If you are planning on travelling to Germany for an extended period of time (i.e. for grad school and fest contract auditions), you probably know that you must be somewhat proficient in German! This can be daunting if you are attempting to learn German yourself without the help of a school program. Have no fear! It is not impossible! Nor is it expensive! Here are a bunch of ways to teach yourself German without taking an expensive university course.
My favorite German language learning app by far is Duolingo. The app has several language learning options and is extremely user friendly. Not to mention, it is completely FREE. Duolingo takes you through a series of levels of words to learn. It’s almost like playing a game on your phone. Yes, I may be a nerd, but I promise it’s actually fun for normal people and quite addicting. You can even challenge your friends by completing more levels than them per week. The exercises in each level include speaking, typing what you hear, translating, and word matching. There is also a website version that includes in-depth lessons about German grammar. And unlike other apps, if you haven’t worked on a level in a while, it will start to lose “strength” in its strength bar, meaning you have to go touch it up! This insures that you never forget anything that you have already learned.
Duolingo also now has two new features - Bots and Clubs. In Bots, you can have a simulated text conversation with a robot. It’s like texting your work partner from German class! Only the app is always right… Clubs connect you with friends, family, and strangers to form your own virtual German language club. (You could even create your own club of German-learning singer friends, nudge nudge.) This way, you can hold each other accountable and compete as a team.
Along with Duolingo, there is a partner app called TinyCards. Tinycards has similar topics to Duolingo, except the topics are in flashcard form. Instead of writing down your vocabulary to memorize on bulky flashcards, you can access pre-made, categorized cards on your phone.
Similar to Duolingo, Mango Languages is an online and app centered language program. It is free to use and also has a connection with most libraries! It’s activities offer cultural information, memory building exercises, interactive phrases, and pronunciation help. (Goodness knows we all need some help with our German diction…)
Babbel is both an app and an online program. After creating an account, parts of the site are free. Unfortunately, to have full access to the site, you must purchase a 1, 3, 6, or 12 month subscription. They do have specialized courses, such as Business German, which teaches you how to write a professional email in German or practice interviewing. It also does a nice job of teaching culturally important information about Germany. Not every app does that!
German for Dummies!
Always a classic way to learn anything, the Dummies book series is excellent. Fortunately, the Dummies series has several different books about learning German. If your plan is to lock yourself in your room until you learn German, you can even buy the All-in-One version for cheaper than buying all the books separately. It contains German For Dummies, German Audio Set For Dummies, German Phrases For Dummies, Intermediate German For Dummies, and German Essentials For Dummies. The best part is the writing is pretty snarky so it’s easy for a dummy to remember - must be why I like it.
Der Die Das
Der Die Das is a phone app that serves almost like a German dictionary. Just type the German word you want to use and it will tell you not only the definition, but also which article to use - der, die, or das! This can be especially helpful for beginners who haven’t gotten those tricky feminine/masculine/neutral articles down.
Rosetta Stone is one of the most popular ways to pick up a new language on your own time. The German version comes in 5 levels. As the program has always been, you can download the levels for a price. If you are a student, this is a pretty pricey option, though it is reputable. However, the new and improved Rosetta Stone has an alternate option. You can instead subscribe to their website with a 3, 6, 12, or 24 months plan. This subscription includes a digital phrasebook, audio companion, native accent trainer, live tutor, and more. Plus, you can now access Rosetta Stone across all your devices! Pretty nifty!
Back in college, I decided to take French for my language class. In researching my professor and the class the summer before Fall semester, I learned that she was a tough prof and the class was extremely difficult. Well, I was not about to need to take French twice to pass. So, I trekked over to my local library and checked out children’s French-English dictionaries. I took out a sharpie and wrote out labels on painters tape of everything I could find in the house. I then stuck those labels everywhere so that every time I used or saw an object, I was reminded of the french name. When I got to French class, I was way ahead of the game with my vocabulary. Years later, my parents are still finding little random painters tape labels.... But you can do the same with German! It’s an easy way to learn everyday vocab without much effort.
Deutsche Welle (DW) is Germany’s public international broadcaster. DW’s main goals are to offer reliable news articles and access to the German language. Although it’s focus is on German and European news, the site does list valuable information about Germany and German language classes. They pride themselves in reaching out to vast international audiences in 30 languages! The best part is, there’s an app for that! Just like other US news programs, DW also has a mobile app for users to easily access German news articles from wherever you are.
They say the best and quickest way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in it. Okay, so maybe you don’t want to just up and move to Germany without knowing a single word of the language. But, you can ‘immerse’ yourself in other smaller ways. Do you know a friend who speaks German? Take them out to coffee once a week and agree to ONLY speak in German. Is there a German speaking club or meet-up in a city close to you? Go! Test out your German! Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself a bit. You’re going to mess up. But hey, nobody is judging you. If anything, German speakers will be appreciative that you are trying to learn their language.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of every German-learning app. There are oodles and oodles of language learning programs out there! Do you have a favorite that we haven’t listed? Please let us know! Do you want to learn German? Are you and your friends trying to quickly master it for a study abroad trip? Are you about to embark on a tour of auditions in Germany? If so, share our blog and your own tips for learning German! And for more information on everything Germany, keep following the blog!
By the way, GVAI's summer opera program the Magic Flute just started yesterday. The singers are doing a great job in figuring out how to distinguish open and closed German vowel sounds. It needs a good ear and patience, and of course, the help of a German native, if possible.
Everything is easier, if you have fun in what you do. See here the three ladies and stage director Erich Parce fighting to get Tamino.
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