Learn German Online
Known for sounding direct and commanding, German is one of the most intriguing languages in the world--which is what makes it so rewarding to learn.
Nietzsche debated the existence of God in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Goethe wrestled with religion in Faust and Kafka wondered what would happen if a man turned into a cockroach--these renowned writers all chose German.
From Bach to Beethoven, from Einstein to Gutenberg, learning German brings you closer to centuries of rich culture.
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Today, as the official language of 6 countries in Europe and even 13 municipalities in Brazil German boasts 105 million speakers. You can be the next one! It’s easier than ever to learn German online.
You might be a little nervous about getting started. Although the CIA ranks German in the second-lowest difficulty category, the CIA still estimates that you will need 900 class hours before you get a good grasp of German. It ranks alongside Swahili and Malay.
But don’t let this scare you off! With the right tips, tricks and strategies, you can cut straight to what you really need to know about German. Focus on what’s most important, and you can have conversations about politics, sports and culture in no time.
So what are the right strategies? First, throw out your wrinkled high school textbooks. No more boring worksheets, no more dusty flashcards. Your new language-learning process is going to be fun and dynamic--and it’s much faster than you think.
How do you begin?
- Get started with your German pronunciation
- Get familiar with the German alphabet and orthography
- Expand your vocabulary
- Listen to German podcasts
- Understand the grammar
- Make effective use of your German study time
- Use spaced repetition to help with recall
Los geht’s! That means, let’s go!
Get started with your German pronunciation
Tackle the pronunciation first--those sounds aren’t as tricky as they look!
The habits that you form at the beginning of your German-learning journey will stick with you to the end. This is a good thing! If you create good habits now, they’ll become second-nature as you reach higher levels. You might be eager to skip ahead to having fluent conversations with native speakers, but take your time at this step. You’ll be glad you did.
That said, don’t pressure yourself to get everything absolutely perfect this time around. German has several sounds that don’t appear in the English language, and it will take a little time (and a lot of listening practice) before you can master them all.
So make sure that you pay attention to technique, but don’t feel discouraged if you don’t sound like a native speaker.
What’s important? Focus on being understood. As long as people can comprehend what you’re saying, that’s what matters.
Practice Your Pronunciation With Rocket Record
Rocket Record lets you perfect your German pronunciation. Just listen to the native speaker audio and then use the microphone icon to record yourself. Once you’re done, you’ll get a score out of 100 on your pronunciation and can listen to your own audio playback. (Use a headset mic for best results.) Problems? Click here!
Good news: You don't need to sound “perfect” in order to be understood. In fact, having an accent can come in handy. Not only does it signal to native speakers that you’ve taken the time to learn their language (which they often appreciate!) but it also encourages them to be patient with your mistakes. They may even provide handy tips to help you improve.
Now that you have the confidence to speak, ask yourself, which dialect do you want to learn? That’s right, there’s more than one form of German!
Because German is spoken all over the world, it will vary slightly from country to country--and even within the same country! There are countless dialects, including 16 regional accent groups within Germany alone.
Germans, Austrians and many Swiss people all learn formal Hochdeutsch (“High German”) in school. However, the dialects spoken in countryside villages vary so wildly that people from neighboring states can have trouble understanding each other.
Cities have major differences too. In southern German cities like Munich, you’ll find a slower, more musical form of German. However, once you shift north to Berlin, the language becomes harsher and faster. It’s all part of that Berliner Schnauze. AKA: Berlin attitude!
Take note: Swiss German (Schwyzerdütsch) isn't actually German. Don’t let the name fool you. If you try to speak Schwyzerdütsch in Germany, you’ll leave many people scratching their heads.
Therefore, when practicing your pronunciation, make sure you pick a guide tailored to the dialect you want.
Okay, so once you’ve settled on a dialect, how do you actually get started with your pronunciation? Speak out loud as much as possible.
Look at an overview of German pronunciation, such as the one here, to find a list of words and sounds to help you practice. Try out the shadowing technique to learn where the stresses fall in each word, even if you don’t understand what you're saying. Compare a recording of yourself with one of a native speaker, or swap the recording with a Tandem partner for advice.
Voice recognition is your friend. Rocket German’s voice recognition feature types out what you’re saying as you’re saying it, so you can get real-time feedback. It also returns a score to let you know how well you’re doing.
Learn a bit more about German pronunciation.
Get familiar with the German alphabet
Learn your ABCs--and your Ä, Ö, Ü!
One of the most beautiful parts of German is also the most intimidating--at least at first. We’re talking about orthography, or the way that German is written. While German is a beautiful language, spelling can be a bit tricky.
That’s okay! We have good news: The alphabet is actually fairly easy. You can pick it up in just a few days, if not hours.
The German alphabet
Here are a few fast facts to get you started:
- The German alphabet has 26 letters.
- But it also has 3 umlauts (Ä, Ö and Ü) and a ligature (ß). A “ligature” is a fancy word for when two letters are joined into one.
- Each umlaut can also be written as “ae,” “oe” and “ue,” but this is a bit uncommon.
- German has three grammatical genders, but the article “das” is used for every letter.
