If you’re thinking about learning German, then it stands a chance you’ve come across Duolingo’s German course.
Known for its harsh sounds and crazy long words, it’s spoken by around 130 million people as either their mother tongue or second language.
I spent several years learning German at school and I’ve poured a fair few hours into Duolingo’s German course, so I’ve come to know it pretty well.
The course has improved A TON over the years, to the point that it’s now probably one of Duolingo’s best!
So does that mean Duolingo is good for learning German?
Well, in this article, I’ll give you all the need-to-know details, including:
- How Duolingo’s German course is structured
- Whether Duolingo’s German course has any special features
- Other features you need to be aware of
- The pros of Duolingo’s German course
- The cons of Duolingo’s German course
Shall we get to it?
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What you’ll find in Duolingo’s German course
If you’re new to Duolingo, then it’s worth pointing out that all of Duolingo’s courses are structured in pretty much the same way.
They all follow what is commonly referred to as the lesson tree.
The tree is broken up into a set of units…
Each unit has a set of skills…
Each skill has up to 6 crown levels…
And each crown level has a set of lessons…
The basic goal is to work through the tree by completing every lesson… in every level… in every skill… in every unit.
As of April 2022, Duolingo’s German course has a total of 9 units, broken down into a total of 160 skills. That means there are 800 crown levels in Duolingo’s German course (or 960 if you include the legendary levels).
The German course also has a couple of bonus skills you can buy from the Duolingo Shop. These focus on idioms and flirting.
The exercises in the German course are basically the same as in all the other courses. Some of the common exercises you’ll come across include:
- Complete the translation
- Mark the correct meaning
- Picture flashcards
- Select the missing word
- Sentence shuffle
- Speak this sentence
- Tap the pairs (standard and audio)
- Tap what you hear
- Fill in the blanks
Does Duolingo’s German course have any special features?
Although English speakers can learn nearly 40 different languages on Duolingo, it’s important to point out that not all of the courses are created equally.
Some courses have special features that others don’t.
As of April 2022, Duolingo’s German course has 187 stories, but doesn’t have audio lessons or podcasts.
Duolingo’s German stories are designed to improve your reading, listening and speaking. They’re entirely in German and most of them are only a few minutes long at most.
They’re written for learners of all levels and come with the usual hints you find in the normal lessons. So once you’ve earnt enough crowns to unlock the first set, you can feel free to jump in whenever you feel ready.
Every now and then you’ll have to answer a question to make sure you understand what’s going on, which is a great way to measure where you’re at with your comprehension.
The conversation mode is pretty useful as well, as it gets you to take on the role of one of the characters in the story.
So this is a great opportunity to start speaking some German — regardless of what level you are!
If you want to speak German FAST then you should definitely check out this book on Amazon. Benny’s ‘language hacking’ strategy is an absolute game-changer!
Other features in Duolingo’s German course
Duolingo’s German course is built on the same stuff as all of Duolingo’s other language courses.
We won’t go into too much detail here, but some of the features worth knowing about include:
- XP – As you work through the Duolingo German course, you’ll earn experience points, which are more commonly known as XP. You’ll earn XP for pretty much everything you do. Some lessons, tasks and exercises will earn you more XP than others.
- Leagues – Every week you’ll be entered into a league with other Duolingo learners. There are 10 leagues to work through, starting at Bronze and ending at Diamond. The leagues are basically leaderboards — simply earn more XP than others in your league to have a chance of winning.
- Gems – XP and crowns aren’t the only things you’ll earn as you learn German. You’ll also earn gems, which you can spend in the Duolingo Shop. There isn’t really much you can buy here, but you can use your gems to pick up things like Streak Freezes, bonus skills, Timer Boosts for timed challenges, and some costumes for the owl.
- Friends – Duolingo is a social experience, so you’re able to follow other users and compare your progress. The guys at Duolingo reckon you’re 5 times more likely to finish your course if you follow people! To get you started, feel free to give me a follow — my username is DCiiieee!
- Duolingo Plus – This is Duolingo’s premium membership. Pay for Plus and you’ll get access to some useful features, including unlimited hearts, no ads and Practice Hub.
Is Duolingo good for learning German?
Now it’s time for the main event:
Is Duolingo good for learning German?
To answer this, let’s weigh up some of the pros and cons.
Learning a new language can be pretty intimidating, especially if you only speak the one language.
This is why one of the nicest things about Duolingo is just how accessible and welcoming it is.
Regardless of the language you’re learning, Duolingo presents its courses in a really warm, vibrant and inclusive way. So whether this is your second language or your tenth, you can feel at ease straight away!
This is just as well for the German course. Although German isn’t anywhere near as difficult to learn as some of the Slavic or Asian languages, it certainly isn’t as straightforward as some of its European cousins, like Dutch or Italian.
Things like sentence structure, conjugations and cases (just to name a few) can be really difficult to get your head around.
Sometimes no matter how hard you study, some of it just never makes sense!
However, Duolingo makes getting started with German a lot easier, thanks not only to its fun and friendly design, but also thanks to its bespoke tip sections, stories, lesson variety, and structure.
Duolingo’s German course also comes with the usual placement test when you first start, so you can rest assured you’ll start your tree from a place you find comfortable.
Duolingo’s German course has received a lot of updates over the years, to the point that it’s up there with French and Spanish as one of Duolingo’s best courses.
With a whopping 9 units of German skills and lessons, the German tree is easily one of Duolingo’s biggest.
This will take you A LONG TIME to work through. And that’s a good thing!
Some of Duolingo’s courses are really short, so you can breeze through them pretty quickly but not come away feeling as though you’ve learnt much.
