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Learning German with an app

I've got some basic phrases down from guide books, but would like to dive a little deeper in learning some German. My original intent was to take a course and the local community college, but none of the classes work with my work schedule.

I decided to download an app, but oh my! So many choices. Can you recommend one?

Danke! :)

Posted by
980 posts

Duolingo is probably the most popular. It uses a system similar to build your vocabulary through different exercises that reinforce previous lessons.

DJ

Posted by
635 posts

For just some casual learning, or reinforcement of what you learn from another source, the free podcast lessons (about half an hour each) from Coffee Break German are pretty good.

Posted by
91 posts

Are you just trying to pick up some basic conversational skills or do you want to study German in more depth?
I decided about a year ago that I wanted to refresh my knowledge of German I had learnt at high school since I am travelling around Europe from April this year. I paid for an online class through the Udemy platform which was good. In fact, I went back and enrolled in the same tutor's French course. I found out about Duolingo so completed the German module which was quite good and free. But the best online course is the one I have just completed through to the A2 language skills level. That is one taught by Deutsche Welle. I highly recommend it. And it is free. More than likely your local library will also have language courses and some of those are useful particularly if you play them on your car's cd system.
I do not have any knowledge of apps other than translation apps such as Linguee and Google Translate.

Posted by
5899 posts

I worked on learning some Spanish before my recent trip. I did a lot of Duolingo, and made some flash cards of words/phrases that kept tripping me up. For the car, I picked up a few CDs at the library at a time and worked on those as I carried on my regular routines. I really was surprised how much I picked up. Depending on where you go, I've found/heard that many Germans are English speaking. In our case, in southern Spain we did run into quite a few situations where some Spanish came in handy.

Posted by
996 posts

Duolingo is good. Memrise is another language app which offers a slightly different format including little video clips of native language speakers saying phrases so that you can hear them correctly instead of the computerized voices that some of the apps use.

Posted by
2506 posts

Probably one of the best apps to learn German is Babbel. The founders are German, one of the most successful start-ups in Berlin.

For quick translation of texts online I recommend DeepL, a company from Cologne which delivers by far better translations then the "oo"-Company.

Posted by
141 posts

I use multiple sources:

Pimsleur audio - very slow progress but what you do learn you never forget and it really helps for pronunciation. However, it’s hard to hear the declensions so really this should just be a supplemente to something else. Most libraries have it on CD or for download.

Coffee break German podcasts - short entertaining podcasts.

Busuu app - includes words, grammar and phrases. It also includes exercises where native speakers correct your spoken/written exercises. That’s my favorite part.

Duolingo app - I use this to drill words/grammar, but it’s not my favorite as it doesn’t provide immediately useful conversational phrases (unless you like to talk about ducks and apples), but you learn a lot of words and it seems to drive home grammar

Goethe A1 app - free from the Goethe institute, for drilling words/definitions. Great for memorizing the gender of nouns.

Posted by
141 posts

Markk, thanks for the tip about deepl! I was very frustrated with google translate. I’ll have to check out Babbel too.

Posted by
2506 posts

Welcome. You can use also Linguee.com and www.dict.cc as alternative contextual and direct translation approaches; the second one provides also sound examples from native speakers.

Sometimes German language is a little bit difficult. If you take my first name Mark it has more than three different meanings depending on the articles "der", "die", "das".

For non-German people who want to learn German based on news I rcommend public TV / radio Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com). They provide news from / about Germany in several languages. So you can read / listen a German and a foreign language version.

Some German dialects are so special that they are even for Germans hard to understand, e.g. Plattdeutsch. This is still actually spoken in northern Germany and does not need any crypto if people from Bavaria are present. On public German TV / radio for northern Germany (NDR) you an still find news and entertainment "op platt". They also provide a dictionary "Platt - German". So if you want to drive a German teacher crazy ask her / him to translate one of the videos op platt :-)

Posted by
3049 posts

Duolingo has a system that might work out well if your goal is eventual fluency, as they seem to be into this intuivive learning, but I don't think it's ideal for someone who just wants to speak a bit of German for traveling. Babbel introduces day-to-day stuff (and travel stuff) right away and would be my choice for an app if that was my goal. Also Duolingo was really confusing for me when it got into German grammar. Babbel is a subscription service so you do pay for it, but you can get a few months free with codes from various podcasts, which can probably be found online if you look.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Unless you know exactly how you learn best, more specifically, the easiest way to acquire a foreign language, I would suggest more than one way of learning German. It's all up to the individual when pertaining to foreign language acquisition. I use grammar books primarily, try the other methods as suggested.

