best apps for learning german

The 16 Best Apps for Learning German in 2021, Tested and Reviewed

What sets apart the best apps for learning German? 

They don’t just throw words and rules at you and hope that you remember them.

They turn German learning into an engaging experience.

Of course, the trick is to find those high-quality German learning apps—so you can stop browsing through the app store and start actually learning German!

If you don’t know where to begin, don’t worry.

I took it upon myself to separate the wheat from the chaff and give you a list of the best apps to learn German that are really worth your time as of 2021, including several free apps!

Rosetta Stone

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: $$ subsctiption, free trial available

Of all the best apps for learning German, Rosetta Stone is probably the one with the most name recognition. With a history going back to 1992, it’s 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 it’s earned Rosetta Stone a lot of praise.

In the mobile app, you’ll 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’s 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 it ranks among the best apps to learn German, overall.

My thoughts:

Rosetta Stone is a classic, but that doesn’t mean it’s lost any of its educational vigor. The content, spread out into different units, is presented in a clean and concise manner. There aren’t really any instructions, so you’re essentially left to your own devices.

Rosetta Stone focuses on the essentials of the German language, the stuff that native speakers would use the most, which is something appreciated by many learners who want to get straight to talking. Grammar teaching isn’t a priority in this app, which can be a disappointment for learners who want more concrete lessons concerning phrase construction.

The speech recognition feature is quite neat, and even when I garbled my accent a bit, it managed to recognize what I was attempting to say. With extended use, it can certainly help to improve one’s speaking confidence!

Memrise

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free (limited access), $ for premium subscription 

This great free app offers a truly unique approach to learning. At its most basic, it’s a flashcard app for studying vocabulary that combines a spaced-repetition system with mnemonics to maximize retention. In recent years, however, the program has grown into a more robust and all-encompassing offering, featuring thousands of native speaker videos.

Most schooling systems only teach learning through rote repetition. However, our brains aren’t 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’ll 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 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.

Recently, however, the Memrise team has been moving away from these mems and instead focusing on using real people to introduce each word and phrase. Lessons now introduce new words with a high-quality video of a real German speaker saying it, and you’re then asked to interact with it in a few different ways at increasing intervals of time, like hearing the word and picking it from a list, typing it out or answering a multiple-choice question about it.

My thoughts:

I appreciate Memrise’s efforts to make “vocabulary encoding” both interesting and amusing. Making familiar the unfamiliar with wordplay or image association is a fantastic tactic that would work excellently for beginner learners (although more advanced learners would appreciate it as well).

I’m quite disappointed that the mem feature has been partially removed, as that was a big draw of the app for me. (Though you can still see mems from older, community-created courses by leaving the Memrise “beta” through your settings.)

That said, the new videos are pretty fun and it’s great to hear so many different people speaking the language. It’s a nice way to ease into authentic German content and sets you up to understand actual German speakers.

Busuu

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free (limited access), $ for premium subscription

Among all the best apps for learning German, Busuu boasts one of the largest communities. According to their website, tens of millions of language lovers are part of its worldwide network. It’s therefore no surprise that the app features a lot of community-based learning, like their own video chat platform.

Overall, it makes a very good impression. The design is neat, the user interface is 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 in Busuu are made up of the following elements:

  • Learning key vocabulary pronounced by native speakers
  • Lesson dialogues 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

The app 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 use a subscription model. The community aspect of Busuu makes it highly worth checking out for those who like to connect with people while pursuing their interests.

My thoughts:

Within less than five minutes from starting as a complete beginner, Busuu taught me how to have a very basic conversation. And because the lesson was reinforced by images, audio, true or false questions and fill-in-the-blank exercises, I’m sure to remember what I learned in the future.

The dashboard is very user-friendly, and it makes me feel accomplished for completing any lesson by tracking my progress and pointing out how many words I’ve already learned. (Go me!) It’s also nice that I can see exactly how long each lesson will take before I take it on.  

