How to Find Authentic German Resources for Your Next Lesson
Germans love their potatoes.
They have them cooked or roasted, sautéed or fried, mashed or grated, with skin or without.
Indeed, potatoes are great. But do you want to eat them every single day?
Do you know what Germans like even more than potatoes? Variety.
And those potatoes had better be paired with something new every time they are cooked.
See what I am getting at? Everyone needs a change of pace—even students.
Which brings me to my next question: What materials do you use in the classroom?
As a teacher, you have an immediate answer to this question. You use textbooks and worksheets, PowerPoint presentations and images, maybe even some audio and video clips from time to time.
But if this is all you use, you are only serving potatoes and your students will grow sick of it. Authentic resources are the meat and vegetables, the starters and desserts that turn your lessons into a veritable feast. Your students will love them, learn from them and make it fun for you as well. And that is what I call a triple win.
Real Deal Teaching: Authentic German Resources for Your Classroom
There are many ways to implement these resources into your second language/GCSE German teaching. In fact, there are more potential resources than even the most ambitious teacher could ever use.
You can turn everything into a teaching tool, and if you spend enough time trawling the internet, you will come up with material aplenty. You do not have to spend this time looking for exciting, new material, however. We did the work for you.
The Importance of Being Authentic
Let’s have a closer look. Why can you immediately recognize most teaching materials you see?
They are designed for non-native speakers, and that makes perfect sense. They are simplified and structured, allow for easy access and cover key lessons. In other words, they are not natural and authentic at all.
Your goal is to have your students to speak and understand German just like native speakers do. You want them to interact with natives, to understand colloquialisms and nuance, to function in everyday situations and non-formal settings.
One example: A textbook might teach you to greet with “Guten Tag” and “Guten Morgen,” but a lot of times you will not hear that on the street. Many Germans greet using a simple “Hi” or “Hallo,” a “Na” or “Wie geht’s?”
By using real-world resources, you bring excitement to the classroom and open it up to authentic German experiences. You expose your students to living and breathing German culture, to how the language reads, sounds and looks in the wild.
Authentic resources are made by native speakers for native speakers, they are up-to-date and cover every sphere of daily life. From job listings to fashion advice, travel diaries to world news, health to cooking, songs to TV series, video clips to interactive fiction.
There is so much out there.
Your students never have to get bored to death by an antiquated textbook or stilted examples again.
Your task as a teacher is to find the right resources, and plenty of them. You need simple as well as complex language, you need things to read and to hear, to watch and to interact with. Lucky for you, you have come to the right place.
Choosing the Right Resources
Where should you look for your vegetables and your meat?
Art imitates life, and much of art wants to appear lifelike. Turn to TV and movies, to literature and theater, radio dramas and audio books, computer games and interactive fiction. Turn there, but do not stop turning. A whole other world lies beyond the sphere of art—a world of daily life that permeates everything.
When you go through the following sections and discover the many fascinating and creative ways to find authentic resources, keep the following three considerations in mind.
1. Assessing Correctness
Make sure any resource you use has actually been made by a native speaker and contains only a reasonable number of mistakes—ideally, none. If there are a lot of grammar or vocabulary problems, but the content is too good to pass up, use it as an opportunity to task your students with finding the errors and discussing them.
2. Assessing Difficulty
You will need material appropriate for your students’ skill levels. The easiest way to determine the accessibility of authentic resources is to look at their target audiences.
- Material for children is useful for beginner students.
- School-age material fits more advanced learners.
- General interest material can be adapted for intermediate and advanced students.
- Academic, niche interest or dialect material will provide a perfect challenge for advanced students.
3. Assessing Relevance
Make sure you not only choose error-free resources of an appropriate difficulty, but also ones that feel relevant, fresh and exciting. Cover the areas of life your students come from or are going to, choose recent discussion topics or events related to world news; let the resources connect with your students’ previous experiences and make them bright, bold and fun.
Authentic German Resources to Read
There is a universe of German writing out there, and thanks to the internet, all of it lies at your fingertips. It is daunting to choose authentic resources from this multitude of options, but here are some great outside-the-box ideas.
Newspapers and Magazines
Newspapers and magazines are always useful resources for language learning, and Germany has a vast landscape of print publications.
As you can see, there is something for every language level and every interest.
Blogs in German
Blogs offer casual writing from native speakers, detailing everything from daily life to science, pop culture and fashion. Tread carefully: Dedicated learning blogs like deutschlernen-blog might transport us into potato country again.
To go native, find real German blogs like the ones on this list (sorted into categories like personality, success, travel and sport) or these popular lifestyle blogs.
Yes, you read that right. The classified section can be used as part of your German curriculum.
