This article is a review of GermanPod101.com, an online resource for learning German through audio podcasts. In this review, I'll take you inside the premium members area and show you the main features of the website then give you my honest assessment of the quality of the product, so you can decide whether it's right for you.
GermanPod101 Review: Summary
Very substantial – tonnes of lessons for all levels
Easy to use lesson format – audio lessons and handy mobile app
Dialogues are too short
Too much “lesson” content, not enough German!
Lots of advertising, up-selling, and cross-promoting related products when you sign up
A premium GermanPod 101 subscriptions costs $180 USD per year.
GermanPod101 is a good, engaging resource, especially for beginners and lower levels. Their bite-sized approach to study materials makes it ideal for busy people and those who struggle with motivation, but it is certainly not any kind of shortcut – you will still have to do the hard work yourself. If you want to learn German fast and have fun while doing it I'd skip GermanPod101 and enrol in German Uncovered instead. With German Uncovered you’ll use the unique StoryLearning® method to learn German naturally through story… not rules. It’s as fun as it is effective. If you’re ready to try out German Uncovered, click here for a 7-day FREE trial.
What Is GermanPod101?
GermanPod 101 is an online subscription programme for German learners of all levels. Subscribers get access to an extensive library of German audio and video lessons, as well as a number other learning tools such as German flashcards and an English-German dictionary. All of the content included in the premium subscription is available to access through a web browser or through a handy mobile app. I'm not the biggest fan of apps for language learning – I'm wary of the App Villain – but when the lesson content is comprehensive (instead of being just another “flashy game”), I'm more open to it.
A Look Inside GermanPod101
Lessons in GermanPod101 are organised by level. Each level has different ‘seasons' or sets of lessons which are normally 25 lessons long (although some are longer or shorter). This adds up to literally hundreds of German podcast lessons, which means GermanPod101 is quite a substantial resource. That said, with so much content to choose from, it's difficult to know where to start. One feature that helps is called ‘Learning Paths'. This offers you different paths or course structures based on your current level and what you most want to learn. For example, beginners can choose from learning paths like ‘Connecting with German Speaking Family', ‘Business German for Beginners' or ‘Daily Conversations In German: Beginner'. I like this idea because it makes it easier for you to decide where to start. It also gives you a clear picture of what you'll have learnt once you complete the learning path.
What's Included In Each Lesson?
Each lesson contains 3 audio tracks:
Full Lesson Audio
Dialogue Only Track
Each lesson normally follows the same format:
Dialogue in German
Repetition of the dialogue with a translation
Discussion of the story and cultural insight
Explanation of new vocabulary
Explanation of new grammar
Once you've completed the main lesson, you can use the review and dialogue-only tracks to practice what you've learned. The review track is for quickly reviewing and learning new vocabulary. The dialogue track allows you to simply repeat the dialogue without listening to all of the explanations. This is the track I recommend you work with the most. Let's some at some of the other more advanced features of GermanPod 101 that you'll find in premium subscriptions…
The really valuable part of GermanPod101 is the powerful extra features accompanying each lesson. The dialogue is in an interactive format: each line is clickable, so you can click and hear the audio at your own pace, line-by-line, and you can switch the text between German and English. This works really well and is ideal for breaking down the dialogues into smaller parts and listening and reading at the same time. It's also great for improving your vocabulary and listening comprehension. There's another section which gives you a list of vocabulary from the dialogue. Again, you can click on this so you can hear the audio (at natural speed and slowed-down) and see it in writing.
Another cool feature of German Pod101 is the personalised flashcard system. You can choose the vocabulary you want to learn from your lessons and export it to the website's built-in flashcard system. These flashcard decks are fully customisable and use a spaced repetition system to help you learn new words. This is handy because it's easy to set up and dive in. The big downside though is that these flashcards only show you words in isolation. It's much more effective to learn words in context. So the fact that you can't do that in GermanPod 101 makes a potentially useful flashcard tool practically useless.
All of the lesson material is also available in downloadable worksheets in case you prefer to have a physical copy to print out. There's nothing special about these – they're just a PDF version of the information from the website. Nevertheless, people like to consume information in different ways, and if you like to have everything printed off and there in front of you, it's good to have.
Bonus PDFs For Beginners
In addition to the lessons, there are a lot of extra resources for beginners, which add value for people learning German for the first time. When you're just starting out it's a tricky stage where you really need a lot of solid information (the basics of grammar, phonology, spelling) and the last thing you want to do is waste time and stifle your progress by trying to piece it all together from various websites. Here, it's all in one place:
Overviews of the language
A Guide to German Pronunciation
Introduction to German Grammar
German Verb Conjugation Charts
Key German Phrases
Other Notable Features
A couple of other cool features include a quiz function, which gives you vocabulary and writing tests based on language from the lessons, and an online dictionary German-English and English-German dictionary. This dictionary is accessible inside the website from the search bar, which is handy and it contains all of the language from the lessons.
What I Like About GermanPod 101
There are quite a few things I really like about GermanPod101…
It's a very substantial resource. There are lots of lessons for all levels and the library is updated regularly with new material
The course is well-designed. It's not easy to select and produce graded material for an entire language course. But the content is impressive. Grammar points and language vocabulary get repeated over the course of each level, which helps reinforce what you've learnt.
The podcast lessons are short and entertaining, so they're perfect for anyone who lacks motivation, or is looking for an easy way to start.
