Learning a language is not for the faint of heart. It’s the motivated and the brave who persevere to the finish line of fluency. Learning a language, like most things, takes practice and time. A lot of it. Seriously, A LOT. And not just in the classroom. Practice, repetition and repeated exposure to the language in and out of the INNES classroom are what make it stick in long-term memory. Students excel when they sit in the driver’s seat of their own learning by taking time to practice at home, but what if that practice is boring?
We understand the challenge of studying on your own. It’s hard to find quality resources that are easy on the wallet but still modern, user-friendly, and engaging.
We’ve come across a lot of online resources that fall flat. They’re boring, clumsy, and visually unappealing. All of which can be demotivating. But, what if there was a better way to put in the hours without falling asleep? What if there were engaging tools to support your own learning outside of German class?
We know that study that is beneficial and interesting is important to you, so we’ve compiled a list of the best resources out there designed to help adults practice the language they’re already learning in the classroom. The best part? These resources are free.
Memorize Vocabulary With Drops
Drops is the ideal app for beginner to intermediate learners who need a little extra practice with useful, everyday vocab and phrases. While there are other apps out there for developing your Wortschatz (treasury of words, i.e. vocab), this one stands out for its sleek design, variety of practice games, and inclusion of the article with each noun. We know that learning articles with nouns in German is essential, so if your memory of articles is a little wobbly, this app is perfect for you, too.
Essentially, Drops is a kind of flashcard database of hundreds of words and phrases you need for learning German, but it’s so much more than simply flashcards. In each category, the app introduces a word or phrase in that category along with a picture. Then, you progress through a series of different practice games for that word before it shuffles in the previous words you’ve learned in that category.
The categories cover topics you need the moment you step off the plane—such as food, travel, and ”small talk” worthy vocab—but it doesn’t end there. As you progress, you unlock new levels that include topics most apps don’t, such as camping, cosmetics, and crime.
What really makes this app unique is the time-limit. We know, it sounds strange that a time-limit is a positive feature, but if you, like many, end up finding excuses instead of time to study outside of your German course, the fact that you can only use the app for five minutes a day is perfect. #NOMOREEXCUSES. Take charge of your learning today by starting small, and then use that sense of accomplishment to make studying an important part of your daily routine.
The timer also adds an extra incentive to breeze through as many words as you can before time runs out. For those who want to use this app longer, there is a paid version where the time is unlimited.
Drops also shows your stats and tracks your progress as you go, so you can see how much you’ve learned over time. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of watching your Wortschatz grow.
Practice Grammar With Duolingo
Duolingo is a language learning app also accessible on an internet browser. It’s perfect for beginner and intermediate learners who want to review grammar and vocabulary in a systematic and engaging way.
With 8 units separated into dozens of lessons on a variety of topics, Duolingo uses repetition of sentences through a series of different tasks to help you practice listening, writing (spelling accuracy), and pronunciation. Each key topic begins with a grammar explanation and then dozens of practices covering that one concept.
If you get tired of studying grammar, take a break by checking out their story feature. These little mini-stories are a fun way to test your comprehension and learn new words. They have over a hundred five-minute stories about blind dates, bank robberies, skydiving, and much more. Each story ends with a humorous twist sure to entertain.
Users can earn points, set daily goals, compete against others on a world-wide leader board, or simply enjoy being a step closer to reaching their learning goal. Each practice takes only a few minutes, so you decide how much you do.
Workout Your Reading/Listening Muscles With Deutsche Welle
Deutsche Welle (DW) is a website that offers a wide range of content for learners of any level. DW is first and foremost a free media provider of world news through articles, TV programs, podcasts and radio, but the site also devotes an entire section to German language learners.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or a pro, there is plenty here to explore. You can start by taking their placement test or dive right into leveled courses available for free on their website. They have radio-style episodes, a vocab trainer series, and even a full-length movie to enjoy. Their lessons are a little longer (about 10-15 minutes) and often include explanations in English, transcripts of the audio, and/or mini-lessons with exercises to test your comprehension of the concept.
