Reading provides access to a Weltanschauung (worldview) rooted in both language and culture.
The moment you’re able to read in a new language, your whole universe expands.
Languages shape thought. Once you master a language, you’ve mastered a new way of thinking.
I’ve experienced this many times and I never tire of it. I’m often surprised by how different the same piece of news can be when reported by El Pais, Le Monde or the Frankfurter Zeitung.
If you’re dying to experience this, there’s no other way to learn to read than through practice, practice and more practice. The best way to practice reading in German is by finding texts that are so exciting to you that you want to learn more to understand them even better.
This gap between what you can do and what you want to do in another language is the key to language learning. Another key is finding current reading materials that are both exciting and somewhat accessible to the non-proficient.
Reading entertaining texts on current events can be a great way to boost your German, and both avid readers and non-readers can enjoy this type of content.
You can always find sites and magazines that suit your preferences, hobbies and interests. After all, reading news articles and fun online fluff pieces is easier than reading Goethe—but don’t worry, you’ll get to German philosophy soon enough.
You’ve got to start light and start fun to get the ball really rolling, because the experience of reading in German and understanding it in the early stages of learning can be tremendously satisfying. If you shoot too high, you may find yourself disappointed and lacking in motivation to continue.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of hip, trendy publications and websites to get the latest scoop from the German-speaking world.
Advantages of Reading for German Learners
Many people go to German class and think they don’t need to do anything other than the required work to gain command of the language. But it’s usually those who keep reading after the class is over who really achieve their goals.
Whether you’re teaching yourself at home or stopping by a classroom for regular lessons, reading needs to be happening all the time. You should be reading whenever you have an odd moment to spare, or whenever you’re feeling bored. Are you browsing the Internet and reading fun articles (like this one) in English? Use that time to start reading in German!
I’m completely adamant about this because reading in German has numerous advantages for language learners:
- It’s simply entertaining and fun. All you need to do is pick something you enjoy from the rich offering of entertaining German books, magazines, websites and blogs. If you choose a topic you actually enjoy, you’ll learn to love reading.
- It can help you acquire new grammar and vocabulary. Vocabulary and grammar are always best learned in context. When unfamiliar words are being used to discuss a topic that interests you or to create humor, this excites your curiosity and your deductive skills—the perfect state for you to be in while acquiring new language.
- You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the culture. It’s hard to separate a language from its culture and vice versa. Every real-life text you read in German will bring a piece of Germany—or Austria, or Switzerland, etc.—to you. Your improved understanding of the culture will form a synergy with your understanding of the language, and the two will create a virtuous cycle.
- You can learn complex sentence structure patterns in a natural way. German grammar can be complex. Some structural patterns in German can be better learned by encountering them in texts time and again, as opposed to having them dissected in the language classroom with long and complex explanations.
- Reading improves writing. There’s no great writer who isn’t a great reader, and in the case of German learning, this is absolutely true. If you don’t read enough, your German writing will probably never have the natural flow of the German language.
- Reading improves speaking. Especially if you include some colloquial language texts in your reading materials, your German speaking will be much improved by your reading. Mixing it up is the best way to succeed. Try reading dialogues, speeches, news stories, journals and everything else you can think of—the more varied your reading selection, the better off you’ll be.
- You can drive your passion. Selecting texts on topics you’re passionate about can have very positive effects on your German learning. Passion is the force of life, and it’s also one of the strongest forces that drive language learning. Besides, reading about topics you’re familiar with can ease comprehension, thus making the reading experience more rewarding and enjoyable.
- Real-life texts can help you move from classroom German towards real-life German. Sometimes lessons, whether self-taught online or learned in the classroom, can teach us useful things, but they seldom teach us which words the cool kids are using, or even which words native German speakers are using at all. A little reading of current German texts can often remedy this.
Feeling convinced? Let’s move on to our awesome German sites for reading material!
9 Fun, Trendy Sites to Read in German
All right, here comes the list, presented in no particular order. Find what sounds most exciting to you and have a look!
1. Der Spiegel
Your one-stop shop for formal German. If you’re struggling with your advanced German course’s essay writing tasks, reading Der Spiegel (The Mirror) can help. From sex and relationships to Internet trends, the news site’s sections cover every newsworthy aspect of human existence. Whether you’re into cars, fashion or literature, Der Spiegel is sure to have something for you.