Posted by
635 posts

The Coffee Break German podcasts are produced in Scotland. Not sure how much German I'm learning, but now I speak English with a Scottish dialect. :-)

Posted by
14580 posts

There are variations of Plattdeutsch, such as Plattdeutsch in Westfalen as opposed/different from Plattdeutsch in Mecklenburg, which is different from that in the Lower Rhine )Niederrheingebiet)

Posted by
2506 posts

Impression from a native German speaker: Just listening test-wise into two of the Coffee Break German podcast sessions. The Bavarian humba-music at the beginning is an absolute disqualification of cultural competence. The German speaker speaks a regular good average German to me but misses very much the situation and location based details of German language ("Feinheiten" is the German word). For example "Cheers" and "Prost" are nearly one-to-one but "Zum Wohl" is used in different contexts, more like a toast, more a personal relationship, also at large family meetings - it contains something like a good wish, "Prost" does not; also not mentioned that in some regions it is also "Prosit" instead of "Prost". So, I think the podcast is good for the first 80% of a situation which is almost a lot.

Posted by
2506 posts

There are variations of Plattdeutsch, such as Plattdeutsch in
Westfalen as opposed/different from Plattdeutsch in Mecklenburg, which
is different from that in the Lower Rhine )Niederrheingebiet)

If you mean Plattdeutsch as category (= Niederdeutsch "Low German") compared to Hochdeutsch I agree.

Low-German contains some local sub-languages, also the concrete coastal Plattdeutsch as well as Westfälisch for example. But all this is more a historic and geographic separation, the language (words and pronunciation) itself is very similar in most regions (guess 90-95% identical - they understand each other - if they want to). Of course some exceptions, e.g. "a" and "o" in Westphalian or the usage of plural endings of verbs. The languages stretches out also to Denmark and the Netherlands (Westfriesland).

Posted by
14580 posts

Exactly on when to say ,"Zum Wohl," which calls for knowing German cultural cues, which I call label as 'deutsches Verhaltenswesen."

Pertaining to the example and expression of "Zum Wohl," that's why I would never rely on google translate, etc.

Posted by
3049 posts

"Zum Wohl" is considered perfectly proper for a toast (especially with wine) here in the Southwest but if you want to impress the Swabians you can add the "le" to it.

I don't think this is at all relevant to someone wanting to further basic German though. No matter what you learn, locals anywhere will complain about your German. I was just at a Besenwirtschaft tonight and the locals muttered in German about my German as if I couldn't understand them and how dare I share a table (there's no option, the besen is crowded and doesn't take reservations) because I apologized for poor German when they wanted to have a conversation with me.

A younger German couple sat down after the offended ladies left, who didn't converse with the older husbands either, so I guess the standard of being able to converse freely with the locals only applies to foreigners!

In summation, by all means, learn/practice the language if you want to and if it "sparks joy" but if you think that it will give you an "in" with locals, you'll only accomplish that by virtue of a time machine wherein you make sure you're born in the right town and go to gymnasium with the locals because everyone else is an outsider and your German efforts will be criticized*

*Applies to Degerloch Swabians only, I'm sure that Germans in whatever tourist town you've visited are quite welcoming and friendly, etc etc etc

Posted by
14580 posts

"...locals will complain about your German...." Never have I had that happen to me in 24 trips over 47 years, whether I was in the boonies, small towns or big urban centers like Munich, Hamburg or Berlin, in western or eastern Germany, north or south.

My experience is totally different. If I am addressed in English as I enter, say a restaurant, solo, seeing that I have tourist written all over me, be it in a tourist area or a totally non-tourist place where I know from the looks and the location of the place, I am the only outsider, the only foreigner, my view is this: they address me in English, I reply in German and it stays that way.

True, I will say that in my 20s Germans started conversations in German with me more often than now. Maybe the times have changed, maybe older people treat you differently when you are definitely younger than they are. Since the first post-retirement trip, two such encounters readily come to mind, where I was asked where I came from by an older guy with his wife after dinner in the Dresden HI hostel, surprisingly not in English, but German.

