What I’m Using to Study German

Pimsleur German

German Level 1 Speech

The Good

My core resource for now is Pimsleur. Since letters in German don’t sound like they do in English, I think it’s important to hear the language quite a bit, so an all-audio resource is beneficial in that way. I also like that it forces you to think and talk in the language — not as much as a live conversation would by any stretch, but more than drill-and-kill does. Also, it only asks of you what you can do and provides immediate possible correct responses so if you make a mistake, you can fix it immediately. The speakers are clear without sounding overly stodgy.

The Not-So-Good

On the down side, it teaches very formal German from the start. I understand the intent that being too formal is safer than being too familiar in some situations, but for my purposes — going to casual meetups, maybe visiting friends in Germany — it is entirely too formal. At the meetup, everyone used “du”, and I hadn’t even heard the word yet! Reviews do promise that familiar forms are coming. I am eagerly awaiting that.

Even though I consider the lack of reading material one of the positives, I also consider it one of the negatives in the long run. Even if it would be good for my pronunciation to do all five levels without ever cracking open a book, I’m just too impatient for that. I love reading. One of the reasons American Sign Language and I don’t get along so well is because I have to watch videos, and I’m just not a fan.

Finally, it’s not cheap. Most good things aren’t.

Warning: It is all audio, which may make it tempting to use while driving, but especially in the early stages, some of the mental requirements are quite taxing and can make you a danger on the road. Do yourself and the world a favor: study at home or take public transit (and get used to people staring at you while you say words and phrases over and over again in German).

Cafe in Berlin Audiobook and Ebook

Learn German With Stories: Café in Berlin ? 10 Short Stories for Beginners Audiobook

Can I just say that the author, Andre Klein, must have read my mind? I love learning with stories, and I often start with children’s stories. Since I don’t know the first thing about German pronunciation, I was looking for children’s books on audible that were also available on the Kindle so I could read with audio, and I stumbled across these. I have only read and listened to the first story so far, but what an absolute treasure! Listening and reading through the first time gave me a decent idea of how vowel sounds are written in German. I understood some of the story, but I definitely missed quite a few of the details. Then I listened to it with the vocabulary page open at the end of the chapter, paying attention to the words the author had bolded in order to teach the story. Then I read and listened again, reinforcing the meanings of the new words (I’ll be honest; nearly all of them were bolded in the first story). Finally, I listened and read a fourth time. Had I not been in a waiting room while my car was being worked on, I would have paused at the end of each sentence and repeated to practice pronunciation and the feel of properly constructed sentences.

The Good

It’s cheap! I got all four ebooks and the audio to go along with the first ebook (just over an hour of audio) for under $15. It is a short book, but it’s meant to be practiced, so that hour or so will provide several hours of practice (especially if I keep doing each story four times!).

The author speaks very slowly. If I were not an absolute beginner, I would probably complain that it is too slow, but I am an absolute beginner, so it’s perfect. It’s nice to be able to hear every sound; on other resources I’ve listened to, I’ve had trouble distinguishing sounds (Pimsleur breaks the words down, but usually only the first time you hear a complicated word or when two words sound very similar). This was not the case with this book.

The author also has a series of mysteries and fantasy books that I think are aimed at upper beginner and intermediate learners. Some of them appear to be choose-your-own-adventure type. I’m looking forward to that.

The Not-So-Good

So far, I have nothing to complain about. The story itself was no great piece of literature, but it reminded me of exactly what happens to me when I travel (everyone speaks English and I don’t get to practice the language I’m studying!), so it still gave me a chuckle. I’m sure as the language gets more complex, the stories will get more interesting. Even if they don’t, they’re serving their purpose.


Screenshot (58)

As I wrote in my last post, I’ve decided to give Duolingo a try. I made an account yesterday, and I used it quite a bit this morning in the waiting room. I still have most of the same reservations I had before. The order of the example sentences seems a little less random now, but that doesn’t mean I like the order. For example, right now I’d like to learn numbers, but I have to unlock something like 29 levels before I can get there. My next lesson is on food. I have no need to learn anything about food right now; I’d much rather be able to count. Other topics look interesting on the tree, but I can’t just jump to them. On the one hand, I can see that the level-up mentality leads to addiction, which isn’t a bad thing when studying, but I’d prefer to be unlock lessons within a certain level in my own order.

It doesn’t overtly teach any grammar that I’ve found, but it does reinforce conjugations, and it does force me to type, which I do like. The speaking check could be improved if after recording my speaking it would allow me to listen to it. I get the feeling that it will accept anything anywhere near the target words.

I used my first credits to double down; if I study for seven days straight, then I’ll get my 5 credits bet +5. By then, I’ll have enough to buy Duo a snazzy outfit. I do have to give it to them — Duo is cute. In the last lesson, they even made most of the introduction sentences about Duo (“His name is Duo.” “He is called Duo.” etc.). I can see why it’s popular.

But… for speaking? I honestly don’t know how the woman at my meetup got so good with Duolingo as her main resource. Maybe she, not the program, is the impressive one. Either way, I’ll stick with it for a bit and see how it goes. At the very least, I’ll learn how to spell, and that’s not a bad thing at all.


Screenshot (59)

I haven’t set up an account for this yet, but I would like to. This promises to be a lot like Learn Thai Podcast, but more interactive. I think it would be a great addition to what I’ve got so far, but at $30/month, it’s going to have to wait. Pimsleur wasn’t cheap, so I’ve got to get my money’s worth on that before splurging on something else. Once I do get around to this, I’ll write a thorough review.


Did I mention I spent a long time in that waiting room this morning? Well, I did, and that meant I found more resources that I’m excited to use, the most promising among them Deutsche Welle. One of the women at the meetup mentioned this, and I’m so glad she did! I’m a bit overwhelmed with material right now, but I’ll give this a good look through soon. The other one I’m very excited about is The Goethe Institute, and not just because it has one of my favorite author’s names (By the way, why is it we don’t have a Shakespeare Institute for teaching English? There’s a Cervantes Institute for Spanish. Silliness. The only Shakespeare Institute I can find just teaches the works of Shakespeare). It looks full of useful information, and like Deutsche Welle, it’s 100% free.

I looked into GermanPod101, but the reviews complained about the same thing I complained about with ThaiPod101: one of the speakers is not native and sounds pretty awful. I eventually got over that with ThaiPod101, but part of that was because there’s a relative dearth of Thai language learning support out there. There’s so much German language support to choose from, much of it free, that GermanPod101 choosing to go with a non-native speaker for 50% of its dialogues is simply bad marketing.

Motivation Update

I still have no idea why I’m learning German, but it’s pretty fun so far. 🙂




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