You are taking German lessons online, you have downloaded a vocabulary app, but you would still like a good, old fashioned book to help you learn German Grammar - something you can keep open on your desk at the page you need, or load onto your e-book reader to look things up quickly.
Learning German Made Easy
Those two giants of making learning new things easy and fun did not shy back from tackling the German language. Both the “Idiot’s Guide” and “for Dummies” have a German edition.
The Idiot’s Guide To Learning German
The Idiot’s Guide takes a while to get to the point - it doesn’t teach you anything about sentence grammar until Chapter 8 - it takes that time to really get into the basics, with an extensive chapter on pronouncing German, another on cognates and false friends and some colloquialisms.
It takes its time with gender and cases and sentence structure. Then the rest of the book is taken up with situational chapters - how to deal with going to the doctor’s, ordering at a restaurant, etc., interspersed with further grammar lessons.
There is an additional CD (available as interactive files for Kindle) with exercises.
German for Dummies
The “for Dummies” series has not one, but FIVE books dedicated to learning the German language. You can get them separately, or in a 5-in-one edition complete with CD and links to apps. If you are not looking for the comprehensive edition, choose which ones you want depending on your needs:
- If you are looking for a truly basic guide or one that will help you out in specific situtations, either “German for Dummies” or “German Phrases for Dummies” is your book. Compared to “The Idiot’s Guide”, pronunciation does not take up a lot of space, but cognates and false friends have extensive tables.
- “Intermediate German for Dummies” and “German Essentials for Dummies” provide more in-depth information on German grammar. The explanations are easy to follow, but not everything is grouped thematically - various verb forms span both books, so if you are looking for a grammar helper, it might be best to get the “5-in-one” edition.
Appendixes include lists of irregular verbs, the conjugation of auxiliary and modal auxiliary verbs, a glossary and exercises.
German Lessons for Beginners
German DeMystified by Ed Swick
This book builds slowly toward whole sentences. It is a typical beginner’s book and covers all the basics. The advantage compared to the Idiot’s Guide and German for Dummies is that the exercises are integrated within each lesson, with oral exercises (the tracks are available through an app or online) and written exercises immediately after each point of grammar (or pronunciation).
However, this and the previous books are definitely for those who like. distraction-free learning. The formatting is less generous than The Idiot’s Guide or German for Dummies (probably because the pages aren’t as large).
If you are a visual learner who likes little drawings and pictures to accompany your German lessons, see below for some recommendations.
The Everything Essential German Book
This little books is fairly easy to use - though not organised according to parts of speech, like Schaum’s (see below), the chapters are clearly marked and grouped by similar subjects (Direct and Indirect Object, for example), although the sub-chapters could sometimes have clearer titles (the genitive can be found in Chapter 16. “What’s Mine is Yours” under “Another Case”).
It isn’t too thick, in a pocketbook format that makes it easy to stuff into your knapsack on the way to your German lessons. The explanations are short but clear, and includes discussions on verbs like “bitten”, the expressions “es gibt” and “als ob”, and things like postal addresses and telephone numbers and how to say fractions.
It is the inverse of most other “learn German quick” books in that the little situational chapters (such as how to wish someone “happy birthday”) are interspersed through the grammar chapters rather than the other way around.
Despite it’s few drawbacks, I am quite delighted with it.
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Schaum’s Outline of German Grammar
The main advantage here is that it is amazingly easy to look things up.
You don’t have to flip through the index, because the chapters are organised according to the parts of speech: Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs, etc.
Schaum also has a German vocabulary book.
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Learning German Vocabulary
German Vocabulary by Liliane Arnet (Barcharts)
These are, quite simply, flash cards for those who like having physical flash cards for learning German - as opposed to an app - but don’t feel like writing them all out by hand.
There are 1000 words to get you started on you vocabulary-learning journey.
Wort für Wort: Advanced German Vocabulary by Paul Stocker
If you like your German vocabulary arranged in lists according to subjects (”Arbeitswelt” - “at work” is one, “die Politik” another), then this could be the book for you. The subjects are given in German and the lists are strictly German to English, without any unnecessary blather to introduce them.
Schaum’s Outline of German Vocabulary
This book has a more inclusive approach to learning German vocabulary. The chapters are organised by subject (for example, “At the Airport”) and start out with a little sketch with some basic vocabular words.
