If traveling to Germany or entering into business with Germans, it's important to learn how to speak German.
It's easier than ever to learn how to speak German because there's plenty of free instruction available online, along with more rigorous courses that can be taken in person or through distance learning.
Tools for learning how to speak German online are available through the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). For those not already in the know, the BBC rules the waves (both air and radio) in the British Isles and beyond. It offers free online German courses at several difficulty levels that feature a large amount of content.
The beginners' course is called German Steps, which consists of 24 parts, introducing language skills to apply in restaurants, shops, hotels or sightseeing venues.
The BBC also offers a more brief beginners' course called Talk German, which teaches how to figure out a person's current location or even order a drink, among other helpful skills, in 10 short sections.
Building on Talk German, the BBC offers intermediate German instruction with a program called Deutsch Plus. There are 10 online installments of Deutsch Plus that follow the unfolding story of a young Romanian go-getter whose aspirations to work in the German television industry are in conflict with his poor grasp of the German language.
But sometimes learning the language as it is spoken in classrooms and on television isn't enough. Cool German is a veritable slang dictionary that teaches how to share thoughts with the German youths of today, like "This track is banging" or "This is mind-blowing." It will introduce slang phrases like "getting tarted up," and being "smashed, plastered or stoned." To get the most out of the site, it helps to have a working knowledge of British slang. The fine distinction between snogging, candoodling and shagging, for example, could make all the difference in the world.
The Goethe-Institut is the cultural arm of the German government. One of its missions is to promote the study of German language and culture around the world. The Web site provides a section on learning German with practice exercises as well as reading samples and film clips.
The Goethe-Institut also offers comprehensive German courses that can be taken in person in 127 different cities, or via distance learning.
Rosetta Stone offers computer-based language programs that also include audio supplements that can be played on an mp3 player. They can be quite helpful for business travelers and other post-collegiate language learners.