Bob Dylan was right, the times are a changin’.
Today, we can learn German with videos while we lay in bed, commute to work or take care of chores.
No need for those old cassette tapes or dusty books that our grandparents had to use.
While the internet age may have made us addicted to our phones, the information superhighway it opened has empowered us with access to knowledge that’s nearly unlimited.
Not surprisingly, it has given us new, better ways to go about learning German.
Online videos are one such tool that will completely enrich your path to fluency, making German fun, relevant, interesting and easier to learn.
Here you’ll find six types of engaging videos that can enhance your German practice and even increase your motivation to keep learning. But first, let me hammer home the value of learning German with online videos.
Why Learn German with Videos?
You’re More Engaged, So You Learn Quicker
Although we don’t know all the mechanics of the human brain yet, it’s safe to say that it picks up information better when it wants to pick up the information. Videos, especially fun ones, are more stimulating than simply reading texts, and are more likely to get your mind active.
You’ll Be More Inclined to Study
No one likes chores. After a long day working, studying, watching the kids or helping your neighbor fix his car, the last thing you’re going to want to do is sit down and open a book. While we definitely encourage reading in German, on these types of days it can be intimidating to try to use your brain, if not at least a little annoying. “I’ll just skip it for tonight,” you tell yourself, and then one night becomes two nights, two becomes three…
But when you know you’ll enjoy hearing some German while being entertained in the process (via videos), it becomes something you look forward to. Suddenly five minutes of watching German videos becomes 10, which becomes a half an hour, and so forth—even on evenings when you feel exhausted.
Adding the Visual Aspect Helps the Memory
I could never remember how my father told me to fix something unless I saw him do it in front of me. In the same way, seeing a German TV show (which provides the context for new words and phrases) helps you retain the language better. It attaches a visual element to the learning process that can help it stick in the brain, especially for those who prefer visuals.
Seeing is believing. And in some ways, it’s remembering too.
And without further ado, here are six ways to supercharge your German with informative and captivating videos.
Learn German with Videos: The Coolest Clips and Channels for Immersion from Anywhere
1. Instruct Yourself with German Language Learning Videos
You’ll be happy to know that there are tons of YouTube channels devoted to learning German with videos at any level.
Watch a few minutes of German learning YouTube channels to get a feel for which one might fit you the best. Online instructional videos are a great way to replace textbook learning with a medium that’s more engaging and stimulating.
In videos of roughly four minutes each, Anja not only goes over basic phrases or greetings, but gives some of the grammatical background to them as well. These videos are particularly helpful for those of us who tend to wonder, “But why am I saying this?”
Anja, a native German speaker, delivers the lessons in English and keeps the videos high-energy with her bright and personable nature.
FluentU truly gives German learners the best of both worlds. You’ll get focused German language instruction plus authentic, entertaining videos that native speakers actually watch.
FluentU provides German movie trailers, music videos, inspiring speeches, news clips and more, which all have built-in German learning tools. For example, every video comes with interactive subtitles. Tap or click any word in the captions and the video will automatically pause to show you an in-context definition, grammar information and a memorable picture.
When you’re done watching a video, there are flashcards and fun quizzes to make sure you remember all the new words you’ve just learned.
It’s the perfect way to learn German the way native speakers actually use it, without ever worrying about missing a word. Since the videos are organized by genre and level (beginner to advanced), it’s easy to find the ones that work for you—plus, FluentU will suggest new videos based on what you’ve already learned.
Best of all, you can learn German with videos on FluentU anytime, anywhere with the mobile app for iOS and Android.
For those who appreciate a little dry humor, the animated Speaksli might be your thing. In videos of 10 to 15 minutes, characters explain new vocabulary and grammar with tips to remember them, often throwing in a few jokes. Think “Family Guy” does German.
The characters speak in English, but provide help in pronouncing the German.
2. Get Updated with the News in German
Most of us check a news source as part of our daily routine. What if getting informed on current events can double as German practice?
My favorite German daily news video is “Tagesschau in 100 Sekunden.” Not only is it delivered in authentic German, but it’s also concise. In one minute and 40 seconds, all major events in Germany and the world are succinctly recounted.