Babbel

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free (limited access), $$ for premium subscription

If playful graphics aren’t your thing, the Babbel app might be exactly what you’re looking for. It features a very slick and streamlined design where users of Google services will feel right at home.

At first start-up, 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’re 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’re then prompted to correctly match English words to their German equivalents and afterward write out what you just learned. Each lesson also contains a dialogue 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.

The app makes an excellent impression and looks very professional, and I’d recommend it for those who merely want to practice German without too much frill around the edges. Take it for a spin here!

My thoughts:

The free version of Babbel only lets you try the first lesson, but it’s enough to see if the program’s right for you. Like many other apps, this program is full of interactive and gamified content. In the first lesson, I got to fill in the blanks, play a matching game, provide the translations for different parts of a sentence and even have a pretend conversation between two people.

Though it’s effective, (I’ll never forget what hallo means!), I found the lesson very repetitive, as the entire lesson basically centered around the phrase “hello, I’m Freddy.” This is a good option for you if you’re the kind of learner that needs a lot of reinforcement (and especially if your name is Freddy).

Duolingo

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free, $ for premium version

Boasting over 300 million users, Duolingo is clearly a very popular choice for language learners. Its bite-sized and straightforward learning system makes it a great fit for those who want to seamlessly pop in and out of their language studies as their schedule allows.

Duolingo lessons are short but enough to keep you satiated in your German studies. Lesson modules are presented in a “tree” based on level and topic, and you’re expected to complete them in a certain order. However, you can “test out” of certain modules if you’re able to pass their short assessments.

There’s also a good variety in the challenges meant to test your skills. You’ll be asked to take standard multiple-choice questions, practice speaking aloud or translate phrases. These exercises are short and provide instant feedback, making it easy for you to speed through a unit and move on in your studies. Many questions also feature comments from fellow language learners, which can make things all the more fun!

More recently, Duolingo implemented a “hearts” system. You’re given a certain number of hearts, and every time you make a mistake and answer incorrectly, you lose one. When you deplete all your hearts, you’re expected to go back and review the material to regain them. This system was put in place to encourage learners not to rush their learning.

My thoughts:

Duolingo is quite good for those who want uncomplicated language lessons on a regular schedule. You can fly through them without feeling pressured, and there aren’t many “flyball” challenges that will shake your confidence or have you floundering.

Over time, however, I found some of the Duolingo lessons and exercises quite repetitive. It’s likely due to the algorithm, but within a given unit, I was asked to work with the same one or two phrases a number of times, despite the fact that there were other words I should have been tested on. During these moments, I didn’t feel like I was really progressing.

Duolingo can work great in teaching you basic vocabulary, enough to take you to an A1 or A2 German level. However, it may not be the best in teaching you how to construct full sentences or understanding German grammar.

Drops

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free (limited access), $ for premium version

Drops is a great option for the learner who wants to get a sufficient dose of the German language without being overwhelmed. For five minutes a day, the app teaches you the essentials of German vocabulary in a fun and immersive way.

The design is rather minimalist and visually appealing. When teaching words, Drops uses text, images and audio to ease them into your brain. The sessions themselves are game-like in nature, requiring you to drag-and-drop answers and tap away on your screen.

Vocabulary is categorized into different topics, touching upon matters such as food, colors, family members, nationalities and so forth.

My thoughts:

The app’s teaching method is simplistic (some would say “bare-bones”), but you can blast through and learn a whole lot of phrases without feeling overwhelmed. Even though sessions are only a few minutes long, they easily capture your attention. The games are quick and satisfying, and the beautiful visual interface is a great plus that makes the experience of using Drops that much more appealing. 

I do wish there were a bit more variety in the activities, but overall, Drops fits snugly in the busy learner’s small pockets of free time.

Learn German by MindSnacks

best apps for learning german

iOS

Price: Free (limited access), $ for premium version

Upon first opening this app, it immediately becomes obvious that MindSnacks is geared toward a younger audience. Cute graphics, vibrant colors and adorable animal icons abound. It feels like the app was built to target young people who are studying German in school.

