Getting German listening input should be your default activity during downtime. If you don’t feel like deep studying then try and listen to something fun in German. There is enough content out there that you only need to pay attention to the things that interest you. If it’s boring to you, then replace it with something exciting. It’s more important to be engaged than for the content to be objectively good. Any content will do, provided it’s interesting to you personally and the language is correct.
Here are five sources of fun listening input which I enjoyed during my time learning German. If you know any others then let me know.
1. Music videos with German lyrics on YouTube (beginner–advanced)
I absolutely love these. If you search on YouTube for the name of a German song and add the word ‘lyrics’, you will usually find what you want. Songs repeat the same phrases over and over again, which is great for drilling grammar and vocabulary into your head. I love enjoying the positive energy of the language. It never fails to get me excited and motivated about German. Here are a few random ones to get you started:
Elektrisches Gefühl – Juli
Das Model – Kraftwerk
Tokio Hotel – Durch den Monsun
Halt dich an mir fest – Revolver
Geboren um zu Leben – Unheilig
Das Beste – Silbermond
Urlaub fürs Gehirn – K.I.Z.
A guilty pleasure of mine was listening to German pop bands like Tokio Hotel and Silbermond on the bus to and from school, which helped me a lot when I was a beginner.
Pro Tip: When listening to the music and reading the lyrics, really pay attention. Try to visualise what is being described and focus on how the grammar and structure conveys this specific meaning.
2. Easy German – German on the streets (beginner–advanced)
When I first started learning German in 2008 there were just 13 Easy German videos, and I watched them over and over again. There wasn’t as much German content on YouTube back then so I had to make do, but today we are lucky to have such an abundance of high-quality content such as this. As of writing there are just over 500 Easy German videos.
For those of you that don’t know it already, Easy German is a channel based in Berlin. The creators, Cari and Janusz, as well as their helpers (for example me :D) interview people on the streets of Berlin about various topics of interest.
There are subtitles in German and English and vidoes on a huge number of topics. There are also Super Easy German videos which are perfect for beginners to get listening input. Highly recommend. Check out my videos page where there are three episodes in which I interview passers by in Berlin, or have a look at this one where we play ‘Would You Rather’.
Pro Tip: Watch the videos through once, writing down the new vocabulary. Once you’ve learnt it, watch the same video again a few days later to really cement it. You will find the new words pop out at you as you notice them.
3. Das Einschlafen Podcast – for sleeping (advanced)
I absolutely love listening to this podcast before bed. This is for slightly more advanced learners. It’s specifically designed to send you to sleep, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring! It’s great for getting huge amounts of natural spoken German. The creator is from Hamburg and has a wonderfully rich and deep standard German accent.
He starts off by talking about mundane things in his life such as sourdough bread and weekend trips. This is excellent for learning vocabulary. For the particularly sleep-resistant listeners, he finishes off by reading aloud from classic literature or philosophical texts. He usually chooses Alice in Wonderland or Kant.
What’s more, there is a huge archive of previous episodes. I guarantee you will not fall asleep! However, if you genuinely can’t sleep I highly recommend this podcast. It really delivers.
4. Nicos Weg – full-length film for learners (beginner)
Nicos Weg is a film for German learners produced by Deutsche Welle. The film follows Nico, a Spanish guy who moves to Germany (he is played by a German actor), as he finds his feet in Germany. There are three parts covering levels A1, A2 and B1. The film includes countless day-to-day situations that you are likely to encounter if you are new in Germany, all packaged together in a very easy-going film with clear audio. All episodes are available on YouTube for free. I highly recommend this for beginners! Why not watch them with a notebook at hand, writing down any unknown vocabulary as you go.
5. Kurzgesagt – science explained in a nutshell (intermediate–advanced)
This is another beautifully well-made YouTube channel. It features short animated films explaining topics mostly related to science. The animation is wonderful. From little animals to atoms, everything is animated. The visuals depict what is being explained in perfect sync with the narrator’s voice, who speaks with a beautifully clear standard German accent. This helps make the input really comprehensible. The channel publishes a new video every two weeks, covering topics taken from space exploration, physics, biology, politics, philosophy and technology.
6. Das Hörspielprojekt – audiobooks with a twist (intermediate–advanced)
This site is loaded with Hörspiele or ‘audio dramas’. It’s like an audiobook with different characters played by different voices plus a bit of atmospheric music and sound effects. They’re not as popular in the English-speaking world but Germans seem to love popping on a Hörspiel, especially children or people with sleeping difficulties. Das Hörspielprojekt is run for fun by volunteers and the voices are really nice. I still have fond memories of walking through the English countryside listening to hours and hours of these, trying to understand as much as I could. I recommend starting off with Die Windsängerin, which seems to have been removed from the website but is available on YouTube. (Edit: 05/10/2020. The creator of Die Windsängerin contacted me and informed me the whole audio drama can be downloaded for free here!) They’ve created way more since I last checked the site so knock yourself out.
I hope you find something here that you like. Remember that we learn a language primarily through our ears, and every minute you spend listening to German, the clearer it will become for you. Those minutes add up to hours, days, years and ultimately to fluency.