Imagine yourself reading a riveting mystery story about a washed up detective who lost his wife, and is now seeking vengeance on the people who took her away from him.
Now, imagine reading it in German.
What happens when you encounter a sentence that you don’t know? Do you have to get taken out of the story to scramble for a dictionary or search online?
Modern German books and classic novels are ideal for immersing yourself in the German language and culture, but they do present a few small obstacles. Reading is fun, but not so much when you’re always struggling to understand the words.
This is where a German reader comes into play.
What’s a German Reader?
A German reader is designed to provide you a wonderful and engaging story, making your learning fun and interesting. However, you should also feel like there’s a teacher next to you at all times. This is achieved by using readers, which provide annotations, dictionaries, quizzes and more.
The overall idea is to give you some of the content in English, along with most of the content in German. German readers build recognition for beginners who may find it a little too intimidating to dive right into a completely German-written book.
They can also serve as a way for more intermediate and advanced learners to brush up on simple grammar and sentences, or to take on complex books that may require them to see translations on the side.
Our Criteria for Choosing German Readers
That’s all fine and dandy, but what makes a quality German reader? Did I just grab the first few ones I could find by searching on Google, or is there a method behind the selections? When choosing the ideal readers for German learners, I made sure that they followed most, if not all, of the criteria below:
- Well-written stories that make sense and reflect German culture in some way.
- Mainly for beginners and intermediates, although it certainly helps to have basic German knowledge to get started.
- Well-annotated, with definitions at the bottom of the pages or on the facing pages. Annotation types are sometimes different, but the goal is to have a little helper for answering your questions when you stumble onto a word or sentence you don’t understand.
- Provide quizzes and answers for helping you understand if you followed along properly. This way, when you can’t answer a question properly, you can go back to figure out what needs to be reviewed again.
- Part of a series. Not all the readers here are in a series, but this is a fun, added bonus for some readers. If you like the stories you can continue reading. Not to mention, a series assists in moving your learning forward, instead of letting you simply call it quits after you finish.
That said, keep reading to learn about and discover the best German readers to guide you through stories and answer your questions.
8 Bilingual German Readers for Boosting German Comprehension
If you enjoy learning with the readers below but wish they had a visual component to them, check out FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Since this is the content that native German speakers actually watch, you get the chance to experience how modern German is spoken in real life.
Here’s just a brief example of the variety of content you’ll find on FluentU:
Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU helps you get comfortable with everyday German by combining all the benefits of complete immersion and native-level conversations with interactive subtitles.
This way, you get German immersion online without ever worrying about missing a word.
Just tap on any subtitled word to instantly see an in-context definition, usage examples and a memorable illustration to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to your vocabulary list for later review.
Once you’ve watched a video, you can use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in that video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and review words and phrases with convenient audio clips under Vocab.
FluentU will even keep track of all the German words you’ve learned, then recommend videos and ask you questions based on what you already know. Plus, it’ll tell you exactly when it’s time for review. Now that’s a 100% personalized experience!
This reader follows a young man from Sicily who moves to Germany and tries to create a new life. Each chapter comes with a German-English dictionary, for checking in with certain lines and vocabulary. You also receive a short quiz after every story to see if you followed along well.
The reader uses what it calls “building blocks” which take paragraphs and sentences instead of simply translating words. This accelerates the learning and assists with making the process more fun and engaging.
“Learning German through Storytelling: Mord Am Morgen” is a solid reader for intermediate learners, since exercises are included and they aren’t exactly for fresh, new beginners.
If you enjoy a good detective series, this is a great reader for you. The page-turning story includes illustrations, exercises, on-demand translations and full vocabulary sections for tough words.
This book consists of beginner and early-learner stories, each of which include funny situations, ranging from studying to searching for a job. I enjoy this reader because it offers rudimentary yet practical stories, since German learners are more likely to apply for a job than they are to engage in a murder mystery.
The author implements the Approved Learning Automatic Remembering Method system, for repeating words in a systematic way and helping you learn quicker. The reader comes with audio tracks for following along and hearing pronunciations.
Franz Kafka is one of the greatest German writers of all time, so why not learn German by reading his most famous works? Try your hand at stories like “Metamorphosis,” “The Judgement” and “The Country Doctor.”
Each page is written in German, with the English translation on the facing page. There’s something about the facing page translations that makes learning less tedious. It probably has something to do with the fact that you don’t have to fumble around with the pages.
This reader lets you choose from 27 world-famous folk tales from the Grimm brothers. The book has stories like “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and more. Each one is written in German, but the facing page has a complete translation of that particular page.
This reader gives you an advantage, because the stories are recognizable, and they don’t require you to constantly check back with a German-English dictionary.
The “Short Stories in German” reader provides parallel translations for eight short stories. The reader is designed for all experience levels, but it works best for intermediates who have some German knowledge.
Learn with contemporary literature, and use the annotations for assistance. The main reason learners enjoy this reader is because it has a rich combination of diverse themes and styles.
This is one of the best options for first year German learners. It has annotations and notes throughout the entire text, and you get reading comprehension quizzes to supplement the stories. Footnotes are offered for explanations, and a verb appendix comes in handy for reference.
If you are learning German, or taking a class, yet you aren’t confident in your abilities to pick up a German book without annotations, this has the tools and guides to ease your fears.
If you liked the “Café in Berlin” reader we mentioned above, this is the sequel. The main character, Dino, makes his way to Frankfurt to explore a new city and absorb the atmosphere.
Like the original reader, this one has a full German-English dictionary, it includes some annotations for your assistance and you receive quizzes at the end of the chapters.
Now it’s up to you to grab one of these wonderful German readers to engage yourself and make your learning process more fun. From quizzes to direct translations, a reader serves as the first step to truly understanding the intricacies of a German-written book.
So, dive into one of these intriguing readers and use it to start working your way to German fluency.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.