German Resources for Students and Teachers
If you are an individual trying to learn German on your own or a teacher trying to supplement a textbook, there are, of course, thousands of German resources available on the internet, some of them truly excellent. Current teaching philosophy is definitely trending towards more and more online learning, but I still feel that some resources in book form are indispensable for reference and that most students learn best with a combination of materials. This page features some of my personal recommendations that I have found to be most useful for various resource categories.
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A dictionary with a minimum of 50,000 references is recommended for anyone studying German. Personally, in my thirty years of professional experience as a translator and teacher, I have found Langenscheidt German dictionaries (the yellow ones with the big blue L on the front) to be the most useful. They do not simply throw words at you, but provide an abundance of information on usage if you know how to read them properly. Check out my dictionary 101 activity to test your knowledge of dictionary use or the quality of the dictionary you are using. A really good dictionary can be expensive, but Langenscheidt has reasonably priced dictionaries that are quite comprehensive. They provide information on idioms and on terminology used in specific fields such as automotive, finance, or meteorology, just to name a few. Langenscheidt dictionaries also have a lot of additional useful information such as metric measurements, conjugation forms of irregular verbs, cardinal and ordinal numbers etc. A great compact version with over 130,000 entries is available for under $20. Langenscheidt Standard Dictionary German: German – English / English – German. 130,000 references (English and German Edition)
The following sites are good online dictionaries. Each has a slightly different focus:
– Pons Online Bildwörterbuch: totally free, a lot of visual vocabulary, some with English equivalents at the bottom of the page.
– Hurraki: a great online dictionary for beginner-level German students. Has definitions in easy German and often includes a picture as well for visual learning.
– http://capl.washjeff.edu/ (great pictorial dictionary if you are a visual learner)
– http://dict.leo.org/ (Leo; most comprehensive online dictionary; also has a forum where you can find answers to words or expressions not found in the dictionary)
– http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/ (Beolingus)
– http://wortschatz.uni-leipzig.de/ (strictly German, but provides lots of phrases that individual words are used in)
– http://staff-www.uni-marburg.de/~naeser/idiom-ak.htm (German idioms with English translations, very extensive, but many of the English translations are very British English and not idiomatically correct in American English)
– http://www.sprachnudel.de (contemporary colloquial German; German only)
– http://www.synonymwoerterbuch.de/ (excellent online dictionary of synonyms)
– Another good dictionary of synonyms: http://synonymik.net/
– A slightly different type of dictionary: the Verein Deutsche Sprache has an online tool to help you find real German alternatives to many of the anglicisims that are now so pervasive in German.
If you require professional translation services, please consider the following:
There are tons of books that turn grammar into a really unsavory mess. I think sometimes simple is good. I have found Schaum’s Outline of German Grammar, 5th Edition (Schaum’s Outline Series) to be quite excellent and have used it with my own children. It explains the grammar, gives lots of examples, and provides plenty of practice exercises (with answers in the back). I don’t think Schaum’s Outlines would be sufficient on its own, but it’s great as a supplement if you have another source that explains the grammar in more depth. It’s particularly useful for reference or review, and it’s reasonably priced (under $20).
– If you are really serious about your grammar, you will probably want to invest in German In Review: Lehrbuch der deutschen Grammatik by Kimberly Sparks/Van Horn Vail. A new copy will cost you $180, but this book has been around for over forty years, and you may well be able to obtain an older edition used for a lot less and derive the same benefit from it. There is also a workbook to go with it: German in Review Classroom Manual: Ubungsbuch der deutschen Grammatik.
– An outstanding resource for grammar, presented in an interesting way (yes, there is such a thing!): Grimm Grammar (University of Texas). In-depth explanations of grammar issues in English, with illustrations from Grimm fairy tales, and online exercises to practice. Particularly helpful to independent learners.
– An excellent website on German grammar that is very detailed. Deals with vocabulary and sentence construction.
– Here is a wonderful grammar resource that offers simple explanations of various grammar topics, as well as numerous free online exercises to practice each topic
– Another great German grammar resource from the University of Michigan
– Another great resource for visual grammar tables.
– Another good free online German grammar resource with neat and clean grammar tables.
– Really nice free smartboard or online presentations/activities from Schubert Verlag. Levels A1, A2, and B1.
– Many free worksheets on various grammar issues and vocabulary are available from Cornelsen Verlag.
There are several free online German courses for levels A1 trhough C available from Deutsche Welle. The newest one is an interactive course with many exercises. The Deutsche Welle website also has many reading passages with questions, as well as video and audio materials for German students, often with downloadable scripts. The Audiotrainer series has many beginner-level step-by-step lessons with mp3s and sometimes worksheets. Also has a free placement test that helps students to identify which of the Deutsche Welle courses would be most appropriate. DW has a number of free worksheet units on various topics (clothing/dress rules, other rules, eating/food etc.) that usually feature a brief audio, but also some very good pdf worksheets. A very helpful resource for high-beginner students and above are the slowly read audio news items (accompanying texts can be downloaded). If you are simply interested in news, their website is available in 30 languages and is a great resource for news from around the globe, but also news from Germany.
