While you can learn much from textbooks, reading and lessons in German, there is nothing quite like hearing a language being spoken. Taking part in discussions with other German students is wise, but listening to native speakers talking with one another is the best form of tuition if you want to not only be good at German grammar and vocabulary, but also sound fluent.
Listening is key when learning a new language.
However, if you don’t have the time to dedicate to sitting down and watching a film or a television programme in German, then why not put on some German radio that will allow you to hear a very large bank of vocabulary, some topical conversations as well as lyrics sang in German? You can look up the different radio stations on offer by searching the Internet, and can then stream the channels on your chosen device.
Alternatively, you might wish to consider listening to podcasts adapted for German learners. Podcasts are a relatively new phenomenon but have taken off over the last few years, thanks mainly to those who rely on their mobile phones and tablets. This includes young adults and commuters, but is not limited to these demographics. Schools and some offices also benefit from listening to audio shows, usually broadcast as a series of downloadable shows.
Podcasts can be created by almost anyone, so you should look for official sources or recommendations from well-know corporations to ensure that the podcasts you are listening to are suitable for your purpose.
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Finally, if you are happy to call yourself an intermediate German speaker, you might like to consider listening to some audiobooks, which can provide hours of entertainment. That said, even if you are only just starting out on your language learning journey, you can still take lots away from listening to German lessons.
If you are new to the language, pick stories with simple storylines so that you can be in with a better chance of following the context. However, even if you don’t feel you are understanding anything, remind yourself that you will still be benefiting from absorbing language features in your subconscious.
The great thing about radio, podcasts and audiobooks is that you can listen to them in the background whilst getting on with other tasks. This means you can listen to audio content while carrying out household chores, while hard at work or even while exercising at the gym.
You don’t need to put pressure on yourself to dedicate chunks of your time to language learning, as by using audio learning techniques you can learn much more than you think. If you have the time though, by all means introduce some other learning methods too!
Plus, with the latest app technology, it is so easy to find and download audiobooks, podcasts and radio stations in international languages. Most people will have at least one computer, laptop or mobile phone in their home with an Internet connection, so these tools really are accessible to almost anyone.
Audio content can either take a back seat, or it can be used to enhance situations and provide entertainment. When you are busy working on other activities, then music or other audio can feel almost like background noise while your focus is elsewhere. Yet, when you are sitting in a car on a long journey, or you have taken up a seat on a train ready for your daily commute home, having something to distract you from the monotony can be very satisfying.
Not only can listening to German music, a German language podcast or letting yourself be taken in by a German story provide entertainment, it is also a great way to take advantage of otherwise lost time and do something constructive with all of those wasted minutes or hours.
All three of these methods of learning are perfect for busy lifestyles, and they also improve your listening skills while providing you with content that is often fresh and current.
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This German news station is linked to Deutschlandradio, one of the country’s most popular stations for culture and pedagogy, and reports itself on various cutting-edge events and topics. It features numerous interviews with politicians and television personalities, so while the content isn’t awfully simple it will certainly offer you some interesting topics and perspectives.
If you are a sports fanatic and would happily spend hours catching up on football scores, then Sport1.fm is a fantastic radio station for you. Not only does it discuss games from the country’s own national and second division leagues, it also refers to international championships with expert commentating, game analysis and interviews with key personalities.
Even if you’re not sporty, listening to this station can improve your knowledge of German while also making you very knowledgeable about German football players!
If your main purpose for listening to the radio is for the musical element, there are a range of stations designed for all music lovers. Star FM is intended for rock enthusiasts, TrueHipHop is designed for those who like rap, FluxFM is perfect for indie lovers, Radio SAW is the pop diva’s best friend and, last but not least, Klassik Radio is for the self-confessed connoisseurs of classical music.
There are of course many more radio stations to choose from, some of which might be mainstream national stations while others might be small productions adapted to a very particular audience. Experiment with the different stations if you can and try to find out which one appeals to you the most. You might even find a station that you enjoy tuning into at a certain time each day!
Audiobooks are effectively talking books, with unabridged versions lasting several (if not more) hours. An evolution of the old cassette audiobook, modern versions can now be downloaded and streamed on digital devices like tablets and mobile phones.
It is very hard to give recommendations on audiobooks as, to me, these require far more commitment than tuning into a radio station or a podcast and should therefore be selected in line with your taste and preferences.
As such, I would recommend looking for your favourite titles in German (you can do this by searching the web, downloading audiobook apps or by purchasing books from iTunes) or trawling through the various online lists to find a topic that you like the sound of. With any luck, you will find a story that you will never want to press pause on!
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Contrary to what its name suggests, Slow German is a great way to accelerate your learning in the language. Designed for beginners and intermediates, Munich-based journalist Annik hosts the series of audio shows.
The preliminary stages are presented in English with gentle introductions to German words, while intermediate learners are faced with German narration pared down to a relatively slow pace to facilitate understanding.
Annik emphasises each syllable, allowing listeners to take it all in. Plus, a transcript is available to download if you missed anything.
Most learners of German don’t have the opportunity to travel to Germany to immerse themselves in the German language and culture. German Lingq therefore provides the types of conversations that you might hear on a day to day basis in Germany, discussing a broad range of practical topics.
The two main characters talk to one another about everyday activities, so that learners can get a feel for basic conversations in German. Once again, you can access a full transcript if there’s anything you wish to see on paper.
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With a robust title like this, beginners can feel confident that this podcast will provide them with a good grounding of German. The podcast is quite education-led, acting out scenarios and then repeating them and then discussing the various parts of speech in more detail afterwards.
Learning materials can be downloaded in conjunction with the podcast as well as a transcript, vocabulary lists and some exercises to give a go yourself.
30-minute podcasts are perfect to fit in with your morning coffee break. Photo via Visual Hunt
The format of this podcast is a native speaker teaching a learner German, which ultimately makes it feel like you are being taught by the main character. The learner asks relevant questions at just the right time, so you aren’t left with ‘how’s and ‘why’s.
The subjects covered are once again very practical and each lesson runs for about 30 minutes – perfect for while you sit down and have your morning cup of coffee!
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