Learn German Online
Let this be the year you master German
Learning the German language is no easy task — every noun has a different gender, requiring a myriad of different rules to follow and just when you were finally getting your head around it, another exception bursts your language bubble.
It might be difficult, however, once you show it some patience, you will see how the language is riddled with quirky traits and poetic descriptions, making German a fascinating experience for language lovers.
Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
It's natural to think that the German language is purely spoken in Germany. It is estimated that around 105 million people around the world speak Deutsch as a native language, with an additional 80 million people speaking it as a second language.
Germany is indeed the largest German-speaking country, however, Austria and Switzerland take on a German language variation and dialect in the form of Swiss-German (Schweizerdeutsch) and Austrian German (Österreichisches Deutsch).
Standarddeutsch or Hochdeutsch is the standardized variety of the language used for administration, higher education, literature, and the mass media in Germany, and is normally the German taught to language learners.
With the Tandem app, you can find a language exchange partner in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland and learn whichever variety of the language you would like.
In this article, you will learn about:
Why Learn the German Language?
Mastering the German language can indeed be tricky, as with any foreign language, but what greatly outweighs its trouble is the incredible rewards it brings. Here’s why we think you should learn it:
1. You might know more than you realize. German and English both belong to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. This is evident when looking at certain words that only have some minor spelling or pronunciation differences such as Bruder (brother), Wasser (water), and Vater (father).
This, in theory, makes German easier to learn if you have a good command of the English language.
2. Das Land der Dichter und Denker — the land of poets and thinkers. German philosophers have helped shape western philosophy with names such as Kant, Marx, and Heidegger.
In the field of music, German was the language of some of the world's most renowned classical composers, including Bach and Beethoven, who were crucial figures in classical Western music.
3. Germany is an economic powerhouse. Germany has an economy of 3.7 trillion USD (2017), making it the fourth-largest economy worldwide, after China, the United States, and Japan.
Germany’s capital city Berlin is a hub for innovative startups and is even dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Europe.” Consequently, being able to speak German has the potential to enhance your career opportunities.
4. Experience the world. Traveling is one of the best reasons to learn any foreign language. Knowledge of the German language opens up opportunities to travel to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, as well as Eastern Europe, where German is widely spoken.
Find a Tandem partner in Germany and get the inside scoop on all the must-see attractions and hidden gems the country has to offer.
German Grammar Learning
German is a beautiful language — quirky and also strangely poetic with words
German is a beautiful language — quirky and also strangely poetic with words. Many words exist in German that do not have a direct translation, one of which is Schadenfreude. This word relates to “the happiness derived from somebody else’s misfortune.” Compound nouns are also a trademark of the German language — words being joined together to make new words. Beware, however… these words can get ridiculously long and oftentimes provide hours of great entertainment.
Before we get distracted by going through the funnest German compound nouns, let’s get down to the good stuff — German grammar!
German has six tenses: Präsens (present), Perfekt (present perfect), Präteritum (simple past), Plusquamperfekt (past perfect), Futur I (future) and Futur II (future perfect). This is important to know when it comes to conjugating strong and weak verbs in German for the different tenses. Here’s an example of how to conjugate the verb gehen (to go), which is a strong (irregular) verb:
|Präsens||Ich gehe||I go|
|Perfekt||Ich bin gegangen||I went / I have gone|
|Präteritum||Ich ging||I went|
|Plusquamperfekt||Ich war gegangen||I had gone|
|Futur I||Ich werde gehen||I will go|
|Futur II||Ich werde gegangen sein||I will be gone|
In German, every noun has a specific gender; masculine, feminine, or neutral. When learning new vocabulary, it is also important to learn the noun’s gender. Luckily, there are some rules to help you recognize the different genders, which are very useful to learn, however, there may be some exceptions.
The gender of German nouns can be determined by looking at the article preceding it. The definite articles, meaning “the” in English, are der (masculine), die (feminine), and das (neutral). These also have an indefinite equivalent meaning “a” or “an” in English; ein (masculine), eine (feminine), and ein (neutral).
