woman watching a tv show with german subtitles

How to Learn German with Subtitles

Learning German with subtitles is much more fun than thumbing through the pages of a grammar book. You could be watching your favorite series or a great German film and learning the language at the same time.

In this post, you’ll discover three effective ways to use subtitles for learning German, along with German videos and shows for you to practice with. 


1. Best for Beginners: Watch German Shows with English Subtitles

Watching a German show without subtitles is already pretty helpful, even if you don’t understand what’s being said. It helps you to get a sense of the cadence and rhythm of the language.

However, if you turn the English subtitles on, it becomes a very effective way of building mental connections between hearing German words and understanding their meanings. 

This works great for beginner learners since you can make associations between the German sounds, sentence structures, tones and their actual meanings.

The best types of content to watch for this purpose are the more simple, modern and dialogue-focused films, TV shows and videos.

Beginner-Friendly YouTube Channels

There are some great YouTube channels out there that pair German dialogue with English subtitles.

Easy German

This a really fun and helpful YouTube channel with tons of content that ranges from the basics of the language to street interviews throughout Germany.

The great thing about Easy German is that not only do you learn German that’s literally spoken today but you also get to learn about German life and culture through the videos as well. They provide English subtitles, and in addition, very accurate German subtitles as well.


Trixie from DontTrustTheRabbit does most of her videos about German and living in Germany in English. However, she does have quite a few videos almost entirely in German, with English subtitles, like the one linked above.


This channel is a bit different from the previous two. It’s aimed specifically at beginners and consists almost entirely of children’s stories, with German videos having both English and German subtitles. I found it quite relaxing and even fun to listen to these old German stories, they’re very easy to follow.

Other Streaming Recommendations

Aside from YouTube, there are several other places you can go online to get German shows and English subtitles. For many of these, you may need a VPN to access them as they’re often location-locked to Germany.

If you’ve heard the term VPN but haven’t used one before, it’s essentially a service that creates a connection between your device and a server somewhere in the world. Then, all the traffic of your PC is routed through that server. Basically, that server, wherever in the world it is, acts as your computer (to a certain degree) to the rest of the internet.

It’s not a perfect technology, and streaming services have become quite good at controlling their use, but some do still work.

You can also check out this post for more websites online where you can find this kind of German content. 

Here are some other places outside of YouTube to find German shows and movies with English subtitles:

2. Best for Niche Vocabulary: Watch English Shows with German Subtitles

This method works best when you read along to something you’re already familiar with. Pick an episode of your favorite English TV show or a movie you’ve seen before, for example.

By reading the German as you hear the English, it’s very easy to learn new vocabulary as you watch. And because the words are written out in German, you can pause and look up a word that really stands out to you as weird or interesting.

You can even use this technique to learn new words in a specific theme that you’re interested in, and learn the jargon of that particular niche in the proper context as well.

Where to Find Suitable English Shows

For this strategy, you can watch anything you already enjoy watching that has German subtitles.

If you already live in Germany, or can use a VPN to access native German materials, then all of the English films and TV shows there will have German subtitles available. Also, other streaming services like Amazon Prime sometimes have German subtitles as well.

Watch whatever you like! You can even dive into a particular niche and learn its vocabulary in a fun way.

Like crime shows? Watch something like “The Wire” on Amazon with German subtitles. Want to learn about science and nature? Check out “Our Planet” or “Our Universe” on Netflix!

You get the idea. Basically, whatever niche theme or topic a TV show or movie has will have special vocab associated with it. It can be really fun to learn the wacky German words for your interests!

How to Add German Subtitles on Your Own

Even if a show isn’t on Netflix or other places like Amazon, you can still get German subtitles for essentially any popular film or TV show.

There are substantial repositories of subtitles out there for you to use. Now, this may require you to understand what a .srt file is and how to import it into your video player, but once you can do that, you can add German subtitles to essentially everything you have. The first method described on this wikiHow article about adding subtitles demonstrates the general process I use.

As for finding subtitles for these videos, there are a couple of places I look around the web that have great search functions to help you find the exact subtitle track you need: subcentral.de and OpenSubtitles.

3. Best for Immersion: Watch German Shows with German Subtitles

Alright, this is where we get into the tougher stuff.

German shows, German subtitles. All German, all the time.

Don’t worry, I’m not saying you need to be fluent—but you should understand the basic structure of the language first to really get the most out of it.

Just as English is full of numerous little quirks—contractions, idioms, loads of connotations and implications—German is too.  I’ll give you an example of a German idiom that makes no sense if you don’t know what it means.

Let’s take “seinen Senf dazugeben” (to add one’s mustard). Say you’re watching a show in German, and someone starts talking about putting their mustard (Senf) in something. Unless they’re talking about sandwiches, you’re going to be very confused.

Luckily, with German subtitles, you can quickly pause, look up the phrase and find out that it just means “to put their two cents in.”

As a little side note: German idioms are hilarious and I highly recommend learning them. Enjoy playing “spot the German idioms” when watching your favorite show!

Making the Most Out of German Subtitles 

Your first stop should be FluentU, which provides authentic German videos and way more than just regular subtitles.

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.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

German Comedies for Advanced Learners

When it comes to traditional subtitles, I highly suggest that more advanced learners look into German comedies. Ha ha, yes, I understand that German humor is no laughing matter. In all seriousness though, it’s great!

Comedies tend to rely heavily on slang, wordplay and idioms to get a laugh, so they’re a great way to learn a more natural, colorful German.

With German subtitles on, as you hear a strange-sounding phrase, word or punchline, you can look it up and figure out how it’s used. I’ve found that, not only do I understand the words and phrases I pull out of TV and movies much better, but I remember them more easily as well.

Here’s an example:

Admittedly, it can be a bit tougher to find German comedies with English subtitles, but there’s actually a wealth of German short films and documentaries out on YouTube and around the web. “Fritten zum Mittag” (Fries for Lunch) will introduce you to some quirky characters in this German comedy short film. 

You can find lots of content with subtitles on zdf.de, Germany’s national public television broadcaster.


Whether you want to improve your comprehension, learn some new vocabulary or learn a more informal or slang German, using subtitles is a fun and interesting way to do it.

And these days, we have so many options available online to help us learn German with subtitles.

So fire up those subtitles and start watching!

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