Memrise vs Anki: Is Either Better? No, Just Different (and for a different application).

Anki vs Memrise

People have bugged me about Memrise for years now and, although I’ve used it a fair bit, I’d never gotten around to writing a proper review of it, so I thought I would by comparing it with its obvious rival and answering a question many ask: Anki or Memrise? I particularly thought this was a good idea when I came to the point that I realized each one is better than the other at certain things.

If you’re primarily going to be making your own cards, Anki is what you want (or will want to use for that particular purpose). If you’re a beginner and primarily interested in just getting a good, quick start in the language by using already available material, Memrise is what you want.

Anki is just a lot easier to create new cards in, that’s what it was designed for, so that’s what it’s particularly good at. Yes, you can download other people’s decks and use them via Anki’s website, but Memrise just executes this idea so much better.

I’ll give you an example: I’m still working on my Spanish but I’m at a fairly advanced level (high B2 / low C1) so I just never use Memrise for Spanish, it’s useless to me for that purpose, but I’m only at about A2 in German right now so I find Memrise to be very useful and effective, as well as enjoyable to use, so therefore I use it almost daily (for German).

Please note that you can click the below images to see a larger version.

Quick Summary of What Anki Does

It’s simple: you want to make a flashcard, so you tell Anki that and write whatever you want the front and back of the card to be (in this case as an example we have “to be” on the front and “ser” on the back):

anki1

and then you review it later…

anki2

…where you’ll tell Anki how well you know it (note buttons at the bottom):

anki3

and that’s it. Anki then calculates, based on your answer, how many times you’ve reviewed it, and how often you get it right, when it’ll show it to you next (this is known as spaced repetition and is an extremely effective memory technique). I’ve got cards that only come up once every 6 months or year even. Simple (more detail on Anki here if you’re interested).

You can, by the way, add images and audio recordings to your cards, but you have to do this yourself (you have to hunt down the images and audio recordings and then add them manually). Memrise (usually) has this taken care of for you.

How Memrise Works

With Memrise you select a course…

memrise4

 

…and then simply start learning it. They’ve already been put together for you (by the community, by other users).

You get all manner of exercises…

Basic vocabulary:

memrise-learning new word

Note the arrows to the left and the right of the image, those allow you to scroll through whatever images other users have uploaded. If one of them satisfies you, you can select it as the “mem” to associate with this word or phrase (in the above case, “erzählen”). I didn’t like the first image you see above, so I scrolled through until I found and selected this one:memrise-choosing meme

If you don’t see one you like, you may upload your own as I did in the example below.

memrise1

Note how it says just above the picture “You have chosen this mem”. Well, you can choose images – visual reminders to help cue the word in your memory called “mems” in this case – to go along with each of your vocabulary cards. In this case I wasn’t happy with what was already on offer so I found this one via Google Image search by searching for “French people”.

This is what gives this site it’s name and much of its popularity: you can use any visual image you like to remind you of the answer. You can choose one from those that other users have uploaded (and even vote on them, note the little thumbs up sign in the bottom right of the first two images above) or upload your own as I’ve done in the last.

Select the correct audio:

memrise - select correct audio

You get three audio files that you can play, one of which will play the phrase written above (“the health” in this case), which you then select for the correct answer.

ID what you hear:

memrise-id from audio

In this case you hear an audio recording and must select what you heard from several choices.

Translate by selecting the correct words:

memrise-select correct words

This is a translation that’s fairly easy because it’s multiple choice (sort of): you just have to pick the right words and put them in the right order. It gets tougher later when you’ll have to…

Write the sentence entirely from memory (you’re given the English and expected to translate, to German in this case):

memrise-translate

Note the little pie-chart-looking-thing in the upper right: that’s a count-down timer. Yes, you only have a certain amount of time to get each card right when reviewing it.

When you get it wrong…

memrise-gotwrong

In the above exercise I had to translate by writing and I got it wrong. What it does in this case is tell you (that you got it wrong), tell you what the correct answer is (“Franzosen lieben es über Essen zu reden”), what you wrote (“Franzosen lieben es über Essen reden”), and then give you an opportunity to do it right by writing it correctly.

I think that last part is really important and something that definitely sets it apart from Anki: you’re not just told you got it wrong, you’re immediately given a chance to do it correctly, and not only that but by actually recalling and physically writing (typing) it out. Recall is more powerful (better at forcing memorization) than recognition is, and physically having to write something rather than just thinking or saying it out loud is better still.

Good job, Memrise.

Your score:

memrise-session complete

When you’ve finished a review or learning session you’re given all sorts of useful stats like how many correct answers you got, how many points this earns you (yes, you’re ranked relative to other people to encourage a bit of competition!), what your accuracy rate was, etc.

A Demonstration of Memrise in Action (video)

Here’s a quick video I did of you guys of me learning German with Memrise, it’s unedited, a little under 5 minutes long, and covers a whole lesson:

Which One I’d Recommend

They both do different things better than the other, so it really depends on what your needs are. If you’re a rank beginner and you’re not learning lots of new vocab from other sources (like TV shows or movies), then just use Memrise. If you’re more advanced and at this point you really don’t need any basic or even intermediate courses (like if you’re at least B1 level or better, roughly), then I’d say just stick with Anki.

If, however (and this is the most likely one for you), you’re a beginner/intermediate who can take advantage of one of the pre-made courses Memrise offers and you’re learning additional vocab, phrases, and grammar from other sources like music videos, TV shows, comics, or newspapers, then you’ll want to use both. They’re both free and they’re both very, very useful for the average language learner. Like I said, I use Anki for Spanish and both Anki and Memrise for German since I’m at a fairly advanced level with my Spanish but a fairly novice level in German.

I hope that helped someone, let me know what you think in the comments.

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

Learn German Vocab Fast with this Fantastic Free Tool

The tool in question is ReadLang, it works with any website in a variety of languages, and makes the process of learning new words from online text much easier than it was before, saving you massive amounts of time and effort.  You click the word you don’t know, it automatically looks it up, gives you the definition, and then stores the word into your flashcard deck for later review (via ReadLang’s website).  Below I’ve demonstrated this with my preferred German-language newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel (click the images to see larger versions):

readlang

The only thing you have to do is sign up and install the web reader, which is merely some javascript that you bookmark and then go to once you’re on the page you want to start using ReadLang on (they give you better instructions when you sign up, don’t worry).

