german audiobooks

How to Learn German Faster with Audiobooks

Let’s be honest with one another for a second.

You don’t love all parts of learning German equally, do you?

Come on, you can tell me. It’s just between us.

I mean, some learning activities are clearly more pleasant than others, like watching German online TV.

(“You know deary, you shouldn’t spend all of your time in front of the TV.”
“Leave me alone mom, I’m studying!”)

Or how about studying some wonderfully weird German words to whip out at the next party?

Hanging out with your language partner?

And don’t forget, watching your favorite movies dubbed in German?

(“Warm up the popcorn, I have study group tonight!”)

On the other hand, there are those aspects of learning German that you could easily do without.

Things such as German noun cases (yuk!).

Or adjective endings (yuk, again!).

Or just good ol’ vocabulary study (urrghhh).

Not the kind of thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, is it?

Another discipline that has its place among the most disliked parts of language acquisition is reading. Struggling through an entire book in an unknown language is a challenge, and slowly slogging through sentence after sentence can be mind numbing.

However, what if I told you there was a media that combines both the entertainment factor of movies and TV shows with the content richness of books? A way of diving into German literature that at the same time offers the lightness of listening to podcasts?

What is this magical vehicle for German study, you ask? Oh, you’re in for a good one. Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you: German audiobooks.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)


Why Audiobooks Are a Perfect Way to Study German

First, some fun facts: Recordings of the spoken word have been available for purchase as early as the late 1800s. However, it was only in the 1930s that the technology became advanced enough to make it sensible to record literary works.

Since then, the industry has evolved in strides. From vinyl records and cassettes to CDs and digital downloads, as technology progressed, so did the availability of books and written works in audio form.

Germany is no exception. As early as 1955, West Germany opened an audiobook library for the blind (and in my hometown Münster no less!). Today this library houses almost 25,000 titles that help the visually impaired enjoy literary works in audio form—for free!

However, even if printed books are freely accesible for you, supplementing your studies with their recorded versions is a great idea on many levels.

Chock full of high-quality content

Let me tell you a little secret: Books are long. I know, what a very astute observation, right? However, for us as language students that’s quite good news. It means that they are filled with useful content only waiting to be absorbed by our ever-thirsty brains.

However, in contrast to material from textbooks, everything we can learn from literary works is most often presented as part of a coherent story and universe. No pretend visits at the post office, awkwardly staged dialogues of people getting to know one another or other such shenanigans, just the possibility to lean back and get lost in a narrative while brushing up on your German skills.

High entertainment factor = high motivation

The fact that most audiobooks are made for pleasure is another argument to include them into your study regimen. High entertainment factor equals high interest equals high motivation—a true formula for success.

When you listen to and learn things you are actually interested in, you have more internal motivation to study.

This is especially true for books you might already like. How fun is it to re-experience one of your favorite stories in another language? Ever wonder what “Harry Potter,” “Twilight” or “50 Shades of Grey” is like for native Germans? Well, now you can find out.

Audiobooks are the kings of convenience

Depending on your level of language proficiency, listening to actual German conversations can be overwhelming and frustrating. Asking the person opposite you to repeat everything they say multiple times is not conducive to having a good talk, and can make even the most relaxed person lose their cool.

Fortunately recorded actors have no such hang-ups. The characters inside your German audiobook don’t mind it if you repeat a passage a hundred times or however long it takes for you to fully grasp what they are saying. CDs and mp3 files, like paper, are patient.

Learn anywhere, anytime

Do you have a cell phone? What am I saying, of course you do. You could even be reading this web page with your mobile device.

I have good news: Unless you are one of those people who intentionally kept their old Nokia (don’t we all have one techno-Luddite friend like that?), the phone in your pocket can probably play audio files.

For you as a German student, that means you can practice your listening skills wherever you are. On the bus, in the subway, on the couch, you name it. I mean, audiobooks have become one of the most popular forms of travel entertainment for families and commuters for a reason.

Plus, with the advancement of digital downloads, it’s now possible to load up on audiobooks within minutes no matter where you are. All you need is an internet connection.

Practice reading and listening at once

Using audiobooks also allows you to immerse yourself deeper into their printed counterparts. Many recordings stay very close to the original or are even made up of people merely reading out of the book.

If you find such versions, you can go through the written and the recorded version of the book at the same time. Read a passage by yourself first, then practice your listening skills by going over it again with the audio version. I can hear those neurons in your brain growing from here!

Side note: As mentioned, audiobooks come in different versions. Some will be abridged so as to fit the medium better. Others tell the story in full without leaving anything out. When shopping for audiobooks in German, look for the words “gekürzt” (abridged) and “ungekürzt” (full).

Where to Find German Audiobooks

Convinced? Good. I knew we would get together on this one. That leaves us with the question of how to get your hands on some German listening material in book form. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

german audiobooks

Amazon.de

  • Number of available audiobooks: 150,000+
  • Available for download: 26,000+

The German version of Amazon features a wide range of audiobooks for all genres and tastes. Fans of CDs will be delighted, as that is the main medium in which they are sold here. However, downloads are also available, many of them for free.

