The author uses her varied academic and professional experiences to help those interested in learning the German language.
Fun with Educational Apps
Times have changed and learning no longer equates to suffering. We no longer need to suffer through boring vocabulary books without pictures and experience unnecessary shyness when it comes to saying a foreign word loud.
- Have you ever visited another country but were afraid to say anything because talking in that foreign language was not really a big part of your language lessons?
- Or perhaps, your teacher wasn't a native speaker and spoke differently?
Whatever your experience is, you can be relieved that your child today has many more possibilities and advantages to learn a language properly, and with all the great language learning apps on the market, they can have a lot of fun, too!
Having access to a tablet or a smartphone also means your child can learn anywhere; since many language learning apps do not need a constant internet connection.
My son started with Mindsnacks and is now really into Duolingo. He is learning on a daily basis without discussion.
Before you download some apps for your child and pay money for them, have a look at my hit list first—it could save you some time and money.
So, what's your favourite app to learn German?
Bright and Colourful Mindsnacks Graphics
Big Kid or Small Kid?
Of course, it matters if you have a small or an older kid when you chose a German learning app.
If the child is only three years old, then start with the Play 2 Learn and PinguLingu German learning apps. Your little one will only have to tap on the screen to listen to the German words or sounds. They are into tapping and touching anyway, and this time they get a reward by being stimulated with cute pictures, animations, sounds, music to support the memorizing of the words.
If your child is twelve or older they might still be interested in the apps for the smaller kids to learn German, and since it is a good way to start a new language, don't stop them! But also offer them something more demanding like Mindsnacks German or Doki.
If they are more advanced or if they feel too old for games then I would buy them a Busuu Membership and download the free apps Duolingo and Memrise.
Now, I introduce to to the apps in more detail...
Duolingo is definitely my favourite German learning app. My 12-year-old son made a huge progression since he started using it regularly. The users have to work themselves through different lessons, which cover different topics (e.g., jobs, food) and grammar (e.g., prepositions, different tenses.) Each topic consists of different lessons and a test. Within the lesson, you have to translate sentences from German to English and the other way round, or you have to choose which sentence is written correctly. You will have three hearts (see the picture above, which also shows the task to translate a sentence by using word blocks) and you will lose one each time you make a mistake. When you lost all your hearts and make another mistake you lose the game and you have to do this lesson again. When you manage to finish a lesson, you earn experience points and lingots which you can use to buy something useful in the 'shop', e.g., a potion to gain back a heart.
I recommend it for children aged 10 or older, since the gaming factor is quite low. But the learning intensity is amazing, since my son now translates sentences easily and knows all the conjugations of the verbs without much effort. Sometimes we work together on that app and he is always happy when he gets some new lingots.
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And yes, it is completely free, too!
Mindsnacks German App
Mindsnacks is my other favourite German learning app for kids.
I cannot say I like Duolingo more or Mindsnacks because they are based on a different learning system. Mindsnacks already deserves a prize for the outstanding graphics and animations. The design is so cute that I would put it on one level with the Super Mario Characters. It became clear to me very quickly that I had to buy the full version, and I can tell you this app is well worth the purchase. I knew instantly that my son would love the different games (9 in the full version) and that I can lure him into learning his vocabulary.
The new words to learn come either with one of those cute cartoons or with a photo to support the visual learning. Since the words are also spoken by natives it becomes an audio-visual learning character altogether.
The easiest game is Belly where you have to click on the correct words, which will then be eaten by a frog. The best game to learn the spelling of the word is the game Word Birds, which I find quite hard when you have to type a whole sentence (because you learn short sentences, too). You can also play a game together with your child. Try Bloon eg, where you have to tap on matching balloons so that they explode, and you have to watch out that your finger doesn't get tangled with your child's finger! The last time we played Stags together we got over a thousand points because of our teamwork.
Another great part is that there are different challenges to master. Some are related to the games (eg master 13 words in Word Birds) or they are separate games.
The complete app costs £ 2.99 for 50 lessons.
If you like being part of a proper learning community where you can talk to native speakers from all around the world, then this is the right app for you.
The app has a welcoming look with cute graphics, and the idea that you can grow your own virtual garden while you learn will attract the playful learners among you. The more credits you earn (called Busuu berries) the more stuff you can buy for your garden and the higher your learning tree will grow.
The app consists of an audio-visual learning lesson, where you see a picture with every word or phrase and you will hear them spoken by natives. These lessons are followed by writing tasks and a chat opportunity (which you can skip, because you always have the opportunity anyway) and then finally a test.