The second instance was in 2017 in this small restaurant in Berlin-Köpenick, way out there, where this younger couple, late 40s, (the husband) starting talking to me, again in German. That started the conversation. We three were only the customers and they knew the waitress and owner, ie a totally local place. I never asked if they spoke English. Admittedly, I did that once on my first trip (I didn't know any better then); it was embarrassing.

Posted by
3049 posts

" Never have I had that happen to me in 24 trips over 47 years, "

Cool, have you spent 2941 days living in Germany? Because I have.

That's probably because they still realized you were a tourist. It's a paradox: if I speak a little Germany poorly when I'm assumed to be a tourist, the response is usually enthusiastic and kind. If I speak more German a little better but it's clear I'm an expat, the response is sometimes (i'd say it's 50/50) the opposite.

But as I said, I wasn't making a generalization aside from the residents of one town in one city in one region.

My ultimate point was that learning a language is a fun, rewarding and challenging exercise, but make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. It takes both a huge amount of work and a not-insignificant amount of natural talent to become truly fluent in a language to the point where you're not still marked as an outsider, and even then, where I live, even then, Germans from other parts of the country who move here complain about the insular nature of the culture here. Anything that marks you as an outsider - fluency, accent, etc - will be noted. It's not like that everywhere - being capable in German will probably get you a lot further in Berlin or Hamburg than in Swabia or Saxony - but it's worth keeping in mind!

Posted by
14580 posts

I would have to go through my calendar notebooks to get an exact number of days I have been in Germany since 1971. Living there for a duration of time, no, that I've not done. That is the main difference here. Of course, the Germans knew/know I was/am a visitor.

In the early 1970s they thought sometimes if I wasn't a tourist, then I had to be an exchange student studying at a German university. But there have been a few times, 3 come to mind immediately, where "they" thought in asking me for directions, say in Berlin, or elsewhere, or getting into a conversation, sometimes started by them, other times started by me, where " they" assumed I was living in Germany.

No doubt they know I am outsider, My friend living/working in Austria as an ex-pat has told me likewise, and he is fluent in German. Being tagged as an outsider, I expect that, almost always now I tell them I'm from Calif. They recognise that by one's German, ie, the accent, fluency, choice of vocabulary, pronunciation , my clothing style too, etc.

I do likewise too, can spot out immediately Americans speaking German that something will give that away, be it accent, (which usually is the case), fluency, intonation, their use of the definite article, ie getting them mixed up, use of idioms and expressions, diction, listening for certain sounds, and so on.

If a German is from Stuttgart, and the other one is , say from Bonn, or Hannover, Magdeburg, I'll point out the one from Stuttgart after a minute or two conversing with him.

On learning a foreign language, eg, specifically as it pertains to German here, "make sure you're doing it for the right reasons."

I dissent from that view, totally disagree with that. I have never said such a thing to any prospective student of the language, and would certainly not give such advice to someone nowadays of post-college age entertaining the idea of wanting to take up German. Not the way I see it at all....we can agree to disagree on that topic.

Posted by
2506 posts

Language is always culture - and so manifold the German culture is, so manifold are the language details and also how people react on using language. I would always try to learn a language of a culture that is of interest to me which is sometimes not so easy because parts of nations like Switzerland, Italy (Südtirol) or Norway have more than one language in use.

To me the acceptance of language from beginners is depending on so much things, especially interpersonal. Understanding, accepting and respecting each other is not only a question of language.

As a German of course I can easily switch into complex language behaviour to build an artificial barreer in business - some German lawyers are so perfect in this that even Germans do not understand contracts written in German language :-) On some German websites you can find the official formulated terms and conditions and on the right hand side in one sentence "What we mean by that".

Little trick for beginners of German business language: if you want to know the purpose (not the reason which can incluse personal ones) of a behaviour in Germany ask "Wozu ...?" and not "Warum ...?". You will get so much faster to the real background on a neutral discussion base; it can save hours.

Personally I always really enjoyed working in international teams and exchanging with people how they perceived interactions. For example my Irish friend Andy and I had so much fun on that - after our first inter-cultural clash :-)

I like what we Berliners make out of some foreign words, e.g. Bellevue which is also the name of the palace of our Federal President (not Chancellor). We speak it so hurting "un-French", and also some other words like our favorite local food Bulette.