Great built-in flashcard/SRS tool

Once you’ve signed up and installed the Web Reader, you can just go to any website in German (or any other language) and when you see a word you don’t know, just click it – doing this automatically adds it to your ReadLang flashcard deck along with the definition for it and the original sentence that it was used in.  The flashcard system is just like Anki so it handles the timing of what should be reviewed and when based on how well you know it.  You no longer have to manually copy the word into Anki, look up its definition, put the definition into Anki along with the context it was used it, and then save it.  ReadLang does all this for you.  Here’s the flashcard system in action:

readlang2

Notice how the original context is included at the top.  You click the blue box with the question mark to reveal the answer and then indicated how well you knew it, just like Anki:

readlang3

Shows you front and back automatically

One of the really nice things about it is that it automatically flips the cards for you and tests you on both sides, meaning that you’re shown the German and English equally often, 50% of the time you’ll get the German word and have to know the English and 50% of the time you’ll get the English and have to know the German.  With Anki and most other flashcard/SRS’s you have to manually do this yourself and each and every card and it’s very tedious.  You can see this below where it’s flipped the above card and showed me the English, “modesty”, and I have to know that the German word for that is “Besheidenheit”, whereas before it showed me “Besheidenheit” and I had to come up with “modesty” to get it right:

readlang4

Progress report and list of words you reviewed that day

Lastly, it provides you with a chart detailing your progress (you can see I’ve been negligent of late, I need to get back to this but I’ve been working more on listening comprehension recently) as well as a list of all the words you reviewed that day:

readlang5

Conclusion

This is a wonderful little tool, largely in its simplicity and ease of use.  It does precisely what a ton of people have wanted for years now and nothing more, it merely does that and does it well.  Again, you can check it out at ReadLang.com.

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

Native Speakers are NOT Good at Teaching Their Own Language!

I just wanted to quickly talk today about a common misconception I see amongst beginning language learners, and that is that native speakers make good teachers of their own language.

Imagine trying to teach someone English (or whatever your native language is).  See what I mean?

Alright, if you still don’t get it, think of it this way: recall all the various problems and questions you had regarding the way things were said and why (grammar, syntax, why this word means that, etc.) while you were trying to learn German, or any other foreign language you’ve attempted in the past.  Now, could you answer similar questions about your own native language for a non-native speaker who was trying to learn and understand it?

For me and most, the answer is a very quick and definitive “No!

Why

Because they either never learned why things were done the way they are or they’ve forgotten.  They just learned that this is how you say whatever it is you want to say and that’s that.

Look at the way children learn languages (and no, this doesn’t mean that’s the best way for an adult, please not this debate again): they listen and repeat until they get it right.  They don’t stop and say “Wait…why do I have to say it that way?”, because they have no frame of reference to serve as a reason to ask that question.  What I mean is that the reason you ask that question is because what you’re learning, the way you’re learning to say something in your new language, contradicts or compares unfavorably or strangely with how you know to say it in your native tongue.

What Native Speakers Are Good for

Telling you whether or not you got something right and, if not, how to do it right.  That’s it.  They’re extraordinarily good at that.  They’re an excellent feedback mechanism.

And make no mistake, I’m not at all belittling their value – native speakers are probably the single most valuable language-learning resource their is.  One of the most useful things you can do to improve your target language is take what you know (or think you know) and present it to a native speaker, by using it to try to communicate with them, like “Here, what do you think of this?”.  And then they’ll tell you what they think of that, of your German (if they’re a native German speaker), of your Spanish (if they’re a native Spanish speaker), and they’ll find all the little errors and even odd-sounding things (that aren’t quite incorrect but just “sound funny”) that you said and not only tell you that they’re wrong but also, even more useful, tell you how to fix them!  How fantastic is that?!

But don’t mistake them for professors.  They’re not professional tutors or teachers just because they speak the language.  They can’t directly teach you the language, they can only do so indirectly by correcting what you have already learned elsewhere.  But that’s the thing: you have to give them something to work with.  They can’t give it to you themselves, they wouldn’t know where to start (would you? with English?  if you were starting from scratch with someone who didn’t speak a lick?).

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

Interested in the culture of other countries and habits of their peoples? I HAVE A NEW BLOG ABOUT THAT!

I’ve been wanting to write about the culture in other countries for a while now but wanted to wait until I actually started traveling to do so.  I’m in Spain at the moment and have had just a ton of observations and interesting little insights into Spanish culture, the psyche and habits of its people, and the country in general.

These sort of things aren’t strictly language-learning, hence I’ve held off writing about them on my current Spanish-learning blog, How to Learn Spanish.  I know that although most people who are interested in learning a new language are also interested in the culture of those countries where that language is spoken, not all of them are, so I wanted to keep this separate.

I have finally got the new site started and published four new posts already (I wanted to have some material ready for you all before I sent you there):

Cultural Observation: Observations about the cultures of various countries and peoples.

Please check it out and tell me what you think!

I’ve already written about:

And there’s lots more to come, I’m brimming with ideas and topics I want to write about.  I really hope to be able to get some actual interviews on video for you with local Spaniards here in Zaragoza – what do you want me to ask them?  What do you want to know about Spain, its culture, life here, Spaniards, perhaps Zaragoza in particular?

This blog won’t just be about Spain or Spanish-speaking peoples, it will be about the culture, habits, and interesting little idiosyncrasies of people and countries everywhere!  For example, gun culture in the United States (I’m from Texas, I was raised shooting guns and hunting, I can comment on this extensively), pub culture in the U.K., salsa and latin dance in South America, the concept of losing face in Asian cultures, how it’s taboo in Japan to walk and eat at the same time (seriously, it is), etc.  Stuff like that is what I have in mind.

If that interests you, please have a look at my blog, bookmark and share it, subscribe to the RSS feed (or just wait for me to email you about the newsletter I’m setting up for it, I know not too many people use RSS anymore), etc.

I really look forward to this little project, this is a subject that fascinates me.

Oh, and yes!  I will be traveling to many other countries in the future (and writing about them, of course).  Right now I have my sights set on Colombia and then Germany.  Regrettably I’ve hardly done any German since I arrived here in Spain, I’ve just been too busy, but I loathe the thought of losing the progress I’ve made and plan to pick it back up as soon as I can.

Let me know what you think (oh, and yes, I know I’m terrible about responding to emails in a timely fashion right now, forgive me, I will get around to replying and do read all of them no matter what).

Cheers,
Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

How to avoid wasting months learning German the wrong way (and learning the wrong type of German)–get started the right way, learn to talk like native speakers do

The worst thing that can happen to you, and it happens to thousands of newbie language-learners every year (I’ve met several of them), is that you just don’t know how to start off so maybe you try this, that, and the other random method or resource and, of course, that doesn’t work very well and you end up quitting after a few months (at best) of wasted time and effort. On the other hand, if you get started right you’ll see immediate significant improvements in your ability to speak with natives, which will encourage you and result in you gladly putting in the necessary time and effort.

I’ve held off on talking about this for a while because, although I personally think the right system can be very valuable and can really make the whole process of learning German much faster and can prevent a lot of people from quitting who would’ve otherwise ended up floating about aimlessly trying different things unsuccessfully before giving up, I wanted to be very careful about what I recommended–there’s a ton of stuff out there that purports to teach you German so that you’ll “be able to talk just like a native!” and all in only 30 or 60 days or some crap like that.

