Learn German online – RosettaStone, Babbel or Duolingo?

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Have you ever tried learning German online? No? Well, then it’s high time!

I personally think the following: Online resources are a perfect addition to your normal language course. It may be hard to become fluent in German only by using online courses and apps – without having an online tutor or a real teacher. But apps like Babbel or Duolingo definitely help you improve on your vocab. Plus they are fun.

I have compared the famous RosettaStone software, Babbel and Duolingo. Which of them is best for learning a new language like German? They are all very different in their pricing structure. RosettaStone is the most expensive one. Babbel is relatively cheap, and Duolingo is for free.

So – which one is the best?

Having tried all three softwares / apps for learning German, I have summarised their advantages and disadvantages. Obviously these are my personal views. My conclusion is the following: none of them is ‘the best’ way to learn German online. Rather, they are all good for different types of learners. Read my review below to find out more about each of these learning devices.

#1 RosettaStone – great for intuitive learners!

My personal recommendation is that you use Rosetta Stone if you are an intuitive learner:

What kind of a learner should use RosettaStone?

You don’t care much about grammar. You learn by doing. You’re not really interested in learning about the inner logic of a language. You don’t like to learn word endings. You don’t like paying attention to detail.

What is most important to you is being able to speak as soon as possible. You want to be able to communicate. You want to learn as many words as possible in a short amount of time. You don’t care if you make a few mistakes, as long as your communication partner understands you.

If most of these sentences apply to you, then I recommend you start learning German with the Rosetta Stone Software.

Obviously you will quickly realise that it is quite a financial investment.

But believe me. If you are an intuitive learner, then this is such a fast and simple way to pick up German.

The good thing about it is – as is with all online course – the flexibility.

If you feel like spending the whole weekend learning German, then go for it. Or if you only have fifteen minutes every evening, after you’re tired from work: no problem!

My conclusion on using RosettaStone for learning German:

+ Focus on speaking
+ Focus on learning words
+ For intuitive learners
+ Go in your own pace
+ high quality – used for decades by companies all over the world

– costly (starting at roughly 170 Euros for 6 months)
– maybe not suitable for those looking for lots of rules, explanations and grammar

#2 Babbel – Who knew learning German could be fun?!

First of all let me explain shortly: What is Babbel?

Babbel is a software and an app that can be used for learning up to 12 languages. One of the first languages available on Babbel was German.

Babbel is a project financed by the European Commission. Its aim is to facilitate understanding and communication within Europe.

So how is Babbel different from other online language learning software?

I personally think that Babbel is fun. It is true. It reminds me a little of those games I used to play as a child, where the goal was to practice maths, but the little quizzes and challenges didn’t make it feel like work at all. Studying and learning becomes effortless. Babbel is just like that. You are led through different levels. You have little games and incentives.

There are some visual chapters, which help you associate words with photos. Sometimes, you have to fill in gaps by typing German words. Sometimes you have to pronounce words. For this, the company hired a specialist that would implement a voice recognition software, which would detect major pronunciation mistakes. Quite cool. Obviously, it’s not the same like having a real German teacher.

But I don’t think you should ever expect an online learning software to replace a teacher. I think Babbel is a perfect addition to a real teacher, or a private lesson with a friend or tutor. I think Babbel is particularly great for absolute beginners. The grammar explanations are so easy to understand – I am yet to find German language books that use such simple explanations. So that’s a big plus. I also like that it generally gives you great inside tipps, ways of memorising words and grammar rules.

So for whom is Babbel then?

I think Babbel is first and foremost a fun app. You can’t expect to make big advances in German, if you only use Babbel and no other way of learning German. But it is amazing, if you use it in ADDITION to a language course. You can do it for a few minutes each day and you’ll notice that you quickly learn some new words.

Do you have to pay for Babbel?

Yes. The trial version is for free. So I recommend you seeing for yourself if you like it. If you would like to have access to all language levels, then you can subscribe to Babbel on a monthly / yearly basis. The longer you subscribe, the cheaper it becomes.

How do I cancel a Babbel subscription?

Easy. Just login to your iTunes account on your computer. Then go to settings, subscriptions. Click on Babbel and click on “end subscription”.

How does Babbel work? Can I choose English as the main language?

Yes you can! If you want to learn German through Babbel, do the following.

1. Click on the link below.
2. Choose ‘Deutsch’, if you want to learn German. (It says: “Welche Sprache möchtest du lernen”, which language do you want to learn?).
3. Choose ‘English’, if you want English to be the main language for the app. (It says ‘Um mit Babbel Deutsch zu lernen, wähle zwischen den folgenden Ausgangssprachen”, if you want to learn German with Babbel, choose your main language for the settings).
4. Choose your language level: ‘beginner’ or ‘advanced’.
5. Start.

You can learn various languages with Babbel. Note that your subscription does not give you access to all languages. It is limited to one language only.

My view on Babbel:

4/5 Stars

+ this is fun
+ super easy explanations for complex grammar rules
+ learn new words quickly
+ cheap

– you won’t master German with Babbel alone

#3 Duolingo – the free way of learning German online!

Well first of all, the major difference between the two is that Duolingo is entirely for free. But that’s not the only difference. Duolingo also focuses a lot more on learning with pictures.

What do I think about it?

What came to my mind first, was that this is perfect for kids! I mean Rosetta Stone also works a lot with visual stuff. But at least it provides some explanations and texts.

Duolingo feels like a puzzle, where you only learn with images. I personally like to have some sort of explanations, and some variation in the style that I learn a language.

So I thought it was a little one-sided for an adult learner. But then again it is a free software, so I feel you can’t really complain.

Who should use Duolingo?

I personally think, Duolingo is great for two sorts of people.

Firstly, I recommend it for children that want to brush up on their German, or want to get a feeling for German words. I am absolutely sure that they would love it.

Secondly, I think Duolingo is good for those that want to have a mobile German app that is for free. If you cannot afford Babbel, then you should definitely go for Duolingo.

My conclusion:

3/5 Stars Duolingo for German*

+ for visual learners
+ it’s completely free
+ great for kids
+ great for complete beginners

–  not suitable for learning German properly
–  not great with grammar
–  too many pictures for adult learners

* I think Duolingo is great for languages that are easier than German. But the German language requires quite a lot of explanations. For other languages like English or Spanish I would give 4/4 stars!

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