Language Learning Resources

I’ve been learning German for a while now and been streaming the process most days. Here are some of the options I’ve found useful for learning the language. Hopefully they’re useful to you as well. Some of these links are affiliate links, but they’re still my honest opinions.

  • Apps & Websites
    • Seedlang – Free with optional paid subscriptions
    • Duolingo – Free with optional paid subscriptions
    • Memrise – Free with paid subscriptions or lifetime memberships
    • Anki – Free and Open Source
    • Lexisrex – Free
    • 6mal5 – Free
  • Your Public Library – Free at the time of use
  • Podcasts, Videos & More
    • Everyday Germany Podcast & YouTube Channel– Free
    • Easy Languages – (Easy German, Easy English, etc) – Free with optional paid subscriptions
    • The Expat Cast & The Germany Experience Podcasts – Free
    • Slow German Podcast & YouTube Channel – Free
    • Deutsche Welle Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten Podcast – Free
    • Deutsche Welle Nicos Weg – Free

Apps & Websites

Seedlang – Free with optional paid subscriptions

Seedlang is a newer online learning tool, with web and app versions. I have been using Seedlang for a few weeks and really enjoyed the way it shows you real people speaking the languages it supports. Which are unfortunately only German, French, and Spanish.

The videos in Seedlang are typically from the Easy Languages people, which is very fun if you enjoy their work. To me it makes a real difference to answer a Seedlang trivia question incorrectly and disappoint Cari from Easy German versus a text to speech voice from Duolingo.

Unlike some of other other options, Seedlang really seems to require the subscription to get much out of it, but so far I believe Seedlang does at least as good a job for German as the other options, if not better since you are hearing real voices and seeing real faces speak the language. At a time when more companies are hopping on the AI baloney bandwagon, hearing from actual humans is a delight. The price for a year is $60 USD or there are monthly and trimonthly options with slightly discounted rates if you are a member of the Easy German Patreon.

Duolingo – Free with optional paid subscriptions

Duolingo is the OG of “gamified” online learning at your own pace. I’ve been using it on and off for over a decade, and many people use it as their first or only language learning tool. It supports more than 40 languages.

Duolingo is available on the web and with apps on iOS and Android. The Duolingo app for iOS tends to have the most features and up-to-date experience. You’re essentially doing the same translation tasks on all three versions to learn languages with cute animated cartoon people and animals speaking your target language using Duolingo’s text-to-speech engine. The tasks are straightforward variations on translating to or from your target language with just text, text and spoken dialog, or just spoken dialog along Duolingo’s learning path for your target language. The quality of the instruction may vary greatly depending on which language you are learning.

Occasionally, Duolingo also has scripted stories about their characters for you to follow, which are usually trying to be funny and more often than not they succeed.

The text-to-speech synthesis in Duolingo has improved a lot over the past decade, but it still isn’t perfect and hearing different human voices, attached to real human faces moving, could be critical to becoming fluent.

Duolingo is extremely pushy with their Super Duolingo subscription service and streaks which is entirely antithetical to their motto of “free. fun. effective.” Super Duolingo removes ads, gives you a monthly streak repair and unlimited hearts, lets you review your mistakes, and gives you access to “Unlimited Legendary” which is their legendary levels of learning without paying the gems that you collect by learning.

The free version of Duolingo is a good way to check out what it can do, but Duolingo uses hearts that you lose by making mistakes while learning and other roadblocks to entice you to subscribe to Super Duolingo. Making mistakes is essential to learning, and punishing people for making mistakes is a bad idea.

Maintaining a daily learning streak in Duolingo can also be challenging if you don’t pay up for Super Duolingo and Duolingo is very focused on those streaks. I believe that streaks can be good for some people to keep learning, but streaks can also be an enormous barrier to progress when they’re lost. Failure for a streak becomes an enormous roadblock to continuing the learning process.

It has taken me getting and losing multiple long streaks before I’ve built up my current streak of over a thousand days in Duolingo. I don’t believe that focusing on streaks is the healthiest way to learn for everyone and losing a streak shouldn’t be a barrier to resuming learning.

Duolingo also has online competitive leaderboards which you can opt out of by setting your profile to private. I enjoy the leaderboard competition, but it may push some users away.

A Super Duolingo family plan for up to six members exists so the cost can be shared across a group of family and friends, but then you’re the jerk hitting everyone up for their language money which can be a hassle.

Duolingo really wants you to believe that subscribing to Super Duolingo helps the company provide free language learning resources to millions of people and they’re right. Learning should be free without burdensome subscriptions, it’s a shame that Duolingo is a for-profit company that can’t focus on providing the best free product they can.

Duolingo is publicly traded and venture capital funded, which means its mission is extremely corrupted by profit-seeking.

Memrise – Free with paid subscriptions or lifetime memberships

Memrise is a lot like Duolingo. It has gamified language learning and made it available in different versions for iOS, Android, and the web.

