Those who want to move to Germany will most likely need to pass one of the official German language proficiency tests before or shortly after their arrival in Germany. They should, therefore, take standard courses such as those provided by the Goethe Institute. The Goethe Institute has offices in 98 countries around the world where students can attend preparatory classes and take exams. The list of their examinations is available here. Click on any of the individual exams in the table and then follow the links to download exam guidelines, study materials, practice exercises and sample tests, or try them online. The type of free materials you will find will depend on the exam that you have chosen.
Free Online German Lessons
Although preparatory classes at the Goethe Institute are all paid, the Institute also offers some free resources for German learners wishing to take their language proficiency exams. These include:
- Deutsch für Dich from Goethe Institute is not a course but a learning platform where you can find tutorials, interactive learning games, learning partners and learning tips from other members in the forum. To get access you will need to register but registration is free of charge. Courses and exams provided by the Goethe Institute at their premises are obviously not free of charge.
- Grüße aus Deutschland (Greetings from Germany) is a free German language course from Goethe Institute for advanced students, so it is only available in German. The course consists of 60 entertaining episodes that can be viewed online or downloaded as a podcast to your mobile phone from iTunes. This is an excellent way to improve your German language skills on the go. Full transcripts of each episode in PDF format are available for download to make sure you will understand everything.
- Deutsch am Arbeitsplatz (German at Work) includes free practice exercises for students at proficiency levels of A1-B2. This course is suitable for all those who are planning on working in Germany to improve their work-specific language skills. There are separate courses for various professions like social service workers, scientists, technical professions, etc., while all instructions are in German.
For more free resources from the Goethe Institute please visit other sections of this website.
However, there are many alternatives to German courses provided by the Goethe-Institute. They are especially suitable for learners who do not need to take standard exams while also having certain specific requirements. Additionally, many of them tend to be more entertaining than standard courses. Here you find links to some of the best free German lessons available online (although many of these courses start from the beginner’s level, they all also contain lessons for more advanced German learners):
- Easy Online German is a complete German course for beginners and intermediate students with focus on all the most important language learning topics including grammar, basic everyday vocabulary, listening comprehension and pronunciation. Everything is explained in English, so the course is also suitable for an absolute beginner. Unfortunately, this very useful website is not mobile friendly yet and can, therefore, only be viewed on larger screens such as desktops or tablets.
- Deutsch-Lernen.com offers free German lessons and grammar exercises for beginners and more advanced students as well as online tests for assessing a learner’s skill level. For instructions, readers can choose between an English and a German version of the website. Those who also want to improve their writing skills will find many useful tips on correct spelling of German words in the orthography section.
- Langmaster.com – German is one of many languages taught on this website. There are two hundred lessons including nearly two thousand exercises with English instructions for beginners, intermediate and advanced students. However, you will need to login (registration is free) to make use of some of the site’s benefits (e.g. audio functions).
- Deutsche Welle offers a whole range of free German courses and tests for all levels of German language skills. As for interactive German course you may need to register at their website to be able to save test results. The interactive course has a German, English and a Russian version. In contrast, the website DW.com is available in 30 languages and so are instructions for some of its basic German lessons. However, instructions for most of the courses at intermediate and higher level are provided only in German. Unfortunately, the website has a complex structure and you may struggle to find what you are actually looking for. Also, switching between the different language versions is kind of difficult. This page should help you find the right course for your individual skills. In fact, Deutsche Welle brings you some of the most innovative free German lessons you can find anywhere on the internet. Most of them include a full transcript in PDF format and a downloadable MP3 file. Follow-up exercises will help you exercise your grammar skills and learn new vocabulary. Some examples of German lessons you can find on DW.com include:
- Top-Thema mit Vokabeln (B1) is an unconventional language course from Deutsche Welle for intermediate students. It brings you the top news from around the world to help improve your vocabulary. The news is read slowly and clearly and there is a slow-spoken audio download for each episode. You will be asked to answer a couple of questions after each episode to make sure you understand the main points.
- Ticket nach Berlin is another exciting course from Deutsche Welle that is only available in German language because it requires an upper intermediate knowledge of the language (B2). In this course you will accompany six young German learners from different countries on their adventurous journey through Germany. The course includes 19 episodes with interactive tests to examine how well you are coping with German grammar and vocabulary.
- Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten or slowly spoken news in English (B2-C1) is a great way of expanding your vocabulary. Full transcript is available underneath each video. You can also download the news in MP3 format.
- Sprachbar is a course for advanced students of German (C1-C2). By analysing latest headlines, idioms and specifics of German grammar, learners become familiar with the intricacies of the German language. For each video there is a full transcript in PDF format and an MP3 file that you can download.
- Video-Thema brings you reports on various contemporary topics. The short movies are downloadable and subtitles can be turned on and off. Follow-up exercises will help you remember new vocabulary.
- Ich will Deutsch lernen is a portal of the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to support the integration of immigrants. However, this great educational portal can also be used by non-residents. All German lessons (including more than 11,000 exercises) are free but you will need to register at their website to gain full access. Before you do so, preview the courses as a guest to see how you like them. The courses are suitable for beginners and intermediate students (levels A1-B1).
- GermanPod101 offers entertaining audio and video lessons for free. You can use them with your desktop, tablet or mobile phone. Registration is required but it is free of charge. Before you register, get a feel of what the German lessons are like by checking their youtube channel.
- GCSE School German from BBC is a course for intermediate students of German to train their reading and listening comprehension, writing and grammar skills as well as their exam skills.
- Deutsch.info is a platform that not only offers free German courses for beginners and intermediates (levels A1 to B1) but it also provides useful tips on living in Germany and Austria. In addition to that you will find there dictionaries, media library, detailed grammar explanations and a community forum. Registration is necessary but it is free. This portal is available in 19 language versions.
- Treffpunkt Deutsch, fifth edition, is a comprehensive German course for beginners and intermediate students that is now freely available on the web. In the top menu select the chapter you wish to study and press “Go”. Each chapter contains interactive exercises for practicing grammar and vocabulary, flashcards and audios for training correct pronunciation as well as theme-related popular web links. The sixth edition of Treffpunk Deutsch is also freely accessible online but only its audio version is yet available.
- Nthuleen.com is a great collection of German teaching materials compiled by an American university lecturer. Although the site has not been updated since 2004, it still offers many useful resources for German learners. You will find there loads of grammar exercises and vocabulary building exercises but also texts about German culture and German lyrics.
- Klett Sprachen is one of the greatest online resources for anybody learning German, whether beginner, intermediate or advanced German speaker. Unfortunately, the language of the website is German (only), so beginners may not be able to find all of its goodies. The platform offers free online placement tests (many of them are also available for download in PDF format with solutions at the end), examples of actual tests in PDF format for all relevant German language proficiency examinations as well as online exercises.
However, this is not all there is for German learners. You can find additional German lessons for intermediate and advanced learners on YouTube or as mobile language apps. If you are looking for employment in a German-speaking country you may be interested to read about business German lessons that are available online for free. As they say, practice makes perfect, so visit also other sections of this website for interactive online exercises and tests to practice grammar and exam skills. There is so much there that you will never get bored. But remember that for maximum learning efficiency you need to stay motivated, so choose your lessons carefully.