You’re working through a book, you’re memorizing your adjective endings and you’re getting the hang of der, die, das. But can you understand the things you hear?
Where can you find authentic German recordings from native speakers, spoken at a pace you can understand?
Why Practice Listening to German?
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 This?
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 hearing the language and its rhythms. This can be achieved by constantly exposing yourself to the language through some great German movies or television shows.
Once you decide to really get engaged in 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.
Some of these recordings are as authentic as it gets because they’re 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.
If you can’t find a translation already, that’s a great opportunity to practice on your own. Use 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.
But if you’re listening to German commentary on a live soccer match, that’s not an option. When that’s the case, 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 some favorite new expressions at a later time.
So here is a list of some of the web’s best resources for listening to real German. From curious beginners to advanced news junkies, this collection offers something for everyone.
6 Authentic German Resources for Listening Practice
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 beginners at the A1 and A2 levels. 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 (B2 to C1). 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.
3. Pukka German
Sadly, this podcast hasn’t been updated in a few years, but its archives are a treasure trove of idioms and street slang. Each episode is divided into a theme, such as love, money or alcohol, with each new phrase clearly explained in English and used in realistic situations. You’ll have to join for a small fee if you want access to the site’s official worksheets and quizzes, but the podcast itself is free and can teach you a great deal all on its own. Pukka’s creators may have retired, but the many hours they put into their podcast will give you the street smarts you need to sound like a native speaker.
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 United States. 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!
Not sure what to listen to? Here are 8 modern German classic songs to get you started!
If you’re ready for 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: television is an even more engaging way to sharpen your listening skills.
It would be crazy not to mention our own German materials here at FluentU. If you don’t have time for a full-length show from ARD, or you want something more fun than Deutsche Welle’s news, FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, movie trailers, news, and inspiring talks, and turns them into German learning experiences. With our videos, you can learn German as people really speak it. You can enjoy watching a video with convenient interactive captions that instantly provide all the information that you need to learn it. You can also learn a video intuitively with our learn mode, which uses video context as material for learning sessions. Check us out!
Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts.
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.
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.
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.
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