Review of the Day – “Trill”

Hello everyone,

first, sorry for taking so long with the article this week. I had a bad sinusitis and I couldn’t focus on anything for a few days.
Second, today I’m actually really really EXCITED because I get to tell you about a new language learning app.
Now, there are like millions of language learning apps and tools out there and most of them are kind of boring. Like… sometimes when I can’t sleep, I go to Google Play store and look at language learning apps.

“… new, fun way of learning German…”
“… learn German in an efficient, fun way… “
“… latest language learning research combined with lots of fun…”
“… we’ve developed the SRS-method.. .” 

Usually, when I read “SRS, spaced repetition system”, I am gone.
So a few weeks ago when I got an email if I want to c
heck out this new app, I was thinking like “Sure, let me get my pillow.” But then, when I read what the app was, I got hyper uber mega excited. Like…. I think, I even felt an upward twitch at the corner of my mouth. And I’m a German, so that means something.
So I’m really excited to tell you about it and hear your thoughts. Ladies and gents, get ready for a glimpse at the future of language learning…


Trill – what is it

The idea of Trill is as simple as it is great: location based language learning. Or in other more practical terms:

You move around the city, and the app gives you sentences that are connected to where you are and what you’re seeing.

Like… you’re walking down a street with the app open and your headphones in. and every now and then, the app would read a sentence to you. Like…

“In diesem Museum ist eine Austellung über die DDR.”

“Am Sonntag ist auf diesem Platz ein großer Flohmarkt.”

“In diesem Haus hat David Bowie gewohnt.”

“In diesem Haus war deine Freundin gestern Nacht,
als du dachtest, sie ist bei ihrer Schwester.”

Okay… not the last one. That’s gonna be a few more years. Actually, I’m not sure I want that ever.
Anyway, so yeah.. the idea is that you get bits of spoken German that is DIRECTLY connected to where you are and what you see. Simple but pretty damn amazing, if it’s implemented the right way.

Now, the app is at a very early stage and is run by a small enthusiastic team in Berlin. It’s only available for iOS and, so far, only has material for Berlin.
I should say “only” in quotes, because for this early stage and compared to lots of other apps, they have quite something to offer already.
There are 5 “packages”, covering 5 of the most common areas in Berlin, and there are about 1.000 sentences in the app. That’s pretty cool actually, when you consider that each sentence is tailor-made by someone who is not only a native speaker but ALSO has teaching experience. So they’re idiomatic and digestible for the learner. And on top of that, they also gives you interesting insights into the city.

The layout is pretty neat and simple. Here’s a couple of screen shots.

You see a map of where you are and a number of pins. Each pin is a sentence. When the app is running and get into a certain distance of a pin, you’ll hear the sentence read out. The audio is synthesized speech, which is of course not ideal, but I have to say the quality is fairly decent.  and the screen shows a transcript and the key words and phrases.
But you can also listen to pins/sentences, even if you’re NOT near it, so you can actually use Trill as a sort of tourist guide to help you find spots you’re interested in seeing. That’s actually pretty cool, when you think about it – a tour guide who is teaching you German.

Now, there’s not much you can do beyond listening to the sentences and their parts. As I said, it’s at a very early stage.
But the potential is HUGE.

Trill – why I am so excited about it

You see, there are loads of language learning apps  coming out but what they all have in common is that they’re not innovating. All they do is rehash old ideas. I mean… it’s freaking 2017 and still, apps talk about their implementation of the SRS-method (spaced repetition vocabulary memorization routine) as if it was the newest, hottest shit around. It is NOT. This is decades old and I can do SRS with a box and paper.

Trill is different in that it is actually something new and innovative, that makes use of the new technologies that are there. And from a learner’s perspective, the idea is just great.

You get sentences in context at a time when they really fit and that also are a kind of tourist guide.

I mean come on… that’s amazing. And there’s SOOO much you can do with an app based on that premise. Just imagine what you could work into this…

– a personal vocab notebook to save new words you’ve learned (they’re working on that)
– vocab memory games you can play right after your walk,
– grammar tags for the sentences with a quick reference for it, so you can look up stuff,
– a discussion thread for each sentence, so you can clear up questions and discuss,
– layered difficulties so you can visit the same location several times and get a more complicated sentence each time,
– walking tours designed by locals taking you to all the cool, hip places all the while teaching you German….
– preping you on how to order a coffee RIGHT before you enter the store

Wouldn’t that be the absolute bestest learning app ever?
Lots f work, no doubt, but I’m really really impressed by the idea and excited about what can be done with it. Like….  if you’re an investor reading this, what are you waiting for?!?! Invest!! This has the potential for more than “just a language learning App”. Better than Duolingo. Or should we say Who-olingo? Meh… okay, Duolingo is pretty big, I guess :).

Anyway… so, I think it’s obvious that I’m super excited for this, but of course what really matters is YOUR opinion.

What do you think?

