Hello, German learner, and herzlich willkommen to a celebration of the German language! You might (naturally) associate German with Germany, beer, and bratwurst, but German is also an official language in half a dozen countries and districts throughout Europe and has minority status in locales in Eastern Europe, Brazil, Namibia, and even in South Tyrol, in Italy!
Whether it's to connect with world-class cinema, automobile engineering, F1 racing, or soccer clubs, people all around the globe are excited about learning German:
- German is the fourth most popular language to study worldwide.
- German is the #1 language studied in Namibia and throughout Southeast Europe, including in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia, and it ranks #3 in another 14 countries from Czechia to Tajikistan, to Iran!
- Duolingo offers 10 German courses for speakers of different languages, and the biggest are German for English speakers with 10.8 million learners, German for Spanish speakers with 1.52 million learners, German for Russian speakers with 1.39 million learners, and German for Turkish speakers with 866,000 learners.
Whether you've been inspired to learn German by actor Christoph Waltz, comedian Enissa Amani, Albert Einstein, chemist-turned-chancellor Angela Merkel, Terminator-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, or even U.S. Olympian Lindsey Vonn, German is a great language to study!
What you need to know about German
German is a Germanic language, which means it's part of a group of languages including English, Swedish, and Dutch, among many others, and it's more distantly related to other European languages like French and Russian. If you're an English speaker, you'll see lots of similarities in the vocabulary and grammar of German, which will make it easier to learn and fun to study! For example, the German word Hund (dog) is related to the English word hound! Here's more of what you can expect when you study German:
- German has three grammatical genders. In German, all nouns have a grammatical gender, and there are three gender categories: masculine, feminine, and neuter. There are lots of patterns to look for to help you learn which words go in which category!
- German has four noun cases. German nouns can be in one of four cases, or declensions, depending on what they're doing in the sentence (doing the action or receiving something, for example). The four cases in German are nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative, and a noun's case is usually shown on words linked to the noun, like adjectives and articles (words like "the" and "a").
- German words go in a similar order to English. In many kinds of sentences, you'll make German sentences by putting words in a similar order to English, with one big exception—there are some extra rules about verbs, and they'll get a special spot in the sentence.
- German and English sounds are pretty similar. Did you know that German and English actually share most sounds? There are a few extra ones you'll have to learn for German, but whatever you've heard about German being "rough" or "ugly" is in the eye of the beholder (and also, what does that say about English, if they have such similar sounds…? 😬).
- German is known for exceptionally long words, and that's part of the fun! Luckily, German mouthfuls like Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung (a kind of car insurance) are actually made up of a number of small words, so you'll soon be able to break them apart and understand them on your own.
- German has many short, poetic words, too. German is also known for pretty compact words that express rather complex emotions or situations that need a whole sentence in English. For example, Weltschmerz (literally "world pain") is a feeling of melancholy, dissatisfaction, or discontent with the world around you and its inability to satisfy your emotional and intellectual needs.
- German will help you appreciate some oddities in English! If you've ever puzzled over why English has some strange plural forms (like geese for goose), studying German will get you the answer: to make a word plural, German sometimes adds a plural ending and changes the vowel.
How to learn German
Whether you want to study German for the first time or you're returning to it with new excitement, there are lots of ways you can practice German and make language study part of your daily routine!
- Study German with expert-made courses. Duolingo German lessons are aligned to an international standard designed to get you using German right away! In each lesson, you'll practice vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation all together through exercises focused on reading, writing, listening, and speaking. There are also really fun (and often surprising!) short stories so you can practice listening and reading along to your new language.
- Practice with German learners from around the world. One way to keep up your study habit is to make learning social! Join a Duolingo Class with other students at your same level to work on particular grammar topics, explore new movies, or discuss current events with a German instructor!
- Tune in to German TV. German cinema is known for being edgy and progressive, and there's so much great TV and movies to choose from! Start with English subtitles on and advance to German subtitles as you build your language skills. We recommend Dark, Deutschland 83, Babylon Berlin, Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), and Die Welle (The Wave). You'll also find excellent films addressing difficult political and social issues, including WWII and the challenges that Turkish-German immigrants face today. Look for Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot and everything from Fatih Akin, including Gegen die Wand (Against the Wall, called "Head-On" in English).
- Find great German-language music. Listening to music is a great way to immerse yourself in German and the many cultures of its speakers, and it's an especially great tool for beginners! Start a playlist with Scooter, AnnenMayKantereit, Silbermond, Namika, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Lea. There is also a lot of incredible, varied German rap and hip-hop that crosses genres and linguistic boundaries, so check out Seeed (or Peter Fox on his own), Cro, Culcha Candela, Casper, and Marteria. And if you'd rather just feel the German language for a while without actually hearing any words, you might consider Beethoven, Mozart, or any number of German electronic bands, including Kraftwerk and Robin Schulz. Check out this playlist for some favorites!
- Read German to connect with favorites old and new. You might be surprised how much German-language literature you're already familiar with, and reading something you already know in a new language is a great way to build vocabulary and confidence. See how much you recognize from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales or even Die unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story), which was originally written in German! For new-to-you favorites, you might enjoy Die Entdeckung der Currywurst (The Discovery of the Currywurst), Herr Lehmann (Mr. Lehmann), or Dunkelblum, or classic poetry from Goethe and Schiller. Graphic novels are also great choices for new learners—check out Kinderland and Berlinoir.
- Do whatever German speakers are doing! As your proficiency grows, look for the same music, media, social media accounts, and books that German speakers themselves are raving about. This is as good for your language skills as it is for your cultural knowledge, and you can mix together the short bites of language practice you get from German TikTok creators with longer time commitments of multi-season TV series. For a favorite podcast recommendation, listen to Fest & Flauschig—Spotify's first exclusive podcast!
Language is all about connecting to new people, places, and cultures, and learning German brings so much of the world closer to you! You can begin German lessons today, all for free, by downloading Duolingo. Check back on the Duolingo Blog for more language-learning trips and helpful information about studying German!