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Mobile internet usage has in many countries already surpassed desktop internet usage. This is particularly true among young people who are more likely to learn foreign languages than older generation. Mobile devices enable language learners to use their time more efficiently, e.g. while travelling or waiting at the doctors. There are plenty of mobile apps for learning a German language that can be used with all sorts of portable devices like smartphones, iPods or iPads. Many of these apps are free, though some also have paid pro-versions (for example, pro-versions may sometimes be necessary for downloading data if you wish to work offline).
German-learning mobile apps are particularly suitable for building up vocabulary. Since most language apps are integrated with speech recognition technology that is built into mobile devices, they are ideal for training pronunciation. There are also apps for kids where children can learn a second language simply by playing games. Many apps will also work offline in places with no internet connection.
The latest trend in language app development is the integration of smart AI-technologies (AI stands for artificial intelligence) into the programs to improve personalization, engagement and to offer unlimited conversation practice. The best example of this trend are AI-powered chatbots that not only understand human speech but can also respond very much like humans and so be used to train conversation.
The Best Apps for German Learners
Below is a brief overview of the best mobile apps for learning a German language found today. Some of these apps are available completely free of charge while others offer a free basic version and paid extras that are believed to provide good value for your money. The completely free apps are funded by government agencies and are mainly designed for the needs of immigrants and other foreigners living in Germany but they can be used for free by anybody else, no matter where they live. In contrast, the apps that offer extra content or features through in-app purchases were developed by commercial companies for profit. Sometimes the free version is good enough but more often than not it is necessary to pay for extra features or additional lessons to get the full benefits. Therefore, you should better start with absolutely free apps that are presented first.
Completely Free of Charge
- Einstieg Deutsch was developed by the German Adult Education Association (VHS) as a free beginner’s course for immigrants. You can download the application from App Store or from Google Play, depending on your mobile device. This beginner’s course is available in nine languages and can be also used off-line. Its aim is to help immigrants in Germany find their way in common, everyday situations such as a doctor’s visit, shopping or contacting authorities. Anyone can try this useful free app, not just immigrants. It is also suitable as a phrasebook. But that’s not all there is from VHS. This is just the beginning. There are seven other free apps for German learners covering levels A1-B2 (just click on the tab ‘Apps’ to see them listed).
- Ankommen app was, as its name (“Arrival app” in English) suggests, developed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BMF) for immigrants starting a new life in Germany. However, it can be downloaded for free by anybody else who wants to learn German. It is one of a few absolutely free German-learning apps with no ads that can be used off-line. The application presents a beginner course from the Goethe Institute for self-study with lots of listening, reading and writing exercises. The focus is on building vocabulary needed in everyday situations during the first weeks of the stay in Germany as well as on training pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing skills. The lessons are short and thus more likely to stick in memory. But, this app is more than just a German-learning tool as it also provides valuable information about living, asylum proceedings, training and education as well as work opportunities in Germany. In addition to German, it is available in four other languages including English, French, Arabic and Farsi.
- DeutschTrainer is a free application from the Goethe Institute to help learners of German get ready for German exam A1 by the Goethe-Institute. The course consists of ten chapters dealing with common every day topics to help you train listening, reading and writing skills and practice basic vocabulary. Alternatively, you can follow this link and this one to check out other German training apps from the Goethe Institute which are available at App Store and Google Play.
- The City of Words is a free app from the Goethe Institute (currently being upgraded and thus not available). This is a unique, playful approach to learning German vocabulary and basic grammar structures through multiplayer online games. You will make friends with other German learners playing the game while comparing your language skills with them. This app is suitable for beginners (level A1) and can be played on most smartphones and portable devices (download it either from App Store or Google Play). The game can also be played on the desktop (you will need to install a free unity web player).
- DW Learn German is a free app from Deutsche Welle for beginners up to upper intermediate speakers of the German language (levels A1-B2). The course begins with a placement test. Afterwards you can define your own learning strategy by choosing from video lessons and interactive exercises that best suit your style. There certainly is something for every taste. The quality of learning materials is excellent though the interface may not be everybody’s cup of tea. The app is available for download at Google Play and Apple Store and thus works on any type of mobile device.
- Learn German DeutschAkademie is one of the older German-learning apps in the market, but it still has a lot to offer and is completely free of charge. However, the version for androids is currently being upgraded and is temporarily not available. As they say, it was designed for students who wish to practice German grammar and build up vocabulary always and everywhere. You will never get bored with this app as there are 22,000 grammar and vocabulary training exercises for all ability levels, from beginners to advance German speakers.
