In March 2020, I began learning German as a hobby. I had just gone on a school trip that took me through Frankfurt International Airport, and I was amazed by the absurdly long compound words. I also had (and still have) a few German friends. And, along with many others around the world, I had just stumbled upon an unlimited supply of free time. These factors made me decide that it would be a fun challenge to take up the language.
Several years down the line, I'd say that I'm at a roughly B1 level of proficiency. I thought I'd share some of the resources that I used early on that I think really helped me learn the language.
Duolingo: As of writing this on September 17th 2023, I have an exactly 1200-day Duolingo streak. Of course, you won't become proficient just by using Duolingo, but I found that it was a nice way to learn the basics, and helped me stay consistent.
Dino Lernt Deutsch: I would say these books by André Klein helped me the most. They are fun stories that you can read after as little as a couple of weeks using Duolingo. By the end of the series, you should be sitting around an A2 level of proficiency. Reading actual stories helped my vocabulary and helped me build an intuition for German grammar. Klein also has series for more advanced learners.
Anki: Using Anki for flash cards helped me build my vocabulary quickly, plus the Dino Lernt Deutsch books come with Anki decks.
Easy German: This is a fantastic YouTube channel with great hosts. They have videos for absolute beginners, as well as videos where they go out on the streets of Berlin and talk to locals. This helped my listening comprehension and pronunciation, and helped me build my vocabulary. It's also interesting to see what life is like in Berlin.
Coffee Break German: This podcast was great, especially the second season, which is for more intermediate learners.
German for Dummies by Christensen, Fox, and Foster: This book was a decent reference and helped me learn some basic phrases, as well as the cardinal numbers. There are probably better books available, but this is the one I had.
German Music: There are lots of German artists whose songs don't reach foreign markets, and aren't ever translated into English. This is true of every language. The only way to enjoy this media is to learn the language! Listening to German music made me enjoy learning the language even more.
At this point, I think the best way for me to improve would be to spend some time in a German-speaking place, but unfortunately that isn't in the cards right now.