- Switzerland and Liechtenstein stopped using the “ß.” They swapped it out for a simpler “ss” instead.
- The “ß” is called Eszett or scharfes S (“sharp S”).
- Learning the sounds of the alphabet can be a bit tricky at first. For starters, a German “W” sounds like an English “V.”
- But a German “V” sounds like an English “F.”
- And the German “S” often sounds like an English “Z”!
- As we mentioned, each dialect pronounces the sounds of the alphabet differently.
To learn how to write the alphabet, including proper hand placement, take a look at a simple guide, grab a blank sheet of paper and get ready to draw.
It’s okay if your spelling feels a little shaky at first--you’ll master it in no time.
Have a more in-depth look at the German alphabet here.
Expand your vocabulary
Learn the most important information first.
You know how to pronounce each sound. Now it’s time to learn some words so that you can really start speaking.
Build your vocabulary by starting with the basics and then slowly working up to more complex topics. Soon you’ll be able to connect words into phrases, link phrases into complete sentences and use sentences in everyday dialogue.
But start small. German greetings are a great place to begin. When you know how to say hello, you’re on your way to making new friends.
Then get a little more descriptive. Learn about shopping. Chat about people. Describe your city. Practice by looking at your surroundings and putting German words to the things you see every day. If you like working with your hands, go a step further by slapping sticky notes on household objects.
Soon you’ll be able to think directly in German without translating, which is how you know you’re on your way to proficiency!
Start with some useful German vocabulary.
Listen to German podcasts
Learn German by simply pressing play.
Plug in your headphones or charge up your earbuds. It’s time to learn on the go. The best way? Audio courses and podcasts.
With the Rocket German interactive audio course, you’ll listen to an everyday dialogue between two native speakers. A German teacher will break down each line of the dialogue so that you fully understand what’s happening. You can use what you learned the next time you’re walking through Lyon.
While you’re at it, check out a few German podcasts. Don’t worry, you don't have to jump straight into a native-level news program. Start with a slower-paced show made for learners. You don’t need to understand every single word right away. That will come in time.
The first time you listen, focus on getting used to the sounds of German. Learn simple things like where one word ends and another begins. See which words you recognize.
The more you listen, the easier comprehension will become. As you pick up more and more German words, start trying to gather meaning from what you hear. Do some words keep popping up again and again? Look them up! Make a list to review. Things will click into place.
Bonus tip: Choose a podcast about something that interests you! Then “studying”--whether it’s in your car or during your morning jog around the block--won’t feel like work. Simply press play.
Check out this sample audio track from Rocket German.
Understand the grammar
Think of grammar like a puzzle, not a problem.
If you spent your school years hunched over a textbook, forced to memorize irregular conjugations in a foreign language, then the word “grammar” might make you shudder. But never fear! Grammar can actually be interesting.
Grammar isn’t just a system of strict rules that determine what is right and what is wrong in a language. Grammar is like a secret key to unlocking a language: At its core, it’s simply a handful of patterns that repeat themselves. The more you practice, the easier you’ll learn the patterns, and the more natural they’ll feel--and therefore, the easier it will be for you to speak.
Because the same patterns repeat themselves over and over, learning just the basics will get you pretty far. So don’t be intimidated by advanced grammar rules. You don’t need to master the past anterior, for example, in order to be understood. You can have a complex conversation just by grasping and building on the fundamentals.
Take a peek at German grammar by starting with greetings. Greetings, for example, depend not only based on formality and time of day, but also on the case and gender of each noun involved. Familiarize yourself with the fascinating differences, which can also teach you about the culture.
Make effective use of your German study time
It’s not how much you study, but how you study, that matters.
Work smarter, not harder. That’s the key to success in every area of your life, especially when it comes to language learning.
To make the most of your German study time, try these hacks:
- Learn the alphabet first.
- Practice the shadowing technique to learn on the go.
- Start with practical words you can use in everyday life.
- Learn loan words for quick vocabulary shortcuts.
- Remember information easily with mnemonics.
- Keep vocabulary in a notebook and on flashcards.
- Break the words down into the root system.
- Improve your writing with the Scriptorium technique.
- Read, watch and listen to every German-language thing you can.
- Use German on a daily basis.
Go a little more in-depth into these German learning tips.
Use spaced repetition to help with recall
Use the spaced repetition system to hack your brain into remembering more.
There’s nothing more frustrating than spending an hour learning vocabulary, only to return to the words a week later and realize you’ve forgotten it all.
To learn effectively, take advantage of the spaced repetition system. This system says that instead of just once, you should review your vocabulary words in intervals based on how well you know each word. Review unfamiliar words more often, and familiar words less often.
Reinforcement activities are a great way to naturally review information from previous topics so that you retain it longer. The Rocket Reinforcement activities below are designed so that you’ll never forget a thing.
If you’re ready to start learning German online, start your German learning journey by exploring the resources available with a Rocket German trial.
Viel Glück! Good luck!
Make It Stick With Rocket Reinforcement
Reinforce your learning from this lesson with the Rocket Reinforcement activities!