Sunday, February 15, 2015

13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss

Spielerisch Deutsch Lernen -- Also sie ist die neue Chefin?

Studying German and mobile devices are a match made in heaven. They give you access to cutting-edge German podcasts and must-read blogs. You can watch German Youtube channels on the go. Or movies. Or TV shows.While you are at it, why not listen to some German tunes?

But the best part: When you are done with all of that, you still have a ton of awesome apps for learning German right at your fingertips. If you don’t know where to begin, don’t worry. I took it upon me to divide the wheat from the chaff and give you a list of those apps that are really worth your time and money.

The 13 best apps for learning German

1.  DuoLingo

Duolingo 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: DuoLingo on the AppStore
Android: DuoLingo on Google Play
Price: Free

The most interesting aspect about this popular app is how it came about. DuoLingo emerged as an answer to the question of how to get 100 million people to translate the internet for free. The content which the app uses for its German lessons comes directly from the web. This not only keeps it relevant but by completing the exercises, students help translate the material into other languages. Those translations are then combined and sold which is also what keeps the service completely free of cost and ads.
DuoLingo teaches German through a multi-level approach. There are six types of exercises:
  • Repeating the recorded sentence spoken by a native speaker
  • Translating a sentence or phrase from English to German
  • Translating phrases from German to English
  • Matching a picture to a word
  • Arranging words in the right order to form a sentence
  • Multiple choice questions
The app monitors your progress and keeps tabs on which words and concepts you struggle with and then adjusts the lessons accordingly to help you improve in problem areas.

To make it more fun, the entire process has been gamified: Students can “level up” by getting ahead in their learning and lose “lives” when they get answers wrong. Make too many mistakes and you will have to start over. Success is also rewarded in Lingots, the program’s virtual currency. It can be used to buy additional lives, a day to slack off or additional courses. Duolingo also rewards you for staying on track, for example when you achieve a seven-day study spree.

Overall, Duolingo manages to teach German in a comprehensive and clever way by including all levels of language usage and making the process fun and entertaining.

2.  Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: Rosetta Stone on the AppStore
Android: Rosetta Stone on Google Play
Price: Free (demo account only)

Of all the apps on this list, Rosetta Stone is probably the one with the most name recognition. With a history going back to 1992 it is also the oldest on the roster.  A special characteristic of the Rosetta Stone teaching method is its very immersive approach: You don’t learn German by transferring words from English but instead the software uses images, text, sound, and video to teach the new language without any translation. The idea behind it is to mimic the way children acquire languages naturally and has earned Rosetta Stone a lot of praise.

In the mobile app you will learn new words and phrases through images and hear them pronounced by native speakers. Meaning is often deduced from context and new words are acquired with the help of existing knowledge. Rosetta Stone also features speech recognition functionality to teach you correct pronunciation. It has been specifically designed to recognize non-native speech and is a great help in forming a proper accent.

Apart from the digital material, Rosetta Stone also offers a platform where you can schedule lessons with live tutors to practice your German with native speakers. This is a nice bonus feature for those who don’t merely want to practice on their own.

Overall this teaching approach is very comprehensive and has a nice and natural flow to it. It’s quite understandable that ranks among the top teaching methods in the world.

3. FluentU  (OK.  This is a big ad, since the article was written for this company.  Do I think it's going to be worth the money?  I hope so!  No price for the app -- still in private beta -- is listed.  You can use an upgraded version of the online format, and that looks really appealing to me.  --rsb)

fluentu 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
FluentU has a unique approach to language learning. We use real-world video material and turns them into language-learning opportunities. Students can watch music videos, news items and other media to simultaneously immerse themselves in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture. Throughout it all, our focus is on learning German in context and with useful examples.
2014 10 09 20.51.46 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground, from soccer, TV shows and movies to commercials and viral videos. This also ensures that learners are confronted with German as it is actually spoken while also gaining insight into German popular culture.

Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive transcripts.
Hovering over any word that appears at the bottom of the screen will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
2014 10 09 21.09.29 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence. Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of quizzes in which words are learned within context. Neat statistics show how well you have done.
2014 10 09 21.06.45 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss

To keep things fresh, FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and recommend further lessons and videos based on your what you have studied earlier. That way each student has a truly personalized learning experience.

The FluentU iPhone app is currently in private beta and will be launched in the next few months. In the meantime, you can start learning German with videos on the FluentU website.

the top 13 apps to learn german like a boss 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
Want to learn German with fun videos?
Try German immersion online with FluentU!


