The Goethe Zertifikat mode is teaching is filled with creativity and reasoning. Isn’t this kind of learning possible outside a classroom?

Learning through films, apps, podcasts, YouTube videos, and preparing for your exam through pre-recorded online German courses – there really isn’t any aspect of the language you can’t learn by yourself.

Looks like in ‘Goethe Zertifikat with Courses v/s Goethe Zertifikat with Self-Learning,’ Self-Learning might just win. But before I give you my verdict, let’s take a closer look at both sides.

The Case For Self-Learning German

I used to love the league of ‘Speak xx language in 30 days’ books (I probably still have some of them back home.)

There was a time when we relied on these books to learn a list of words and phrases. The idioms were the most fun! 

But we almost always fell short when we tried to improvise and expand our conversations with someone in that language.

The perfect name for those books would have been ‘Speak xx language FOR 30 days.’ Because after that, you run out of fun phrases to use. 

We’ve come a long way since those books. Self-learners have a whole range of topical books to choose from, whether they want to learn conversation, understand and practice Grammar or build their vocabulary. 

Some of these books are simply brilliant in their detailing and their simplicity (I’ll share my recommended list in a bit.)

With these reference books, a notebook and a pencil, you can spend several quiet hours decoding the language and perfecting it with practice. 

But books are hardly your only option if you wish to self-learn.

German Self-Learning: Beyond Books

  • Just look for ‘Learn German’ into YouTube, and you’ll find days’ worth of content. Dedicated people teaching you through the fourth wall, with the help of animations, whiteboards, music – and my favorite – humor.
  • Run the same search Google (mention your desired language level even) and you’ll get a whole list of pre-recorded, well-documented online courses to choose from.
  • Many of these end-to-end courses are wholesome: they have in-depth explanations, word lists and practice tests for exams. Many of them provide completion certificates, too!
  • Plus, there’s an ocean of content that’ll help you develop an ‘ear’ for German. Think movies, short films, German music, and at the top of the list – podcasts. These are just a few ways you can consume German content and keep the passive learning on. The more you listen, the more you get used to the language, and the closer you get to start ‘thinking in German.’

These are just a few ways you can consume German content and keep the passive learning on. The more you listen, the more you get used to the language, and the closer you get to start ‘thinking in German.’

Self-learning couldn’t be easier – but there are two questions that self-learning doesn’t seem to address yet: 

Through all these media, who corrects you instantly every time you say or write something incorrectly?


Who corrects you instantly every time you say or write something incorrectly?


Who evaluates your practice tests to prepare you for a Goethe Zertifikat (or any other) exam?

Which brings us to the other, more traditional alternative: Formal German Language Training.

The Case For Formal German Language Training

Until a few years ago, the only best option for people to study German in order to get internationally certified was take up a course at Goethe Institut. There’s a Goethe Institut in many major cities across the world, making their teaching very accessible.

Not anymore.

We’ve all seen a rise of local foreign language institues worldwide.

While the Goethe Institut courses still remain the benchmark, many of these other institutes and schools offer the same mode of learning, with:

  • tailor-made courses designed to suit the time constraints
  • financial feasibility
  • personal attention and
  • convenience

While there’s always the option of self-learning, having been a teacher for over a decade, I would always encourage taking some formal training to anchor your learning.

It could be a classroom course, a one-on-one course with an experienced tutor, or it could even be online.

I would say, that no matter what your requirements are, no matter what your goals, your schedule, your interests are, you can find a course or a trainer that will suit your needs.

However, if you are considering self-learning, it is important for you to make an informed choice about what’s the best option for you.

Firstly, clearly define your reasons.

Why do you prefer self-learning German?

It’s probably one or more of these reasons:

  • you have a certain time schedule that wouldn’t allow you to attend a regular daily/weekly course
  • you aren’t convinced about the intitutes or courses available around you or any courses online
  • the courses you have heard of are too expensive for your budget
  • you, or someone you know, have previously achieved certification by self-learning
  • you have other obligations due to which learning from home and by yourself would be more convenient

Before you make a choice, let’s lay out the options availabe and fully understand what’s best for you. My personal opinion aside, there’s a whole list of the pros and cons of self-learning vs. a formal course that can be argued.

But above all of that, I’ve got one reason for you.

Consider the Next 5 Years

Most of us want to learn German to boost our careers, right?

Imagine that you did learn German, and considering the next 5 years, think about this:

What part would your language skills play in your career progress, your promotions, your increments, your opportunties?

How much of all that would depend on whether you can speak and write German like a native?

You’re right, a lot of it.

It isn’t enough to simply have the certificates in your folder, you’ve got to do more than that.

Who knows, in 5 years, you might have to interact with German clients on a day-to-day basis.
Or train a team of German-speaking people in some subject of your expertise.
Or relocate and work in Germany.

You need THOSE kind of German language skills. Not the ones who will land you job after job in the same profile.


FACT: The German language has been popular among professionals across the globe since more than a decade.


There are thousands of German language specialists who already are where you want to be.

And so right now, it won’t help to simply take up self-learning because it is more convenient. You don’t want to compromise on your learning and regret it 5 years from now.

Here’s my take:

For your basic levels A1 and A2, my answer is definitive. Don’t risk it with the basics. Don’t learn without a good trainer.

Make sure that your foundation in the language is solid, that you understand the basic concepts.

Learn under someone who can clear your doubts, not just once or twice, but until they’re clear.

When you’re opting for a course or a personal trainer, look for these qualities:

  • They make you start speaking in German from day one of the course
  • After the first few weeks, your interactions with the trainer evolves from English to German
  • They come up with creative methods to teach you concepts; rather than religiously follow a textbook
  • They make you write and speak spontaneously and creatively a lot
  • They give you weeks of practice and revision before an approaching exam
  • They don’t ‘give’ you the answer straight away, they make you think and arrive at it

Complete your A1 and A2 with this kind of training. Then you’ve got your basics clear, and you’re in a better position to decide if self-learning would be more effective for you.

What are your thoughts and experiences on self-learning the German language?

If you’ve tried it, did you encounter any other challenges?

(P.S. Think more deeply about that 5-year vision for yourself. What kind of job would you want to be in? Visualize it, because in an upcoming post, we’re going to talk about Jobs after the Goethe Zertifikat.)

RECOMMENDED: Know What’s Best For You

As part of the Goethe Zertifikat Month, I’m hosting a FREE webinar for professionals like you, who want to know how to plan their Goethe Zertifikat journey.

The webinar is open for all, and we’ll follow it up with an exclusive One-on-One Career Path Call to discuss a thorough game plan for your next big career move. I’m with you, all the way!