategy promised by the site, the information is not delivered in a vacuum. Instead, the entire course is built around a crime story that is broken up into 54 parts, one for each lesson.
This crime tale replaces the need for a German textbook while providing context for the vocabulary and grammar being taught. The student is encouraged to learn to read for context, as opposed to studying isolated words.
The reasons for the exercises are explained.
Perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the smarterGerman Everyday German course is that it explains the logic behind the prescribed exercises, especially in the early chapters. Each step comes with the “rationale” for it, uncovering the methods behind the madness, so to speak.
Learners quickly find that this has the effect of motivating the exercises, as it adds confidence in regards to its effectiveness.
Catchy songs are used to teach grammar.
Perhaps unique to the site, specially written songs are performed on the piano to help the learner memorize certain aspects of grammar, such as the German articles. Although such tactics at first make one feel like they are in Kindergarten, the songs stick in the head like earworms and are ultimately effective at achieving their purpose.
Writing assignments are corrected by actual people.
As mentioned above, all of the smarterGerman courses currently offer written assignments to be corrected by real people within 48 hours. Although it does not state who corrects these tasks, it is expected that they are course administrators with native-level German.
This individual attention helps target mistakes specific to the course learner. The website states, however, that it is possible that written assignments will not be corrected in the future, so make use of this feature while it is here.
Disadvantages of the smarterGerman Everyday German Course
There is no focus on speaking.
While the Everyday German Course focuses on writing, reading and audio exercises on the path to building an understanding of the language at a B1 level, it does not offer any resources or opportunities to practice speaking skills.
In fact, the official stance of the course is that it is not necessary to practice speaking skills until you have reached the end of the course (you can, however, enroll in a B1-level Exam-Hacking course that offers speaking practice).
This may not sit well with learners who are looking to use the German they learn in real-life situations, or who believe that speaking the language as you study it is important to getting a good grasp on it.
It is expensive.
The Everyday German Course from smarterGerman is cheaper than attending a credited university class or some physical classes. Nonetheless, the price runs higher than many other online course options.
Presently, you can pay in installments, but it does represent a significant financial investment. It is a good idea to try the free preview of the course and get a sense of its methods before making the commitment.
It does not use real-life content.
While the continuing crime story is an innovative way to encapsulate the material learned, it does not satisfy the desires of those who want to see the language in action in current real-life media.
Watching actual German video clips or reading topical news coverage as part of learning the language gives the process an immediate feel, while at the same time directly accessing German culture. This is missing in the smarterGerman course.
An Authentic Alternative to smarterGerman
An alternative for those looking to immerse themselves in German with authentic content can be found at FluentU.
FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:
Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.
Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.
Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.
FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or practice anytime, anywhere on the mobile app for iOS and Android.
The Everyday German Course offered by smarterGerman can be a convenient way to start your path toward becoming fluent in German, even if you will have to work on your speaking skills independent of it. The comprehensive design of the course puts the learning process into a written context, which gives it a decided advantage over traditional rote learning with dusty textbooks.
The course may be particularly useful for those who are intimidated by German grammar—which, let’s face it, is most of us. By adopting an attitude that learning German should be a more intuitive process, it takes away the fear of having to spend hours studying specific grammar rules.
Nonetheless, ultimately each individual must decide which learning model works best for them and keeps them motivated to continue. For that reason, it is recommended to check out the free preview lesson offered on the site, as well as a few alternatives like the authentic content on FluentU.
We hope this review of the smarterGerman Everyday German course will help you decide if this program is right for you!
Ryan Dennis was a Fulbright Scholar and previously taught at Pädagogische Hochschule Schwäbisch Gmünd. In addition to hating ketchup, British spelling and violence, he writes The Milk House, a literary column about rural life.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.