German Language Learning Resources

German Words and Phrases Commonly Used in Class

Teachers will frequently speak German in class and we will expect students to follow the teacher's instructions in German. As a little help, we provide this link and expect students to study and review the information.

Google Translate

Useful, powerful tool to get started, but it is necessarily error-prone! It uses statistical machine translation, i.e., Google finds translations based on patterns it detects in many, many webpages published in the two languages between which you want to translate. So, if you want to translate some rare "pattern", for example poetry, Google Translate may not be your best friend. To use Google Translate to your advantage, you should best view it as a first draft: Say you want to translate a phrase from English into German. Type it into Google Translate and see what it comes up with in German, and then examine (tinker with) this draft tranlation: Retranslate individual words into English, search for the German words on the web to get a feeling for if it is used in a way consistent with the meaning you think it has, etc.

Online English-German Dictionaries

It is not clear which one is the best. I have found some entries that are better translated in either one... and there are many more dictionaries available.

LEO - created at TU Munich, is a very good German-English dictionary with many entries, and dictionaries between German and other languages

BEOLINGUS - created at TU Chemnitz, very good German-English dictionary

Online German Dictionaries

These are explaining German words in German, but they are very comprehensive, explaining usage and Grammar etc.

Duden - the authority among German dictionaries, comparable to Merriam-Webster in the US, or Oxford Dictionaries in the UK

Interactive Language Websites with or without Individual Progress Tracking

This is an exciting development: Based on crowdsourcing models, there are now free web tools available to teach you the basics of a new language using pictures and repetition for you to figure out what a new word or phrase means and how it is used. You advance in your language level according to your performance, at your own pace. From our school's point of view, these tools seem excellent for they seem to make learning interactive and fun. We have not yet figured out how to incorporate these tools into our lessons, for example, how can the teacher help the student to practice a certain block of vocabulary or theme? We just present the links here, some with little or no commentary, as the exploration of these tools is ongoing... Students and parents are encouraged to try out these resources: please tell the teachers about your experiences. - Similar to Duolingo (below) and similarly visually appealing, progress individually, using pictures as guides to build vocabulary. I especially like the very thorough progression from 1) facing some sample text with new vocabulary, 2) using and practicing the meaning of the newly learned words (drag and drop games), 3) placing the newly learned words in correct order in simple sentences (all drag and drop, it's fun!), and, finally, 4) filling out gap sentences and words(!), so emphasis is placed on correct spelling. This website is free for now and seems to have long-term funding by the European Commission's Lifelong Learning Programme. It requires opening an account per user, but it follows more stringent EU/German privacy rules (which I like). The material (lessons & exercises) is organized in German language skill levels A1, A2, and B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. These proficiency levels also underlie the textbooks of the "Der grüne Max" series, which we use in Mittelgruppe 1 and 2. The site also features grammar overviews with examples, but unfortunately no targeted grammar exercises yet. If they would combine the grammar information/examples with some exercises, similar to how they do it in Lingolia (below), that would be an improvement.

Babbel - Similar to Duolingo (below), progress individually, using pictures as guides to build vocabulary. At first trial seemed easy to navigate and intuitive.

Duolingo - Beautiful and fun website for interactive learning, free, but E-mail sign-up & account required, needed for tracking progress; BEWARE(!) in Duolingo, the user is a learner AND a translator; it works by crowdsourcing "translation jobs" to the learners, that is, one is given translation exercises and, with rising skill level, some of these translations are used (after comparing them with many other such translations) for actual translations. Because of this, Duolingo is sometimes too lenient about errors, more tolerant than a real-life teacher would be! However, the fun-factor makes up for some of that, and the progress tracking is positively addictive! - This is supposed to be another interactive website with individual progress tracking. I (Andreas) was not impressed. It is only "free" for a 7-day trial period (after which plans range from $4 to $26), navigation throughout the site seems cumbersome and unintuitive. I was assigned an automatic user name, with no choices being offered, and which I am therefore, bound to forget, if I haven't already. My e-mail was turned into my password (weird). I did not get to see actual knowledge when I tried... Maybe someone else can find something positive to say about this site - I will be happy to post a more balanced view!

