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GermanPod101 offers a wide range of fun and practical web-based lessons from beginner to advanced levels sorted by either category or theme. With each lesson comes a checklist, notes and a PDF transcript that allow you to go over grammatical concepts you may still be unsure of or pick out words that you did not quite catch the first time round. These core lessons are supported by additional features such as the Word Bank, audio dictionary and the vibrant online student community where users can interact with other German learners to discuss the language and lessons in more depth. The Word Bank is especially useful for storing specific words and grammar that either constantly seem to elude you or are important for you to learn. Premium users can use these words and phrases to make personalized flashcards. A review section for each lesson including vocab lists, expansion exercises, review questions, flashcards and a voice recorder is available to all Premium and PremiumPlus users. Although users can choose to follow a set course, it is possible to pick from a range of themes if you wish.
In order to perfect your accent, GermanPod101 comes with speech recognition technology that allows you to record your voice, listen to the playback and the compare it to that of a native speaker. It is fair to say that this technology is rather basic, especially in comparison with many other products in this category. However, in the near future PremiumPlus subscribers should get access to 1-on-1 live instruction hours along with the professional assessment and personalized self study curriculum which are available now. We were especially impressed with this personal touch as it felt like the next best thing to having our own personal German tutor at a fraction of the price!
Being entirely web based, GermanPod101 is highly portable as you can access it wherever you have a computer or download the material, rip it to your mp3 player iPhone or iPad and keep learning 'on the go'. In this way, you can convert time otherwise spent sitting on the bus or walking the dog, into productive German learning.
We found that GermanPod101 boasts all the features of more advanced software whilst not only being highly portable but also reasonably priced. Your subscription can be tailored to your needs depending on your level and the amount of time and effort you can commit to learning German, meaning you get even more for your money. In fact, flexibility is really GermanPod101’s trump card and one of the reasons we decided to award it a Top Ten spot; choose which lessons to do when and where, your level, rate of progress and any specific themes you would like to focus on. We were especially impressed with the customizable RSS feeds with, unique to Germanpod101, automatically downloaded new content specific to your interests as soon as it becomes available. This puts GermanPod101 into the category of products that are really beginning to make the most of the benefits of the web 2.0 revolution in language learning.
On the downside, the flexibility of GermanPod101, along with the sheer amount of material on offer, can act as a double edged sword. Although progress tracking tools and quizzes may help you to orientate yourself, those of us with little or no language learning experience may feel a bit lost as to what to study when and whether you are making any progress. Likewise, even if you are an advanced learner, if you are used to studying with a structured program you may find GermanPod101’s approach quite frustrating. Furthermore, we did feel a little under pressure to rush through lessons as the structure does not allow users to revise newly learned material as would be required to properly internalize it. We couldn't help but get the feeling that we had to progressing as fast as possible in order to get our money's worth, especially when paying the monthly subscription of $26. This said, the price is still very reasonable for the PremiumPlus subscription which will provide you with a comprehensive teach yourself German course. However, do keep in mind that you cannot expect to get more than an introductory course with the basic subscription of $4 per month.
Overall, GermanPod101 boasts great and varied resources, flexibility and a low price. The Basic subscription will provide you with an excellent addition to a more structured product while Premium and Premium Plus will make great stand alone products to those of us who prefer an unstructured learning process. Any doubts you may have can be soon cleared up with the excellent 7 day free trial which is super easy to sign up for, all you have to do is input your Email address and start learning German!
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