There’s no point in German listening practice if it doesn’t prepare you for real life.
You need to train your ears to hear common German vocabulary and phrases that native speakers actually use.
You need to work your way towards understanding quick, casual German conversations.
But where can you find authentic German video and audio from native speakers, spoken at a pace you can understand?
We’ve got six German listening practice resources that will acclimate you to authentic German speech at any level—beginner, intermediate and advanced. You’ll also find lots of extra learning tools, like transcripts and vocabulary support.
Why Prioritize German Listening Practice?
Expressing yourself is only half the battle. It’s great if you’ve armed yourself with some German survival phrases for travel, such as “Wo ist die Toilette?” (“Where is the toilet?”) but if you can’t understand the answer—especially if it’s in a dialect like Bavarian or Saxonian—you’re going to have a problem on your hands.
This will become very important if you plan to take a tour through the various regions of Germany.
Language doesn’t just live in books or newspapers, either. Sometimes the things you read in simple, proper Hochdeutsch (High Standard German) don’t correspond to the things you’ll hear in the street. There’s a whole world of idioms and slang out there, just waiting to throw you a curve ball.
But How Do I Practice German Listening?
The most important thing is simply to expose yourself to the language. Listen to whatever you can, even if you don’t understand every word, so that you can get used to hearing the language and its rhythms.
This can be achieved by constantly exposing yourself to the language through some great German movies or TV shows.
Once you decide to really get engaged in German listening practice, you’ll quickly find that you have a variety of options. The right strategy for you will depend on your current level, overall goals, learning pace and preferred resources.
Many of the resources in this list provide you with transcripts and translations from the start. If they’re there, use ’em! This will help you connect the things you hear to the things you see, allowing you to train reading and listening at the same time. While this method requires your full attention, it’s okay to take breaks and to study a little bit at a time, as long as you are consistent.
You can further boost your comprehension with outside resources like dict.cc and Linguee to help you. Even Google Translate, notorious for its numerous, humorous errors, can still help you get the gist of things.
Some of these recordings are as authentic as it gets because they’re made by native speakers, for native speakers. These don’t always come with translations and exercises to help you, but you can help yourself. You might be able to find song lyrics, for example, by Googling a song title plus the word “Songtext” (lyrics). You may even be able to find English translations of the Songtext in the same way—LyricsTranslate is a good resource for this.
Overall, just keep your ears open. Don’t waste time jotting down and looking up every word you don’t know, as long as you understand the general idea of what’s happening. Writing down just a few key words or phrases is a good strategy if you’re determined to review them again at a later time.
Real German Listening Practice: 6 Video and Audio Tools to Train Your Ears with Authentic German
So here is a list of some of the web’s best resources for real German listening practice. From curious beginners to advanced news junkies, this collection offers something for everyone to improve their German listening comprehension.
1. Radio D
This project is a joint effort of Deutsche Welle, a popular German news broadcaster, and the Goethe-Institut, the academic authority on all things related to learning German.
These simple radio dramas are perfect for German listening practice for beginners. Transcripts and English summaries are available, so you’ll never be lost for a second.
2. Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten (Slowly Spoken News)
Another Deutsche Welle production, these recordings are more suited for upper-intermediate learners. These are real Deutsche Welle news reports, spoken slowly and clearly so that learners won’t miss a word.
The website boasts a large glossary of vocabulary from the news, as well as a complete collection of written transcripts. With updates every weekday, you’ll never run out of recordings to practice with—and you’ll stay informed about current events from Germany and around the world.
GermanPod101 was created specifically to give you relevant, entertaining German listening practice. It’s a series of video and audio podcasts with hundreds of German listening and language lessons—plus new ones added every week.
The hosts are language experts who teach you to understand (and use) the expressions you’d need in real German life. Plus, you’ll get familiar with German media and pop culture (which isn’t just great for listening practice—it also gives you plenty to talk about with native speakers!).
You don’t need to just rely on your ears. GermanPod101 comes with tons of supplemental learning tools, such as transcripts, interactive quizzes and an audio dictionary to instantly define the words you hear.
4. Spotify’s Germany Top 50 Chart
If you’re a Spotify user, you can listen to Germany’s top hits no matter where you live. You might be surprised to find that Germans love English music, so most of the tracks on the German charts will be songs you already recognize. But never fear: there are always new German hits making their way onto the list too.
Be on the lookout for performers like CRO, Seeed, Alligatoah and Sido, but be aware that German lyrics aren’t usually “cleaned up” for radio edits like they are in the U.S. Whether you like rap, rock, pop or anything in between, the German music scene has something to offer you.
Unlike some of the more structured podcasts and educational programs in this list, it’s fun to listen to these songs both actively (by trying to translate the lyrics, for instance) or passively as background music for other activities such as driving, doing chores, or surfing the web. If you listen to a song several times even passively, you’ll start to memorize the lyrics over time.
Everyone has some advertising jingles or ancient pop songs we still know all the words to. That’s the power of music. Use it to your advantage!
Caught the German music bug? Here’s a guide to finding even more German music on Spotify from a range of genres.
5. German Public TV: ARD and ZDF
If you’re ready for German listening practice with the most authentic content possible, German public broadcasters such as ARD and ZDF upload many of their shows for free, often with subtitles available, usually with no viewer location restrictions.
Thanks to the controversial Rundfunkgebühren, the broadcasting fees that virtually all German residents must pay, anyone can stream German media on demand—from crime dramas to talk shows to live soccer.
Since we’re talking about audio resources, it should be noted that these streams include radio shows too, but let’s face it: TV is an even more engaging way to sharpen your listening skills.
If you don’t have time for a full-length show from ARD, or you want something more fun than Deutsche Welle’s news, then check out FluentUf or authentic German listening practice.
FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:
Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.
Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.
Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.
FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or practice anytime, anywhere on the mobile app for iOS and Android.
As you can see (…er, hear), German listening practice doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive. You can improve your German listening comprehension with the fun, authentic German videos and audio resources above—your ears will thank you!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.