Updated: May 1, 2021
Over the years, I lost track of how many people (outside the language learning community) have asked me how I learn the languages that I'm studying. People usually tell me some variety of "Oh yeah, I'm trying to learn X, and I've played around on X app, but it didn't really work out."
I'm not saying this to bring those people down. Before I got into learning German, I had vague ambitions of learning Spanish that led me to poke around on Duolingo for a week or two before I inevitably gave up on the venture.
Once I really got into German, I realized that no one resource will teach you a foreign language. It's all about a combination of resources that target each of the four main skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
I have put together a master list of resources that I've personally used and would recommend to any German learner. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I will be adding to it and tweaking it in the future. These resources are organized by the skill they focus on, but I have also added a note using the CEFR (or the Common European Framework of Reference) to mark each resource level.
A - Beginners (CEFR A1-A2)
B - Intermediate (CEFR B1-B2)
C - Advanced (CEFR C1-C2)
Some of the resources serve multiple levels and will have more than one letter.
Ok, here we go!
Blogs are a great way to get your reading practice in regardless of your level. I've included a few blogs that I have used for reading practice, but feel free to explore blogs according to your interests. Google a keyword in German + blog and browse to your heart's content.
Daily goings-on in major German cities with sections for podcasts, lifestyle, food, etc. B C
A comic blog for natives if you're a nerd like me. C
Women lifestyle blog with articles on recipes, beauty, plants, and more. Some days the news is just too depressing, and you still want your reading fix. C
The name is right there in the title! This blog is really well developed, and it has content for all levels. If you go to the Sprachniveau tab, you can find content for reading and listening by CEFR level. The site has a lot of ads, but if that doesn't bother you too much, I would highly recommend this one for all levels. A B C
Books and Magazines
I'm sure that when you think of reading practice, books come to mind. Learner magazines, on the other hand, are a little less common and maybe a bit old school, but I'll try to make a case for them to you. Many of them are even available for free online, so it doesn't hurt to try them out.
Deutsch Perfekt is my favorite learner magazine bar none! It is geared toward intermediate learners, but the articles are short and separated by difficulty. There are also listening activities in the magazine that can be accessed through the website. The magazine is available for purchase, but if you have an Onleihe account, you can borrow them digitally for free (see apps section for more on this). B C
Comic books and Graphic Novels
See my article on Language Learning with Graphic Novels! You can find German translations of many comics and originals are also available on Onleihe. A B C
A free online library full of German-language materials of any level? Outside Germany? Without a VPN???? Check it out in your app store and find something that fits your interest and level. A B C
Follow German accounts or German learning accounts on Instagram and Twitter to read captions. Check out keywords and follow hashtags that will show you German material. A B C
Nico's Weg is probably one of the best resources for someone who's looking for a step-by-step course, and it's completely free! It's a learner web series with a contiguous story and exercises for each episode. The episodes also have a vocab list with audio AND a cultural note at the end. It was only made a few years ago, so it doesn't feel hopelessly cringey and dated. A B
Download the app Hinative to get corrections on writing. There are lots of different sites that have natives that will answer your questions in theory, but this is my go-to app to get my questions answered in a timely manner. The community is very active, and there are tons of different question formats to choose from.
Practice keeping a journal, even a line or two a day with new vocabulary is super helpful.
Keep flashcards! I use Quizlet, but I know there are some diehard Anki fans out there as well. I don't think it makes much of a difference. Just go with what works for you.
Get active on social media
I mentioned following accounts and hashtags, but don't just be a passive observer! Leave comments in your target language and possibly meet some people through your engagement.
Music! Look up Genre + German (or Deutsch) on Spotify and check out some playlists
One on Spotify I listen to is called Easy German
Listening to music isn't really something we can categorize into neat levels. In the very beginning, music is a great way to learn the phonemes of a new language, while later, they are a great way to learn new vocabulary and constructions
This blog has short listening exercises with questions and PDF transcripts. The site is organized with exercises for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced learners. A B C
Any of these podcasts by DW will help. You can choose your level on the website and pick a podcast that you like
Download the Bluebird Languages app! They have daily audio lessons that are about 10-15 minutes long. A B C
I listen to Easy German (which has a transcript) and Coffee Break German, but you can search for anything with keywords or listen to German language podcasts for natives. Simply change the country on apple podcasts or Spotify to Germany (or elsewhere in the Deutschsprachiger Raum), and you'll see all kinds of German podcasts about anything and everything.
Talk to yourself
This one is very helpful as long as you don't mind feeling a little silly. When I'm at home, sometimes I try to narrate what I'm doing. It's great for identifying gaps in your vocabulary. I recently realized that I have basically NO vocab for buying a house.
Make a video about a topic that you've recently learned about. You can share this on social media, keep it to yourself, or share it privately with a teacher or exchange partner.
Get a private tutor again for one on one conversation lessons. This one obviously comes with a price point, but it's a great way to take the stress out of conversation when you know that your partner is there to support you and you have already compensated them for their time.
A good place to start for Basic Questions
Dictionary with conjugation charts and audio
Good dictionary with a beautiful interface. This is my go-to for all my languages.
If you can't understand something in context, just pop it in here, and it will decipher it for you. Try not to rely on this too much later in your studies, but it's a great tool if you're totally lost.
The old standby. Google translate gets a lot of hate, but it can still be useful.
General Apps - many of these are general language learning apps that you can use for German as well as other languages.
Just 5 minutes a day and focuses only on vocabulary. This app knows its niche, and it's excellent when you're lacking motivation or on a time crunch. A B
This is one of my favorite of the general apps. I love the Learn with Locals segments that have real native speakers off the streets repeating phrases. A B
Probably the most famous language app out there. Duolingo has its lovers and its haters. I think it's a helpful app as long as you don't exclusively use Duolingo and expect to emerge a fluent German speaker. A B
A Pimsleur-like app that's free and focuses on audio. See the listening section. A B
This is a flashcard app with built-in audio and a pretty interface. The level depends on what you put in your cards, but you never really become too advanced for flashcards, in my opinion. I'm a sporadic user at best, but I still think they're worthwhile. Creating the flashcards is helpful, as well as studying them. A B C
Not dissimilar to Duolingo. Mango has lots of languages to choose from if you're learning more than just German, and it's often free through public libraries in the US.
Nico's Weg on the go!