Deutsch Interaktiv - by Deutsche Welle

Interactive Language Websites with Targeted Practice Areas

Some teachers plan to incorporate more of these resources into their homework assignments this year. We hope the interactive nature of the exercises and the limited multiple choice answer options will help students progress, will provide a sense of accomplishment quickly and will even be fun even when doing Grammar drills. When compared to the individual-progress websites above, at least based on our current understanding, it seems easier to complementour lessons at school with these resources. Again, we just present the links here, with little or no commentary so far, as the exploration of these tools is ongoing... Students and parents are encouraged to try out these resources and tell the teachers about your experiences. - Excellent, quick, beautiful & fun website purely in German. However, if one picks exersises appropriate for our students, they can be an advantage because the student is forced to stay in the target language. One sample route on menu bar on top: Grundschule (elementary school) -> Klasse 1 -> Deutsch -> Lesen/Schreiben lernen will give some great exersises.Should work quite nicely when combined with Google Translate. No login required.

Language - Deutsch - Excellent resource for vocabulary browsing & building through games; ordered by topics and simple but effective layout; mouse over a word and hear it spoken

Digital Dialects - Nice website, explore introductory vocabulary and some grammar through games

Deutschakademie - a very large practice site, for free: "most comprehensive grammar trainer in the German-speaking world, ..., >20,000 grammar & vocabulary exercises, >800 hour interactive online German course, ...,exercises are structured according to the European Framework of Reference for Languages, ..., designed by experienced German teachers"

Deutsch lernen - text-based lessons & exercises, 10 beginner levels, 24 advanced - Extensive resources from the Goethe-Institut, the "the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institution operational worldwide." This is it, the authority on German, officially annointed as such by Germany herself. There are many offerings on this site, and they have a reputation for being thorough. They are an eingetragener Verein (a registered society), acting "on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany". Besause of this, the website at times has the feel of a classical German "Behörde" (government agency). You can find all kinds of things, and they will be in "korrekt" German, but getting there might be trying at times. Some offers are for pay (I have seen around $600 for a German class), some are free, such as Deutsch für Dich (see below). The resources on their site are numerous and need to be evaluated more carefully because, although cumbersome at times, some things there may be valuable.

Deutsch für Dich - interactive German practice by the Goethe-Institut, registration/login required (your data will likely be safe, due to high German privacy standards), exercises, interactive learning games, expert chat, forums & groups - Grundschule = elementary school, Grundschulstoff = elementary school material, great resource, good worksheets, good online exercises, German only, but easy to navigate through site levels, no login, great exercises


Other Online Courses or Resources

I came across these when evaluating Online links to German resources...

Deutsch – warum nicht? An extensive collection of introductory German lessons by Deutsche Welle, RSS or iTunes

Mission Berlin - Scenes (Audio & Print) + Exercises built around a criminal case, by Deutsche Welle

More Programs by Deutsche Welle - including slowly spoken news and an interaktive course (see above)

Basic German - University of Cambridge Language Learning Center

Talk German - by BBC, kinda old, from 2007, but good 10 Step Intro

Foreign Service Institute German Programmed Introduction - Foreign Service Institute, US Department of State, there are a LOT of other rather dated resouces (tapes & text) from, look around and see if it's for you - at a first quick look, it seemed kind of old school but thorough (like I would prefer my diplomats)

GerGermanGrammar - Podcast, German grammar lessons aimed at American students

Sample Exams

We are aiming at preparing interested students for some nationally recognized exams to have an impartial assessment of the school's quality and to offer students a tangible result of their work at the school. One example are the exams of the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG), which are widely known and accepted. These exams are offered in Levels 1 through 4. Each level corresponds to one year of instruction at the American high school level, or to two years of instruction at the Saturday school level. Saturday schools, such as ours, are considered to teach at approximately half the speed of an American high school. Here, we provide the AATG Level 1 Exam from 1992 for self-assessment. Students are encouraged to take the test in 65 minutes and give it to the school coordinator for grading.

Exploring Language Learning Software

Currently, we are exploring language learning software, which could help interested students to increase practice time during the week. One software we have currently available for testing is Tell Me More - German (company, online store). In reviews, this software seems to be the current leader of the pack, professional grade, and with versatility to adapt to beginners or advanced learners alike. However, we are in the exploratory stage and we would be curious to learn about other software, for example about the ubiquitous Rosetta Stone. If you have experience with this or any other package, we would love to learn what you think.