Unlike Duolingo, Memrise has videos of real people speaking some of the languages it supports. Memrise calls this feature “Learn with Locals” and it is fantastic. You’ll watch a human speak and then answer a quick multiple-choice quiz or type in what they’ve said. Memrise also has a TikTok esque mode called Immerse that plays short videos with subtitles that can flip flop between your current language and your target language. Hearing my target language, German, spoken by real humans who have different speech patterns, is great.

One issue I’ve noticed with Memrise is that the volume in the German course varies wildly. This process is called audio normalization, but it doesn’t appear to have been done to Memrise at all. The Text-to-Speech engine memrise uses can vary wildly between a quieter sound and a very loud sound, as can the videos that are on the service. This may not be a big issue for some people, and may not be an issue with some target languages on Memrise, but it is a problem for me.

Because Memrise has lifetime subscription options, I was able to pay once and then never have to pay again for access to all of the features on the website and in the apps. Good deal.

Memrise is venture capital funded which means its mission is extremely corrupted by profit-seeking.

Anki – Free and Open Source

Anki is a free and open source flash card program focused on repetition for learning anything. The quality of the learning is entirely dependent on the flashcard decks you have access to, but as an entirely free tool it is a great option to augment the other tools.

Because Anki itself is truly free, it does not preclude someone from making paid apps and services around it, but I only use the free desktop and mobile apps.

Lexis Rex – Free with paid subscription options

Lexis Rex has a number of free online foreign language games, and the website feels a little old, but the crosswords are fun. Some of the games may start from British English clues instead of American English, and a few of the words for the German crossword at least are not in common usage in Germany today.

Lexis Rex offers an $8 per year ad-free option, and supposedly other options but I’m not even able to get that to work.

6mal5 & other Wordle Clones – Free

6mal5 is a clone of Josh Wardle’s Wordle in German, with an interesting library of words that sometimes includes English loanwords. There are other clones in many target languages including Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, French, Finnish, Portuguese, and more.

Your Public Library – Free

Some libraries have free books in your target language and other free resources or online options. Through Libby I can borrow books in my target language and even comics. Highly recommended. Support your library by using their services. WorldCat.org can help you find your local library.

Libraries are typically funded by taxes. Tax the rich.

Podcasts, Videos & More

Easy Languages (Easy German, Easy English, etc) – Free

Easy German is an invaluable YouTube channel with free language learning with entirely wonderful people hosting and chatting with the public about different language learning scenarios. Playlists group their lessons by type and skill level.

The Easy German Podcast is very fun and a great way to hear natural conversational German.

They also have other channels and resources focused on other languages. Find the entire group of Easy Languages here.

Easy Languages run various Patreons and other methods of obtaining funding from the public.

Everyday Germany Podcast & YouTube Channel– Free

This podcast is hosted by Nina & Shaun who you’ll know from The Germany Experience and other related cultural podcasts, except it’s their latest one. Lots of good information and fun and the episodes are mostly in English.

Nina & Shaun also hosted Die Deutsche und der Ausländer, another great podcast that has ended but was entirely spoken in German.

The Expat Cast & The Germany Experience Podcasts – Free

These podcasts focus on the cultural aspects of migrants moving to Germany specifically and are very enjoyable. Sometimes they also interview repeat migrants and those who are leaving to talk about the challenges of migrating which is extremely valuable.

The Expat Cast is hosted by Nicole, and Shaun hosts The Germany Experience. Both have a slightly different beat but they’re also friends and appear on each other’s shows so they got grouped together.

As of November 2023, The Expat Cast has wrapped up as the host, Nicole, moved to Paraguay but there is still plenty to hear in both podcasts.

Slow German Podcast & YouTube Channel – Free

Slow German is a terrific podcast with very slowly read German audio that is perfect for a more intermediate to advanced learner trying to just cram as much possible audio into their learning process though there are also some episodes for “absolute beginners.”

Annik Rubens does a terrific job hosting. The YouTube channel has much of the same content but organized into playlists that can be helpful but those are also accessible from the Slow German website.

Like the Easy Languages products, Slow German has various public funding methods.

Deutsche Welle Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten Podcast – Free

Deutsche Welle (DW) is going to come up a lot, they have a ton of content for learning German, but this is where I recommend starting if you’re interested in another podcast. The Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten program is another slowly read podcast that covers the news. This has the additional challenge that the news isn’t entertaining and can be less fun, but it is an excellent resource for hearing detailed journalistic language.

Deutsche Welle is a public company under the thumb of the German state.

Deutsche Welle Nicos Weg – Free

Nicos Weg is another Deutsche Welle product, but this time it is a comprehensive video series available both on dw.com with interactive quizzes and more, and on YouTube as a show to watch. The video series is a soap-like drama covering the experiences of Nico moving to Germany and learning the language along with the viewer. This video from DW explains the show:

Deutsche Welle is a public company under the thumb of the German state.