Free Basic Version with Paid Extras
- Goethe-Verlag offers courses for beginners (levels A1-A2) that are also available in the form of a mobile application for iPhones and androids called 50 Sprachen. From their website follow the links to the App Store or Google Play to download the application. You can have a free version but it only contains the first 30 lessons for beginners. A complete German course consisting of 100 lessons will cost you $2.99 (an in-app purchase of Deutsch Komplett-Sprachpaket). With this app you should be able to learn basic German vocabulary and sentence structure so that you can make yourself understood in most common everyday situations.
- Memrise is a free language app for iPhones, iPads and androids, which as its name suggests, will in the first place help you memorise new words. In late 2022, an AI-powered chatbot called MemBot was launched. This intelligent chatbot acts like a private tutor helping you practice conversation. At the moment 13 language courses are available including German. This is an effortless and fun way of learning a second language. It is suited mainly for beginners. The lessons are short, filled with common everyday phrases. A paid subscription at $8.99 monthly is available for learners who want access to additional games or wish to download courses to their mobile device for offline use.
- Duolingo offers an easy-to-use free app for learning and practising German that works on iPhones and androids as well as on PCs and Macs. A premium version “Super Duolingo” is available through in-app purchase at $9.99 monthly (or $83.99 annually), if you wish to be able to practice weak skills, have unlimited test-outs, remove ads and download lessons for offline use. Duolingo was among the first language-learning mobile apps to embrace artificial intelligence (AI). It uses AI technology to generate automated feedbacks and to personalize the learning style and offers an AI-chatbot for practicing conversation. Most users agree that Duolingo presents an effective but fun way of learning German with games, answering questions, speaking, chatting and translating. This app supports many languages, so if your native language is not English, you can possibly choose your own.
- Anki is an application that will help boost your German vocabulary using flashcards. This app works on PCs, MACs, iPhones and androids while the original version of this product was intended just for desktops. Therefore, the mobile application is free of charge only for androids. The app for iPhones, iPads and iPods is paid and costs $24.99. Also, please note that Anki mobile application should be used in conjunction with the free computer version of Anki rather than as a stand-alone language course.
- Learn German from Bravolol is yet another free app for smart phones available to those who wish to acquire basic German vocabulary and learn common phrases (about 800 in total). It is primarily intended for beginners and travellers. This app is also suitable for practicing pronunciation and listening skills and can be used off-line. However, the full version of this program costs $4.99.
- PONS Bildwörterbuch App (an “illustrated dictionary” in English) is a useful tool for learning German vocabulary on the go. This app for learning German was developed for refugees coming to Germany but it can be used by anybody else who is at levels A1-C1. The course consists of 13 chapters (i.e., lessons) that include 15,000 German words with pictures, audios and English translations. The first chapter called “People” with about 250 basic German words is available free of charge. The remaining chapters cost EUR 0.99 altogether. This app runs on most smartphones (iPhones, androids, etc.).
- Learn German – Wie Geht’s is an excellent tool for building up vocabulary, learning common phrases and simple grammar rules on the go. It works on iPhones, iPads, iPod touch and Macs and can also be used in offline mode. There is no version for androids, though. The course is ideal for beginners and consists of 96 lessons. However, premium lessons require paid subscription ($2.99). Once you finish this course you should know about 3,000 German words and be able to communicate with German native speakers in most common real-life situations.
- Mosalingua Learn German is an innovative free language learning tool for busy people who want to make the most of their time when studying German. This app is suitable for all portable devices as well as PCs and MACs. Mosalingua German-learning app is a complete course that will help you train all aspects of language development such as vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, listening comprehension and communication. There are ten levels of difficulty while the main focus is on mastering traveller’s language skills. The premium version of the mobile app will cost you $4.99 per month or $57.99 per year while the desktop version only comes as a “premium” paid product.
The above list includes mobile applications that help adult learners develop general German language skills. For mobile apps specifically developed for business German, travellers and children, please visit the respective sections of this website. Also, please do keep in mind that we have not tested all these apps recently and, therefore, you may need to try more than just one to find a product you are looking for. A common problem shared by many apps, free and paid alike, is the lack of support for modern web browsers. On the other hand, as the world changes, product developers respond by adding new functions and features to their apps, which can sometimes make things even worse. Hence, your best bet is to find a mobile app for learning German that has a history of regular upgrades and bug fixes.