But rest assured, you’re unlikely to experience this with the German course. Not only is it jampacked with vocabulary, each skill comes with a bespoke tip section to help you get your head around the tricky aspects of German grammar.
Duolingo have also totally redone the voices of a lot of their characters, making them sound alive and engaging.
This is one of Duolingo’s standout features and it’s only available in a few of its courses.
Fortunately, German is one of them!
Duolingo’s German stories are genuinely some of the best on the app.
The library’s absolutely HUGE, with over 180 stories to work through. These will keep you occupied for ages!
And unlike the stories in some of Duolingo’s other courses, the voices sound totally authentic and engaging.
They’re also hilarious — definitely one of their biggest selling points if you ask me!
This doesn’t just go for Duolingo’s German course, it’s the same for ALL of them!
One of the best things about Duolingo is that it’s more than just a language learning tool.
It’s also a game. And although this isn’t to everyone’s liking, it’s a big part of why so many people show up every day to do their daily lessons.
For everything you do in German, you’ll earn XP, which contributes towards your position in the weekly leagues.
Now this isn’t something you should take too seriously (you can read more about why here) but if you take it lightly it’ll definitely make your German a lot more enjoyable.
Because ultimately, the more you enjoy something, the more likely you are to do it. And given learning German will require you to show up regularly for a very long time, Duolingo could be the perfect solution.
Another great thing about Duolingo is that the German course is 100% free.
There is a premium subscription — Duolingo Plus — but this isn’t something you need in order to complete the course. The whole thing is completely free; Plus just adds a few features that make things a bit smoother.
This is great if you’re just dabbling with German and aren’t ready to commit just yet. But also if you’re keen to get started with the language but don’t want to fork out on special software or tuition.
I take it you’ve seen the owl memes?
Yes, the owl can be *a bit* of a stalker at times, pestering you at all hours to do your daily German lessons!
But relax, contrary to popular belief, he’s not gonna kidnap your family anytime soon!
Jokes aside, Duolingo is brilliant for keeping you motivated.
Learning German takes time. It’s not something you’re going to pick up overnight.
According to the US Foreign Service Institute, it takes roughly 900 “class hours” to reach “Professional Working Proficiency” in German.
So yeah, if you’re going to learn German, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul!
That means creating an unbreakable habit. And Duolingo’s amazing for doing that.
Put it this way — my current streak (i.e. the number of days in a row I’ve used Duolingo) goes all the way back to May 2016.
And that’s not just because I’m a bit obsessive! It’s thanks to Duolingo being such a great way of keeping me motivated!
Not great for speaking
This is the case for most of Duolingo’s language courses.
Duolingo is brilliant for getting to grips with the listening and reading side of a language. You even get opportunities to practice your pronunciation.
But when it comes to speaking in a real-life scenario, Duolingo’s German course won’t get you there by itself.
The problem is the speaking exercises aren’t conversation exercises. You get a little bit of practice in the conversation mode on the stories, but this just involves reciting what the characters say. You don’t actually come up with your own responses.
Speaking is a skill in its own right and to learn it you’ll need to practice it regularly, ideally with a native speaker, or at the very least using a program that has conversation scenarios (such as GermanPod101).
If you’ve read any of my other articles then you’ll know one of the things I dislike most about Duolingo at the moment is the heart system.
Hearts are basically lives or chances. You start off with 5 then lose one every time you make a mistake.
If you lose all your hearts then you’re not allowed to progress through your course until your hearts replenish.
You can either watch an ad to get one back, do a practice session, spend some gems or wait 5 hours.
It’s far from ideal as it does the unhelpful thing of punishing you for making mistakes.
Which, as far as I’m concerned, is ridiculous as mistakes are absolutely essential and unavoidable when learning a language.
Whether you’re a total beginner or you’re looking to brush up, Duolingo’s German course is definitely one of the best options currently available.
The course is now hitting the same heights as the French and Spanish courses — which Duolingo reckon can get you to a B2 level on the CEFR.
You’ll learn the most important aspects of the language, get to grips with the pronunciation, pick up a nice chunk of useful vocabulary, and see the language in action in over 180 mini-stories.
You’ll also have a blast working through the course as you compete in the weekly leagues and alongside your friends!
By the end of the course, you’ll definitely be more advanced than when you started.
However, if you want to reach fluency, you can’t just rely on Duolingo alone.
A good tool to use — either alongside Duolingo or after you’ve completed the course — is GermanPod101.
GermanPod and Duolingo complement each other beautifully, as they both target areas that the other misses. Duolingo is great for reading and typing things out, whereas GermanPod is brilliant for improving your listening and speaking.
With GermanPod you’ll also get essential resources like grammar packs, cultural insights, and learn the 2,000 most common German words — so by the end of the course, you should be able to understand as much as 80% of all German conversations.
if you’re new to German…
I’d highly recommend taking Duolingo’s placement test, figuring out what level you’re at, and then working through the first couple of units of the tree. This will get you familiar with the basics of German.
At the same time, I’d recommend taking advantage of GermanPod’s free trial to get familiar with how the language sounds, pick up some useful phrases and cultural insights, and practice speaking as soon as possible.
Once you’ve worked your way through the Duolingo course, I’d recommend coming back to it daily to keep the streak alive (habit is SO important when learning a language) and start to move through the intermediate to advanced packs on GermanPod.
Finally, make sure you’re getting enough passive exposure to German as well. It’s really important to experience the language in an authentic environment — so things like TV shows, music, books, real-life conversations — so you can see how everything you learn on Duolingo and GermanPod works in the real world.