Don’t underestimate the value of a good listener.
If you’ve got a friend like this, you understand.
They notice the little changes in your inflection, they remember what you say and they respond appropriately.
You can learn a thing or two from that friend, so pay attention!
Developing great listening skills is more difficult than you think, and it’s even harder in a foreign language! It’s fast-paced, spontaneous and you have no time to prepare yourself.
German listening, however, is particularly challenging. With such a wide range of dialects, from the “harsh” Berlin pronunciation, to the unique Swiss intonation, there’s a lot to get used to. Fear not: we’ve got seven great online resources to help you improve your German listening!
If you’re not into podcasts, we’ve got some tunes you’ll appreciate. If you’d prefer an audiobook resource suggestion, we’ve got you covered there, too!
Stay tuned for an array of audio resources that’ll have your head swimming and your ears buzzing with the sounds of German.
Why Are Listening Skills So Important?
Despite being challenging, listening skills are absolutely vital to learning a new language.
Good communication is impossible without them. You can’t have a conversation in a foreign language if you can’t understand what the other person is saying in the first place. There’s no point asking a local for a recommendation (or directions) if you’re unable to decipher their response.
Secondly, strong listening skills help improve your German speaking abilities. Being able to follow a conversation, movie or song will help you gain a better understanding of how words should sound, which you can then implement yourself when speaking out loud.
You’ll also learn certain colloquialisms, which will help you sound more fluent and really impress some native speakers.
How to Be a Better Listener
If you’re serious about improving your German listening, stop simply playing German audio in the background and follow these steps for being an active listener.
- Remove all distractions and get focused. Put your phone in another room, sit in a quiet, uncrowded space and really take in the words you’re listening to.
- Make vocabulary lists from what you hear. Write down words and phrases to help them stick in your mind and make your listening experience much more worthwhile.
- Use phrases or structures you hear in conversations. This will help you remember them and get a grip on how to use them in everyday scenarios.
- Write a summary of what you hear. Whether you do this in your native tongue or your target language, knowing you have to write a summary once you’ve finished listening will force you to focus and take in as much information as possible.
The 7 Best Online Resources to Improve Your German Listening Skills
Check out these six helpful online resources that will improve your listening skills in no time. But remember—using these resources in isolation is probably not enough to help you to advance.
Quantity can be more important than quality when it comes to listening, so try to actively listen to as much German audio as often as possible to really notice an improvement.
There’s a whole host of German news sources to help you to improve all aspects of your German; however, “Tagesschau” (A Look at the Day) is the most famous and most-watched German news show out there!
There’s plenty of resources on the “Tagesschau” website to help you to perfect your German listening skills. A good place to start is “Tagesschau 20 Uhr” (the 8:00 version of “Tagesschau”)—the main edition of the program, which airs on Das Erste (directly translated: The First—the main publicly-owned TV channel in Germany). “Tagesschau 20 Uhr” lasts around 15 minutes and covers all of the topics you would expect to come up in an evening news program, such as current events and the weather.
If 15 minutes is a little too long to hold your focus, try just watching segments of the show that you’re interested in, such as sports. Alternatively, head to the Tagesschau 100 Sekunden (A Look at the Day in 100 Seconds) section, where 100-second-long videos are posted, summarizing the day’s news.
If you’re more interested in listening to general cultural topics rather than watching a news program, check out the Kurz Erklärt (Briefly Explained) page. Here, “Tagesschau” posts videos that give short introductions and insights into a range of interesting topics like religion or the environment.
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.
iTunes is the perfect place for German learners of all abilities. As you know, you can find a huge range of songs, podcasts, movies and audiobooks to improve your German listening. The sheer number of options available can be pretty daunting, and it can be tricky to know where to start.
Why not begin with a musical number? We’ve got plenty of song suggestions to fill up your playlist in no time!
The German charts are a good starting point. While this list includes a lot of songs in English, there are plenty of German tunes to choose from, too.
If none of the songs in the charts take your fancy, you could purchase a German classic, such as “99 Luftballons” by Nena. This anti-war protest song is one of the most famous German tunes of the 1980s and spoke out against the use of nuclear weapons.
Beware: There is an English version of this song (“99 Red Balloons”), but the lyrics are very different from the original.
If you can’t quite get into this song, try downloading and translating the lyrics, rather than listening to the English version (which might just confuse you).
If you’re looking for something a little easier to listen to, try out “Der, die, das” (directly translated: “The, the, the”) from “Sesamstraße” (“Sesame Street”), which you can find on this album of fantastic German TV theme songs appropriately titled Fantastische Deutsche TV Themes.
This song focuses on teaching you the definitive article “the” in its different cases it, by rhyming the three words with important question words: wer (who), wie (how) and was (what). This fun and memorable tune is a great way to make sure that important vocab and grammar rules really stick in your head.
