You’ve already read the must-read German classics.
Next you turned to music, and continued learning German with some great modern songs that still get stuck in your head from time to time.
And then you began watching German movies to take your German skills to the next level.
The movies have been great so far! But sometimes you just don’t want to commit to a 3-hour long film, am I right?
The answer: TELEVISION
Yes, forget what your parents told you about watching too much TV. Like movies, TV shows are a great way to get your German in tip-top shape.
Not only can you learn tons of new slang from TV, but you can also gain great insight into contemporary German culture.
In addition, unscripted shows—like reality shows—can expose you to off-the-cuff German, which can drastically improve your listening comprehension.
Need a quick break from your German vocabulary flashcards? Start streaming one of the following shows!
If you discover that you love learning German through authentic video content like these awesome shows, then you’ll have to check out FluentU.
That’s what we’re all about.
Stay tuned until the end of this post, and I’ll let you in on how to learn German vocabulary, slang, listening skills and more with FluentU.
Now, let’s get on with the show!
Learn German Through TV: 8 Great Shows for German Learners
1. Tatort (“Crime Scene”)
If you enjoy crime shows like “CSI” and “Law & Order,” you are bound to fall in love with “Tatort” and its suspenseful storylines. A German/Austrian/Swiss production, it has been around since the 1970s and is still one of the most popular shows in the German-speaking world.
Each episode takes place in a new city and each city has a set of Kommissare (investigators) that work together to solve a crime within the span of one episode. Very much reflective of the socio-political climate in Germany, it has produced some of the most recognizable German cultural icons like the police inspector Schimanski. “Tatort” is also a great show for German-language learners, as each episode exposes you to the different accents and dialects of the host city.
2. Verbotene Liebe (“Forbidden Love”)
Drama, drama, drama!
With a name like “Forbidden Love,” what do you expect?
This soap opera is one of the most popular in Germany and has won many accolades for its sobering portrayal of controversial issues like drug abuse, alcoholism, rape, homophobia, incest and adultery. Set for the most part in the city of Düsseldorf, it consists of various interrelated family storylines.
One of the most prominent focuses on the relationship between Jan Brandner and Julia von Anstetten, twins who, after being separated by their parents at birth, ultimately fall in love with each other. If you are partial to heart-wrenching shows like “Days of Our Lives” or “All My Children,” you are bound to enjoy “Verbotene Liebe”!
3. Danni Lowinski
Danni is a hairdresser who earns her law degree doing night classes. Upon graduating, she wants to work as a lawyer but is unable to find employment in a firm. Unwilling to give up, she decides to lease a small space in a mall in Cologne and open up a low-cost legal helpdesk, charging 1 euro per minute for her services.
So begins Danni’s bumpy yet often comical career as a lawyer as she helps her unusual clients with her equally unorthodox approaches. This legal dramedy is perfect if you’re looking for a challenging yet lighthearted show to prepare for your upcoming trip to North Rhine-Westphalia!
4. Im Angesicht des Vebrechens (“In the Face of Crime”)
This ten-part German television series about the Russian mafia in Berlin is, in my humble opinion, one of the best German productions out there. Though the viewer figures were low when it aired, it received critical acclaim for its unique plot and impressive cast.
It tells the story of police officer Marek Gorsky, the son of Latvian-Jewish immigrants, who, along with his partner, is investigating the dealings of the Russian mafia in Germany’s capital. Gorsky is a tormented character who, in his job, struggles with the memory that his brother’s murder case was never solved, and the fact that his sister is married to a Russian mobster.
This highly suspenseful action series is perfect for German students with a higher level of German who are looking for something to keep them at the edge of their seats!
5. Die Sendung mit der Maus (“The Program with the Mouse”)
If you are not feeling confident enough with your German to tackle a show with a complicated plotline but still want to improve your German through TV, maybe “The Program with the Mouse” is right for you.
This highly acclaimed children’s show consists of several segments that are either humorous or educational (or both) and, though targets children between the age of 4 and 8, has a average viewer age of 39! This show is a great way to improve your vocabulary, as the topics covered are highly diverse, yet still at an elementary level.
The show might also give you some insight into the German culture since some of the past educational segments have focused on difficult topics to explain to children, like Germany after WWII and Chernobyl. In addition, most Germans know this show so it may be a great way to break the ice with your new German friends!
6. Schweigertochter gesucht (“Daughter-in-law Wanted”)
Let’s face it: sometimes you just want to watch something trashy on TV and not think too much. If you’re in one of these moods but still want to learn some German, this German reality dating show might be just what you need.
The show has single women spend a couple of days living in the homes of their prospective partners. The catch is that most of these men are living with their mothers, hence the title of the show. Apart from the obviously humorous situations that this premise entails, this show is great because it may give you insight into small-town life in Germany. Moreover, the format and the language used is generally easy to follow for German learners!
If you enjoy “The Office,” you should give this very popular German sitcom a chance.
The show takes place in the office of a fictional insurance company called “Capitol Versicherung AG” and focuses on the department headed by Bernd Stromberg. As the TV crew documents the day-to-day occurrences in the office, Stromberg tries, often unsuccessfully, to have his department come off in the best light.
The show, a parody of the modern “reality show” genre, is great for German students since the humor is sophisticated yet very much accessible. In addition, you can stream the first five seasons for free online, so go and give it a shot!
8. Wetten, dass..? (“Wanna bet that..?”)
Though there are many different German-language entertainment TV shows, the most successful is undoubtedly “Wetten, dass..?”.
The main part of the show focuses on betting on whether or not ordinary people can perform an unusual and/or difficult task. Past bets have included whether or not a blindfolded man could recognize his cows based on the noise they made while chewing apples, or whether 13 swimmers could pull a 312-tonne ship for 25 meters. The other major attraction of the show is the celebrity interviews, which often feature high-profile celebrities like Michael Jackson, Karl Lagerfeld, and Mikhail Gorbachev.
This show is perfect if you don’t feel like committing to a grueling drama, yet still want to improve your German by watching something lighthearted!
How to Learn German with Authentic Video Content
All right, you’ve made it this far. Now I’ll show you how FluentU works.
You’ll get to learn German with content that native German speakers actually watch on the regular, like the previously listed shows. We’ve got everything from Volkswagen commercials to funny YouTube videos, scenes from “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the hit song “Let it Go” from “Frozen.”
Love the idea of watching fun, authentic videos, but worried about understanding them well enough? FluentU brings native videos within reach with its interactive subtitles.
While watching your chosen videos, you can tap on any subtitled word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used by modern natives. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can simply tap “add” to save it to your vocab list.
As you can see, FluentU isn’t just for watching videos. It’s a unique language learning program designed to get you to total German mastery, complete with active learning tools like vocabulary lists, multimedia flashcards and more.
Even the flashcards have something special to offer learners—they integrate video clips, imagery and audio to create rich, memorable learning experiences and help you retain German vocabulary better than ever.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of your progress and recommends relevant content based on what you’ve already learned.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.