Learning German resources

I was telling you about how I wanted to continue learning German. Here are some pages and ideas that I have found to be of great resources.


Many of the pages I have read always talk about the tried and true method of flash cards. They work, no doubt about it. But did you know there is a methodology that helps maximize their potential? Well, I didn’t. I am talking about Leitner’s Flash Card System. Most of the better flash card systems claim to follow this method. Here’s the skinny taken from Wikipedia:

Apart from plain illustration purposes, flashcards can be used to support memorization by way of spaced repetition.

A method to achieve this was proposed by the German science popularizer Sebastian Leitner in the 1970s. In his method, known as the Leitner system, flashcards are sorted into groups according to how well you know each one. This is how it works: you try to recall the solution written on a flashcard. If you succeed, you send the card to the next group. But if you fail, you send it back to the first group.

An obvious advantage of this method is that you can focus on the most difficult flashcards, which remain in the first groups. The result is, ideally, a reduction in the amount of study time needed.

Similar ideas have been implemented into the Pimsleur language courses and, since the 1980s, into a number of computer-assisted language learning titles. Much of this software makes use of so-called electronic flashcards.

Now, as I said, there are many flashcard apps that are both available for Mac and PC. But, I have a Treo 650 and the time when I’d be able to study my Treo would be most handy. Thankfully, I have found freeware Palm app that exceeds, in my opinion, most of the commercial apps:

Günther’s Freeware: Vocabulary Cards for Palm OS

This is a great app. I went through my old college text books and used the Excel spreadsheet to make my own dictionaries. In fact, I got it down to the point that I have a Google spreadsheet that I can update any time. There are also several Yahoo! groups that Günther set up and he is active and helps many people out. The vocabulary I have learned using this has stuck with me. I was very surprised at how well this method worked.


Mentioned in the quote from Wikipedia regarding the flash cards was the Pimsleur CD’s. They make watered down CD’s but the complete level sets retail around $120 or more and have about 30 CD’s if I remember correctly. A friend and I went in together and bought a set. I found making them into MP3’s and using a smart playlist on my iPod worked well. I thought they were good. When we were both done, we resold the set on Ebay and it went well. I found it was very helpful practicing the dialog and participating in the conversations that were part of the Lose Weight Exercises. I ultimately got through Level III and felt like I had certainly accomplished something. I believe it did help me gain confidence in speaking in German and being able to have pretty solid conversations. I would recommend them.

I also found some very useful podcasts. Deutsche Welle has a whole series of learning German. I’ve been able to find Levels 1-4. Again, there is a interesting story going on and an English narrative. While not engaging as the Pimsleur lessons, I have found these enjoyable and they help keep my mind thinking and listening in German.

Deutsch – Warum nicht?

They have more advanced podcasts you can find here.

I have found these very useful and they’re fun, too. I think they are much better than listening to commercial radio.

Online Resources

There are a lot of good stuff available online. I know the BBC has online language classes, but I have found those to be very very basic. I would compare those classes to teaser classes; they’ll leave you wanting more and not that proficient in speaking any languages. It might give you a good foundation going forward, but don’t think you’ll be a master.

Again, Deutsche Welle has another uncovered gem, in my opinion:

Deutsch interaktiv

As far as online course go, this is pretty good. It follows the same grading/rating system the Geothe Institute does. I find the classes to be pretty interesting. I’ve compared this to the Rosetta Stone and I think this is better. At least I feel like I learned more than the Rosetta Stone, (granted I only used the demo).

Other tips and tricks:

Another goody is watching TV in German. German movies are great… if you can get them. I am able to borrow them from my brother-in-law, but if you don’t have access to a real German person, then I would suggest to looking on… *cough cough* online… for German programming. If you are ‘net savvy, you probably know where to look. I am not talking about bittorrent or P2P type of stuff. I’ve gotten many TV shows in German: Simpsons, Lost, House, etc. I even got a couple of episodes of Knight Rider but given the recent press around Herr Hasselhoff, I couldn’t make it through it. *shudder*

But, if you want a legit way, and you are pretty tech savvy and like to figure things out, might I suggest…


This is pretty slick; think of it as an Internet TiVo… for German TV!!! It works. Just make sure you try to figure out what you are downloading or you might have a bunch of shows where people are reading Tarot cards.

Finally, there are a lot of websites that you can either watch streaming German media or German streaming radio stations. Listening to broadcasts in German will help you subconsciously understanding grammar.

Here are more links I have found to be extremely useful. I might update this list over time as I find things:

There was also a German Skype conference call that happened on Saturday nights, but it doesn’t look like it is happening any more.

Try reading German websites. There are plenty of news sources. I can provide links to news outlets and streaming media directories if you can’t find any.

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