Then come vocabulary lists for specific situations and common phrases you might hear in that situation, followed by exercises to help consolidate your newly-acquired words.
German Vocabulary: Puzzles and Exercises Beginner to Intermediate Level by Monika Beck
Tired of fill-in-the-blanks sentences and rote learning? Why not consolidate your German vocabulary with crosswords puzzles and word grids?
Again, this book is organised thematically, but challenges your brain in new ways with simple puzzles to make learning German fun again.
Once you’ve mastered these, there are “Easy German Crossword Puzzles” out there, too (by Suzanne Ehrlich).
German Lessons for Visual Learners
You want to learn German grammar and vocabulary, but a page full of words automatically turns off your brain? Here are some books that combine the usual German lessons with little drawings and pictures showing situations or even nothing but pictures for learning vocabulary.
Learning German with Pictures
Willkommen! German’s Beginner Course by Paul Coggle and Heiner Schenke
This book is traditionally arranged according to situations, but is richly illustrated. In fact, the book is there to supplement the audio tracks and offers the bare necessities in the way of grammar tables, concentrating instead on exercises both written and oral.
There are supplementary exercises online and an extra coursebook with more exercises.
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Usborne Internet-Linked German for Beginners by Angela Wilkes and John Shakell
This book is for children. So you know it will be explained clearly and concisely, with lots of illustrations and all the little tricks to take the doldrums out of learning a foreign language.
It includes links to help with pronunciation and expand on the lessons.
Bildgrammatik Deutsch: Deutsche Grammatik in Bildern erklärt by Axel Hering and Gisela Specht
This book breaks down German grammar even further, illustrating each point with several illustrated examples.
BrainBox - Let’s Learn German The ten-minute brain challenge by The Green Board Game Co.
Situational flashcards with little exercises on the back, this children’s learning game can help your tired brain assimilate by making German lessons fun again.
Visual Cues for Learning German Vocabulary
Berlitz Languages: Flash Cards German for Kids
Yes, these are German vocabulary flashcards - but with little pictures to help consolidate the learning process by combining written and visual cues.
There are also wonderful illustrated books with cute scenes where every object is labelled in German. You know them, maybe, from when you were a child, or have gotten some in English for your own children. Why not try out this tried-and-true method of learning new German words? Learn how German and English contrast here.
The Usborne First Thousand Words in German by Heather Amery and Stephen Cartwright
Bildwörterbuch Deutsch: Die 1.000 wichtigsten Wörter in Bildern erklärt by Gisela Specht and Juliane Forßmann
Immersive German Language Courses: Reading in German
The best way to expand and consolidate your mastery of a foreign language is by listening and reading in that language. Here are some books with simple texts and short stories to help you expand your knowledge of the German language.
Obviously you should be able to understand simple sentences before trying out these short stories.
German Short Stories for Beginners by Olly Richards and Alex Rawlings
Also available on iTunes and Audible.
The city series by André Klein
These collections of short stories each have the name of another German-speaking city in the title. They include “Café in Berlin”, “Walzer in Wien”, “Ahoi in Hamburg”, “Zurück in Zürich” and many more.
Intermediate to Advance:
The “Learning German Through Storytelling” series by André Klein
These are no ordinary stories, but mid-level murder mysteries! The novella size make for easy reading, without discouraging you as a full-length Elizabeth George mystery might.
Titles include “Mord am Morgen”, “Des Spielers Tod” and “Die dritte Hand”.
“Genowrin - an Interactive Adventure for German Learners” by André Klein (who else?)
Remember those adventure books where you could chose the outcome by flipping either to page 7 or page 19 depending on what you wanted the character to do?
This is one of those, but in German, and with a little twist: you decide the outcome of swordfights by answering German grammar questions correctly!
And finally, because you don’t want to be stuck out of the loop and flabbergasted when confronted with actual spoken German, some books on the colloquial language:
Dictionary of German Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Henry Strutz
Exactly what it says on the cover. A German to English dictionary of slang and colloquialisms.
Learn German: Idiomatic Expressions, Everyday Phrases, Proverbs & Sayings by Linda Milton
Gives the German equivalents to English expressions and proverbs.
Dirty German: Everday Slang from “Waht’s up?” to “F*%# off!” by Daniel Chaffey
For the really down-to-earth German expressions.
Please note that while many of these books are available in an e-book edition, not all of them are.
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