The Best Dictionary for German Learners

From paper dictionaries to smartphone apps, there are plenty of options

German Autobahn Trafficsign

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A good dictionary is an essential tool for any language learner, from beginner to advanced. But not all German dictionaries are created equal. From hardcover dictionaries to online programs to mobile apps, here are some of the best tools for German learners.

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Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary (Hardcover)

This is a dictionary for serious users. With over 500,000 entries, the Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary will meet the needs of advanced students, business professionals, translators and anyone else who requires a comprehensive dual-language dictionary. Extra features include grammar and usage guides.

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Collins German Dictionary (Hardcover)

Like the Oxford-Duden, the Collins is also a dictionary for serious users. It offers over 500,000 entries and meets the needs of those who require a comprehensive German-English/English-German dictionary, along with similar extra features. 

Collins also has an excellent smartphone app for practicing vocabulary words, which includes a filter that allows you to search for words you may not know how to spell correctly. 

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Cambridge Klett Comprehensive German Dictionary (Hardcover)

The Klett has been updated with the reformed German spelling, making it a top candidate. This 2003 edition is now the most up-to-date German-English dictionary you can buy. With its 350,000 words and phrases together with 560,000 translations, advanced students and translators will find everything they need for their studies or work. The up-to-date vocabulary includes thousands of new words from computing, the Internet, and pop culture.

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Linguee (Online)

Linguee provides “real life” samples of the word from internet texts. It also gives you a quick overview of possible translations and their German genders. Click on the speaker buttons and you’ll hear a natural-sounding sample of that word in German. Linguee also offers smartphone apps for iPhone and Android. 

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Google Translate (Online)

Google Translate is usually the first destination for new language learners and translators. While it should not be your main source of information, it can provide you with a quick translated overview of a lengthy foreign text. If you use the app on your smartphone or tablet, you can even say the word aloud or handwrite it and Google will find what you are looking for.  

The killer feature is the integrated instant photo-translator.

Tap on the camera button in the app, hold the camera over a text, and the app will show you the translation live on your phone’s screen. Take a picture of a text and you’ll be able to swipe over a word or sentence to have Google translate that passage.

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Dict.cc (Online)

A​lthough not the prettiest online translation site, you can customize Dict.cc for your personal preferences, and much of its content is available for offline use. Its smartphone app is a must-have for non-native German speakers traveling through German-speaking areas. 

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Duolingo (App)

This popular app has dozens of languages and can be a shortcut to learning key phrases in a foreign tongue. It may not be the best app for students looking to learn grammar and in-depth skills, but it will most certainly help you get up to speed relatively quickly for that trip to Germany.

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Memrise (App)

Memrise's content is user-generated, and it relies on native speakers to help bolster instruction of proper pronunciation. The premium version has a monthly fee, but it is worthwhile for the serious language student.