Learning German - Adults

If you want to learn German online, check out these free sites. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but can all be useful to supplement other courses which you're following. If you want to use them in combination to create a coherent programme of study which is not dependent on any other materials, watch this space! We'll soon be publishing guidelines to allow you to do just that!

BBC German site has a number of resources starting with a level test to help you assess which of their programmes is right for you. If you're a beginner you can try the course First Steps to prepare yourself for a trip to Germany, or go into more detail with Talk German. Weekly E-mails are also available to help you with your learning. At intermediate level, learn German for Work, or study German slang. And if you just want a few phrases to help you get by while you're there, try their Quick Fix. You'll also find games and quizzes, learning tips, and details of German language learning programmes currently being broadcast on the BBC. (You'll also find these published monthly in our section Language Learning News - click on the link in the sidebar.) The site for the programmes Deutsch Plus provides the transcripts for the programmes, and even if you can't follow the course on TV you can use them to creates some of the exercises mentioned in our Learning Tips article Two steps forward and one step back. Five stars.

A useful site produced by a language teacher from the States, is Kathleen Pepin's Quia site. I find it horrendous visually, but it has a wealth of activities on points of grammar and lexis, plus a series of exercises to supplement the Komm Mit series of coursebooks. You'll also find links to other German sites. Two stars.

Another site linked to a coursebook, but useable just for general practice is the Hueber site for the three books which make up the Themen Neu course. There are on-line activities and other activities in PDF format for all three books.

Most of the activities on the German for Travellers site are available only on payment, but it does make a certain number of activities available free. These do not provide a systematic course, but can be usefully incorporated into your course as extra or preparatory practice. Despite the name, the language taught is not specifically travel oriented, and is useful whatever your learning purpose. One star.

If you're an intermediate level learner and want to improve your listening comprehension, try the
Fokus Deutsch videos. You have to register to gain access to the site, but then you'll have access to nearly fifty videos. The stories are a bit hard to follow as they take place in different locations, involve different people and are full of flashbacks - they're clearly designed for classroom use, where the teacher would want to play a section at a time, then review previous units etc. But who cares - they remain an excellent resource, and the transcripts are available if you really get lost. Five stars as a listening comprehension resource.

Exeter University Beginner's German course contains some excellent material, but is probably too fast if you're a complete beginner trying to learn on your own. It would be great though, if you were using it as supplementary to a class-based course, or if you already know some German and just need to review the basics before going on. It's not yet complete and has stayed like that for some time, so I'm knocking a star off, but it still gets three.

Beginners can also find some basic German lessons on Guardian Unlimited's German for Travellers, which was originally designed for people travelling to Germany for the Football World Cup. Learn the language you need for eating out, and asking for directions, and if you're a football fan, for discussing your favourite teams.

Once you get to elementary level and above, if you want more practice in German verb forms which you've already studied elewhere, try Verbs On-line.

And if you're at a intermediate or advanced level, Guardian Unlimited can also provide some interesting listening and reading. Each activity is based around a newspaper article about Germany and written in German. If you're at Intermediate level, try reading the article first, and then listening without the transcript. Finally listen and read at the same time. If you're at an advanced level reverse the first two stages. Listen first, then read before listening and reading at the same time. And why not try shadow reading too? Read the transcript at the same time as the tape, trying to keep your speed, rhythm, pronunciation and intonation identical to that on the recording.

Finally, for German with a vocational twist try the Vocational Languages Resource Bank. They have downloadable activities with audio from elementary to advanced level, many of which are equally suitable for general purpose learners. Select Language from the first dropdown menu, and then German from the one which appears next. Then click on go.