4. Memrise

memerise 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: Memrise on the AppStore
Android: Memrise on Google Play
Price: Free

This great app offers a truly unique approach to learning. While on the basic level it is a flashcard application for studying vocabulary, it actually combines a spaced-repetition system with mnemonics to maximize retention.
Spaced repetition means that the app will serve up words you learned earlier right at the moment you are about to forget them. This way it gradually moves the desired knowledge to your long-term memory.
As for mnemonics: most schooling systems only teach learning through rote repetition. However, our brains are not made for memorizing dry facts and instead are much better at storing visual or multi-sensory information. Memrise’s goal is to get you to tap into this and anchor knowledge in your brain through multiple connections.
To achieve this, words are served up with images and/or put into (often ridiculously funny) context to make them less “forgettable”. For example to learn bitte (please in German) you will be shown the picture of a person eating a chocolate bar. A second person is asking “Can I have a bitte, please?”. Because bite and bitte are differ by only one letter, this simple sentence will function as a trigger for both the word’s spelling and meaning. You can read the article on learning German with mnemonics for details on why and how this works.
The app’s courses are created by the community and there are plenty German courses.

5.  Anki

anki 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: Anki on the AppStore
Android: Anki on Google Play
Price: Free (except iOS app)

The name of this application already spells out its main purpose: Anki is the Japanese word for memorization and the app is an excellent flashcard tool for learning German vocabulary. Similar to Memrise, Anki also works with an SRS (spaced-repetition system) and its content is user-generated.
While the app is very basic in design, the algorithm that drives its SRS is excellent. Anki is my personal favorite for pure vocabulary acquisition as it is lightweight, reliable and easy to use. Flashcards can be enhanced with images, sound files and even html. The downside, however, is that you have to create your own courses or “decks” or find one that suits your needs among the shared decks created by other users.
During studying, learners are asked to rate the ease of recall for each card. This determines the interval after which they will be served up again. Signing up for a (free) account on the ankiweb companion site allows you to sync learned cards between different devices to avoid studying the same material over and over again.
While the service is principally free and you will never have to pay anything for using the web app or even the Android application, Anki iOS comes with a price tag of $24.99.

6.  busuu

Busuu 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: busuu on the AppStore
Android: busuu on Google Play
Price: Free (paid pro accounts with additional features)

Among all the apps on this list, busuu boasts one of the largest communities. According to their website, over 40 Million native speakers are part of its worldwide network. It is therefore no surprise that the app features a lot of community-based learning including their own video chat platform.
Overall it makes a very good impression. The design is neat, the user interface intuitive and elegant and they use high-quality stock photos for their exercises.
The app’s courses are based on the CEFR framework and cover all areas of language acquisition (reading, writing, speaking, listening). To do that, lessons inside busuu are made up of the following elements:
  • Learning key vocabulary pronounced by native speakers
  • Lesson dialogs including newly-learned words and phrases
  • Writing practice with optional editing by other members
  • Speaking practice sessions with others from the community
  • Recording phrases indicated on the screen
  • Lesson review
All apps and a standard account are free of charge and you get a lot of value for it. Additional features are available for pro accounts which work with a subscription model. The community character of busuu makes it highly worth checking out for those who like to connect with people while pursuing their interests.

7.  Babbel

babbel 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: Babbel German on the AppStore
Android: Babbel German on Google Play
Price: Free (for demo account)

If playful graphics are not your thing, the Babbel app might be exactly what you are looking for. It features a very slick and streamlined design where users of Google services will feel right at home. In addition to its professional look, it is also very lightweight, making it one of the fastest apps on this list.
At first startup the app gets immediately down to business. Initially the only choice you have is to identify yourself as a beginner or an advanced learner then you are immediately thrown into the first course.
Babbel addresses all parts of language acquisition. The app teaches you new vocabulary and phrases through a mix of sound recordings, images and text. You are then prompted to correctly match English words to their German equivalents and afterwards write out what you just learned. Each lesson also contains a dialog where you have to fill in the blanks with words and phrases you just learned. The app can even do speech recognition to help practice your pronunciation.
Babbel includes one free lesson. To unlock more, you have to subscribe with monthly payments.
Overall the app makes an excellent impression and looks very professional. The overall approach is very similar to Rosetta Stone. Recommended for those who merely want to practice German without too much frill around the edges.

8.  iStart German

 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: iStart German on the AppStore
Android: iStart German on Google Play
Price: $4.99

As it turns out, iStart is an appropriate name for this app as it is geared towards people who are at the very beginning of their German education. Consequently the progress inside the lessons is quite slow but offers comprehensive information on the German language.
The app’s content is presented in a form that looks a lot like a chat and taught by two German native speakers and a moderator hailing from England. Each lesson is given in both text and audio form and supplemented with visuals.
Learning German with iStart is very passive since during the lessons students merely listen to the tutors explain different topics such as the German alphabet, greetings and other things. At the same time you get a lot of additional information beyond merely learning new words. Besides the main text, each lessons contains a summary of its content, a vocabulary list and a multiple-choice quiz to test your knowledge.
iStart can be recommended for students with very little knowledge about German. It’s a very good way to ease into the language and get your bearings and it is obvious that the developers put a lot of effort into it.