A number of German movies are available for purchase or rental in the U.S. If you are looking to teach a unit on a specific movie, the Institut für Kino und Filmkultur has an excellent website with downloadable workbooks for a large number of German movies. Austrian website with teaching materials about movies.
A useful resource: Top 10 German Movies for Learners. I particularly like the fact that the list includes a link to quizlet vocabulary resources for most of the movies.
Remember to check the region coding when you buy German DVDs. Germany is Region 2; the U.S. is Region 1. You may need to get a code-free DVD player to play a German DVD in the US. These devices don’t actually cost that much more than a “normal” store-bought DVD player and are available online from a number of places.
Both amazon.com and amazon.de feature a number of German movies. Some of them, even if they are available on amazon.com, are still Region 2 coded. If you have a code-free DVD player, I suggest you try amazon.de because the prices are sometimes pretty good, and it may end up being cheaper to pay the s&h of (currently) 14 Euros per shipment to the U.S., rather than buying the movie at a U.S. dealer specializing in foreign-language films.
If you are looking for a specific movie, check out the following website, which has some full-length movies available for viewing at no cost: http://www.myvideo.de/. They have some sporting events available as well.
4. German News:
There are a number of websites that present worldwide news in easy German. Many of them include an audio version of the news stories, so you can read AND hear the stories. Here are some of the best sites:
5. New German Spelling Rules:
If you have trouble with the new German spelling rules, check out the list of words affected by the new rules (pdf file) or the following site for rules, explanations, and practice exercises: http://www.neue-rechtschreibung.de/
6. German Placement Tests :
Not sure what your skill level is in German? Here are a few links to online placement tests to give you a better idea of where you stand or just to take for fun.
An entire page of links to different placement tests
7. Geography Games:
http://www.purposegames.com/game/bba782bc (Countries of Western Europe–German names)
http://www.purposegames.com/game/nachbarlander-deutschlands-quiz (Germany’s neighbors)
http://www.purposegames.com/game/bundeslaender-quiz (German states/ Bundesländer)
http://www.purposegames.com/game/121 (Cantons of Switzerland–German and French names)
http://www.purposegames.com/game/1479 (States of Austria). To prepare, you might want to take a look at this very useful website about the Austrian Bundesländer. It’s in pretty easy German and could be used for a teaching unit on Austria as well.
http://www.fragespiel.com/landkarten-quiz/europa.html (countries of Europe, even the tiny ones)
http://www.purposegames.com/game/fa2116c521 (European Union)
Countries/capitals of Western Europe: online exercise (in German)
8. German Names:
Do you need some good German names for your students? Are you curious about what the most popular German names are this year or maybe a hundred years ago? This site has the answers: http://www.beliebte-vornamen.de/ .
There are legal rules about first names in Germany. A first name must be clearly recognizable as a boy’s name or a girl’s name, for example.
Also, be sure to check out my activity worksheet for German last names.
What does an “odd” name mean for a child’s life? (German only)
9. Other German Resources:
http://www.pauljoycegerman.co.uk/abinitio/index.html (free online German course for Beginners, with lots of audio)
http://hcmc.uvic.ca/clipart/ (free clipart library for teaching)
http://www.pixelio.de/ (free picture resource)
http://www.uni.edu/becker/German2.html (extensive collection of materials and links to all things German)
http://www.aatg.org/ (American Association of Teachers of German)
http://www.nthuleen.com/teach.html (lots of original worksheets for German students, incredible site)
http://www.mrshea.com/work.htm (huge site, particularly for background info on history, customs etc.)
http://deutsch-lerner.blog.de/ (huge site with lots of materials and links; sometimes the links don’t work, but don’t give up. With that many links, it’s impossible to ensure that they are all always up-to-date. There are still a lot of useful materials there.)
http://language-directory.50webs.com/languages/german.htm (extensive list of specialized dictionaries and media resources)
10. German Irregular Verb List:
List of irregular verbs: not a handout, but a great resource, for irregular simple past and past participle forms.
11. German idioms/sayings:
A fantastic resource/worksheet with tons of German sayings, idioms, and proverbs. This is an 18-page pdf with exercises and further resources. Answers are provided as well.
German proverbs with English translations (both idiomatic and literal).
If you prefer your idioms in book form, your best choice would be 2001 German and English Idioms: 2001 Deutsche und Englische Redewendungen (2001 Idioms), which does contain many common idioms, but is by no means a complete collection.
Are you one of those people who never know what to say on a birthday or wedding card–particularly when it has to be in German? This site has the answers for you.
12. Metric conversions and currency conversions:
Check out our conversion page.