It’s just not true, learning a language doesn’t work like that. It takes a good amount of time to get fluent (6-8 months if you bust your butt) and a lot of hard work. I do, however, believe that a prepackaged system designed to help someone learn a certain language from scratch, if it’s good, can be immensely valuable, and I’ll tell you right now that some of them were very valuable to me in the beginning when I started teaching myself German. They were so valuable to me because, like you, I had no clue as to what I was doing, I didn’t know where to start!

Which one you should even consider purchasing, if you’re going to go this route, is very dependent upon what your needs are: are you trying to get conversationally fluent with the primary objective being to be able to talk to native speakers using normal, day-to-day language? Or are you a student who needs to ace your upcoming AP German exam and therefore you need to learn a lot of grammar and vocabulary but you don’t need to be able to speak? Are you interested in taking one of the CEFR exams for German? Those are three very different sets of needs, and I primarily cater here to the person who wants to learn how to speak German for the purpose of being able to talk with native German speakers (though I do have several solid recommendations for the other two groups mentioned at the end of the article, stick around).

So what’s the problem with trying to figure this out on my own?

The problem is that there are a ton of resources out there and someone who’s never learned a language before is not going to have any means of discerning which ones to use nor will they know how to use them properly and in what combination such that what they’re doing is effective and causing them to make progress at a good rate and not completely wasting their time. This is what many beginners who dive right in without guidance end up doing: wasting their time (usually several months), then getting frustrated at their lack of progress (they realize they’re hardly any closer to being able to speak with a native than when they started), and finally giving up.

Additionally, I’m presuming that you’re not interested in trying to put together your own German learning system and just want a basic and effective course to spoon-feed you precisely the correct German in just the right way in order to kick-start you on your German-learning journey. If you’re:

A) A beginner (in German); and

B) Someone who’s never learned a foreign language before and therefore hasn’t learned how to learn a foreign language…

Then this is almost certainly what you want, at least initially: a complete system where everything has been figured out for you that will hold your hand and tell you what to learn and how. Just for the first month or two, until you’ve got the fundamentals of the language down, that’s all you need.

Hey, it’s not that these two methods (buying a prepackaged system vs. creating your own) are contradictory or that one is better than the other, it’s just that different people have different needs, circumstances, learning styles, personalities, and preferences, and therefore different methods will work best for different people – choose whichever one you think best suits you.

Additionally, you want to avoid learning the wrong way of saying things. Textbooks, workbooks, and many online websites with free ‘exercises’ and ‘lessons’ you can do teach you things that a native speaker would never say! Your high school German teacher might have given you an ‘A’ for saying it that way, but it would sound strange, overly formal, and possibly even ‘snotty’ to a native speaker. You don’t want to learn things that not only would you never need to use but that if you did use them they’d actually end up hurting your communication with a native speaker, not helping!

Are Any of Them Really Any Good?

I’ve tried a bunch of different ones and can honestly recommend very few of them, in fact I have exactly one that I recommend for the specific purpose of learning how to speak German as quickly as possible (becoming highly proficient in written German will require additional material, though this course does cover reading and writing to some degree)–this particular course does not have a great deal of emphasis on learning grammar or learning how to write the sort of formal German you would need to pass an exam–be aware of this, it’s designed to get you speaking German, using normal, modern, everyday language, as fast as possible (in as little as a couple weeks, actually) so that you can start conversing with native speakers about normal, everyday subjects as quickly as possible. That’s the point, and that’s the only point of this course. If you’re looking for something to improve your written German or so you can pass an exam, I have other recommendations further down below this.

Ok, so what do you recommend and why?

First, I want to very quickly give you some relevant background info about me: I’ve previously taught myself Spanish and used this same product to help me do so, and I was very impressed with it, so when I started in on German it was one of several that I tried (along with Pimsleur, Synergy, many workbooks, and some other stuff).

Alright, here we go: if you’re looking to learn German, as in eventually get to conversational fluency or better, you’re a beginner (not an experienced polyglot who’s learned 3 other languages before or something), you’ve got at least a few months to work on it (and it will take at least that long to get fluent), then I highly recommend a little-known program called Rocket German (click here to check out their site). It’s $99 for the digital version that you can download (they offer CDs as well), and it is a FULL course by itself, it contains about the same quantity of material as Pimsleur German Levels 1-3 and each level of Pimsleur is $250 so that’s $750 total for Pimsleur, and frankly I think Rocket German actually does a better job of teaching the material, and a way better job of choosing which material to teach, than Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, LiveMocha (kinda-sorta free but not really, and you get what you pay for), or any of the other courses I tried do.

When I first started teaching myself German, I started with Pimsleur and did levels I-IV. I have since tried about half a dozen other courses and books, including Rocket German, and I’ll tell you something: I think you’ll learn far more from Rocket German than you will from all 4 levels of Pimsleur or any other single such system.

Everything you learn is common, everyday German that people tend to use the most frequently with friends, neighbors, store workers, and other people they interact with the most frequently throughout their day-to-day lives.

I highly recommend that, if you’re going to try it, you just get the all-digital version that you can download, which is another reason I like it (they also offer it on CDs if your connection can’t handle the file size). That way you don’t have to wait for something to get shipped to you.

What does this course do?

It kick-starts the learning process for beginners and provides them with an already prepackaged and set-up system to follow for the first couple of months that will result in a ton of German getting stuffed into their heads (this program covers a lot of German very quickly but very well, that is it does a superb job of teaching the material) so that they may progress from there into practicing with native speakers via language exchanges (I’ll explain what those are in a second) and learning additional German from movies, TV shows, music, etc. It does not just magically get you to fluency, it kick-starts the process and gives you enough German and a good enough understand of the language and its grammar and syntax such that you can then just iron out the kinks, add enough words to your vocabulary, via talking with native speakers and watching German-language movies and such, that you can then get yourself to fluency on your own within a few months of completing the program, which leads me to my next important point…

There is NO ‘system’ or ‘program’ out there, in existence, ANYWHERE, that will hold your hand from beginning to end and take you from zero to completely fluent

It does not exist and anything that claims to be able to do that is completely full of it. What some (the very few good programs out there) can do is take you from zero competency to about a low-intermediate level of competency and that is good enough for you to take it from there on your own: from that point all you have to do is just listen to some German music (you’ll already know almost all of the grammar and most of the vocabulary, each new song will teach you some new vocab and new idioms and expressions), watch some German-language movies (you’ll understand a lot of what they’re saying which will make it so much easier to learn the rest that you don’t understand than if you didn’t understand any of it at all to begin with), and, most importantly, talk to native speakers (have I mentioned how important this is yet? Oh, also, it’s easy and free: they’re called language exchange sites, my favorite one right now is iTalki).

