Like most textbooks, German textbooks can be quite pricey, and especially for students with a low-budget or those just looking for a good way to get started without breaking the bank, free online textbooks can be a good alternative. But where to find them?

When you search online for free German textbooks online, there are quite a lot of 19th century books from the public domain but they often use outdated words and the indecipherable Fraktur typeface which makes them pretty useless to most contemporary learners. On the other hand there is also a handful of really good free German textbooks out there, but they can sometimes be hard to find. This is why I’ve collected my personal top 5 free German textbooks below:

Deutsch im Blick

“Deutsch im Blick” is an excellent free textbook for beginners by the University of Texas that’s just as good (or even better) than many expensive German textbooks I’ve seen. It comes in PDF format and has tons of additional (downloadable) and interactive materials like video clips, quizzes, quests, audio for pronunciation and comprehension practice, a comprehensive index and much much more. By working through chapter 1-10 and the various materials anyone will be able to acquire basic German skills in no-time, free of charge.

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A Foundation Course in Reading German

While it doesn’t have the audiovisual bells and whistles of “Deutsch im Blick”, this open online textbook by Howard Martin and Alan Ng nevertheless is a very solid and structured German textbook which doesn’t require any previous experience or knowledge. It’s mostly text-based (with the occasional interactive exercise) which may let it seem bland it first, but the clean and concise presentation is its greatest strength. Whether you follow the table of contents in the sidebar or jump through links across the chapters, navigating through the content is a breeze!

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FSI German Basic Course

Another excellent resource that shouldn’t be missing in any post about free German textbooks is the FSI German Basic Course, originally developed in the 1960s by the US government’s Foreign Service Institute and now in the public domain. This course was designed by with absolute beginners in mind and teaches the most basic vocabulary for daily situations, fundamental grammar and everything else you need to get started. The presentation may be a bit dated, but don’t be discouraged by the lack of glitzy graphics – this is still one of the best free German textbooks you can find on the net. The archive.org has both the original text in PDF, EPUB, MOBI and other formats and the accompanying audio segments as MP3s which you can stream or download.

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Essential German

This online textbook by Eugene R. Moutoux, subtitled “A No-Frills Approach to Reading and Writing German “, is divided into four different books (presented as text with the occasional image). By working through the various chapters, you’ll learn everything from basic grammar (including exercises) to fundamental vocabulary and even get to practice your reading skills on some short stories. The presentation may be in need of an update (a revised paperback edition apparently is available from the author for a price) but the content and basic layout of the free edition still provides a solid way to begin learning the German language.

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Tom’s Deutschseite

I’ve already mentioned this website in my article about German worksheets, but it also deserves a place right here, because apart from the excellent grammar explanations (in English) and worksheets to download or print, this website is as comprehensive as traditional textbooks and covers a lot of ground from grammar to spelling, basic vocabulary, pronunciation and more.

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