If you are residing within Europe, ordering from Amazon Germany should not pose any problem. Those outside the European Union need to check if shipping to their country is available.

german audiobooks

Audible.de

  • Number of available audiobooks: 100,000+
  • Available for download: all of them

Ok, so Audible is in fact part of Amazon as well. It represents their outsourced section of audiobooks in downloadable form and boy do they have a lot of them! What’s more, this service stocks many unabridged versions that are not available on CD. Good news for purists!

Audible.de works on a monthly subscription basis. For 10€ you get one audio book every month. If you want to consume more than that, you can pay per book for any additional material.

Since it is a download-only service, Audible is perfect for those of us who can’t have physical products sent to their location.

german audiobooks

Buecher.de

  • Number of available audiobooks: unknown
  • Available for download: unknown

A purely German retailer, Buecher.de delivers free of charge within Germany—good news for those on vacation or living in Germany. Other European countries can also benefit from their services, but unfortunately no products get sent overseas. The same seems to be true for their audiobook download. Still worth a try though!

german audiobooks

Thalia.de

  • Number of available audiobooks: ca. 10,000
  • Available for download: unknown

Thalia is another well-known German bookstore and they, too, pack a healthy stock of audiobooks in German. In the same vein as Buecher.de, their service is limited to Europe. Sorry overseas German learners!

german audiobooks

Spotify (free)

  • Number of available audiobooks: unknown
  • Available for download: only with premium account

This might come as as big a surprise for you, as it did for me, but the streaming service Spotify offers more than just music tracks. In its vast library, you can find hundreds upon hundreds of audiobooks in the German language.

Try it for yourself: Type Hörbuch into the search bar (copy and paste from the article if your keyboard comes without umlauts) and scroll through the abundance of results. From German fables, to Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” to young German literature, it’s all there. And the best part: a basic Spotify account is free!

german audiobooks

Freiszene.de (free)

  • Number of available audiobooks: unknown
  • Available for download: all of them

This website collects audiobooks that have been produced by German radio stations and made available for sharing. You can download their entire content legally and for free.

Audiobooks are available in 13 different categories, among them adventure, drama, fantasy, horror and science fiction. Browse the latest uploads or look at what other users found most appealing. Most files come in mp3 format and are therefore playable on most devices.

german audiobooks

Vorleser.net (free)

  • Number of available audiobooks: 750+
  • Available for download: all of them

First of all, the German verb vorlesen is a great one and should become part of your repertoire. It means “to read to someone.” For example, the 2008 movie “The Reader” with Kate Winslet was originally titled “Der Vorleser” in Germany (the film was based on a novel by Bernhard Schlink).

The website Vorleser.net started as a one-person project. Its founder decided to record himself reading some German fables by the brothers Grimm and put them online for free.

Over time the concept of free audiobooks proved more and more popular, and the website has grown steadily. By now it houses almost a thousand audiobooks that have been produced by volunteers and can be streamed online or downloaded at will.

german audiobooks

Ohrka.de (free)

  • Number of available audiobooks: 100+
  • Available for download: all of them

This page might be most interesting for beginners, as it’s a home for audiobooks made for children. The website was founded by a bunch of well-known German voice actors to produce and offer free audiobooks for the little ones. That might also explain the word play in the website’s name (Orca – orca whale, Ohr – ear).

Stories include such classics as “Treasure Island,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Jungle Book.” Rudyard Kipling’s classic story of Mowgli and his friends is even read by Anke Engelke, a well-known German actress.

All books on the website are available for download.

Audiobooks: A Fun Gateway to German Literature

It’s normal to have favorite disciplines in your German practice. If reading isn’t one of them, I don’t blame you. Attempting to get through an entire book in an unknown language can be a daunting feat, especially when there are more entertaining forms of “studying” around.

Adding audiobooks to your German practice is therefore a good idea all around. It will expose you to masses of content while keeping the entertainment factor high. Who knows, maybe it will even get you to pick up the real thing. You know, the version printed on paper?

Thankfully the internet makes it easy to get your hands on German audiobooks. Many high-quality offerings exist online, ranging from paid to free. Having someone soft-spoken read German to you is just a few clicks away. However, that also means there is no excuse for you not to give it a try. Enjoy!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)


And One More Thing…

What if I told you there was yet another highly-entertaining way to learn German by combining audio and text?

If audiobooks are the magic wand that bring German literature to life, FluentU is the key that gives you instant access to a whole world of authentic German video content.

FluentU takes great videos and turns them into language learning experiences so that you can learn real German as people really speak it:

Learn German with Apps

Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts.

Learn German with Videos on FluentU

You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

Learn German with Videos

And FluentU isn’t just for watching videos. It’s a complete platform for learning. It’s designed to effectively teach you all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

Learn German with Videos on FluentU

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. This is a level of personalization that hasn’t been done before.

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you’ll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.

Experience German immersion online!

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