The way a language-exchange site works is that it brings together people who are native speakers of one language and looking to learn another and then pairs together people are trying to learn each other’s native language: e.g. you are a native English speaker who is learning German, there are tons and tons of native German speakers who are learning English, a language exchange site would help you find each other that way you can schedule a Skype phone call (free for both parties) where you would spend, say, 20 minutes in each language, that is you both would speak for 20 minutes in German and the German speaker would help and correct you, and then you’d speak for 20 minutes in English and you’d help and correct them – see how that works? Lovely, isn’t it? I’ve used these sites for over a year now, believe me: you will not have any trouble finding German speakers to talk to, English is the most popular second language in the world, everyone wants to learn it, lucky for you!

The best language exchange sites I’ve tried that I recommend are iTalki (like I said above, this is my favorite, and one of the biggest), The Polyglot Club, and The Mixxer.

What a good German program like Rocket German does is it gets you to a level where you can communicate reasonably well with a German speaker, you’re not fluent, you’re still slow and kinda herky-jerky, stop-and-start, you still have trouble thinking of exactly the right word, but you can communicate. You’ll have a really good base to go off of, you won’t just be sitting there in front of the computer screen staring at the person on the other end with nothing but “uhh..guten tag?” and then expecting them to teach you the entire German language (won’t work! they neither can nor would they want to do that!). You can talk to them and you’ll make mistakes here and there and need help here and there thinking of the right word, but you’ll be starting with a good grasp of the German language, they won’t have to teach you German, they’ll just have to help you a little occasionally, you see what I mean?

Basically, you learn German on your own from a program like this one and then you go and practice to improve your (already existing) German with native speakers.

Pay attention!

It won’t make you fluent, no learning program or system out there will, but it will give you a big boost in that direction and it’ll teach you the fundamental groundwork that you’ll need so that you can actually practice speaking with native speakers which is what will make you fluent by taking you the rest of the way (very quickly once you start doing it).

Avoid wasting time trying to figure out how/where to start and with what. This is an excellent prepackaged program specifically designed for the sole purpose of teaching you how to talk (verbally, out loud) with native speakers in the form of a normal, informal, friendly conversation. You start speaking from day one, you learn from and imitate native speakers, and what you learn will only be the most commonly used German, and by commonly used I mean that German which normal native speakers most commonly use in their verbal day-to-day interactions with other native speakers. You’ll learn how to relate to, get to know, and befriend a native speaker, and you’ll learn how to do this in German as quickly as possible, it’s the entire emphasis of the program. I highly recommend you go on over to their site (here) and check out what they’ve got to say, read the testimonials, etc. and decide if you want to give it a shot–remember, you can try it out for up to 60 days and get a full refund at any point in there if you don’t like it.

And that’s the end of what I have to say about Rocket German.

So what should I get if I want to improve my written German or I need help passing an exam?

Practice Makes Perfect German (workbooks–these are what I personally use to learn reading/writing comprehension in a language) are what I recommend in general, and some other things for specific exams (AP/CEFR). They’re cheap, easily available on Amazon, the least-boring workbooks/textbooks I’ve ever tried, and they’re very effective at what it is that they claim to do.

Who it’s for: People who really want to learn to properly read and write German. These are what I use, and I love them because not only are they SO good, but they’re really, really cheap! As in, $7-$8 per workbook (that’s new, used ones on Amazon are less) and you only need maybe 1-3 of them (grammar, verbs, and maybe prepositions). Yeah, seriously, you can learn to read and write German from scratch to a fairly high level for under $20, easy. That’s awesome.

What it does: Takes you from knowing no German whatsoever and gets you to where you can not only read just about any German (while still having to look up a few words here and there) but write it just as well! Sorry, I just love these things, they’re so awesome and ridiculously damned cheap for what they do, they’re just a fantastic deal, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Downsides:

1. There are a few errors/typos in the editions I have, though not many, and they may have been corrected in more recent editions.

2. You really need to take the time to sit down and do them, it requires effort, it’s not like with some other courses here where you can just sit in front of a computer like a slug and say what they tell you to say and that’s it.

Bonus: The thing I really love about them is that, unlike every other workbook I’ve looked at, they have space for you to write all the answers in them, you don’t need a separate notebook! This is a major thing for me that I like about them over all the other ones, I hate having to keep a separate notebook or word file on my computer for a workbook, it’s a massive pain in the butt, and every other German workbook out there expects you to write the answers to the exercises somewhere other than in the book, they don’t give you space for it.

Click the links below to see their offerings in German:

Practice Makes Perfect Complete German Grammar

Practice Makes Perfect German Conversation

Practice Makes Perfect German Verb Tenses

If you’re taking the AP German exam

Check out:

Prufungstraining Daf: Prufung AP German Exam (B2) – Ubungsbuch MIT Cds (German Edition)

If you’re taking the CEFR exam

Check out:

German, Simply ABCD (Volume 1): Level A1 of the CEFR

and

German Vocab, Simply ABCD (Level A1-A2 of the CEFR) (Volume 1)

Conclusion

I genuinely hope that this is helpful to you and that you get far more than your money’s worth if you decide to buy one of these, that’s a part of the reason I’m recommending them: I think they’re cheap considering what you get and what they do. If you don’t think so, absolutely get your money back – I would.

I know that there are some who much prefer to learn on their own using random material that they scrounge up on the internet and from Amazon, they’re usually polyglots who have learned several languages before, have gotten really good at learning languages in general, have sort of developed their own personal method of teaching themselves a new language, and they’re very good at it.

That’s fine, but a lot of people, most of the ones that come to my site I think, are people who have never learned a language before and have no clue as to how to go about it and would really, really benefit from and appreciate a system that someone who knows what they’re doing has already gone and set up for them, something that will at least get them going in the right direction and give them a solid foundation in the language to work off of, and that’s what a good language-learning program will do, and that’s why I do have a very select few that I’ll recommend depending on what it is that you want to accomplish.

That’s what I think and it’s reflected in the fact that me and a lot of other language bloggers get repeatedly asked about this stuff, mainly from newbies who have never learned a language before and are starting from scratch. I want to help those people, I want to answer the question they’re asking to the best of my ability, and I want to recommend something useful that will best meet their needs, so that’s what I’ve done here today. I really hope you’ve found it to be valuable information for you, please let me know what you think (comments, contact form, etc.).

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

Another Advantage of a Tutor: MUCH Faster Error-Correction Rate Than Anything Else I’ve Experienced (which means you LEARN faster than anywhere else)

As I’m fond of saying: You learn to speak a language by trying to speak it, poorly at first.

What this means is that you learn by making mistakes which are then corrected, the corrections being where the actual learning takes place.  Previously, I had recommended that people get this sort of error-correction via language exchanges where you help a native speaker of the language you’re learning with your native language that they’re learning in exchange for them helping you with their native language which you’re learning, e.g. you would do a 30 minute session where the first 15 minutes are you speaking German while your partner (a native German speaker) helps and corrects you and the next 15 minutes are them speaking English to you (presuming you’re a native English speaker) while you help and correct them.  This is all well and good…and free, most importantly…but, if you can afford it, a tutor is definitely a much better way to go about this.