Unsure of the gender of a noun? Find a Tandem partner on our app and simply ask them!
The 4 German Cases
The four cases in German grammar (nominative, accusative, dative, and gentive) are definitely an added complexity. Rest be assured that once you’ve navigated the difference between the cases, and understand when they’re used, you’re well on your way to fluency in German.
- The nominative case is the basic form of a noun and is used for nouns that are the subject of a sentence — the “who” or “what” is performing the action. We like this case because the article appears in its standard form and does not change.
- The accusative case is used for the “thing” or “person” receiving the direct action of a verb — the direct object. The accusative case also follows certain verbs and prepositions no matter if it relates to the direct object or not.
- The dative case is used for the “person” or “thing” receiving the indirect action of a verb — the indirect object. Similar to the accusative case, the dative case also follows certain verbs and prepositions no matter if it relates to the indirect object or not.
- The genitive case indicates possession. To mark the genitive case, an -s or -es is added to nouns in German grammar. Certain verbs and prepositions also follow the genitive case no matter if it relates to possession or not.
Definite articles (der, die, das) and indefinite articles (ein, eine, ein) in German don’t behave exactly like they do in English. They are declined differently depending on the gender, the number, and the case of the corresponding noun.
The table below shows how definite and indefinite articles in German change depending on the case and the gender of the noun.
Want our advice? Learn this table off by heart. It’s the first step to using the correct article. If you’re struggling, find a native German speaker on Tandem and ask them to guide you through it!
Pronunciation and Basic German Phrases
When you start learning German, you’re going to be faced with having to learn the German alphabet pretty quickly. The German alphabet consists of 26 letters, like in English, but also contains three vowels with umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and one ligature called a scharfes S or Eszett (ß).
We could talk about German pronunciation for days, literally. So instead of that, we’ll give you a quick rundown of how the trickier letters with umlauts (ä, ü, ö) should sound.
There are two variations of the "ä" sound — long and short. The short ä is pronounced like “eh,” as in Äpfel (apple). The long ä is pronounced like “ay,” as in Mädchen (girl). "Ü" is slightly more difficult to pronounce for native English speakers and is quite similar to the "ö" sound. The difference is that ü sounds more like “ooh,” as in Müll, and ö like “uhh,” as in Öffnen.
Once that’s covered, you’re ready to start learning a few basic German words and phrases. Take a look at some of them below:
Resources for Learning German
Finding the right resources depends on what type of learner you are
Finding the right resources depends on what type of learner you are. Are you a visual learner, who learns most effectively with pictures and videos? Maybe it’s more important for you to listen to words and then repeat them. Or do you prefer to complete written exercises? Figuring out how you learn best is the first step to making the most of all the resources available to you online.
Resources for Beginner German Learners
Every beginner needs their go-to online dictionary. LEO is a pretty safe bet with 9 language pairs for German. You can search in either language, listen to the pronunciation with the audio snippets, and take a look at the built-in verb conjugation tables, too!
Living Language German, Complete Edition is a great overall resource for all your German grammar needs. With 3 coursebooks and 9 audio CDs, it guides you from easier topics for beginners right through to the more advanced aspects of German grammar.
Resources for Intermediate German Learners
For the audio learners out there - podcasts are all the rage right now. So much so, we’ve actually written a whole blog article on the top free podcasts for language learners. For German language learners, check out Deutsche Welle or Easy German.
Apps, apps, and more apps! There are plenty of apps for learning German. Yet, what’s often lacking from online learning is a way to have real conversations with native speakers of your target language.
That’s exactly where the Tandem app comes in. With Tandem, it’s so easy to find German language exchange partners to chat with. With millions of members in the online community, you’re bound to find someone with similar interests to you, ensuring your language learning remains fun and motivating.
- Sign up with Facebook, Google, or your email address.
- Create a profile, choose which language(s) you want to learn, and share what topics of conversation interest you the most.
- Chat or video call with German native speakers - directly in the app! Split your time between the two languages; half of the conversation in German and the other half in English.