10 Friendly German News Sites That Are Just Right for Learners
Keeping up with the news in German teaches you a lot of interesting and practical vocabulary.
It also teaches you about the culture and current events in the country or countries whose language you’re studying.
There are plenty of flexible, well-rounded news resources that are specifically targeted toward German learners, plus well-known ones for native speakers.
Check out our list below of several news outlets that will help you learn German from the comfort of home.
- What Are the Advantages of Learning German Through the News?
- What Topics Can You Expect to Read About?
- Friendly German News Sites That Are Just Right for Learners
What Are the Advantages of Learning German Through the News?
You’ll have talking points to use with Germans you encounter
Interacting with native speakers is an invaluable way to learn a new language. And reading the news is a great way to jump-start your interactions with native Germans. Besides encountering lots of new vocabulary, you’ll find lots of new topics to talk about as well.
Maybe you’ll want to ask a German friend for his or her reaction to previous events, such as the kindergarten teachers’ strike in Germany in early 2015. Or maybe the news will teach you facets of German culture that you’ll want to ask about, such as the fact that Bavaria is typically considered one of the more conservative parts of Germany.
No matter what, the news will definitely give you more topics of conversation for chatting with your German friends.
You’ll learn up-to-date, relevant vocabulary
Say you want to speak to a German friend about the refugee crisis in Europe. Textbooks, while great resources, aren’t going to teach you all of the vocabulary you’ll need when you’re bringing up current events.
That’s why reading the news is great: You’ll learn all the vocabulary necessary for having an intelligent conversation with someone about what’s going on now. So if you want to ask about the Flüchtlingskrise (refugee crisis), you’ll be all set.
You’ll gain a better understanding of Germany’s place in Europe and the world
Reading the news will also teach you about Germany as a country. You’ll learn how Germany interacts with other EU countries, how Germany interacts with the United States and the issues that the German people and government face and cause. There’s practically no better way to get to know a society that you were previously unacquainted with.
You’ll get a chance to practice German reading and listening
News outlets often present their news in article form, a news clip or even just audio. This multisensory approach to German learning will help you become better at reading and listening to authentic German speech.
What Topics Can You Expect to Read About?
So what topics will you encounter in the German news? Although of course the news is changing every day, you can rest assured that you’ll probably stumble across something related to the following three subjects at some point.
Privacy and technology
Germans are generally very concerned about their privacy, which makes sense considering that East Germans spent four decades living under a heavily monitored society in the German Democratic Republic. That’s why you’ll see plenty of news stories related to surveillance, technology and data protection in German newspapers—with possible references to how at one point the NSA reportedly spied on former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
Germany’s place in the EU
Germany’s is the strongest economy in the European Union. Consequently, you’ll see plenty of stories that deal with Germany’s role in the EU: how the country sets the tone for policy, as well as how Germany interacts with other countries in the eurozone. More recent examples include Germany’s role in the negotiations involving the Greek debt crisis and Germany’s stance on the influx of refugees flooding into Europe.
WWII and Nazi history
Stories that involve World War II and Nazi history crop up in German newspapers fairly regularly. You’ll almost definitely see stories about unexploded bombs from American and British raids discovered in various German cities. Stories about Nazi officials or artifacts appear once in a while too, such as when a train full of Nazi gold reportedly materialized in Poland in 2015.
Friendly German News Sites That Are Just Right for Learners
Are you ready to dive into reading the news in German and make your German super? Check out these news outlets that will make your German language skills shine.
Nachrichtenleicht (news light) is a German news site for language learners that simplifies the news into beginner (A1 – A2) level German.
This site is invaluable to language learners because it exposes you to actual German news that’s presented in a very simple manner. There is also an audio version of each article, in which the reader recounts the articles in extremely slow, enunciated German.
And the best part is that there’s a vocabulary list at the end of every article (with explanations in German) so you can study key words and phrases on your own.
Germany, like many countries, has publicly-funded news agencies. The television channel ARD, known as “The First” channel, was supplemented shortly after its founding by ZDF. This would be best for intermediate (B1) levels and above.
Because people pay taxes for it, all of ARD’s programming has been made available for streaming on the website’s media viewer. The most famous German news program, Tagesschau, is on ARD, which is considered to be the definitive journalistic high-point of Germany.
