Decided to learn German and struggling with your der, die, or das? Learning a new language is a challenge but is ultimately incredibly rewarding, opening up opportunities to communicate with family, make friends from other countries, and explore new cultures. If you attain a high enough level in your chosen language, exciting new career prospects also open up, including work as a translator or as a language teacher yourself.
While the best way to learn German would probably be to live in a German-speaking country, not everyone can drop everything and move to Berlin or Vienna; often, the most accessible way to start is online. But it can be hard to find a course on the web to get started—or to continue—learning German.
We've found the best online German classes and considered how individuals learn best, whether it be through listening, repetition, or memorizing. So, take a look with your learning preferences in mind.
The 7 Best Online German Classes of 2021
Best Overall : Lingoda
Lingoda is a well-respected, online language-learning service that combines flexibility, quality instruction, and an affordable price tag. Their system is flexible, allowing you to choose between individual classes—with lessons scheduled at your convenience—and group classes that meet at a predetermined time.
The group class is quite affordable at $9.50 per session, and classes generally have three to five students. (A normal class at a school is usually as large as 15 students.) Private lessons are $22 to $37 per lesson (depending on frequency—the more often you meet, the less you'll pay), but they may be worth the extra cost for those who learn best one-to-one.
Lingoda also offers a Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) certificate, which can be useful for students studying abroad or professionals hoping to get a job in a German-speaking country with a required level of proficiency. Your certificate is available to you once you've completed 90% of your chosen proficiency level.
On its website, Lingoda claims that 92% of users are satisfied customers. In fact, it has a rating of 4.5 on Trustpilot with more than 2,800 reviews.
Lingoda offers a 7-day free trial, which can consist of three group classes or one private class. But you'll have to enter payment information and agree to cancel before the trial ends if you don't wish to be a paid subscriber—otherwise, you'll be billed monthly after the seven days is up.
Best Budget : DeutschAkademie
This free app offers roughly 50,000 grammar and vocabulary exercises, 800 hours of interactive online classes, and a free audio course. In comparison to other popular free apps like Duolingo or Babbel—which have quickly become overwhelming and impersonal—DeutschAkademie is tailor-made to learning German specifically and has an online forum where a native German teacher will personally answer your questions.
Structured according to the six double levels of the CEFR framework (A1 to C2), DeutschAkademie allows you to easily jump back into learning German if you’ve already started and guides your continued progress. However, like many budget options, the free course is best used for practice and less for learning the structure of the language. If you like the free app, the company offers the opportunity to advance to one of its paid, online live courses—ranging from $60 to $150. Most of the course options include a free language assessment test and tutor with a small class size.
The cheapest paid option is a conversation club for $60 per session. Other options include private lessons at $62 per hour and corporate classes—language learning with your coworkers—for around $100 per class. You can also take part in summer classes in German-speaking cities through DeutschAkademie.
DeutschAkademie is a great introduction to learning German, with the option to keep it casual and inexpensive or to progress to more serious learning.
Best for Flexible Learning : Rocket German
Rocket German covers all the bases, no matter how you learn. You start out with a stellar crash course in functional German in a series of podcasts with written transcripts, so you can engage with multiple aspects of the language from the get-go.
This approachable (and useful) beginner course hooks those of us who are less inclined toward nitty-gritty grammar exercises. You can then move on to the “language and culture” course, which addresses the grammar and vocabulary specificities that the functional lessons gloss over.
There are flashcards for memorizing vocabulary, podcasts for listening comprehension, quizzes to test yourself, and even software for speaking that corrects your pronunciation. The only drawback is that there is no personal tutor with whom you can hone your speaking skills.
They also have a mobile app, which allows you to access the 20- to 30-minute lessons on the go. This is helpful for being realistic about how you learn: The activation energy of picking up your phone instead of sitting at a desk and opening your computer makes a big difference in self-directed language learning.
Courses are divided into three levels, each costing $150. And the website regularly features discounts that get you all three tiers for as much as 40% off (you pay $260 for all three). With each level, you'll have instant lifetime access to your purchase. Best of all, it comes with some financial flexibility: You can try the products for 60 days and if you're not satisfied, refunds are available no questions asked.
Best for Listening Comprehension : GermanPod101
GermanPod101 is a library of thousands of podcasts and videos in German. All are sourced from native German speakers and revolve around real-life situations, so you will gain a good idea of what to expect from a real conversation with a German speaker. If you are more of an auditory learner or want to improve your listening comprehension for more practical conversations, GermanPod101 is the way to go.
When you create your free account, you're asked to identify yourself at one of five language levels: Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, or Advanced. Each level has its own lessons, which will appear on your account dashboard under My Pathways. You can edit your chosen level at any time and, in doing so, change lesson pathways.