Regardless of the genre, era or style, listening to music is one of the best ways to learn a language, as catchy tunes really help you to remember words and phrases. So whatever genre you’re interested in, get listening asap!
There are plenty of German language podcasts out there to help you to improve your listening, but Slow German is absolutely ideal for beginners and advanced students alike.
Annik Rubens, the mastermind behind Slow German, is a journalist from Munich who started the podcast in 2007. While she admits to not being a qualified teacher, her podcasts are perfect for students who have trouble with listening.
She speaks in a slow, clear and concise style that makes even the most complex topics easy to understand.
If you’re just starting out on your German-learning journey, check out the Absolute Beginners section. Here, Annik posts her podcasts that are most suited to students with only a basic German knowledge. Each episode has an English description, including key vocabulary, so they’re easy to follow and pick up some new words at the same time.
The beginners section has plenty of topics to choose from, so whether you want to learn new greetings or find out how to discuss your travels, you’re bound to find something that interests you.
If you’re at a more advanced level, take a look at the Alle Themen (All Topics) page. Here, Annik posts podcasts that discuss more complex topics, such as politics and history. Annik also writes a summary of each episode in German. It’s a good idea to read these before you listen, as it’ll give you a sneak peak of what the podcast is about, making it easier to focus and follow story lines.
These short descriptions also enable you to pick up new vocabulary, as you can easily see how words are spelled.
Easy German is one of the best German YouTube channels for beginners and pros alike. Whether you’re looking to improve your grammar, learn about topics such as food, or gain a better understanding of culture and politics in Germany, there really is something for everyone.
If you’re just starting out and want to improve your German listening skills, take a look at one of the channel’s easier videos, which have subtitles in both German and English.
This video about the weather, for example, is perfect for beginners. Not only does it discuss a relatively simple topic, but the subtitles enable you to see how some of the trickier words are spelled, making it easier to learn, remember and re-use them.
While English subtitles are useful for understanding, try only to refer to them as a last resort, as this focus on the English will only limit your ability to take in any new German.
Some of the more challenging videos don’t have subtitles in any language. While these videos are still slow and easy to follow, they’re ideal for more advanced students who want to take their listening skills to the next level.
MOSALingua is the perfect app for improving your German listening and it comes with a great bonus—it’s free!
MOSALingua uses an effective language learning system based on several cognitive concepts. Active recall, for example, is a very important part of this app. This is the ability to extract a foreign language word from your own memory, without hints or suggestions—a vital skill for all language learners!
This app includes over 37 different German dialogues. Each is clearly spoken by native German speakers, so they will accurately teach you how to pronounce even the trickiest of words. These dialogues cover topics from food to travel, so you’re bound to find something you’re interested in.
The app also offers plenty of tools to assist you with your language skills. Flashcards, for example, can help you to easily follow audio and remember some of the trickier vocab.
In addition to these useful dialogues, MOSALingua is currently developing a hands-free version of the app. This will allow you to listen to audio on the go and improve your German listening skills wherever you are. Just be sure to listen to dialogues when you’re able to focus on them, to really make the most of your listening experience.
You’ll definitely make progress by using this app, as there are frequent mini tests to evaluate your skills. Not only do these tests encourage you by showing you how much progress you’ve made, but they also give you specific areas to work on.
We’ve covered songs, audio lessons, news and more, but there’s one more great way to improve your German listening skills—audiobooks!
Freiszene.de has hundreds of audiobooks to choose from, covering a huge variety of genres. What’s more, there’s a wonderful bonus: they’re all free! Simply search for a term, title or author you’re interested in, or browse audiobooks by popularity or upload date.
If you want to start by listening to a story you’re familiar with, try out “Alice in Wonderland.” While some of the vocab might be a little challenging, the fact that you know the plot will help you to work out the meanings of certain words from their context.
If you’re looking for something a little more typisch Deutsch (typically German), try out “Die verzauberte Insel” (“The Enchanted Island”) by Sigrid Heuck—the story of Mira: A young girl who wants to find out if her island is really enchanted, like her grandpa always says.
Whatever you listen to, be sure to be ambitious but not unrealistic. While you should start with something that interests you, you shouldn’t necessarily try listening to your favorite novel straight away. Beginning with something too tricky might put you off audiobooks altogether, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?
If you’ve found something straightforward to start with but are still struggling to follow your audiobook, try getting your hands on a hard copy. Reading as you listen will not only help you follow the story line, but it’ll also show you how to spell certain words and phrases, which will help if you plan on making a vocabulary list as you go.
Repeating chapters, or even whole books, can also be a huge help. You might find that you understand certain sections better and you might surprise yourself by picking up some tricky phrases that you didn’t comprehend the first time around.
Try to use as many of these resources as possible to start with in order to figure out what resources suit you best.
Be sure not to stagnate: once you’ve got a grip on beginners’ lessons, podcasts or videos, try your hand at some more challenging audio to really reach your full potential!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.