What now? At a certain point, the law of diminishing returns for effort kicks in. You reach the B2/C1 level and think you’ll stay there for ever. But there are still some strategies left that might help you to get off that plateau…
You may be a completely functional reader and reasonably confident speaker of German, but still wish that you could progress a bit more and especially sound less stilted and hesitant when you speak. The opportunities in Australia are limited and German-speaking lands are far away.
Listening is my favourite method for improving my German. I enjoy listening to the same book or podcast several times, whereas few books would entice me to a second reading. I find that the repetition helps to seal those elusive words and expressions in my fickle mind.
At Audible.de there is a tantalising range of audiobooks that can be downloaded to your smartphone and listened to as you go about your everyday tasks. To complete the download, all you need is the dedicated Audible app (Apple and Android).
The audiobooks are not overly expensive (between 5 and 15 euros) and you can use the Weltbild app (Apple) if you wish to download the written version and read it while you listen. Audible has its own app for Apple devices and once you have bought the audiobook you can download it onto your phone – it’s like a long, connected podcast. The readers speak with perfect diction and you will be exposing yourself to beautiful, clearly spoken German for potentially an hour or more every day – on the train, in the car or when you go for a walk. And of course you you will hear stories that will move you, amuse you and teach you more interesting, idiomatic German than any text book you have ever used.
Here are my favourite audiobooks so far:
- Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling – at long last, all the novels downloadable at a reasonable price at www.audible.de – a sheer joy
- Das Rosie-Projekt by an Australian author, Graeme Simsion
- Der Junge, der Gedanken lesen konnte: Ein Friedhofskrimi by Kirsten Boie
- Das Schicksal ist ein mieser Verräter by John Green – published in English as The Fault in Our Stars
- Die Mütter-Mafia by Kerstin Gier (and the whole series)
- Der Ritt nach Narnia by C.S.Lewis – originally published in English as The Horse and his Boy
- Das Blubbern von Glück by Barry Jonsberg – another Australian book, published in English under the title: My Life as an Alphabet
- Die Säulen der Erde by Ken Follett – It may be a bodice-ripper, but it’s a ripping read as well. And in this version you can learn the words you’ll need to describe the Middle Ages and human foibles in general. The original English version was titled The Pillars of the Earth. If you like this one, there’s a sequel: Die Tore der Welt. I enjoyed it just as much as the other.
- Wer die Nachtigall stört by Harper Lee, published in English as To Kill a Mockingbird – Listening to the bickering of Jem and Scout and to Scout’s internal musings in German is a pure delight.
The PDFs and audio files to the German magazine Deutsch Perfekt can also be downloaded through www.audible.de.
PODCASTS (available through the Apple Podcasts app)
I especially like podcasts that provide PDFs of the spoken texts. That’s why one of my favourites is SWR-Wissen. The topics are utterly fascinating and highly educational, yet without being so scientific and esoteric that they provide only obscure vocabulary. Subjects include historical figures and questions, psychological issues, archaeology, the nature of human thinking, social justice… Most important of all, you can read the podcasts as well as hearing them.
OTHER EXCELLENT PODCASTS
(all available through iTunes – Podcasts App)
- WDR Sonntagsfragen – no transcripts, but varied, entertaining and enlightening
- Das philosophische Radio – self-deprecating speakers who are perspicacious, challenging and witty to boot
- Neuneinhalb – a video podcast: sparky, entertaining, fast-moving and funky (directed at teenagers)
- Kiraka – Dein Kinderradiokanal: news for children, clearly pronounced texts, with transcripts online. This might seem a little simple, but I love how the speakers explain everything. For instance, they explain in German what democracy is. In this way you learn vocabulary for explaining what words mean, which I find invaluable.
ZEIT AUDIO APPS
- Audio and details
- Zeit apps for various smartphones
- What a thoughtful company! The editors of this weekly magazine arrange for some articles to be read out each week for their discerning readers. Reading an article feels like homework, but listening to it is entertainment – not light entertainment, but still a pleasure. The cost is just under two euros per audio.
- The App for i-Phone is a great little app. It’s very user-friendly. You can choose to read the most popular articles, select themes that interest you and save favourite articles for later reading. Best of all, there are selected articles available with audio, which you can download and hear offline. All this for about one euro per month. The language is not as complex as that of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, so you’ll be able to enjoy this app even during a sleepy early morning awakening. You will still learn plenty of words and the themes are wide-ranging.
Fascinating articles on a range of topics…