With a one-on-one tutor this happens faster than in any other learning environment I’ve ever tried.  Not only that but, unlike with a language exchange, you’re not spending any of your time teaching someone else a language, all of it is them teaching you the language you want to learn, plus it’s a professional language teacher doing it unlike with a language exchange where that’s never the case (if you’re good at something never do it for free, right?), which means that they can not only tell you that you’re wrong but also why you’re wrong (most native speakers can’t do this, they can’t tell you why their language works the way it does).  They’ve also probably encountered this particular error/problem/question/confusion with another student, or several, before and consequently have already got an explanation or way of teaching it worked out that’s been refined via said experience.

Let me give you an example…

german tutor
Céline

Just today I had a German session with one of the German tutors I’ve decided I like, Céline (she’s excellent, has by far the most open schedule of any of the tutors I’ve tried, and she’s in Chile at the moment so she’s only 2 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time so she tends to have slots open at much more opportune times for Americans and Canadians than most German teachers who are in Europe and therefore 7 hours or more ahead).  Today we talked about, among other things, negation in German and the placement of “nicht” in a sentence, how its placement affects what it negates (a verb or a noun), and how said placement can affect the meaning of that sentence (it can drastically change it).

There was much confusion.

When used in a very simple sentence in the accusative or dative case without any objects or with just a single direct object, “nicht” always goes at the end, e.g. “Ich esse nicht.” (I’m not eating) or “Ich fahre mein Auto nicht.” (I’m not driving my car).  However, when it gets any more complex than that then you have to start worrying about where to put the negation (frequently “nicht”) and the appropriate place is usually not at the end.  The location depends on what you want to emphasize/negate in the sentence (placing “nicht” before a word usually emphasizes it) and what case(s) you are working with.  German cases are, in and of themselves, a massive headache, especially if you’ve never encountered cases before (English doesn’t use them with a very few exceptions, neither do any of the romance languages except Romanian) – if you’d really like to learn about cases I highly recommend this article (and that blog in general for German learners), that’s what got me to understand them.

Anyway, point is: it’s complicated.  Consequently, we spent a good half hour going back and forth on this, primarily with me saying “So what this means is…” or “So the way you would say this is [butchered German]” and her saying “No…” and then correcting me and trying again to explain this.  If I were doing this on my own god only knows how long it would’ve taken me to sort this out and come to the same level of understanding I had after about half an hour with her, I would estimate several hours of study over a period of a couple days, largely because this (negation, use of “nicht”) and cases are solidly intertwined with German, you can’t understand the first without the second, and as I’ve already stated, cases are very complex.

Instead we got it (mostly) handled in 30 minutes.

This is the advantage of a tutor I’m talking about: you have an expert there to whom you can ask every question that pops in your mind as you’re learning this material (you would have no one to ask if you were self-studying), who will immediately tell you whether each attempt you make to use the material is correct or not and, if not, how to correct it (and they’ll do it in such a way that you can understand it well, they’re a professional teacher, it’s their job), as well as allowing you to test your understanding of what’s being taught by feeding it back to them (“Ok, so this means that…”, “So when you have X and Y, you do Z…”, etc.) and seeing if it’s correct or not – again, you can’t do this if you’re learning the material from a book or course, you can’t know if you’re understanding it properly or not.

I hope that helps and that you’ll at least give a tutor a shot and see if it works for you or not (I’m doing the iTalki 2015 Language Challenge right now and I think they have the best system for this online).  Let me know what you think in the comments or by contacting me.

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

One Advantage of Using a Tutor: They Have a Plan (based on experience with lots of students!)

I’ve tried six different tutors at this point (5 professional, 1 “community” tutor which is just someone who doesn’t teach the language as their day job and does online tutoring on the side), kept four of them (the first pro was flat out bad, the community tutor was “meh”), and one thing I’ve consistently noticed about the good ones is that they all have a plan and it’s a plan that works because it’s based on lots and lots of experience teaching people the language – they’ve already worked out all the various needs and problems that they know you’re going to have because they’ve done this hundreds of times before with other similar students with similar needs. In the words of the eminent physicist Niels Bohr:

Bohr“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.”

Hah. Yup.

Every single tutor I’ve tried, even the bad one (one bad one out of six isn’t bad!) had at least a decent quality plan (the problem with the bad one wasn’t their plan): they had exercises, games (I’ve got a great story about this I’ll share below), workbook pages, something prepared for the lesson prior to the lesson beginning.  Here’s my point:

You don’t waste any time trying to figure out what to do.

And for beginning language learners, that’s huge.  Because they typically do spend a large portion of their time trying to figure out how exactly to go about learning the language in question, at least if it’s their first one they’ve ever learned besides their native tongue.  You don’t have to do this, the tutor who has tons of experience getting people to learn this language already knows what to do, so every second of your time is spent taking positive action towards your goal and making actual, real progress.

german with mo, modabo
Mo

Ok, so here’s the story: I was having a lesson with Mo (great teacher, by the way) and she decided what she wanted to do for that lesson was play a game with me.  It went like this: she would start to tell a story, in this case about someone simply getting up in the morning, and then I would have to continue it (in German) by making up the next part of the story (I said, in German of course, that he then had a cup of coffee), then she would do the next part (he had toast for breakfast), then I (he also had orange juice!), then her (the phone rang, I learned the word for “to ring”: klingeln), then I (it was his mother), then her (she was very excited: “aufgeregt” means “excited”), then I (because the neighbor’s dog had peed on her newspaper – I learned how to say “to pee” in German: “pinkeln”!), then her (she wants him to come over), then I (because she wants him to fight the neighbor: I learned how to say “to fight”: kämpfen), and on and on.  What fun!  Fun, and, most importantly: effective (frequently these two thing go together, as I’ve stated many times, right?).

This turned out to be fantastic.  I learned so much new German (vocabulary, grammar, everything) in that single one-hour session, I was just astounded – I should note that the few examples of new vocabulary I learned that I mentioned above were but a small portion of everything I learned that session, those are just a few examples I picked for you.  I was exhausted and ready to end by the time it was over, but in a good way.  I felt like we genuinely accomplished significant progress.  This was far, far more than I could’ve possibly hoped to accomplish on my own with any kind of self-study method (textbook, self-study course like Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur, etc.).

Regardless of anything else, I will say this about tutors (good ones): they’re extremely time-efficient.  Probably the most time-efficient method out there, or as we Americans like to say: you get the most bang for your buck.

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

My First iTalki Tutoring Session in German: What You Can Expect

lcI’m currently doing the iTalki 2015 Language Challenge which is where if you take at least 20 hours of instruction via their tutors then you can win 400 ITC (iTalki Credits, which are used to buy lessons with the tutors on there, with ten of them costing $1US). The language I’m doing it in is, of course, German since that’s what I’m learning at the moment.

I actually have tried this before, though that was for Spanish.  I plan on doing at least six, possibly more, of these blog posts as I continue learning German via an online tutor so that you can follow my progress and get an idea of what it would entail if you were to do it.  I’ll be posting these here and on my other blog about learning Spanish.

