[Dieser Artikel wurde ausnahmsweise in Englisch geschrieben, weil er hauptsächlich von Interesse für Deutschlernende ist.]
Achieving fluency with numbers in a foreign language is hard. Achieving fluency with numbers in German is especially hard, because of the way two-digit numbers are handled when speaking (and when they are written as words). The number 24 for example is vierundzwanzig („four and twenty“) — the rightmost digit is pronounced first! In everyday conversations it is easy to get confused and end up misinterpreting this as 42.
As a solution, learners are sometimes advised to write the number down in reverse order. So, for example, when someone is reciting a telephone number, and you hear vierundzwanzig, you move the pen one space to the right, write down the 4, then move the pen one space to the left, and write down the 2. Personally I think this advice is silly. It is only useful in the very specific situation that you are writing the number down on a sheet of paper. It is useless if you need to enter the number into a keypad, for example, or if you are simply having a conversation in which numbers play a role.
Personally, I believe the key is to get away from the concept of having to transpose the two digits, and instead simply learn to associate the whole word vierundzwanzig with the numerals 24. But how does one accomplish this? In my experience, traditional language courses and language learning materials are not much use here. Two-digit numbers simply do not occur often enough in these contexts to get the repetition necessary to establish the association in one’s memory. Spaced-repetition systems such as Memrise can help a bit, but they do tend to focus on forming an association between two written words (or between a written word and a picture). What is really needed is a tool that helps associate the sound of the word „vierundzwanzig“ with the concept of 24.
So I decided to create one. I have written a simple web application which reads out a random number every three seconds (or at some other interval as specified by the user). The user types in the number, and the application shows whether the answer was right or wrong. This is an application I have used myself (you can see an earlier version of it in this video), and I find that with regular use it does help improve one’s ability to recognise numbers in spoken German.
I hope that other learners will also find this application useful.