Even the busiest person there can find 100 seconds to improve their German language comprehension.
“Tägliche Nachrichten” (“Daily News”)
If you want a little more comprehensive look at the day’s events, you can subscribe to the YouTube playlist “Tägliche Nachrichten.” These videos tend to be 12 to 15 minutes in length, and give a more in-depth look at what’s going on.
Here’s a tip for understanding these videos: don’t be afraid to pause the video and look up the headlines if they include words that you don’t understand. Not only will this introduce you to new German vocabulary, but it can also make it easier to follow the story.
3. Jam to German Music Videos
Ever had one of those earworms—a catchy tune that just wouldn’t leave your head? Have you found yourself singing the same lines all day long? Imagine how useful it would be if those lines were in German.
There are many great German artists that can unknowingly help you improve your language skills. The song “Applaus, Applaus” (“Applause, Applause”) by Sportfruende Stiller is one of my more recent favorites. Not only does the music video have a lot of people in animal costumes walking through the woods, but the lyrics are catchy and simple.
The words sung in this song will provide you with the vocabulary to be able to thank a lover or good friend for always being there for you. You can also find the English transition thanks to Lyrics Translate.
Learning song lyrics can help introduce you to the word order and grammatical structures in German—but don’t worry if you don’t understand it all at once. Getting used to seeing these structures will make you gradually more comfortable with them.
4. Watch Movies Trailers in German
Movie trailers are made to be short and interesting to get us excited to see the film. As you’ve probably caught on by now, they can also improve our German.
Aside from the suggestions below, nearly every major English film has a trailer in German that’s available on YouTube. Generally, you can search for the English title of the film and then add “German trailer,” or simply type in “German trailers” to get a selection of recent or popular films in German.
“Gods of Egypt” Trailer
“Gods of Egypt” suddenly sounds more epic with a German voice. The plot of the movie is spelled out in a simple way with slow narration, making this one a great movie trailer to start with.
If you’re having trouble understanding any of the words, watch the English version for clues.
In particular, watching trailers of films you’ve already seen can be a great exercise, since you already know the context of the film and can use that to your advantage in deciphering the new words.
This one is available on FluentU, so you can sign up for an account to watch with all the learning features.
5. Take a Load off with German Movies
There’s nothing like getting done with a long day and being able to sit back, relax…
…and be exposed to German while watching a delightful full-length movie.
There are many films available online in German, and you can always check your local library for DVDs as well.
Resist the temptation to stop the film too often. Instead, rely on your ability to use the context of scenes to figure out what’s being said—just in like in real-life German conversations. It really isn’t necessary to understand every word (or even every other word!). Watching full-length movies will really help train your ear to hear German as it’s spoken naturally.
Online you can find classics like “Deine besten Jahre,” in which heiress Vera Kemp must fight a woman who claims to be her husband’s mistress in order to maintain her public reputation.
“The Lollipop Monster”
Or you might discover dramas you’d never heard of, like “The Lollipop Monster.” In this movie, two girls form an unlikely relationship in trying to overcome their dysfunctional upbringing.
6. Laugh Along with German Comedy Sketches
Laughter is the best medicine, and maybe also the best language learning tool. Take advantage of various forms of online humor that will have you learning new words through your tears.
“Fritten zum Mittag” (Fries for Lunch)
Die laughing with the quirky characters of “Fritten zum Mittag” as you get a taste of not-so-subtle German irony in this one-time German short with English subtitles.
And even though it has a seasonal subject, this Christmas comedy sketch is funny all year round. It gives an unconventional look at Santa Claus and his helpers through the lens of a newscast.
The dawn of the modern age has brought with it new possibilities in the way we learn German. Now improving our language skills can also be fun and engaging, allowing us to be simultaneously entertained while finding new words or grasping the structure of the grammar.
Now, you can learn German with videos while lounging on the sofa. Enjoy!
Ryan Dennis was a Fulbright Scholar and previously taught at Pädagogische Hochschule Schwäbisch Gmünd. In addition to hating ketchup, British spelling and violence, he writes The Milk House—the only literary column about dairy farming.
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