This impression is further solidified by the way MindSnacks handles language teaching: You practice your German with the help of nine different games. Each game is centered around a certain theme, like family, food or school. Beforehand, you’re given a list of vocabulary to practice which includes excellent sound recordings. The games then work as a test and to further solidify your knowledge.

To give you an example of how it works, in a game called “Swell,” an English word flashes on your screen with two choices given for the German equivalent. In the background is water with a cute fish in it, and the water 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!

MindSnacks’ look is done so well that the entire app sometimes feels a bit like it’s in fact mainly a game that only teaches German on the side. This makes it even more effective, in my opinion!

My thoughts:

First things first: Don’t let the cutesy nature of the app fool you. MindSnacks’ games are definitely charming, but they’re also surprisingly adept at pounding German words into your brain. Once I finished a round, the words that were tested in the game continued to flash in my mind, like a catchy song you just can’t stop singing. It’s a prime example of how games can make language learning into an effortless art.

I found the free version rather limited: There are 50 German lessons in total, but you only get access to one of them when you download for free. It won’t take you too long to complete everything that’s offered. On the bright side, the price to unlock the rest of the lessons is in the single digits and well worth it, I think.

Wie geht’s German

best app to learn german

iOS

Price: Free (limited access), $ for premium version

For those who don’t know, Wie geht’s? means “How are you doing?” in German. The phrase demonstrates very well what this German learning 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 topic. Besides choosing whether you’re a beginner, an intermediary or an advanced student, you can also decide to learn useful German phrases for travel, business or health, or peruse the grammar section.

Within those broader fields, you’ll find collections on more particular topics, such as the numbers 20 to 100, how to talk about your extended family and German greetings. Correct pronunciation for all vocabulary is demonstrated by native speakers. To make learning a little more fun, there are some gamification elements like 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’re prompted to buy access to additional lessons, which include higher-level content and vocabulary related to travel and business situations. Overall, it’s a nice app to learn basic German phrases.

My thoughts:

The free version gives you access to only the beginner course, which, overall, is rather sparse. There aren’t many vocabulary or phrases offered for each topic, so while absolute beginners can have something to look forward to, other learners on a budget may run out of things to do very quickly.

The app works in a phrasebook or flashcard format—you’re presented with a list of words or phrases to memorize by heart. Other than that, there aren’t any deeper lessons that go into the language, itself. There are short little introductions to each unit, but they don’t really talk in detail about grammatical concepts and other important information.

Overall, this app can work pretty well for travelers or those who are just dipping their toes into the German language.

Learn German by Bravolol

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free (limited access), $ for premium version

This free 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!”—though, hopefully, no learner will have to actually use those words in real life. (However, students also learn phrases for when there’s chemistry, like “You’re beautiful.”)

Each phrase has accompanying audio recordings by native speakers, which also give you the option to slow down if the audio is zooming by too quickly for you.

The app has one cool feature worth noting: The ability to record your own voice and hear it in comparison to the original. This allows you to work on the nuances of your pronunciation.

My thoughts:

Bravolol works essentially like a nifty phrasebook that can prepare you for some basic German conversations. Its simple purpose is accentuated by its easy-on-the-eye interface.

The voice recording feature is definitely a pleasant addition, and one I wouldn’t have expected to appear with similar applications. Working on pronunciation is always a target of interest and importance for learners, so it’s great to have an app that allows them to have a point of reference for their attempts.

It was useful to hear my own voice and how it matched up to the native German recordings, as this made it easy for me to tweak my pronunciation to better match the audio in the app.

Anki

best app to learn german

Android | iOS 

Price: Free for computer and Android, $$ for 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 through SRS (spaced repetition system).

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’s 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.

The content for Anki is user-generated, but unlike much other user-led content, the flashcard decks others create are often very high in quality. Users who share their decks take pride in their work, and decks sometimes contain thousands of words, often accompanied by high-quality audio pronunciations and images. Plus, you can find nearly anything you need, from top textbook-based word lists to flashcards with translations in other languages like Russian and Japanese. 

