German by Osmosis
September 11, 2016 7:14 PM   Subscribe

I just started learning German, through the standard 101 class at my university. While the textbook/classroom studying is great, I would like to have some low-key resources to read/listen to to supplement my learning. I'm looking for relatively simple-language radio, podcasts, TV, or maybe even (children's?) books that I can wash around in during my spare time. Something that doesn't require 100% brainpower, but that I can still catch the gist of -- that will help train my rhythm/pronunciation/listening by osmosis.

One of the things I found helpful (and fun!) in keeping up my Mandarin flow was watching Chinese-language TV with the subtitles on. It was entertaining and context-rich even if I couldn't catch ~50% of the words sometimes. It was also something that I could just put on in the background, and occasionally I would pick up phrases, words, pronunciations, &c. from the stream.

posted by miniraptor to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe listen to some German popmusik? I like Silbermond, myself.
posted by TwoStride at 7:18 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

A lot of shows on Netflix can be viewed with German dubbing and English subtitles.
posted by bleep at 7:23 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're at 101 this might be a little tough, but I loved Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten (slowly spoken news). It's the news, read by someone who sounds like they took quaaludes 30 minutes before going on air.

Generally Deutsche Welle is a great resource. Here's the page for level A1, which is perhaps where you're at in the European Language Framework.
posted by caek at 7:23 PM on September 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

Slowly spoken news.

For Spanish and French I've been able to find some stuff on netflix, but it can be tricky. This link has some tips on searching for Spanish-language materials; the same principle should apply for German.

Good luck!

And on preview, I see I am slow to the game.
posted by bunderful at 7:27 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try looking for German language magazines in an area of your interest, which you can find via your smartphone. The language usage will be current and fresh, you'll have the opportunity to learn new vocabulary that you might really be glad to know, and you'll get insight into that particular area of German culture. Plus, short articles are easier to digest in a new language.
posted by padraigin at 7:53 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you like music, I highly recommend PopXport on Deutsche Welle. It's surely too advanced for you now but you can first watch it in English, then German, and compare. It'll also introduce you to German groups and singers to follow: many sing in English but there are plenty who sing auf Deutsch, too.

If you would like to see a cheesy telenovela made for college students learning German, I recommend Jojo sucht das Glück. You can also find it online and can turn on subtitles to increase your comprehension. The language level is intermediate but you can get the gist: it's a great way to learn about different universities in Germany and what it's like to be an exchange student. Viel Glück!
posted by smorgasbord at 8:03 PM on September 11, 2016

A German professor suggested starting with a book of fairy tales in German, because you'd be familiar enough with the stories to understand what was going on and be able to pick up words in context.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:16 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I listened to a cassette of common phrases on repeat for days in my chosen language. The phrases are etched into my brain now. If you can find any at used bookstores, the Teach Yourself brand was what I used. I even played it while I slept!
posted by Locative at 8:25 PM on September 11, 2016

I love listening to Hörspiele. Specifically, there is a streaming station that plays them 24 hours a day:
posted by source.decay at 9:05 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a language teacher and I have to recommend reading as much as you can, in a low-stakes way that you enjoy, if you want a quantum leap in your understanding of how a language works.

The biggest boost to my Polish grammar and vocabulary when I was living there was from reading travel magazines, mostly Podróże - none of the stories were very long, places and modes of transport were familiar, English information was always available if I wanted to look places up online, the register/level of the language was fun and casual, and the bits at the start of the magazine that were more like listicles were very easy to deal with after a few weeks of reading.

It cost perhaps a dollar or two each month? Low financial commitment, and it definitely didn't feel like work - I'd browse through while having breakfast or waiting for the bus. It was especially fun reading their articles on America, where I'm from, as well as tiny corners of Poland I'd never visited; a few times I'd rip the article out and head over there for the weekend!

Compared to my peers, who mostly spoke only English at work and with friends and only dealt with Polish in day-to-day transactions, my vocabulary was far larger and I understood more about what sounded right. It also gave me a leg up on cases because I had so many correct examples in written text, compared to trying to understand it from charts in a textbook or from the limited Polish-language conversations I was having.