Especially in Berlin also parts of the East and West Geman language was "foreign". When we met a school class of same grade directly after fall of German Wall (same city, just East and West), there were really a lot of words needed to be learned from both sides. I still remember "urst" which I never heard before as West German teenager. It means "sehr" (very, much). Newspapers printed vocabularies for both sides, e.g. what a Broiler is or Erdmöbel means. Most strange to me that it was usual in the East to eat Currywurst "ohne Darm" (w/o sausage casing); it was a real different dish.

For a smile: a nice small collection of Berlin idioms you can find in this linked article. Google Translate just gives up at "Haste keene Ojen im Kopp?" which you can hear daily in Berlin traffic situations :-)

Posted by
169 posts

Thank you for your responses! I downloaded Duolingo first, and have been using it. I'm also listening to Coffee Break. I'm going to give the other suggestions a try as well. I just want to make an effort while I'm in Germany, but don't have the time to become fluent this close to my trip. Hopefully, they will appreciate my attempts. :)

Posted by
14580 posts

There is an Imbiss very close to Bahnhof Zoo that offers "Currywurst" mit Darm and " ohne Darm" It's on Kantstraße.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Bravo for taking on the language ( acquiring German) using two methods Duolingo and Coffee Break.

I am admittedly not familiar with either one of them. What counts and will pay off are your efforts in pursuing this...keep at it, pound away at it. Don't slip into linguistic laziness. That's not going to do you any good. Every single bit helps, every verb, every past participle, every preposition, which ever the case, verb and preposition compound, every noun, and on and on helps.

The more vocab in contextual comprehension, the more you understanding, the more understand, the more you can read and write properly, etc.

The bottom line here...you cannot over learn. The more you absorb, the more confidence gained.

Posted by
635 posts

The German national TV news program Tagesschau is available on the internet. The daily "20:00" (8 pm) broadcast is about 20 minutes long (find it here; there is also a Tagesschau app for iOS). You won't understand very much at first, but after a while you start picking things up. Though there are no English subtitles, the images and titles of the various news items help connecting with the spoken word.

I like to watch Tagesschau while working out on the elliptical -- helps pass the time constructively.

Posted by
169 posts

Thank you, Fred. I think my ancestors are proudly looking down on me, saying, "Finally! She's finally taking the time to learn German!" :) I agree with you, everything I learn is that much more than I knew before, and should be helpful when I am there immersed in it.

Thanks, Jeff! That will be fun to watch. :)

Posted by
14580 posts

@ eurostacy....My compliments on your efforts in pursuing and tackling the intricacies of the German language. Of course, it may appear difficult and a daunting task. There is a fitting German proverb here, "Aller Anfang ist schwer." (Everything is hard in the beginning). Just keep plugging away, pounding away, keep at it...it'll pay off when you're over there.

A friend of mine here, a native speaker, in his efforts to impress upon me more German language acquisition put it this way:

Was man in der Sprache zu erlernen braucht, das ist doch nicht zu verlernen. (What one needs to learn in the language, that is certainly not to be forgotten. )

Posted by
8992 posts

If you can't take a class, contact the university to see if they have any Germans going to school there that would like to earn a bit of money. Get some one-on-one tutoring. This helps with pronunciation and gets you speaking.

Dialects abound in Germany, no matter where you go. The folks in Berlin sound nothing like the folks in Stuttgart or Munich or Frankfurt or Cologne. You can buy dictionaries for each dialect too as well as random books like "Asterisk and Obelisk" in Hessisch.

Though I am fluent in German, they all know I am not German when I speak. They don't know where I come from, but they know I am not German. The grammar trips me up and the pronunciation. That said, I know all the little phrases that people use in day to day chats and in the local Frankfurt dialect, so that throws them off a bit. Stuff that tourists would never know.

Be courageous, don't be afraid to try speaking German in public and keep on learning. Listen to it as much as possible, read it as much as possible. The Huffington posts in German, so that might be easy to read as well as the DW.

Posted by
169 posts

@Fred - thank you. :)

@Ms. Jo - love your idea of a German tutor! And thank you!