You got the unique chance to be one of the first to try out Trill; so you get to say “Yeah, I was there before it was big” when it’s all famous in a few years :).
If you have an iPhone, you can download the App for free.
You don’t even need to sign up or anything. Just install it and install the 5 packages for 5 areas of Berlin and you’re ready to go for a walk… with benefits.
Here’s the link to the app at iTunes

Click here: Download Trill from iTunes

Not in Berlin?
Well, no problem. You can still download everything and check it out. I mean, you can’t walk around with it, but you can check out the sentences and get at least a little impression of it.
Again, it’s a very early stage, so focus on the idea, not the details.

And even if you don’t have an iPhone (like me, Mihri the head programmer was nice enough to show me the app on hers), you surely have thoughts about.
So let’s talk about this in the comments. What do you think about the idea? Would you use that for language learning? And what would you like the app to have?
And if you’ve tried the app… how did you like it? Did you enjoy it? Was there something bothering you? What were you missing? Share your thoughts and  suggestions and criticism in the comments. I’m really curious, and I’m sure the creators are, as well.

So yeah, this was my little review and introduction of Trill and clearly I’m a a fan. I ‘ll see you guys in the comments, and if not, have a great rest of the week and bis nächstes mal :).
Oh and if you got seed money … get in touch. Seriously.

Trill Language Learning – Homepage
(if you like promotional vids)

Trill – Facebook Page
(for updates and stuff)

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5 years ago

I really don’t like doing this kind of thing with a phone.

5 years ago

Can’t wait for the Android version

5 years ago

Hi guys,
My name is Julie and I am a new member. I asked Emanuel about the membership, given that I am not able to afford it and Emmanuel kindly gave me a year long membership. I really want to thank the community for their generosity and Emanuel for allowing me to assess this wonderful site.


About ‘Trill’, I really can see this hitting big with the right investment and I enjoyed the suggestions that you put down. Firstly, I think it’s great as an app that teaches you German as you are getting out and around and secondly, I find the idea of a tour guide and preplanned routes for people visiting Germany a seriously fantastic idea! I would absolutely use this.

Perhaps in later stages, users could choose tags, which they are interested in such as ‘cheap eat + museum’ which could narrow down several routes in a moment.

If users are in one location and they find lots of new vocabulary, ie vocabulary from a menu or key vocabulary in a museum, perhaps there could be a shared editable vocabulary list associated with each location, although I am not sure how that could be monitored/managed.

Ellen (aka Jo)
Ellen (aka Jo)
5 years ago

Danke für die Info, Emanuel! Das ist eine neue und interessante Idee.

The two things I found that were missing when I was studying German at university in Australia were a) conversation with fluent/native speakers and b) context-embedded learning. (For example I thought it would have been great to have a field trip, e.g. to an art gallery, where we could do a tour – aber alle auf Deutsch.)

This app provides an accessible solution to (b) – with the added benefits of exploring the neighbourhood and getting some exercise.

I think that probably the fastest and most efficient way for them to build their database is to crowdsource it. That way, people who are interested anywhere in the world can write pieces about their locality. That’s what Niantic did – Pokemon Go used a totally crowdsourced database from an existing game. That’s the only way they could create the global coverage they did.

The developers would want to vet everything that was provided, of course. Get people to sign up to create some accountability and control. People like being involved in projects like this. Of course – the sticking point would be to then force people to buy local “packages” after they have freely contributed to the project. So in this model, it would be a matter of figuring out what you can ask people to pay for. Oddly enough, sometimes people are more willing to pay for things of no practical value but that are cute or pretty or cool (e.g. games where you can buy a costume for your avatar or something. Hmm, I think the economy runs on this principle!)

5 years ago

Great Idea. What if we could send a photo and receive back german names of what the photo is showing? Uhm, too difficult I think……..

5 years ago

I agree, this app has great potential.
I already tried it and I’d like to have the option to hear the german sentence again but it allows me to repeat only the last word.
I have difficulty understanding the ‘voice of a Computer’.

5 years ago

What a fantastic idea! Looking forward to using this app when I visit Berlin in August……vielen Dank , Emanuel! :)

5 years ago

When it comes to the little town in Upstate NY where I live, I’ll be tinkled PINK. Until then, I’m just GREEN with envy that I am not living in Berlin! Thanks for sharing what is on the forefront of technology!

5 years ago
Reply to  ingeaiken

I’m also in Upstate NY!

Sarah Greff
5 years ago

This would be very useful! I’ve been listening to German radio to help with retention (I’m in the US) and having an app that would show me sentences in context would be a great next step!

5 years ago

Ich mag das.

5 years ago

That is an interesting idea. At first I was thinking if I was in Berlin I could talk to an actual German human and wouldn’t need an app. But they would probably get tired of walking around with me or have to go to work or something. I would like it if they had this for New York City.

5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Definitely true – especially in the areas I’m guessing are on the app.

Will check this out for sure. Sounds really valuable just for the tourist tips alone…

5 years ago
Reply to  melisjansen

I’m not planning on meeting people there who would show me around and speak German to me. I meant the ones I already know there. Especially the ones who visited me and ate all my cheese.