Apps are a great way to learn languages, they shouldn’t be the only method used, but I can definitely see the value in them.
Over the almost four past months learning two languages, I’ve experimented with many apps, and I’d like to share with you the ones that I found useful to learn languages in general and German in particular.
I’ve divided them as German and non German focused and I will update the list in case I find something better.
Although the first crush I had on Duolingo, I don’t really think this is the best app out there for learning languages, and it certainly shouldn’t be used by itself. I use Duolingo mostly to check my ability to translate between German and Spanish, but even then it gets pretty boring (if not downright irritating) after a while. It’s not unusual that I would be asked to translate the same sentences five times during the same session even if I got them correctly.
The only two things that make me keep Duolingo is the competition factor and the community discussion for each exercise, in which users express their doubts about the activity or share a laugh about the odd sentence they have just translated!
If I had to choose between Memrise and Duolingo, Memrise would win big time. The principle of learning anything by anchoring it to a vivid image is true and tried, and incredibly effective (besides being fun).
I also like the fact that with Memrise, as soon as you type out the right answer, you are automatically notified that the answer is correct, so that if the notification does not arrive you can twist a bit your answer to see what you might have written incorrectly.
This is different for Duolingo, where you have to type your answer, wonder if it’s right or not, and then push the button to discover what was the right answer.
As with Duolingo, the points and competitive factors make Memrise more interesting, motivating you to learn faster.
Furthermore, you can create the deck of cards that you wish to remember from scratch or simply add your memes to an already existing deck.
The only thing they miss in the app itself, is the same level of community that there is in Duolingo.
However, there is to say that Duolingo is completely “free” while Memrise comes with a paid upgrade that unleashes features like listening skills, and ‘difficult words’ review and statistics.
HelloTalk is a chat geared toward language learning. There are many apps of the sort, but I found that HelloTalk was one of the best. It comes free, if you want to learn one language at a time, but it requires a pro account if you want to learn more than one. But you could simply go to the settings and change languages one at a time, and you could practice them individually for free. It has many features like sentence correction, audio recording, translation and so forth, and I’d highly recommend you to check it out. It also has a public chat -timeline style, in which anyone can post or comment about a specific language, culture or place.
This is similar to HelloTalk, in that it allows you to chat and send audio messages with people from all around the world. You can choose as many languages as you like and practice them with as many users as you want.
Even its design is quite beautiful and user friendly, the only reason I don’t like using this app is because of those them @#$%@^&%$# that keep bothering. Almost 70% of the chats were from people who “were not really interested in language learning” if I can put it that way.
You can of course, block and report them, but it is quite annoying. So, I’ve started using this app in a different way. There is a specif chat called the mirror chat in which you write something and you are replied back with the very sentence that you have written.
Sounds lame? I thought the same at the beginning, but I’ve found it to be extremely helpful to put yourself on both ends of a question and training yourself to ask and reply to your own question without being too embarrassed by your awful grammar. Besides, if you can’t have a conversation with yourself, who are you going to talk to? Another cool thing HelloPal has, is a phrasebook for different types of situations, a couple of games and a notepad in which you can add your favorite words or sentences. So, yeah, definitely worth a try.
This is by far my favorite application, it’s not really intended to teach you the language, but you will have literally in the palm of your hands a group of native speakers of you target language that will translate sentences for you, clarify any doubt you might have regarding specific aspects of the language, check your pronunciation, and more… and all this for free!
I mean, it’s simply amazing and I want to do a separate post about it but in the meantime just go check it out and see for yourself. It’s like a collective LIVE Wikipedia of languages. There is also a pro account in which your question is pinned at the top of the stream of question for some time, and a few other benefits like hearing all audio recording, but you can still enjoy the app for free.
This app also is not designed to teach you the language, but it will help you get your pronunciation right.
Another chat app with a clean simple interface and lots of user from around the world. You honestly don’t need more than one chat app, but it’s good to experiment to decide what you think works best for you.
I saved the best for last. I have to confess that I am not a big fan of flash cards, so I put off trying Anki for quite some time.
How I wish I hadn’t though! Anki is my number one learning app at the moment. I know they are simply flash cards, but I love the fact that is simple and straight forward I enjoy using it more than any other app.
In fact it’s the only one I use consistently, while with others, like Duolingo and Memrise, it feels a bit like a chore.
FOR GERMAN in Particular:
A wonderful wonderful little treasure: it’s basically a blog style app that has an archive of post for a varying degree of fluency, all of them with audio, so, not only you can finally hear someone speaking German at a reasonable pace (!) but you get also to learn the language while finding out about different topics related to the German culture.
This is practically the same as Slow German in the concept, but it’s actually a short news feeder, also with audio. And yet on the plus side, what makes it really helpful is that it comes with a clickable word dictionary, so wherever on the article you don’t know the word, you can simply click on it, and you will be presented with different meanings for the word as well as example sentences. It is not 100% accurate, but it’s still more than useful for what you pay for it, which is absolutely nothing else other than your time. The sweet thing is that it has even a collection of video interviews in German with the transcript. Must have app for German learners. Seriously.
Speak Tribe German
I simply love this app. It has one of the best teaching methods I had yet to see in an app. It engages all the skills you are supposed to use when learning a language and made it interesting with a fun short detective-style story. The only downside is that they had just an absolute beginner level and I think I completed it in a day or two. I look forward to any future update they might have.
These are app that I’ve tried and that are okay but for a reason or another, I haven’t stuck to.
Play & Learn German
Let me know what apps you are using to learn your target language! 🙂