The structure is easy to understand and you can jump to the different levels from A1 (beginner level) to B2 (advanced intermediate level). That means whether you are a beginner or on an intermediate level you will find the words and the grammar you need to learn. This app can also be used if you are already really good in that language and you just want to repeat stuff, or want to chat to natives, or if you need somebody to review what you have written.
Corrections of your writings normally come en masse, and the reason is that you can earn Busuu berries when you help others, so that there will always be help on hand.
This app can also used on the go without internet connection. But, of course, you will not be able to chat with someone in Germany without wifi; just the lessons will be available without connection.
What makes Busuu so distinctive is the community character and the chance to talk to natives. You can learn with the free version where you will miss out on extra learning units. You could first do the free lessons and then pay for the rest if you like because this app is no on-off purchase but you have to pay for a certain time, like a membership for a club.
Doki German App
Doki German is the winner of the Parent's Choice Award and a convincing app for teenagers who have access to an iPhone or iPad as it requires iOS 4.3 or higher. The cartoons are rather funny, not cute, and the topics are not related to any childish interests. You will find a guy hitting on a woman, interactive games to help organizing an office, various settings from cavemen to spaceships and animated sequences that will introduce your child to a topic. I would say that the targeted audience is the one of young adults, but the fact that teenagers are striving to be treated as adults, this app is a harmless and fun way to give them a bit of what they are asking for, combined with a good learning method. Officially it is rated for the age 12+.
The game's setting is Doki City where you'll find a hotel to check in, a travel agency to practise how to book a journey in German and a bar where you can order drinks, to name just a few. The video sequences in the 51 lessons are entertaining and all the audio bits are really helpful to get a feeling for the spoken language.
The game covers listening, reading and writing. You can also practise the different verb forms (eg first person singular or third person plural). There is no option to check your pronunciation by recording your voice (which is no loss in my opinion).
The app comes free with a few games to try out, but if you want the whole package it will cost you £5.49 or three chapters for £ 1.49. I bought the Spanish version and thought it was worth it. You can also download Doki Further which is suitable for advanced learners.
Memrise in the App store
I saw that app first when I worked as a teaching assistant at school. The children used Memrise on a regular basis during their independent work in the ICT room and to prepare for the GCSE and A-Level tests. I observed a few of them using the mems, which are pictures or sentences that help remember a word, like a visual aid. Some mems were really strange and you can either choose from different mems, invented by other users in the Memrise community or invent your own mems. I found myself looking and so many mems to decide which might be the best to remember something that it was really time-absorbing without having learned anything yet. Maybe it is better just to click on the first mem popping up for the introduced word.
Similar to Duolingo, there are different activities to learn the words. You have to write a lot and there is also a time limit for the challenge. You can choose a lesson to work on, but be aware that many lessons are made by other users. When working with the kids at school I saw some mistakes and I had to tell the children that you cannot use those words or translations in German. Memrise was also ignoring that you have to write nouns in German with a capital letter at the beginning, so I was a bit disappointed because it was a common mistake among the children anyway, and they do not need to be supported in that by a computer game.
Another plus side is the idea of planting seeds when you learn new words. After you finished one lesson you can see how many seeds you planted and when you have to water them (= repeat the lesson). Conveniently, you get a mail to remind you to water your seeds or later your plants.
Anyway, this app is completely free to use, and I would recommend it if your child is really advanced already and needs to learn more words than Duolingo or Busuu has to offer. If not, stick to Duolingo!
Play 2 Learn German Vocabulary App
Play 2 Learn Vocabulary App
This is a nice vocabulary-building app if your child is between 3-12. It consists of many interactive pictures, each covering a different topic. In each picture you can tap on the different things, animals and persons to hear the German word spoken by a native speaker. If you chose the game version then the picture will turn colorless and you hear a word that you have to find in the picture. This is a fun way to test the memory of your child. It is a good starter for children over ten but then they might get a bit bored because there is not happening enough interesting for them I would say.
The first few slides (pictures) come for free. The complete app with 54 topic pictures costs £ 2.99. The app as a smaller version with 18 topics only cost £ 1.49.
LinguPingu Free German App
LinguPingu Free for Preschoolers
This app, which is similar to Play 2 Learn, is made for even smaller children. When the child taps on one of the objects (for example 'arm' in the topic 'body') the graphics come to life and the child can not only hear the spoken word for the object either in their own language or the chosen language, they will also be entertained by the animation and music. Since small children need a lot of encouragement this app is really made for preschoolers. The app covers the most common topics, suitable for that age (animals, body, nature, farm, apartment, toys, food, clothes and transportation).