As a new member, you can either immediately get a paid subscription or start a 7-day free trial. You'll have access to the premium content library during your free trial period, however, the three levels of monthly subscriptions—Basic at $4, Premium at $10, and Premium Plus at $23—offer varying features. The strongest part of the service, though, lies mostly in its podcasts and videos, which are included in the affordable Basic subscription.
The Premium edition adds access to voice recording tools, interactive lesson quizzes, and a German audio dictionary, among other platform features. And the key feature of the Premium Plus plan is a personalized learning program complete with assignments and assessments from a dedicated teacher.
It's recommended that you look elsewhere for drilling vocabulary, perfecting your writing and reading abilities, and improving pronunciation. Overall though, GermanPod101 is lauded for getting familiar with real-life German and is an excellent choice to include in your self-study.
Best for Casual Learning : FluentU
FluentU is a website and mobile app that gathers real-world German videos—news clips, movie trailers, music videos, etc.—for use as educational materials.
This technique is important because it allows you to start engaging with the language more naturally from the get-go, rather than memorizing theoretical conversations as many competing apps do. It has a quiz feature and keeps track of your vocabulary words. However, it is less of a traditionally structured course and more of a tool to engage with the language. This aspect makes it excellent for more casual learning.
While the app is useful for more practical German, it does not have any features for speech and only has limited written vocabulary exercises. Learning through immersive listening is useful for most people, but other folks will miss out on speech improvement.
However, if you’re most interested in being able to casually understand the language and watch fun clips, FluentU is a great tool to inspire you to get familiar with German. Otherwise, FluentU could be combined with other services that have a more robust practice feature. And at $20 per month for the yearly subscription and $30 per month for the month-to-month option, it’s on the affordable side.
Best for Learning in a Traditional Setting : Goethe-Institut
The Goethe-Institut is a highly respected cultural institution dedicated to sharing and promoting German culture around the world, with offices from New York to Cairo.
With courses offered according to the CEFR (A1 to C2), it is easy to figure out which level you should be taking. For those comfortable with taking a class without a teacher, there's an option you can start shortly after booking. If you'd prefer learning with a teacher, you can choose to do so in an online group course or independently with individual mentoring and support. There is also an option for teenagers between 14–17 years old.
The lessons the Goethe-Institut offer are the most traditional of the online German classes—and also probably the most expensive. But while the price tag of $835—for individual lessons with a teacher for a period of approximately 6 months—might seem hefty, you'll receive a certificate of attendance from the respected Goethe-Institut, which could be useful for students looking to study abroad or professionals applying to jobs in Germany. Compared to other traditionally modeled online classes like Berlitz (around $2,500), this is actually quite a good deal for the serious learner.
Best for Conversational Practice : italki
Italki is a language-learning software that connects you with a German tutor for a one-hour video chat. While a lot of programs out there might include a side feature that allows you to connect face-to-face with your tutor or a native speaker, italki’s affordability, flexibility, and ease of use earn it the crown for practicing speaking.
Your tutor will be a freelancer with varying levels of teaching experience. The more expensive teachers—who sometimes charge as much as $80 an hour—will have taught at language schools or have a teaching certificate and be able to explain grammar to you. The inexpensive educators—for as low as $4 an hour—are for 60 minutes of casual conversation with a native speaker or someone with high proficiency.
The learning experience with italki will vary greatly depending on your tutor, and you could probably spend hours finding the right one. Luckily, many tutors offer a half-price trial lesson for 30 minutes, which we recommend.
What Is Taught in an Online German Class?
German classes are taught in different formats and cater to varying levels of proficiency. If you’re a beginner, you should expect to learn some conversational skills, common words, how to pronounce common words, and then how to put sentences together. Eventually, you will learn how to read and write in German as well.
Who Should Take an Online German Class?
An online German class can be helpful for many reasons. You may benefit from taking an online German class if you want to travel to or live in Germany. It will also help you have a better understanding of German culture and speak to friends and family who speak the language. It can also help you get a translator job or a job teaching English in Germany.
What's The Best Way to Learn German at Home?
Typically, the best way to learn German at home is to set aside a certain amount of time each day to practice and study the language. Try to listen to native speakers and repeat what they say, focusing on your pronunciation. It’s also helpful to write down words and then sentences and practice reading in German as well.
How Much Does an Online German Class Cost?
There are a variety of different types of online German classes available and they each have different price points. There are some free apps and then others that charge between $4 and $80 per hour for a native speaker to talk with you. Other classes charge anywhere from $10 to $150 per lesson, or $250 or more for an entire level of German basics.
How We Chose the Best Online German Classes
We researched more than 20 online German classes before narrowing it down to the top seven. We chose these best online German classes based on a number of factors including their pricing, flexibility, and whether or not they come with a certification. We also considered the availability of individualized help and user reviews.