- Deutsch im Blick
- A Foundation Course in Reading German
- FSI German Basic Course
- Essential German
- Tom’s Deutschseite
- Wolkenkratzer Kursbuch & Arbeitsbuch
- German 101
- Easy German
Like most textbooks, German textbooks can be quite pricey. 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 learning books, there are quite a lot of 19th century books from the public domain. Sadly, they often use outdated words and the indecipherable Fraktur typeface which makes them pretty useless to most learners and teachers. On the other hand there is also a handful of really good free ones out there with great introductions and exercises about core German grammar and other topics, 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” is an excellent free textbook for beginners. It was developed by the University of Texas and is just as good as many expensive German textbooks. It comes in PDF format and has tons of additional (downloadable) and interactive materials. There are video clips, quizzes, quests, audio for pronunciation and comprehension practice and 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.
While it doesn’t have the audiovisual bells and whistles of “Deutsch im Blick”, this open online textbook by Howard Martin and Alan Ng still is a very solid and structured German textbook. Most importantly, it doesn’t require any previous experience or knowledge, and will give you a solid grasp of German grammar. It’s mostly pure text which may 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! (Also features interactive exercises.)
Another excellent resource that shouldn’t be missing in any post about free German textbooks is the FSI German Basic Course. This course was originally developed in the 1960s by the US government’s Foreign Service Institute and is now in the public domain. It was designed by with absolute beginners in mind. This book teaches the most basic vocabulary for daily situations, fundamental grammar and everything else you’ll need in the beginning. The presentation may seem a bit drab, but who needs 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. In addition to that, there are little audio snippet which you can download as MP3s or stream.
This online textbook by Eugene R. Moutoux, subtitled “A No-Frills Approach to Reading and Writing German “, actually consists of four different books. Most of it is text, with the occasional image. By working through the various chapters, you’ll learn everything from basic grammar to fundamental vocabulary. Also, there are exercises and short stories for practicing reading skills. The presentation may be in need of an update. Most importantly, though, the content and basic layout of the free edition provides a solid way to begin learning the German language. (In addition, a revised paperback edition apparently is available from the author for a fee.)
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.
Another cool free textbook is “Wolkenkratzer” (skyscraper). It’s a full coursebook plus workbook, audio, video materials and exercises. What more do you want? Follow the link below and click on the “Start” button, then select “Kursbuch” (coursebook) or “Arbeitsbuch” (workbook) and choose a chapter. Additionally, you can also find short German stories under “Lesetexte” and there are even Quizlet flashcards.
This German textbook by Rebecca Linam is a great choice for learners who prefer a multi-modal approach with various multimedia elements. Each chapter comes with short articles and dialogues to enhance real-life communication skills. Moreover, it provides links to interactive video series for grammar and vocabulary review, as well as comic strips to offer visual examples to aid comprehension.
The textbook also delves into German culture by linking to music from the 1980s to the present day, integrating grammar concepts to introduce students to the country’s music culture. Additionally, it offers further resources for pronunciation practice, and concludes each chapter with proficiency interview practice, helping learners assess their progress.
links to an interactive video series
extra practice for each grammar concept.
proficiency interviews after each chapter
Formats: EPUB, PDF, web version
This fun 2008 textbook by Fiona Chandler, Katie Daynes and Nicole Irving provides a helpful introduction to the German language. Every page covers one topic: from nouns, adjectives, conditionals, etc., always with examples from everyday situations. This 128 page book is available as part of the free lending program of the Internet Archive (renewable every hour). Simply look for the blue “Borrow Button” above the preview.
full color illustrations
additional online resources (linked)
Format: web (free to borrow)
What’s your favorite German textbook?