What makes DW unique is that it teaches through story. These are no ordinary stories, mind you. They have stories about time travel, mysterious messages, and a man forced to relive the same day over and over—just to name a few. Check out their movie series called “Nico’s Weg” which follows the life of a guy from Spain who’s new to Deutschland and trying to learn German. As the main character progresses in his language journey, so do you, going from A1 to B1. You can watch the full-length movies on YouTube or take the course with DW’s website or app where there’s also instruction and practices to accompany each scene.
For advanced learners, DW media content is a great way to practice reading and listening. These reports cover topics such as world events, culture, and sports. With an array of topics from politics to science to culture and religion, there’s sure to be something at DW that interests you. In addition to their website, be sure to check out their podcasts series and apps.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your learning journey, Deutsche Welle has a lot to offer, so hop on over to their site and start exploring!
Refresh Your Reading Skills With OE24 or Heute
Did you know there are two Austrian newspapers provided free of charge to the Vienna public? If you use the U-Bahn at all, chances are you’ve seen one or both of these in or outside station exits. Just look for the little OE24 or Heute kiosk on your way to catch the train and grab a copy to read in transit. If you prefer online material, both papers have a website equipped with present and past editions as well as videos—no purchase necessary.
No matter your level of language proficiency, reading the newspaper can benefit you. Those new to the German language can focus on titles or captions, using the photos to infer meaning. Someone in A2-B1 can look for short articles, highlighting new words as they go. It’s important when you first start out not to stress over understanding every single word. If you understand the gist of an article, it’s still effective practice. More advanced students can read longer articles checking they understand not only the big picture ideas but also the supporting details.
Be sure to pick up one of these newspapers the next time you ride Vienna’s public transportation system.
Fine-Tune Your Listening With the ORF-TVTHEK
If you’re looking for a way to stay up-to-date on current events while also practicing your German listening skills, then check out ORF. The ORF (Österreichischer Rundfunk) is Austria’s national public broadcasting network. The website streams live as well as past news broadcasts (Sendung verpasst) covering current events. They offer shows on regional news, history, art, culture, and more. Many of their videos are only one to five minutes long, so you can easily re-watch them as many times as necessary until you understand. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, consider watching one of their longer broadcasts.
The great thing about this resource is that it’s not actually made for students but native speakers. While audio designed for German courses is carefully structured to help build your knowledge of the language step-by-step, the true test of fluency is the ability to understand content made for native speakers. And, isn’t that the end goal anyway? Thankfully, the ORF reporters speak more clearly and at a moderate pace, at least more so than a rapid-fire conversation overheard in the Strassenbahn.
Honestly, it’s never too early to develop your ear for this. Just like with reading, if you’re a beginner, focus on recognizing words you know. If you get the main idea, awesome, but even if you recognize only a dozen words in the broadcast, you’ll start to internalize German pronunciation (you might even sound more Austrian!). Eventually (if not already), you’ll have to speak German outside the safety bubble of a class. You’ll have to have conversations with an Austrian whose sentences sound like single words strung together in one breath. If you practice with the ORF now, you’ll find you recognize more and more words, and you’ll be better equipped when you do have those conversations.
If you’re a more advanced learner, this is a perfect way for you to continue to develop your auditory understanding of German and learn more about Austria in the process.
What are you waiting for? Check out their website or download their app, and start tuning your ear for German.
We hope you find these online resources helpful to you as you study German here in Wien. We purposefully chose resources that are easy to use, readily accessible, and absolutely free, so take time to explore each one and adapt them to suit your current language learning needs. Mix, match and have fun with it as you grow your repertoire of German. Thanks to technology, you can study practically anytime, anywhere: curled up in your favorite chair at home, soaking in rays at the Donauinsel, or sipping espresso in an elegant Viennese coffee shop as you’re serenaded by a classical pianist. Wherever your favorite spot in Vienna is, take the time to boost your self-driven study with these resources.
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