I just had my first tutoring session the other day (and another one today, though that hasn’t given me much to add to this) and wanted to use my experience to relate to you how your first session will likely go and what you can expect:

  • So far all the tutors I’ve scheduled a session with have sent me a message shortly thereafter, either asking for further clarification about my current abilities in the language or at least letting me know that the session is scheduled and they’ll see me then.  So your first interaction with them will probably be with an iTalki message they’ll send you after you schedule your session.
  • You’ll get a reminder on the day of the session about an hour and a half before it starts.  I personally am grateful for this since I’m the sort of person who’s butt might just be saved by something like that (I don’t often forget appointments but it does happen).
  • Once the call starts (on Skype, the tutoring sessions are all conducted via Skype), the first thing the tutor needs to do is assess your ability, to figure out just where you’re at in the process of learning this language.  This is very important and can take a while if you’re not a complete beginner (if you are then they know just where you stand and where to start with you), expect to spend half or more of the first session doing this, though most of it is sort of done in the background.  That is, they’ll be assessing your ability as they teach you, e.g. they might try to teach you something, not knowing whether you know it or not, and then find that you do and adjust their strategy accordingly.  In other words, they’ll skip around and teach according to your specific needs.  This is a good thing, you’re only spending your time learning what you don’t know and need to know and not spending your time on things you do already know or don’t need to know – the teacher figures all this out and does the work for you in this regard.  This way you’re not wasting your time going over concepts you already know like you would with something rigid that doesn’t adjust to you personally like a software program, book, or class.
  • My experience so far has been that the tutor will adapt themselves to you in every way possible, so that if you’re proficient enough in the language that the entire session can be conducted in it then they will, if you’re not then they’ll do it in your native language (presuming they speak it which is something you need to ensure beforehand).  For example, my Spanish session with Vero was entirely in Spanish, this wasn’t a problem since I was already reasonably competent.  My first German session was almost entirely in English since my German isn’t even near good enough to allow that sort of thing.  I’ve yet to encounter a tutor who insists on doing the whole thing in the language being taught regardless of how well you speak it (that’s kind of an old-school technique that has, thankfully, mostly fallen out of fashion).
  • Afterwards you’ll get an e-mail from iTalki asking you to confirm the session was completed and to leave feedback.

That’s pretty much it.  I hope to be able to tell you more as I sample different tutors and get more experience with the whole tutoring thing in general.  Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

List of Sites to Watch German Videos, TV Shows, and Movies Online (most are free)

watch german online
A TV news interview at Oktoberfest.

Ok, I’m going to maintain a list here of all the websites where you can watch German videos (of whatever content: TV shows, news, random YouTube stuff someone created, etc.) online with a strong emphasis on free (if it costs money it’s going to have to be damned good).  The purpose of this is to help other people who, like me, are learning German and believe that using popular media like TV shows, music videos, and such is a great way to go about learning a language.

This list will be continuously updated, with many new sites being added as I discover them and people are kind enough to tell me about them via e-mail and the comments section below (if you know a good site that’s not here, please let me know, I’ll give you credit!), and with any dead links being removed as I find out about them.

Let’s get started.

Sites Specifically Designed for People Learning German

Yabla

This is a fantastic website and my top recommendation if you’re looking for German-language videos for the purpose of learning German.  I emphasize the last part because that’s specifically and solely what this website is designed for and it’s the only one on this list (or in existence, that I’m aware of) that is solely intended for that purpose.  It’s also the only one on this list that costs money, just so we’re clear (it’s cheap, but it’s not free, no).  What they do is take German-language media that was originally produced in German-speaking countries and intended for native speakers (TV shows, cartoons, documentaries, etc.) and then integrate them into a whole German-learning interface they have that allows you to see word-for-word German subtitles and their English translation at the same time  (you can turn either or both off while watching the video) as well as a dictionary, vocabulary learning game, and flashcard system that’s very easy to use and all on the same page as the video you’re watching.  If this sounds like something that might interest you I’d recommend you just go on over to their site and try out the free demo videos right now to see if you like it.  Oh, and they do provide volume discounts for educators and organizations.

TV Stations that Offer Free Streaming Videos of Their Content

These are the websites for television broadcast stations based in Germany that offer at least some of the content they produce online for free in streaming video format.  They all have an enormous amount of free videos on their site you can watch, more than you could possibly have time to look at so you’re not at all spoiled for variety and can pick whatever interests you, and these videos all cover a very wide variety of genres: news, sports, documentaries, reality TV, fictional TV of the various flavors (action, comedy, drama, soap operas, etc.), kids shows (great for language learners!), weather, etc.

Useful vocabulary to help you navigate their sites

Here are just some common words I found to be useful in trying to find what you want on the below sites, I’ve placed them in alphabetical order to make it easier for you to find whatever word you’re looking for:

  • “Alle Zeigen” – Show All.
  • “Am Bestet Bewertet” – “Best Rated” or “Top Rated”.
  • “Ausland” – “Foreign Countries” or “International”, typically refers to international news, that is news from outside Germany.  See: “Inland”.
  • “Bericht” – Report.
  • “Bilder” – Picture.
  • “Bildergalerien” – Picture Gallery.
  • “Börse” – Literally means “exchange” and in this context will refer to the stock exchange and is typically used as a generic term for the finance section or financial news.
  • “Doku” – Documentary.
  • “Empfehlungen” – Recommendations.
  • “Exklusiv” – Exclusive.
  • “Folge” – Episode.
  • “Ganze Folgen” – Full Episodes.
  • “Gebärdensprache” – Sign Language.
  • “Heute” – Today.
  • “Inland” – “Home” or “Domestic”, in this context meaning something like “Domestic News” or “Domestic Matters”, refers to news and events from inside Germany.  See: “Ausland”.
  • “Kinder” – Children, referring to children’s programming.
  • “Kultur” – Culture.
  • “Mediathek” –  Multimedia center, typically indicating an area on a site where videos and other media are to be found.
  • “Meistabgerufene” – Most Viewed.
  • “Meistgeklickt” – Most Viewed (yes, both this and the word above mean “most viewed”, it’s not a typo).
  • “Nachrichten” – News.
  • “Neuste” – Latest.
  • “Programm” – “Calendar” or “Schedule”, meaning something more like “TV Guide” in this context.  See: “Sendungen”.
  • “Ratgeber” – Literally “advisor” or “counselor”, in this context the term refers to general life advice and indicates a station or section of a TV station’s website with programs of this genre, e.g. cooking, home improvement, health, fitness, medicine, travel, etc.
  • “Reportage” – Reporting.
  • “Sendungen” – This means “programs”, as in shows.  This is likely what you want, look for this in the menu bar at the top, it’ll typically be a drop-down menu with a listing of all their various programs/shows.  Note that “programm” usually refers to a calendar of upcoming shows (what we would call a “TV guide”) intended to be used by people in Germany so they know when to tune in to watch something they want to see – this is not what you want, “programm” doesn’t mean “TV programs” as we know it in English, it’s more like “schedule” or “calendar”.
  • “Serien” – Series.
  • “Sportschau” – Literally “sports show”, refers to the “Sports” genre.
  • “Staffel” – Literally means “echelon”, “squadron”, or “rung” but in this context (TV shows) it means what Americans would call a “season” and Brits would call a “series”, e.g. “Season One” or “Series Two, Episode 4”, etc.
  • “Startseite” – “Homepage”.
  • “Tagesschau” – Another word for “news”.
  • “Tatort” – Literally “crime scene”, typically referring to crime dramas like CSI here in the U.S.
  • “Unterhaltung” – Entertainment.
  • “Untertitel” – “Subtitles” or “Captions”, frequently this is abbreviated “UT” and, if available, will be seen as a button you can click in the bottom portion of the video player screen.
  • “Wetter” – Weather.
  • “Wirtschaft” – Economy.