My recommendation for someone just beginning German would be to take advantage of the setting which allows you to turn on the German subtitles meant for the hearing impaired. That way, if you hear a word you don’t know, you’ll be able to immediately note it and look it up on Leo.
3. Deutsche Welle
Deutsche Welle is an online news site for German natives. However, it’s still a key site for language learners because of its well-known “Learn German” section.
You’ll also find slow-spoken podcasts for language learning that you can download and listen to on the go. Deutsche Welle creates these podcasts and learning resources for all levels of German.
Once you’ve built up confidence with the material for learners, you can always move on to the news articles for native speakers on the main website. There are podcasts for native speakers as well.
4. Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel is one of Germany’s major news magazines, available in glossy print and online. It’s written in complex, real German. You won’t find articles simplified for language learners.
But the good news is that the articles are usually still simple enough for intermediate (B1) language learners to puzzle out with a good dictionary on hand. Plus, Der Spiegel includes lots of pictures, which can help you figure out what’s going on in an article.
Finally, the site also offers an English sister site, which can be invaluable for learners who want to brush up on German news in English before diving into the original.
5. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The FAZ is one of the best newspapers I’ve ever read. Though many people might decry its conservative bias, the writing is eloquent and with lots of literary references.
The website design is my personal favorite of any online newspaper with nothing but great photos and great writing. You might need a slightly higher level for this one at upper-intermediate (B2) and above.
Sometimes when I read it, I get the feeling that they’re writing for an audience 20 years older than me who is very concerned about retirement, gas mileage and taxes. However, I do generally aspire to someday be earning money and paying taxes, so I try to read it to get ready.
6. Die Zeit
Not a daily like the other newspapers mentioned, Die Zeit is a Sunday-only, left-leaning newspaper with great journalism and exceptional design.
It’s published in Hamburg and is also one of the most well-known and highly-esteemed news publications in Germany. It’s suitable for upper-intermediate (B2) and above.
There are essays, opinion pieces, long-form articles and even excerpts from lectures that will get you practicing fancier German. As many in this list, you can read the articles online or in print.
7. Süddeutsche Zeitung
Süddeutsche Zeitung is a daily, left-of-center newspaper based in Munich which handles national issues with thorough coverage. It’s a great one for upper-intermediate (B2) and above.
As you can tell from their name, they publish international news and also often zoom into issues relevant to the south of Germany. It’s the second-most circulated newspaper in Germany, after the tabloid Bild.
Their intimate coverage of Bavarian subjects can be particularly interesting, though sometimes it seems to me like not much happens there aside from tax evasion and soccer.
8. taz – Die Tageszeitung
Here is another regional news publication. taz (never capitalize it!) is a left-wing daily alternative newspaper founded in West Berlin in 1978.
Far more than any of the newspapers here, they are concerned with societal injustice, whether it’s environmental, feminist, heteronormative or economic. The publication also operates within the cooperative-owned model. If you’re at the intermediate (B1) level or above, you can follow along.
Their Ausland section usually has less to do with instability in the Nikkei Index and more with the kind of inhumane conditions that prevail in many parts of the world today.
9. Die Heute Show
The most successful show on ZDF, Die Heute Show, is clearly a German imitation of The Daily Show and other late-night news shows.
Though not exactly the same as The Daily Show (many times an attempted joke is received by the audience with polite applause rather than actual laughter), it is nonetheless genuinely funny and will offer anyone an entertaining introduction to German politics.
It’s great for intermediate (B1) levels and above. It’s even won several awards! The show is hosted by Oliver Welke and is a great way to practice your listening comprehension with the mix of news and comedy.
10. Jung und Naiv
If you liked Die Heute Show, then you’d probably also like the Jung und Naiv series on YouTube.
Somehow, this young German guy manages to track down and have interviews with lots of interesting politicians in and around Berlin. He also posts the daily press briefings done by the German government.
Guests have included “Oberpiratin” Marina Weisband, a former captain of the sinking ship that was the Pirate Party, or last year’s unsuccessful opponent to Angela Merkel, Peer Steinbrück. Jung und Naiv is a great introduction to German politics, but you might need upper-intermediate (B2) and above for it.
So what are you waiting for?
Start reading one of these sites regularly, paying attention to grammar and vocabulary, and you’ll be discoursing on German events auf Deutsch in no time.
You can round out the other two skills—writing and speaking—with a program like FluentU.
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.
To keep things fresh, FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and recommends further lessons and videos based on what you've already studied.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
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