9.  German verb conjugations by Brainscape

Brainscape 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS:Learn German verb conjugations on the AppStore
Price: Free (for test account)

If there is one thing German learners struggle with, it’s German inflections. Verbs and nouns change a lot within sentences according to case, number and gender. If you have a hard time figuring out how to correctly form verbs across the different tenses, this is the app for you.
What you get is basically a collection of flashcards divided into eight decks, one for each of the German tenses:
  • Present Tense
  • Simple Past Tense
  • Present Perfect Tense
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • Future Tense
  • Future Perfect Tense
  • Subjunctive I
  • Subjunctive II
All decks consist of the 275 most used German verbs which have been correctly conjugated. It allows users to systematically drill themselves in one of the hardest parts of the German language.
One of the best things about the app is that it provides ongoing feedback, stats, and visualization tools to help you track your progress. Seeing how well you are doing is a major motivation tool which too many applications in the teaching realm neglect.
This app is very simple. What it does it does well and is therefore a great addition to anyone’s German studies.

10.  Learn German by MindSnacks

mindsnacks1 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: Mindsnacks German on the AppStore
Price: $4.99

Upon first opening the app it immediately becomes obvious that Mindsnacks is geared towards a younger audience. Cute graphics and adorable animal icons abound. It appears the app was build targeting people studying German in school.
This impression is further solidified by the way Mindsnacks handles language teaching: German is practiced with the help of nine different games. Each game is centered around a certain theme, like family, food or school. Beforehand you will be given a list of vocabulary to practice which includes excellent sound recordings. The games then works as a test and to further solidify your knowledge.
To give you an example how it works, in a game called Swell an English word will flash on screen with two choices given for the German equivalent. In the background water with a cute fish in it is slowly draining, functioning as a timer. You need to select the correct answer before it runs out and the fish meets its unfortunate demise. The game gets faster and faster with every word, so you need to pick the right answer quickly. Even as a native German I had to capitulate at some point!
Mindsnack’s look is done so well that the entire app sometimes feels a bit like it is in fact mainly a game which only teaches German on the side.

11.  Wie geht’s German

Wie geht’s German 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: Wie geht’s on the AppStore
Android: Wie geht’s on Google Play
Price: Free (for demo account)

For those who don’t know, Wie geht’s? means How are you doing? in German. The phrase demonstrates very well what this app is about. Its main goal is to teach learners basic phrases for all kinds of daily situations.
Content is divided by skill level and by topic. Besides choosing whether you are a beginner, an intermediary or advanced student, you can also decide to learn useful German phrases for travel, business or health. There is also a grammar section.
Within those broader fields you then find collections on more particular topics for example the numbers 20-100, how to talk about your extended family or German greetings. Correct pronunciation for all vocabulary is demonstrated by native speakers. To make learning a little more fun, there are some gamification elements such as quizzes and playing a round of hangman.
The app itself is free as are the first four lessons of the beginner course. After that you will be prompted to buy access to additional lessons. Overall it’s a nice app to learn basic German phrases.

12.  Learn German by Bravolol

Bravolol 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
iOS: Learn German on the AppStore
Android: Learn German on Google Play
Price: Free
This app looks very nice and professionally done. Basically, it has many useful German words and phrases for different life situations.
The app’s content is ordered by theme: greetings, eating, health, shopping, hobbies and much more. My favorite part is the “romance” collection. The phrases taught in there escalate very quickly from “No, thank you.” to “I’m not interested.”, “I’m busy.” and then “Leave me alone!” (however, students then learn how to say “You’re beautiful” – to make up for being rude I guess).
The app has one feature which I haven’t see in any of the other applications: the ability to record your own voice and hear it in comparison to the original. This is a very nice idea as it enables students to work on the nuances of pronunciation and it is something which in my opinion more apps should offer!
It should be noted that the free version of Learn German by Bravolol is ad-supported.

13.  DeutschAkademie

DeutschAkademie 13 Great Apps to Learn German Like a Boss
Android: Deutschakademie on Google Play
Price: Free (for demo account)

Of all the apps in the list, this one puts the most emphasis on studying German grammar. You will not learn new vocabulary here. It is therefore recommended for those who already have a basic understanding of German and a good word basis.
DeutschAkademie was also designed focused on functionality, not looks. If you put emphasis on a sleek design and user interface, this might not be the app for you. There are also occasional ads.
On the plus side, the content is quite extensive. According to their own website, the course contains more than 20,000 grammar exercises – for free! The lessons are ordered by proficiency level (A1-C1), textbook (they have exercises for a wide collection of common German textbooks) or grammatical topic.
Lessons consist of multiple choice questions and the app will tell you whether your answer is right or wrong.
An Android app can be found on Google Play but no dedicated iOS app is available. It is, however, possible to use the same course with your iPhone by going to the mobile version on their website via browser. Generally DeutschAkademie can be recommended to those looking for a wide collection of grammar exercises. It is a good practice ground for polishing up on declinations, conjugations and the like.


  1. Ich habe Duolingo!!! Es is o.k. für Englisch zu learnen. Ich will Menrise auch versuchen.

  2. Very complete. I just knew Duolingo and Busuu. It means, I get 11 new apps to learn German. Two years ago I was active on, but it changed the feature and I got confused. I don't use it again. I'll try those 11 apps you mention in this article. Here my collection of Basic German Conversation Phrases I have learned

  3. LOL... interesting picture of that Grandma holding cellphone

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