During studying, learners are asked to rate the ease of recall for each card. This determines the interval after which they’ll 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’ll never have to pay anything for using the web app or even the Android application, it’s worth noting that Anki iOS comes with a price tag in the two digits.

My thoughts:

It’s quite intimidating to consider creating my own decks on Anki—though it’s an incredibly powerful tool, it’s sadly not very user-friendly. If you can get past the steep learning curve, you can do amazing things with it, from learning vocab to creating fully personalized grammar and sentence decks. Anything goes!

If you’d rather not make your own decks from scratch, don’t worry: The Anki community has provided a robust selection of pre-made decks that you can download and use. 

Brainscape

best apps for learning german

Android | iOS

Price: Free (limited access), $ for premium subscription

If there’s one thing that German learners struggle with, it’s German inflections. Verbs and articles 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

Each deck consists of the 275 most-used German verbs conjugated correctly for the tense. This allows users to systematically drill themselves in one of the hardest parts of the German language.

Did you go through all the flashcards in all the decks? Impressive work! Not to worry: Brainscape also lets you add your own flashcards, which you can even share with friends and fellow learners for a remote study sesh on the words that matter the most to you.

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’re doing is a major motivational tool!

This German learning app is very simple. But it does its one main task very well and is, therefore, a great addition to anyone’s German studies.

My thoughts:

I often fumble with inflections myself, so this app is something I’d frequently use. Brainscape’s flashcards are to-the-point and give you all the info you need to properly learn a verb—all that comes after is practice, practice, practice. It helps that the app tests you on the material in a pattern of increasing difficulty so that your brain can more smoothly absorb vocabulary.

I particularly like the rating feature, in which you can note how confident you are in knowing a word by heart on a scale of one to five, from least confident to most confident. Once I do that, the app adjusts when the given word is repeated, based on how much more practice I need with it.

Der Die Das

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free

Let’s be honest: Those pesky noun articles can be the bane of our German studies. Luckily, there’s an app that can help you out.

This aptly-named app lets you search up a German word and instantly tells you its correct article—no fuss or fluster. There are also guidelines that explain how you can “predict” which words would get which article. These helpful tips can aid you in the moments when you can’t depend on a nifty app to guess if a noun is masculine, feminine or neuter.

Other helpful features include a dictionary that defines roughly 17,000 nouns and the ability to have a “Favorites” list of nouns that are consistently problematic. For focused review, you can also play a simple “guess the article” game for a selection of random nouns.

My thoughts:

I already appreciate that there’s an app that directly addresses one of the more frustrating aspects of the German language. Der Die Das provides immediate answers, clearly understanding the needs of learners who don’t enjoy guessing games. Learning German articles by heart does come down to memorization, so having an app like this is a great tool for reaching that goal.

The dictionary function is alright, but strangely, English translations aren’t currently provided. Hopefully, this will be added in a future update.

Seedlang

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free

Seedlang focuses on improving your German speaking and listening skills. You’ll be learning with videos featuring native speakers and scripted narratives, but you won’t just be watching the clips—you’ll be repeating what’s being said, right after you hear the speaker talk.

Actually, every sentence spoken is its own video, provided with translations that you can turn on or off. What results is a series of “video clip flashcards” that helps you build your German knowledge in a very step-by-step manner. It’s great fun!

You test your skills by repeating the German you hear or by translating an English phrase into German. If you’re ever stuck, well, there’s an “I’m stuck” button that lets you click on the word troubling you for an instant translation.

After you submit your spoken attempt, you can then compare to the original audio and see exactly where you might have made a flub. Seedlang provides a full breakdown of each word down to its grammar, making this app a good way to build your fundamental understanding of the German language, as well as get some listening and speaking practice.

My thoughts:

Seedlang’s teaching format is certainly creative, and one I haven’t seen replicated in many other apps. I really enjoy the light-hearted nature of Seedlang’s videos—a few times I caught myself giggling at the given scenarios—and I can certainly remember the German phrases alongside the engaging clips that give them memorable visual context.