Alright, let’s get started with the list…

Deutsche Welle

This is going to be my number one, by far and away, top free recommendation to people trying to learn German.  Go to this site.  It will help you.  It has many, many features specifically designed to help people learn German (it’s the only such broadcaster which does that I’m aware of).  It’s also huge, extremely well-funded and well-designed due to being Germany’s official international broadcast station (very much like the BBC in the U.K.).

They have:

  • German lessons in 4 different flavors: Deutsche Interaktiv which is a large collection of comprehensive German lessons organized as per the CEFR Common Reference Levels, Mission Berlin which is an audio-only 26-episode story (includes manuscript, exercises, and solutions for them) that teaches you German as you follow Anna on her adventure to save Germany, Radio D which is a similar sort of thing except a different storyline, and the Audio Trainer which is an audio-only beginners’ program designed to teach basic pronunciation and essential vocabulary.
  • A TV show / soap opera designed specifically for teaching English speakers German called JoJo Sucht Das Glück (“JoJo Seeks Happiness”) .
  • Das Bandtagebuch mit Einshoch 6 – Another TV show specifically for teaching people German that has, most importantly, yes: German subtitles.  The theme is that you sort of follow around this German band, Einshoch 6, backstage and on tour and what-not.  There are 52 episodes with each one being a very manageable 3 1/2 minutes long.  Included are interactive quizzes for each episode, manuscript, and everything is downloadable (video, subtitles, quiz, answers for quiz, manuscript, etc.).  Perfect for beginning and intermediate German learners.
  • If you’ll go to the ‘Learn German’ section’s homepage you’ll frequently find something called ‘Learning German with the News’ where a news story is read slowly aloud (in German) and the verbatim transcript for it is directly below, allowing you to follow along and look up anything you don’t know.

Tagesschau (they have subtitles in German!)

The word “tagesschau” literally means “news” and this program (it’s actually a program, not a whole station) is both the oldest and most watched news program in Germany, being so popular that it has its own dedicated website.  You can read more about it here (wikipedia article).

Also, some of their videos offer German subtitles, so this one immediately gets bumped right to the top of my list, I was very excited to find this.  The programs that offer subtitles (as best I can tell, if you find differently tell us in the comments) are:

To activate them, all you have to do is play a video and then click the button labeled “UT” in the bottom right corner of the video player (“UT” stands for “untertitel” which means “subtitle”).

MDR

This is the Central German Broadcasting Channel, one of seven regional stations in Germany.  They, too, offer subtitles on some of their videos.  To watch with subtitles go to the Mediathek page and choose from one of the three sections: TIPPS, NEU, or MEISTGECKLICKT.  All three of these offer videos with subtitles but I found that not all of those videos had subtitles, though most did.  The criteria seemed to be that if it was a fictional show, it didn’t have them, but if it was something non-fictional, like a news report or documentary, it did.  Basically, everything except the fictional TV series has subtitles.

The other programs offered on the site (which you can find by going to the menu at the top labeled “Sendungen A-Z”) do not appear to offer subtitles, though you can still watch them via the site.

Das Erste

This is currently the most popular public TV station in Germany and, thankfully, they make a large portion of their content available to watch online including full episodes of their shows.  Regrettably, no subtitles in either German or English are offered but I wasn’t really expecting that (that’s more of a pleasant surprise when you find it rather than something you can usually expect).

Also, their live stream doesn’t seem to be available in the U.S.  I suspect that if you can connect to a proxy inside Germany you could watch it.  Everything else seems to be available no problem.

To watch episodes from their TV shows just go to the menu at the top and select “Sendungen” (“Programs”) and choose from those.

ZDF

This is Germany’s second largest public TV station and I found it was a little less clear-cut what was available for viewing outside Germany and what wasn’t, it seemed rather random.  It appears that all the news is available but then when it comes to shows it varies from one to another and you just have to try it and find out.  Tons and tons of available videos regardless, though, you’ll never run out.

 RTL Now

This is Germany’s largest private (for-profit) TV station.  Their news videos are all free to watch however everything non-news will not play in the U.S. (even if it’s labeled “Free”).  I do not know if they will play in countries outside Germany, you’re welcome to try if you like.

ARD Ratgeber

“Ratgeber” literally means “advisor” or “counselor” and this particular station caters to general life advice advice such as cooking, home repair, medicine/health, fitness, etc.  It has stories (most in the form of videos) along the lines of “12 Best Tips for Treating a Cold”, “Dangerous Germs in Turkey Meat” (and how to avoid them, of course), “Is It Worth It to Change Mobile Phone Providers?”, etc.  Those are some examples of stuff that was on the front page when I looked at it while writing this.

MySpass

This is a very popular comedy channel in Germany that is focused entirely on that genre.  It’s a private network so it does run ads but I can view everything I’ve tried from here in the U.S. without a proxy, so that’s nice.  Odds are you can watch this from wherever you are.

No subtitles but it is a nice break from the typical news/politics stuff that dominates this list and it gives you more insight into the culture by showing you what they find funny.  Lots of stand up, talk shows (similar to The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, Conan, etc.), reality TV, fictional comedy shows (e.g. Stromburg, which seems to be something akin to The Office here in the U.S.), etc.

Sportschau

This is the most popular sports program in Germany, lots of videos covering all different sports, all appear to be available internationally.

Börse Aktuell

This is their main financial news network.

NDR

This is a regional station covering Northern Germany, one of seven such regional stations.

Sat 1

This is the first privately owned TV broadcaster in Germany, they focus mainly on reality shows, travel shows, telenovelas, and other fictional scripted shows.  Full episodes seem to be restricted to only those in Germany but shorter clips are viewable for me here in the U.S.

YouTube Channels/Users/Videos

Extr@ in German with German Subtitles

This is a TV show specifically made for teaching people languages and I’ve been recommending the (very popular) Spanish version for a while now to my fellow Spanish students.  It’s typically somewhere on YouTube though I’ve noticed it tends to get taken down for copyright violations every now and then, but of course it just gets reuploaded under another user’s account and the game goes on, haha.

