Apps to learn languages
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.
iOS: Memrise on the AppStore
Android: Memrise on Google Play
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.
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.
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.
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