Here's an example page. This article on Penang in "Malezja" is rich with easy texts like photo captions and subheadings, even if the body text is too extensive for the beginner. Structures like superlatives using "naj-"+ adjective and cognates like wiza and kontynent pop out, both features I never covered in my Polish classes.

There's definitely a wider selection of German travel/nature magazines than Polish ones, happily - this list of German magazines on German Wikipedia is a good place to start.
posted by mdonley at 9:23 PM on September 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nachrichten Leicht - "light" news. Short articles on current events written using simple language and including explanations of some words.
posted by gakiko at 12:19 AM on September 12, 2016

You want Die Sendung mit der Maus. It's a kind of kids' show which has bits which explain different topics each week. The current one was about recycling clothes hangers. I still watch it semi-regularly even after I've long since stopped actively learning German.
posted by neilb449 at 12:43 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I find the most relaxing osmosis option for me was tv programs that were originally in English, then dubbed into German, with the English subtitles on. It required less effort than watching german language shows or movies, probably because it was less foreign. As I got better, I'd put on the German subtitles instead.

Many DVD's have dubbed audio tracks, but German was a relatively rare option, and it's not an easy thing to search for on the internet. I ended up reading the backs of all dvd's at the library, the video store and at department stores looking for options. Also my friends' collections. I found a few.

If you're in Australia, I can give you suggestions.

Oh, and it requires more effort, but Pimsluer is a good addition to almost any language program, as it gets you speaking.
posted by kjs4 at 1:07 AM on September 12, 2016

YouTube is also a wonderful resource! EasyGerman is great for beginners -- German and English subtitles, fun weekly themes, conversational language.

There are also a ton of German-language video bloggers -- search (in German) for a hobby you're interested in, and you're bound to get a number of hits. I love fashion and beauty, and I've found a bunch of great channels I subscribe to. For me, there's only so much news I can read, so practicing German while engaging with something I enjoy for leisure is so helpful.
posted by sondern at 5:13 AM on September 12, 2016

I want to get my Deutsch back, too.

I used to listen to a DW podcast series, oh, most of ten years ago, but I can't find them now. Luckily, that Langsam Gesproche Nachrichten looks perfect -- thank you, caek!!

(And here is DW's main page for learning German:
posted by wenestvedt at 6:44 AM on September 12, 2016

Muzzy. Der grosse Muzzy.
posted by General Malaise at 10:36 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

German and English stories side by side

Also, if you have a favorite book, try to get the German translation, if possible. Harry Potter comes to mind. It has been translated into a few languages.

I found the news really hard to follow. I speak conversational German and I have a good ear for it. The vocabulary used on the news had a lot of political terms and other hard words that were not relevant to conversational German.

I used to have a book listing the 1000 most common words. If you can find a similar resource, that's a good place to start.

I took French in school and I read and write French better than I do German. I learned German from hearing it, speaking it and using audiotapes. I learned French much more from reading and writing and I really struggle with spoken French. I am fairly fluent with spoken German, though my vocabulary is limited. I will suggest that reading/writing is a separate skill set from understanding it by ear or speaking it. Decide which skill set matters more to you and choose your resources accordingly.
posted by Michele in California at 10:44 AM on September 12, 2016

German news use really formal language, nobody speaks like that. So if your goal is to improve your spoken German that will be of limited use. If you just want to pick up a lot of vocabulary on every day things definitely Die Sendung not der Maus. Also, there is a relatively large amount of German made TV dramas/shows that you can tap into because there are enough German speakers across Germany, Austria and Switzerland to make that commercially viable. A lot of spoken language there and hopefully the story lines provide context. I suppose I should add that the quality of these programmes is variable.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:14 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Coffeebreak German. You can get it as a podcast in iTunes or wherever. I haven't used it, but I'm devoted to Coffeebreak French.
posted by Joleta at 7:56 PM on September 12, 2016 is standard national news. You can turn on (German) subtitles, though, strangely, they come about a sentence behind the audio.
posted by bertran at 8:08 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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