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We are all different. Some people prefer to use the latest technology when learning a foreign language while others still like paper textbooks that they can read in a pleasant environment somewhere on the beach or in bed. In fact, many German textbooks are available online as free downloadable PDFs (they usually open in the browser but can be saved to your disk). They are ideal for practicing grammar skills and improving vocabulary and reading comprehension. In addition, samples of various German language exams can also be downloaded from the Internet for free as PDF files.
However, many of the “free” PDFs for German learners that you can find on the net must be used in conjunction with a video or an audio course that you often have to pay for. Below is a list of those free PDFs for learning German that can be used alone for training specific language abilities such as grammar skills, reading comprehension or exam skills. It goes without saying that for practicing pronunciation, listening comprehension and conversation skills you will need other types of learning tools.
PDFs for Practicing German Grammar and Vocabulary
- German language course from wikibooks.org is the result of an ongoing collaborative effort of several authors and, therefore, it is being constantly developed and improved. The latest version of this course can be downloaded here, but the formatting of the PDF file seems a little bit odd and some lessons are not yet finished, so you may be better off using the original version from 2006 available under the link above. This German course is suitable for total beginners to teach them basic grammar, phrases and vocabulary used in common, everyday situations.
- Basic German: A Grammar and Workbook is an excellent learning material for independent study with emphasis on German grammar. It is a beginner’s course equivalent to one year of standard class course. This PDF can also be used as a reference and practice workbook for training German grammar by learners who already possess some knowledge of the German language. Once you have managed ‘Basic German’ you can continue with part 2, i.e., ‘Intermediate German‘. Part 2 presents a broad range of more complex grammatical topics with practical exercises at the end of each of the 24 chapters.
- Toms Deutschseite is a personal website developed by a native German speaker to teach his foreign wife German. The emphasis is on grammar and basic vocabulary. Choose any topic (whether a grammar or a vocabulary building lesson) and at the bottom of each page under “Exercises” and “Summary” you will find links to the PDFs that you can open and save to your disk.
- Mein-Deutschbuch.de offers free online exercises that are downloadable as PDFs to help you train all aspects of grammar skills. Correct answers can be found at the end of each file. Since all instructions (just like the website itself) are only in German, these worksheets are suited for intermediate and advanced students who can already understand instructions in written German. Should you feel you still have not had enough of grammar, try also these additional exercises.
- Deutsch – German Language is a free e-book focusing on explaining the basics of German grammar. It also includes some useful German phrases and vocabulary lists on common, everyday topics. This material should not be used as a stand-alone workbook but rather as a grammar reference book.
- German Grammar Summary is a one-pager that summarises the most essential points of German grammar such as the use of cases, articles, reflexive pronouns and prepositions. You can print it out and use it as a quick reference guide whenever needed.
PDFs for Practicing Reading Comprehension
- Learn German with Stories contains ten stories narrated by Dino, a young man from Sicily who came to Berlin to find a job. Dino has just started learning German, so the language of these stories is very simple (both, sentence structure and vocabulary) suitable for beginners. At the end of each episode you will be asked to answer questions to make sure you understand the text. The answer key can be found at the end of the document (page 85). Unfortunately, the free PDF download is no longer available and you can only read and print the html document.
- Marktplatz is a German language course developed by Deutsche Welle with strong focus on business German. It includes 26 chapters that address such specific business topics as starting a new business, raising capital, securing debt financing, financial planning, sales forecasting, forming joint ventures and subsidiaries, franchising, marketing, research and managing personnel and corporate identity. Each chapter can be downloaded as a separate PDF file. Every PDF file begins with an article on a specific theme, followed by several different exercises with solutions that can be found at the bottom of the document. This course requires a German language skill level of at least B2.
Intermediate and advanced learners may want to try reading “real” German books. Here is a list of resources where you can download German eBooks in PDF format.
German Language Examinations and Tests in PDF Format
- Klett Sprachen has a comprehensive list of German language proficiency examinations (including those given by the Goethe Institute, telc and ÖSD) with sample tests available in PDF format for free downloading. Solutions can be found at the end of each test. In addition, there is a list of assessment tests for a number of language exams. Some of these tests can also be downloaded as PDF files.
- Telc offers freely downloadable mock exams in PDF format that you can evaluate yourself (an answer key is included at the end of the PDF) to see how well prepared you are for the actual exam.
- Goethe Institute has a list of all of its exams with clickable links that will take you to the individual page for the exam. Under the “Practice and Information Materials” tab (left-hand sidebar) you will find PDFs of practice materials or sample tests that are available for free download. Solutions are included in all PDF files to enable you to estimate your score. Alternatively you can also use this link.
- ÖSD also offers free PDFs for all of their exams that include an answer key to enable you to independently assess your German language skills. You can find them under “Sample exams and practice materials” (right-hand sidebar).
Please note that this overview only includes German learning materials in PDF format available for FREE download. There obviously are tons of language teaching materials in PDFs or other user friendly formats that you can buy at Amazon or iTunes. For other types of free learning materials check out other sections of this website.