This page is a work in progress. Please feel free to suggest resources that have worked for you in the comments.
I first began studying German because it’s one of the languages in which a lot of music history resources exist. It was suggested as a study part of my degree, and so, I took the opportunity to learn a new language. I haven’t done as good of a job as I would have liked keeping up my German, but I did go through the process of selecting materials and working through resources, so I’ve assembled this guide to share some of the books and language learning materials I have used and found to be effective.
The German Language
The German language, deutsch, is primarily derived from the germanic branch of the indo-european family, but it also has some Latin and Greek influence. The language is spoken by some 100 million people both in German-speaking countries as well as in the German Diaspora, Deutschstämmige, in countries such as the US, Brazil, and Canada. It is the official language of Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein; one of the official languages of Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Belgium.
In the English-speaking world, German is said to be the third most taught foreign language after French and Spanish and it is one of the most widely spoken languages across Europe. It is one of the official languages of both the European Union and the European Commission.
So why would you want to learn German? Well, that’s entirely up to you. The Goethe Institute lists these 10 reasons for learning German in case you aren’t sure. Personally, I believe don’t that choosing languages for “practical” reasons is as effective for learning as choosing a language because you want to learn it. I learnt it because it not only helped improve my musicianship, but it connected me with part my heritage, and because I enjoy learning languages.
Hear the German Language
So, let’s look at a few resources you can use to help learn German.
How to Decide Which German Language Resources to Pick
Language learning texts and resources can get real expensive real quick. So rather than going at it randomly or by trial and error (which you’ll probably have to do some of anyway), I’d like to make a suggestion first.
The ability to use and understand a language is based upon four basic abilities: reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension. Depending on what your goals are, all four may not be necessary.
Let’s say, for example, you hope to take a trip to Berlin in six months. What language skills will you need? Basic communication and comprehension and basic reading (street signs, etc). You probably won’t ever have to write in the language. So, in this case, you might focus on developing your speaking and listening skills. If this sounds like you, I suggest checking out the audio or audio/text resources and the online resources below.
On the other hand, maybe your goal is to read German literature. In that case, learning to speak and understand the spoken language aren’t necessary and you can dedicate your energy to text. If this describes you, I suggest checking out the text and online resources below.
Ideally, you should probably develop some skill in each area, but the areas you focus on need to align with your goals regarding the language and how you plan to use it. I highly suggest picking resources based on this alone. Don’t get distracted with the temptation of shiny, new books (like me) and only buy materials you think you’ll actually use. You’ll save yourself a headache and a lot of money. Money that you can put aside for a trip to Germany!
A Few Things To Consider Before Taking on Any Language
- What is your motivation behind learning German? Take a moment to write down your language learning goals. It increases the odds of you achieving them. You can also join us as part of our Clear the List goal setting linkup!
- How many hours a day are you willing to study a language? Set realistic expectations for your progress.
- How do you plan on studying German? Are the methods that work for you available?
- You should setup up the German language keyboard on both your computer and your phone. It will help you with spelling and make chat easier on Skype/HelloTalk/etc.
- Be accountable. I keep my blog to help me be more accountable and use AskMeEvery to keep track of my daily study.
German Audio Resources
- Pimsleur German – try a free lesson
- Speechling // Record audio in Chinese and have it corrected by a native speaker. Read the review. Sign up using code FFDEBF and get 10% off for life.
- Librivox – get audiobooks read to you in your target language for free!
- TuneIn – German language radio
- Coffee Break German
German Audio & Text Resources
- GermanPod101 // Also an online resource, but it provides you with both audio recordings, text transcriptions and more.
German Text Resources
- Why German is Easy from Benny Lewis // This is a great book that takes some of the aspects of the Spanish language that may scare learners away and explains them in a clear way that eliminates any fear of the language.
- Harry Potter in German
- Books in German on Amazon
- Lang-8 // Get your writing in your target language corrected by native speakers.
- How to Speak German the Faster Way // A great post on Fluent in 3 Months.
- German Pronunciation // Another great post over at Fluent in 3 Months, this one written by Kerstin Hammes.
Online Resources for German
- The Add1Challenge // The last few years, I’ve done the Add1Challenge for every new language I’ve studied. I’ve also participated for several of my other languages. It’s a 90-day challenge that helps you get to a 15-minute conversation in your new language as a part of a community.
- FluentU – Read our review here.
- Speak in a Week // Another great resource from Benny Lewis that gets you speaking your target language quickly.
- iTalki // A great site where you can find language tutors or language exchange partners.
- Drops// Interactive, visual language learning with tons of fantastic, well-curated vocabulary lists.
- Clozemaster // A fun game where you use cloze, or fill-in-the-blank, to learn new vocabulary.
- Games for Language // I have yet to actually demo these games, but I like the concept behind them.
- Children’s Library
- Watch German TV
- Tatoeba // sentences translated from any language in German
- MIT Open Courseware // German
- Learn with Oliver (formerly Antosch & Lin) // A flashcard based system with audio and a variety of exercises to help you learn your target language.
- Deutsche Welle // A large collection of resources for German learners
One of the best ways to learn a language is to listen to music in the language. It not only helps with improving one’s accent, but it also can increase overall comprehension. Plus it’s fun to translate the lyrics of your favorite songs. Here are a few artists I enjoy.
- Foreign Language Music Blog – a great blog with music in various foreign languages with lyrics and their translations
Learning about the culture that is tied to the language you’re learning is so important – the more you love the culture, the more you’ll love the language and vice versa. Discovering a new culture also enriches your life, particularly if it’s one quite different than your own. I highly recommend it if you haven’t started already!
Here are a few books on the history of Germany and it’s culture. You can also check out television shows or movies. I don’t suggest cartoons or films for kids because a lot of the language is often invented and you won’t get as much from it as you might from a drama geared towards an older audience. But if cartoons are your thing, go for it!
- Movie: Das Boot
- Culture Smart! // A great series with introductions to various cultures around the world. For German, you can get started with Germany or Austria.
- Christmas in Germany // Vocab, history and a recipe in a guest post from Kerstin Hammes Cable.
A Quick Note
If you’ve been learning German, I’d love to hear about your experience and some of the language learning tools you’ve found helpful. Please leave me a note in the comments! The same goes for if you have any questions. I will be more than happy to respond and I look forward to hearing from you!