The difficulty levels are just right. Once you figure out your current level and get going, you'll find that the progression from level to level is logical.
Vocabulary is well selected and the dialogues are based on life-like situations. This means the lessons teach useful language (the kind of German that's actually spoken by people in German-speaking countries).
The line-by-line clickable dialogues with audio, transcription and translation are AWESOME. For me, this is the main benefit of the product.
The handy mobile app allows you to listen to episodes easily on the go. You can even use the line-by-line audio feature on your phone.
What I Don't Like About GermanPod 101
In spite of the positives, there are also quite a few significant downsides to GermanPod101:
The podcasts use too much English and not enough German This is good for beginners but frustrating as you become more advanced. As your level improves, you'll probably start to feel that there's too much English in each episode compared to the amount of German you're hearing. This is certainly the case for me when I reach advanced levels – I feel a need for more substantial, higher level texts that I can sink my teeth into. Even at the higher levels, the dialogues are all very short. This is understandable seeing as it's a short podcast, but some learners may find it frustrating.
There is a lot of advertising, up-selling, and cross-promoting related products (by way of emails, on-site banners etc) even after you sign up, which gets irritating when you've already paid for the product. It definitely detracts from the user experience.
The resources are, at times, not very cared for, which is a bit disappointing for something you pay good money for. The podcast editing is sometimes poor, the voice recorder function doesn't seem to work most of the time, and the information across the different study tools is not always consistent. For example, some words in the database don't come with audio recordings. Some translations are inaccurate or misleading (although staff do correct them once pointed out by members), and there are occasional programming bugs. None of this is a deal-breaker, but it does leave you feeling a bit neglected!
The vocabulary lists and flashcards work with single words out of context, which is a big missed opportunity. It's much more effective to learn words in context. If you're a regular reader you'll know that I go on about this quite a lot! Of course, you can see the words in context within the dialogues, and there are often sample sentences in the flashcard programme. But I'm a big believer in keeping words in full sentences at all times, especially when revising.
Lots of teaching, not much immersion. One issue I have with the lessons are, ironically, the fact that they are just that lessons. What do I mean by that? In one 15-minute lesson, there are only 30 seconds-ish of sustained listening to German (the dialogue). The rest is teaching explanations of vocabulary and grammar. It isn't that the teaching isn't useful or good quality, it's just that you need to spend more time with the language if you actually want to learn it! I would like there to be more material for extensive listening, so you can just listen and enjoy without always having to learn something new.
Vocabulary lists from the lessons don't always contain all the useful words from the dialogues. Instead, they're words that are related to the topic. While there's no harm in seeing related vocabulary, the fact that you haven't heard it in the dialogue makes it a bit random. And it would be much more useful to provide the vocab that you've already heard. It's often the case in the lessons that you want to know what a word means, but it's not in the vocab list. You can look it up in the dictionary that comes with the website (and from there you can export those words to flashcard decks), but it's unnecessary and interrupts the user experience.
How Much Does GermanPod 101 Cost & Is It Worth It?
GermanPod101 works on a freemium model. This means that it's free to create an account and use some of the early lessons. But you'll still need to pay for most of the best content. Most of the best features are only available to paid subscribers. There are various different subscriber options and as you might as expect, the longer you subscribe for the cheaper the deal. The prices are quite reasonable, in my opinion. If you take a one-year premium subscription as our baseline – this costs $180. That's a lot more than the cost of a book but substantially less than other commercial products like Rosetta Stone ($399) or Pimsleur ($345 for 30 lessons), for example. Overall, I think GermanPod101.com is a substantial and well-made resource for learning German that's easy to consume. And, despite my issues with the teaching format, I think you'll find it useful if you decide to sign up. However, if you're looking for a comprehensive beginner programme that will take you all the way to the intermediate level in German and that uses a much more fun, engaging and effective method, then I've got something that might suit you better…
German Uncovered: A Better Alternative To GermanPod101
While GermanPod101 is reasonably well-structured and has lots of lesson content, it's not the most fun German programme. That's where German Uncovered is different. German Uncovered is a comprehensive online beginner course, that takes you from a complete beginner in German up to an intermediate level. And it's fuelled by a fun and unique method called StoryLearning®. StoryLearning is a process that was invented to teach you languages naturally. It’s so natural, in fact, that it’s based on how human beings learn their native language. In the course, you'll learn through an exciting original story in German, written especially for beginner learners. Even though you learn through story, you have a teacher and experienced language learner by your side all the way through the course giving explanations in English and tips to learn the material fast. Uncovered teaches all of the key aspects of the language – reading, listening, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and speaking. So by the time you've finished, you'll be a confident intermediate level German speaker, ready to go out and actually use your German in the real world! Get started today with a FREE 7-day trial.
What You Get With Uncovered
Complete 20-module course to learn to speak German with confidence through StoryLearning™. This is a method that relies on your brain's natural way of learning.
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Learn the secrets I used to learn 8 languages and how to use them yourself to learn to speak with confidence & take part fully in conversations with native speakers.
Fully downloadable programme so you can learn faster – anywhere, any time, and on any device… even without an internet connection!
Complete learning material, including audiobook, translations, printable worksheets… everything you need to get started and find success with your language learning!
Expert pronunciation training videos, so you can perfect your pronunciation and speak like a native from the start.
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If you're determined to learn German and looking for the most fun and effective German course around, I'm confident you'll love Uncovered! Ready to start? Sign up now for a FREE 7-day trial!]