Language-wise, job postings might not be the easiest to read, but they offer a glimpse into the daily toiling of millions of Germans, complete with requirements, tasks and benefits. Go to stellenanzeigen.de, karriere.at or the German version of Monster.com to find plenty of job postings, as well as company profiles and job search articles.
Have your students pick a field and look at the description of different positions. Then, let them write applications or even perform mock interviews with them. There is also much to be gained from analyzing the language:
- What are the codes and shorthand used in the classifieds?
- How do the requirements relate to the German education and vocational training system?
- What could your students do to prepare for one of these jobs?
Sites like wetteronline and wetter.de allow you to access up-to-date weather reports and forecasts. Check out the weather in a new German location at the beginning of every session, and soon your students can complain about rain, cold, heat or hail like they were born there.
Travel brochures are great in two ways:
- They allow students to talk about a country other than Germany while still having German materials.
- They present students with implicit German assumptions and priorities.
Germans love to travel, and there is no shortage of brochures. Go to Geo, Reisefroh or Marco Polo to find hundreds of country profiles, travel advice and blog posts for locations all over the world.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. From the 100 best German posters to German comic books, the only limit is your imagination.
Authentic German Resources to Hear
Everybody loves music, so why not mellow your lessons with some catchy German songs?
Great for finding anything from modern classics to the latest hits, Deutschland.FM and Radiolisten.de both have a large selection of German radio stations you can access with one click of your mouse. You can choose between a wide variety of stations that will provide you with different language levels and topics.
One of the best places to go for authentic German resources is the Goethe–Institut, which has branches in 98 countries and offers a bulk of materials online. You can find popular German songs or the music clip of the month.
Depending on your students’ generation, they will have songs from children’s movies they all remember. And the good news is, more likely than not, popular English songs exist in a German version. Examples include hits like:
Authentic German Resources to Watch
FILMSTARTS.de and kino.de offer information about all kinds of movies and TV series, as well as reviews and short articles.
In the age of video streaming, your students will always have a list of favorite TV shows they binge on—or at the very least, they keep coming back to. Why not add German ones into the mix?
There is a huge number of German TV shows perfect for language learners, ranging from those with simple dialogue to more colloquial ones including some German’s many dialects. Many of them are available for free in the Mediathek of German public-service broadcasters if you are located anywhere in the EU.
YouTube is a fantastic resource with many channels dedicated to language learning. More than that, it offers a whole world of authentic resources. Some popular channels are:
- Gronkh for video games
- Y-Titty for comedy
- LeFloid offers news for a young audience and even interviewed Angela Merkel in 2015
- Bibi’s Beauty Palace covers beauty and lifestyle
- Julien Bam is excellent for photography, dance, music and lifestyle
What’s more, German newscasts are available from all major public-service broadcasters. Tagesschau, one of Germany’s top national and international news providers, uploads daily news clips which can be used as part of your lesson. You can also check out the website for the popular news program, heute-journal, to find more video clips and news articles.
Then, there are commercials. They are a great way to expose your students to easy and colloquial language. Check out Google’s list of the ten best German commercials in 2017. Or, take a look at this YouTube channel dedicated to German commercials to find popular adverts.
If you need something longer and more advanced, how about a documentary? There are plenty of German productions to choose from, many of them about local topics or focused on a region of Germany. Not convinced yet? Check out…
- Dokumentarfilm24.de allows you to choose from a collection of popular German documentaries.
- ZDF Doku/Wissen showcases all of the German public-service television documentaries in one easy-to-find location.
- The DeutscheDoku YouTube channel offers a collection of documentaries on history, culture, politics and more.
As you can see, there is a variety of exciting documentaries covering a number of topics.
Authentic and Interactive German Resources
Things to read, hear and watch are great. But if you really want to engage your students, turn them into active participants.
Sites like ifwizz and betabug offer interactive games (called text adventures) in German. These games require students to describe intended actions in German, often comprising mundane activities like walking, picking up and combining objects, opening doors, interacting with strangers, and so on.
You can also find quizzes and surveys made for native speakers on Fragespiel.com and bento. But note, they might be tough for your students at first, but a challenge can be great motivation!
Genuine material helps set apart your sessions from the rest. They motivate your students and expose them to German culture. They demand participation and awareness from your students and richly reward them. They bring multimedia to the classroom and turn every second into an engaging experience. And most important of all, they make your students better German speakers and you a better teacher.
What are you waiting for?
Dennis Mombauer is a German who currently lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as a freelance writer of fiction, reviews, and essays on climate change and education. He co-publishes a German magazine for experimental fiction (Die Novelle—Magazine for Experimentalism) and has published various short stories, poems, and one German-language novel.