The right German listening practice can help you avoid every German learner’s nightmare.
You know the one.
You’ve arrived in Berlin, buying a Fahrkarte (train ticket) to your hotel.
You reach the ticket counter and the employee says something to you in German.
They spoke so quickly that you’re not even sure what they asked.
In your shaky voice, you reply that you would like a train ticket to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station).
Then it happens: the ticket counter worker switches to English, and a feeling of shame and embarrassment comes over you. You can’t wait for the day when you can conduct all your activities in Germany in fluent German.
Has this ever happened to you? I, for one, have had this happen many times, and it made me want to work harder to avoid that dreaded switch-over to the English language.
To combat this, it all comes down to German listening practice.
You must consume all the listening comprehension tips that you can, listen to authentic German and take advantage of all the German audio resources available.
And you need German listening exercises to give your ear a real workout.
The good news? Let’s just say that getting effective German listening practice is easier than deciphering those complicated Anzeigetafel (train timetable display boards) in the train stations.
Why Practice German Listening?
Listening is vital to speaking and conversing in German. The more German listening practice you get, the more your ear and your tongue will be trained to decipher German sentences and make German sounds.
Besides, even if you do well in German lessons, understanding German “in the wild” is a whole other skill. The language comes at you rapid-fire, and there often isn’t a friendly instructor to slow down and deconstruct what’s being said.
So, how can you sharpen your German “in the wild” listening skills? Hörverstehen (listening comprehensions), of course!
Listening comprehensions allow learners to listen to authentic German, and they also include questions and activities to test understanding. Best of all, many German listening practice websites include leveled exercises, so you can find ones to match your level!
Get the Most out of German Listening Practice
To make the most out of listening comprehensions, make sure to use good headphones and limit distractions such as other people and noises—and especially the internet or social media websites. This will allow you to concentrate fully on the activity and maximize your understanding.
Further, listen to the recording twice: once for the gist, the second time for details and deeper understanding.
During this second listen, feel free to write notes for specific details. These notes will help with the comprehension questions later.
Get Hours of German Listening Practice (with Exercises!): 7 Top Tools to Improve German Listening Comprehension
Are you ready to listen your way to German fluency? Check out the top seven websites for German listening practice!
Radio D is offered by the acclaimed German media company Deutsche Welle (German Wave). Radio D is an audio course for beginners and it’s a great way to start practicing German listening if you have little or no knowledge of the language.
Each lesson with Radio D starts with a German audio clip as well as explanations in English related to grammar and vocabulary. These clips focus on beginner topics such as school, travel and shopping. The vocabulary notes offer a list of the most important vocabulary in the German listening exercises, and the grammar explanations cover common topics without going overboard on the detail.
This is also a great resource to practice German listening with transcripts, because each lesson comes with transcriptions of the audio in both German and English as well as a PDF of comprehension and grammar activities to test your understanding of the content.
Deutschlernerblog is a website that has multiple resources and lessons for learners of all levels. In terms of listening comprehension, it offers five categories for different levels from beginner to advanced.
To use Deutschlernerblog to boost your listening comprehension, simply scroll down to the Hörverstehen list and choose your level (A1 is easiest, C1 is hardest). Once you’re there, exercises cover everything from basic vocabulary and simple verb conjugations to dialogues and short clips of native German audio.
Following the audio clip, each entry has comprehension questions. These range from true-and-false questions to specific questions about the topic of the audio recording if it’s grammar-based. The questions are in German too, so you’ll get a well-rounded language workout.
Learners can also download a PDF version of the questions and answers to better keep track of their progress. Further, some entries include a German transcript of the audio in the comments section of the entry.
On this website, you’ll find a selection of listening practice tests from various official German proficiency exams. This is especially useful if you’re planning to take one of those exams, such as the TestDaF.
The Council of Europe has a sampling of practice tests (from the TestDaF as well as the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, National Foreign Language Exam System and ÖSD).
Each German listening test includes an audio recording as well as a PDF of the transcript and comprehension questions.
These questions range from true-or-false and fill-in-the-blank questions to short- and long-answer questions. The recordings vary in length from a couple minutes to around 15 minutes.
The best way to get German listening practice is to hear native speakers talking in real-life situations. But how do you do that if you don’t live in Germany? And what if you can’t understand every word?
FluentU transforms authentic German videos into personalized language lessons. You’ll learn to understand and speak German the way native speakers really use the language—with fun videos ranging from movie trailers, to music videos, to inspiring speeches, to German dialogues and more.
Every video comes with interactive subtitles. Don’t understand a German word that you hear in the video? Just click on it for an instant definition, grammar info, example sentences and isolated pronunciation.
There are also professionally translated English captions that you can toggle on or off depending on your comprehension needs.
After you watch a video, FluentU includes German listening exercises and vocabulary quizzes to help solidify everything you’ve learned.
Best of all, FluentU is available on iOS and Android for on-the-go listening practice and learning.
Like the Council of Europe, the Deutsch.ie website includes past materials from the German aural exam portion of the Leaving Certificate exam—the final exam in the Irish school system (also known as “Leaving Cert”).
Currently, there are nine past exams available, and their German listening comprehension components are quite extensive.
Each past Leaving Cert German aural exam includes around 14 minutes of audio. It’s comprised of four parts: an interview, phone call, a dialogue and a news segment. Each part has its own comprehension questions.
These questions are displayed on the website for each entry with the answers hidden. I suggest writing the answers to the questions down and then looking at the correct answers once the whole exam is completed. Be aware that some of the more recent exams don’t have answers provided.
Since these exams are meant to test a learner’s competence after a Leaving Cert German course, this resource is most ideal for learners who are at least at the intermediate level.
This resource also uses Welsh and English as a base language, so don’t be put off if you hear a language that’s neither English nor German during the instructional part of the recordings before the actual exams.
Unlike other resources on this list, Your Daily German offers short folk tales told in German. There are seven such folk tales available currently, and they’re based on real German stories that’ve been around for centuries.
The best part of Your Daily German is that you can listen to the stories at a regular speed or a slower speed. I would suggest starting at the regular speed and then using the slower speed for stories that are particularly complex or difficult to understand.
The audio stories on Your Daily German include transcripts. This site is recommended for learners who are at least at the upper-beginner level, since the stories are told completely in German. The website allows you to access two stories a week for free, but charges a fee to keep using the website after that.
This website is entirely in German, so it’s recommended for at least upper-beginner learners.
There are four levels of listening comprehension: einfach (easy), mittel (intermediate), schwierig (hard) and schriftlich (writing response). Exercises in the first three levels (einfach, mittel and schwierig) include a video as well as built-in comprehension questions. Some videos, especially for the mittel and schwierig level, are actually full documentaries up to one hour long.
So this is a perfect resource if you’re looking for longer German listening practice audio materials.
The fourth level, schriftlich, allows learners to answer questions in a printable PDF file rather than the built-in interface. These questions include short- and long-answer questions and require more detail.
There’s one more section of listening activities called spezial (special), which focuses on listening comprehensions related to travel within Switzerland.
It’s also important to note that SchulArena is based in Switzerland and some audio recordings are done in the Swiss dialect and accent. Make sure to brush up on your Swiss German for those tests.
Alle Einsteigen (All aboard) the listening comprehension train! These German listening practice resources will help you travel seamlessly through the German language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.