I’m also pleasantly surprised at the level of detail provided in word breakdowns. Besides translations, the app gives an explanation of the grammar behind the words and offers related sentences. In other words, if you ever need help with certain vocabulary, you can get answers to not just the “what” of them, but also the “why” and “how.”

German Listen and Read

best app to learn german

Android

Price: Free

Also known as Deutsch Hören & Lesen, this app lets you learn German through a series of written and narrated stories.

The content is organized by level so that you can access the stories that suit your current skills. The stories cover a variety of topics, but primarily focus on mundane scenarios native to Germany.

You can both read the text and listen to the narration, with the option to slow down the audio so you can follow along more comfortably. After every story, you’ll get a short five-question quiz to test your understanding.

The developers release new stories weekly, so even if you bust through all the current content, you can simply wait for more!

My thoughts:

This app is definitely great for those interested in improving their German listening and reading skills. The stories, while brief, test just the right vocabulary that learners (especially beginners) should focus on. The audio is crisp and the slow-down feature is a very welcome option that can allow listeners to catch every word.

One feature that would be greatly beneficial is some sort of instant translation function. As of now, the stories are entirely in German. While some learners may appreciate the challenge, it would be very useful if users could tap on a word in a given story to get a definition.

DW Learn German

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free

Besides being a major German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle also has its own learning app following the CEFR standards.

The content level ranges from beginner to intermediate, but learners of any level can find this app a useful and straightforward resource for both learning and review purposes.

First, you’re advised to take a placement test that gauges your current German skill level. Once you finish this, you can pick the right course and start learning with fun interactive exercises and videos. The lessons primarily train you in conversational skills and vocabulary you’d encounter and use in daily scenarios, and you’re frequently assessed to make sure you understand the German being taught.

DW also offers additional courses and materials for extra learning, including podcasts and downloadable PDFs, that you can access on the main website.

My thoughts:

There’s a lot to like about Deutsche Welle’s app. Oftentimes with learning apps, the level distinctions can be a bit iffy. Having skimmed through the beginner, intermediate and advanced courses, there’s a clear disparity in the content, which I think learners of ranging levels can appreciate.

DW also utilizes a lot of its existing video learning series called “Nicos Weg” for the lessons, and I quite enjoyed these lessons! They proved to be both entertaining and informative in showing the German language in context.

Learners may have issues with some of the questions that are presented entirely in German. Those who aren’t yet comfortable with the language may struggle in interpreting the instructions, and so translations would have been a nice addition.

dict.cc

best app to learn german

Android | iOS

Price: Free, $ for premium version

No language learning journey is complete without a reliable dictionary. While dict.cc is offered for other languages, it’s primarily known as a comprehensive English-German dictionary with both a website version and an app version.

dict.cc is special in that it addresses a lot of the unique needs you’d have as a German language learner. Once you look up a word (either in German or English), you get a whole list that shows the word side-by-side with its translations in different contexts. The German version is also supplied with its appropriate gender pronoun.

You can also look up common English or German phrases. It’s a quick way for you to learn both formal and casual expressions that you can use right away in conversation, or at least give you a better understanding of the way the language works.

My thoughts:

I’ve liberally used dict.cc for my German studies, and it’s always been a trusty companion. There are certainly plenty of other dictionaries that can provide the basics of multilingual translation, but dict.cc gives a bigger picture of any vocabulary you search. Honestly, even if you search for a word you already know, you’re bound to learn something new.

The premium version, available at a very reasonable price, does include some helpful learner features, such as the ability to save “favorite” words and a vocabulary trainer. However, the free version is comprehensive enough and does its job very well.

 

There’s your rundown of the best apps for learning German! Definitely easier than scrolling endlessly through iTunes or Google Play, right? We bet that no matter your level or learning style, there’s a perfect German learning app (or apps!) in here for you. All you have to do is download and start learning.

This post was updated on 9/10/2021 by Aromie Kim

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