Learning German

Being able to communicate is something that I (and I’m guessing plenty of other people too) take for granted, but it was only moving to Germany that made me realise it. My school learnt German has always remained elusive, though how useful it would have been anyway i don’t know, so I started at the absolute beginning. There are a lot of learning that can be done for free as well as classroom lessons, there really is something for everyone.

The ‘Common European Framework of Reference’ is the system used to gauge and describe the achievements of foreign language learners across Europe. Basically it is in place so that an employer/recruiter/educational establishment etc can be sure of what standardised level you are at and know what they can expect from you language wise.

The levels are divided into three broad stages: A Basic, B Intermediate and C Proficient and within these stages A1 and A2, B1 and B2 and C1 and C2. When you come to look at courses however you will see that language schools prefer to split these levels even more to A1/1 and A1/2, A2/1 and A2/2 and so on. The classes will build on what has been learned in the previous class and standardised tests can be done at the end of each stage. Tests are not compulsory but may be required for some Visas and jobs. B2 is the level of German which must be achieved to work within the medical profession for example. For a table in English of the different levels click here.

When I arrived in Germany learning the language was top of my list of ‘things to do’. Finding a language school that met my needs took time, lessons are a big investment of your money and your time, look at all your options before you sign up anywhere.

There are a number of schools in Erlangen, here is my lowdown on the ones I have experience with

VHS (Volkshochshule)
Great range of courses, including intensive study and summer time options. Right from the start your teacher will only talk German to you, staff in the office however will be able to help you out in English. New this year is their booking online service which is very useful as some courses can fill up quickly, maximum class size is 15 and the prices are very reasonable. There is a VHS in many nearby towns including Erlangen, Herzogenaurach, Forchheim and Nuremburg (under a slightly different name)

Language Center
More of a ‘pick your own’ type of course here, they are open to offering you what you want but beware they will ask you your budget before they tell you a price, and their prices can be on the expensive side. They also offer intensive courses which are very intense and require a lot of concentration, great for those who want to improve their German quickly and have time available to do it. Their website is here

Sprachschule Erlangen
A smaller school and a more personal approach, expect a maximum of 7 in your class, they also offer Skype courses and their pricing structure is clearly laid out on their website. They do not offer an intensive learning type courses but if you have time on your hands this might be an ideal laid back way of learning right for you. Their website is here 

Not all my learning has been done in the classroom though, who can afford that? There are loads of FREE resources out there just begging to be used!

Deutsche Welle
I cannot say anything bad about this site, it is an amazingly useful tool when you are learning German. From online courses to podcasts to slowed down news! yes the news, so slow, and subtitled that even I (at A1 level) could understand what was going on. There is something for everyone and you can work totally at your own pace be that alongside a your real life classes, during the holidays or just to swot up on your German grammar. Use their website

I’m loving their service, who doesnt love a cute little green owl! You can set yourself goals and test out of areas that you are sure about so that you can concentrate on where you need improvement. It’s not just for German either (so you can get a jump on for your next job posting), it is along the same lines as Rosetta Stone (which you have to pay for) and Memrise (free), pictures mixed with text, repetition and reenforcement. The app is really good but it’s best used on a device bigger than a smart phone. Their website

I’m just discovering this website but I’m already in love with it. You can learn German (or some other languages) using their tutorials, which come in various forms, from multi choice to songs and as you progress you grow plants (not literally, they just remind you of your progress). I’ve only just dipped a toe into this site, I will update this later once I’ve used it more. Their website

I did actually check out the BBC with a view to refreshing my memory with their GCSE bitesize German tutorials but I stumbled on this beauty, the Cool German section in particular teaches you useful phrases, some of which you won’t learn in class! Unfortunately the 12 week German course is no longer offered but the phrases section is pretty good for beginners and learners, you can download the MP3s, good for reinforcing pronunciation and print them out for future reference.

Like google but more specific!  You can find courses from beginners to advanced level, you just have to look around until you find something that suits. In this beginners course you can pick and choose, with audio files and tests, good if you want to brush up on words when you are going to the doctors or moving house etc. The pages are quite crowded and the adverts a little annoying but hang in there, the actual content is pretty useful.

You also possibly have resources within your home already, check your DVDs to see if any of them offer German as a language option, using your favourite DVD can be really useful when you are learning about sentence structure and wanting to increase your vocabulary.

Read kids books, honestly it helps, join a library and take out a couple of picture books, kids dictionaries or my personal favourites books on one topic. Books about the sea have useful vocabulary for holidays, leisure activities and of course come in handy at the fishmongers!

Do you have a hobby? Buy a German book relating to your hobby, I have a few German cookbooks and it has made shopping a lot easier now I know what all the products and terms are in German instead of having to mess around translating in the store. You can translate the book at your own pace and in the privacy of your own home, no one will grade you and google translate will be your friend.

Free newspapers and adverts also contain great practice material. A teacher once told me to approach the newspaper like this pick a picture that stands out, then work out the title, then look at the sub title and any captions. This gives you a feel for the article, if you are interested in the subject sit down and read the article straight through out loud (ok not in a public place) then go back and look at the vocabulary with a dictionary and then read it through again. I only ever read one or two articles at a time from the newspaper for a year or so because my poor brain couldn’t take it all at once, bout now I can work through most of the paper. It’s free, it gets delivered to my door AND I’m learning, win win I’d say!


8 Responses to “Learning German”

  1. cristina cassidy April 29, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    This is great!! You put a bunch of great resources up! Danke! 🙂

  2. Adrielle February 2, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    Thanks! I tried several of these out and added my two favorites to my list of target language resources. https://www.pinterest.com/ellystapes/sprechen-sie-deutsch/ I’ve used the Deutsch Welle site a while now, and it might be worth warning people that the site will lose your progress if you log out without returning to the navigation tab. My only complaint!

  3. KindLi December 2, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    Thank you for sharing some good resources to continue learning German.
    I was studying German at the VHS Göttingen during the past few months, and
    it is really amazing how much one can learn with assorted other resources to keep improving. Thank you for sharing!

    • Alie C December 7, 2016 at 11:30 am #

      Glad you found them useful, I’m always on the lookout for free ways to improve my German!


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