The actors speak slowly and clearly and use vocabulary that’s not too advanced.  I’d say it’s intended for beginner and intermediate adult learners, probably high school and college level, so it’s perfect for most of you.  A summary of the plot, from Wikipedia:

“Sam, with only a very basic grasp of the featured language, comes to stay with his penpal, Lola. Sam’s efforts to get to grips with the language provide the central dynamic for the series’ language learning content. The series is particularly suitable for adolescents and young adults who can relate to the contextual setting and implied meanings in the screenplay.”

Book Box in German (18 videos currently)

I love these guys, I’ve been using/recommending them for Spanish for years as well and, thankfully, they do what they do for several different languages including German.  It’s very simple: they make an animated video out of a children’s story that includes a narrator slowly and carefully reading it aloud and subtitles in the language spoken (German in this case).

They’re fun and short, and since they’re using children’s stories the language used (vocabulary and grammar) tends to be very simple which is perfect for someone learning the language (hence why I strongly recommend children’s media as a source of material to learn a language from).

To be continued (I’m still working on it as of today, February 3rd 2015)!  I published it because I know it’s useful information for people, figured there was enough here to be worth your time to read, and wanted to get it out there.

Wait!  Are you a beginning German learner?

Then I highly recommend you check out my post called: How to avoid wasting months learning German the wrong way (and learning the wrong type of German)–get started the right way, learn to talk like native speakers do, where I talk about who should consider getting a prepackaged German course, why, and which ones I recommend based on my own recent experience as a beginning German learner.

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

Best Online German Dictionary, Why It’s the Best, and 9 Other Good Ones (Runners Up)

reversoFirst post ever! And I think I’ll start it out by sharing something useful that I’m actually qualified to comment on, which is not a whole lot right now since I’ve only been learning German for about two months at this point.

One of the first things I did when I started in on German was to figure out what the best online dictionary was for it, and after an hour or so of experimentation I settled on (and have since stuck with):

Reverso English-German Collaborative Dictionary

Collaborative meaning that it’s a community effort, like Wikipedia, where users contribute to and edit the dictionary so you end up with something that, as the internet (and Wikipedia in particular), have proven is far better than a closed-source, proprietary work produced by a small number of experts.  It’s not surprising to me that this turned out to be the best one, given that.

If you’d like to compare it to the other popular choices out there, here you go (tell me in the comments if I missed one or there’s a better one you know about):

  • Beolingus – probably a toss-up between this and Dict.cc below for 2nd place after Reverso.
  • Dict.cc – About as good as Beolingus though I would say Beolingus’ interface is just a little bit easier to use and read, it’s just “nicer looking”.
  • Linguee – the interface can be a little difficult to understand at first (actual definition is in the top left) but I really like that they include a bunch of contextual examples (look up a word, they’re on the right in two columns, one English and one German).
  • WordReference – always a good choice for any language they offer but not always the best.  I go here by default for languages where I’m unaware of a dictionary specific to that language that’s better.
  • PONS – very clean interface and includes a vocabulary training tool once you register (free).  Credit to Birgit Schultz for alerting me to it in the comments below.
  • LEO – This one is quite good, was specifically designed for students of German, and I’d like to point out that I’m adding this one thanks to a reader in Switzerland, Edwin, who e-mailed me about it and swears by it (he’s a native English speaker who’s been living there for five years).  He was first alerted to it by a friend who was a native German speaker studying to be an English teacher.
  • Collins German-English Dictionary
  • Bab.la German-English Dictionary
  • Ectaco

 Why did you pick Reverso?  What’s so good about it?

Ok, here goes:

  • Most importantly, the definitions are really good and the also include a bunch of common phrases and expressions that utilize the word thereby allowing you to understand the context you saw the word used in if it was used in one of those phrases or expressions.  For example, looking up “hund” I see that it means “dog” and if the context I saw it used in was “getroffene Hunde bellen” that alone really wouldn’t be very useful to me because that literally means “hit dogs to bark” (Google Translate isn’t much better, giving me “barking dogs made”) but thankfully it’s one of the first expressions listed under the definition for “hund” because it’s a very common one in German that’s equivalent to our expression, “if the cap fits, wear it”.
    hund
  • Clicking on any word (English or German, I choose “family” from the definition for “hund” below) will pull up a menu that will allow you to search the dictionary for it, conjugate it (for verbs), find synonyms, hear it pronounced for you (very useful), and allow you to suggest a new definition/translation.  Very cool!
    menu
  • Also, at the top under the search bar where you initially typed in the word you wanted to look up, you have several other options to search in besides the dictionary, which is the default: Web, News, Encyclopedia, Images, and Context.  Selecting “Web” simply performs a google search for the word, probably a good next step if their dictionary didn’t bring back a satisfactory answer…
    google
    “News” searches the German version of Euronews (a large, popular, general news site covering all of Europe) bringing back recent news stories that use the word in question…
    euronews“Encyclopedia” simply searches the German version of Wikipedia for the word…
    wikipedia“Images” searches Google Images for the word in question, which can be useful to help you figure out what it refers to if nothing else is working…
    images
    and “Context” searches Reverso’s own “Contextual Dictionary” (click here to read more about it, it’s very interesting) that contains millions of example sentences taken from, most importantly, actual real-life contexts, e.g. news stories and books, things written by and intended for native speakers.  No, they’re not just made up example sentences, they’re real-life examples of the word actually being used by native speakers. I think this is probably one of the coolest, most useful features of the site (click the below image to go to the actual current results for “hund” in Reverso’s Contextual Dictionary)…
    contextAnother nice feature of this contextual dictionary is that if a word has multiple meanings or ways in which it can be used, it tries to show examples for all those different ways that way you can find a real-life contextual example of your word being used the way that you’re interested in, e.g. the English word “like” which can mean so many different things in English and be used so many different ways (note how many different German words are needed to express what the single word “like” does in English, also note that clicking the below image will take you to the results for “like” that you see below):
    like

And that’s that!  I think that pretty well covers it, I hope that was helpful to you and, again, if you disagree about which is the best or have one not mentioned here that you think should be, please tell us about it in the comments below, you’re more than welcome to do this!

Cheers,

Andrew

Sign up to receive

The Top 10 Free Online Resources for Learning German

and much more!

  • Where to find tons of free videos in German with both German and English subtitles

  • Where to find searchable recordings of native speakers saying nearly every German word and common phrase/name in existence (free)

  • Free TV series aimed at beginning German learners (simple language, slow and clear speaking, subtitles)

  • The best free online German courses

  • The best free flashcard systems (websites and software) for memorizing words, phrases, and grammar - and how to use them correctly (how to have 2000+ flashcards memorized and only spend 15-20 mins a day reviewing them?  I'll tell you!)

We respect your email privacy

Follow along with me as I learn German and share what works and what doesn't.