The German version of the popular American magazine is little bit lighter than Der Spiegel most of the time, but it does have a politics and culture section. Reading the German Rolling Stone can help you build your vocabulary—and your cool kid talk—as you get immersed in the exciting German music scene. The reviews section can provide useful vocabulary for opinion essay writing and the forums offer great opportunities to discuss your favorite articles with native German speakers.
Bild is Germany’s tabloid par excellence, better known by some as “the newspaper with the naked pictures” due to its habit of featuring topless starlets and sex scandal shots. Granted, Bild can be as light as it gets, but if you’re in the earlier stages of language learning, that can also be excellent news, as the language is usually quite accessible and generally illustrated with pictures.
At any given time, you may find in Bild a piece on searching for Nazi gold, a feature on the world’s most mysterious castles or the outing of an extramarital affair between a powerful politician and a soap opera actress. It’s a great source of colloquial, everyday language—though you probably shouldn’t take the content at all seriously.
Stern is a great magazine, and the website is as great as the print version. You can get news and opinion pieces on almost any topic here, but if you’re looking for entertainment and great up-to-date German expressions, I totally recommend the Stern Stimme (Stern voices) section. It features a number of columnists who write fun, engaging articles on different topics, from sex to soccer, politics, history and beyond.
Stern tries to keep all kinds of news interesting, so, you can just type in a keyword relating to something that interests you, and you’re sure to find some engaging and fun articles that are right on topic.
If you’re into style, fashion, Hollywood stars and the royals, Gala is bound to become one of your personal favorites. From who’s-dating-who to gourmet recipes and catwalk trends, you can find much to keep you entertained here.
The Starporträts (Star portraits) section includes profiles of everyone who’s someone, from the Kardashians to Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie. This section will be of great help to improve your descriptions of people and to learn to tell stories from the past in proper German. The style sections are great for learning clothing, makeup and beauty-related vocabulary.
Short texts, beautiful images, and lots of glamour define VIP as a quality fashion publication. The simple and concise language makes the site ideal for beginners and early-intermediate learners. The film releases section will help you practice your storytelling skills, while the gossip and style columns will be great for learning how to structure a simple text, what connectors to use and how to build German sentences in the correct order.
Another great news source for beginners, BRAVO caters to teenagers. If you want to learn what German teens are doing these days, this is the place for you. It may also be right for you if you’re looking for fun, entertaining texts full of exclamations like “Ein absoluter Teenage Dream!” (A total teenage dream!) and “Justin Bieber: So furchtbar ist die Beziehung zu seiner Mutter!” (Justin Bieber: his relationship with his mother is this terrible!). Doubtlessly, BRAVO is a great place to start if you want your reading to improve your mastery of simple, colloquial language.
NEON is both a magazine and an interactive community. Young people publish their own articles and reflections here, which makes it an invaluable source for real-life German. Since such young people often talk about love in their postings, it’s a great place to learn vocabulary for discussing feelings and personal stories. The Unnützes Wissen (Useless Wisdom) section offers fun snippets with statistics that reveal where the fattest men in Germany live or when Brad Pitt quit his studies to go to Hollywood. It’s just the perfect reading material for people who don’t like to read too much at one time—short, sweet and often with a punchline.
If politics and finance are your thing, you’ll probably love FOCUS. Whether it’s money, power or culture, this one likes to keep it entertaining. The photos are usually funny or sweet, the stories are catchy and there are many sections offering lighter reading, most prominently, Panorama, which features stories about crime and lifestyle.
The Reisen (Travel) section is great for learning vocabulary for describing places and nature. The Wissen (Knowledge) section offers interesting scientific finding reports. It can be great for those struggling with structuring their first advanced German essays. If you’re looking for something lighter and easier to read, you can check out the Kultur Quiz (Culture quiz) section, where you can find the likes of “Which Heroine from History Are You?” and “What Do Stephen King and Victoria’s Secret Models Have in Common?”
No matter the topic or source, reading is probably the single most productive thing you can do on your own to improve your writing, speaking and overall comprehension.
Going beyond textbooks and reading trendy, real-life texts like the ones you can find on NEON, Stern or Rolling Stone can really take your German to the next level.
Take the information itself with a grain of salt, stay skeptical and absorb all the fabulously real German you can!
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