The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them without sitting in a classroom or poring over books. Instead, you can go for a walk or listen on the train.
These episodes are mostly based on short texts and stories that my colleagues and I have written for our students. They have been recorded by Carolina Seez, Maxi Gürlich and Hannah Entrup, all German assistant teachers. They all speak very clearly and with great expression. Other teachers at Box Hill High School, including Jana Kühn and Nathaniel Smith, have also recorded some episodes.
The advantage of listening to these episodes is that they are based on the topics covered in many high school classes. Although they are simple, they contain extra words and expressions that will make your own German sound more authentic and interesting. Listening to these episodes several times will also help you to improve your pronunciation and your confidence when speaking. Hearing words in context is the best way to learn vocabulary and make it stick in your memory. In order to download this podcast (and others) to your mobile device, paste this feed code [http://germanisland.podbean.com/feed/] into an app such as Downcast. The Podbean site also has its own, fairly rudimentary app. It is free and you can find it here. Alternatively, search for “German Island” through the Apple Podcast app.
♥Coffee Break German from the Radio Lingua Site – Also available through iTunes Podcasts – This is a wonderful concept for learning. The teacher is a native speaker and he works with a learner, introducing basic vocabulary and asking questions to revise the material covered. You hear the basic vocabulary being repeated over and over again. If you find the podcast useful, you have the choice of signing up and paying extra to download the notes provided on the website.
This podcast is ideal for sealing basic vocabulary in your memory and for practising perfect pronunciation. Each episode focuses on a specific topic, such as “On the Train” or “Sports”. A woman with a plummy English accent says a sentence in English and two German speakers then repeat the sentence. The later episodes also provide more complex grammatical information, including topics covered in high school, such as the modal verbs and the perfect tense.
♥Slow German, by Annik Rubens in Munich – Annik speaks slowly and clearly and her texts are simple but interesting. She has also introduced some “Absolute Beginner” podcasts, spoken in English. Download the PDFs corresponding to the topics that interest you most. One day, when you’ve made progress, these podcasts will seem easy. Eventually you’ll be able to understand Annik at full speed, with her radio podcast: Schlaflos in München (Sleepless in Munich).
This podcast is explained in English with dialogue in German. That’s why it is ideal for learners. You can find it through the Deutsche Welle, a remarkably helpful and creative radio service in Germany, with broadcasts in many languages. Go to this site to find out about the series – or simply download it through iTunes.
Laura, the English woman who created this website and the connected podcasts, really understands German grammar – and what’s more, she loves it. She describes grammatical rules with affection, passion and clarity, which is just what you need when you are trying to come to grips with the mysteries of the German language. After a while these rules, which seem horrifically complex at first, crystallize into a cohesive, meaningful whole. Well, sort of. In any case, listening to the maker of this podcast is highly recommended.
The grammar is described in English, with many German examples. You can also visit Laura’s blog to look at tables of adjectival endings and article declinations. Phew.
Please note: Since it is presented in English, this podcast is near the top of my list. All the same, Laura’s descriptions of grammar include some very complex and daunting topics. It is best to choose her podcasts according to the grammatical topics being covered in your class. You could also listen to the topics that are slightly more advanced.
♥Wieso Nicht? – This podcast is in German only and is therefore most suited to students who are in the senior years. If you are in Year 9 or 10, however, you could download the PDF files that go with the podcasts and use them to become familiar with the vocabulary before listening to the podcasts. Remember that you can learn a great deal without understanding every single word. If you can get the gist of what you are reading or hearing, you will know that you are making progress. Guessing the meaning of words from the context is also a crucial skill. That’s how we learn our mother tongue, after all.
At this link you can download the PDF of the first chapter, in order to see if you know enough of the vocabulary to cope with the podcast.
♥Grüße aus Deutschland is also intended for students who can cope with a podcast that is presented purely in German. Do not be put off by this fact though. The two funny, friendly people who present this podcast, Anna and Ardhi, speak slowly and clearly. You can also download the PDFs and study the words before or after you hear them, which makes the podcast much more accessible to beginners. The first ten podcasts in the series of 60 podcasts are particularly straightforward.
At this link you can download the PDF of the first chapter, in order to see if you already know enough vocabulary to cope with the podcast.
♥Kiraka – Kinderradiokanal – Children’s Radio Channel – This podcast is purely in German and is therefore more suited to advanced students. Although this may initially seem daunting, there’s a very good reason for persevering with this podcast: you can read it online as well as (or at the same time as) hearing it. Whenever a podcast can be read as well as heard, it is naturally more accessible to a learner. When you can’t identify a word by hearing it, you can simply read it and look it up. The language in this podcast, though by no means simple, is intended for German children, which means that the speakers often explain more difficult words in simple German. This is ideal for learners. Although the newsreaders speak quite quickly, they also enunciate very clearly.
♥Die Sendung mit der Maus (The Broadcast with the Mouse) The mouse is an icon of German television. These broadcasts are watched by both children and adults, because even though they are directed at children, they are simply fascinating for everyone. They answer questions like, “What is the origin of the heart symbol?”, “How does a touchscreen work?” and “How are combs and sticks of chalk made?” The makers of the series explain the processes and details so cleverly and with so many visual clues that you can often guess what is being said, even when the language is difficult to follow.
In addition there are sometimes stories that are touching, quirky or funny. For instance, one of my favourites is about a fanatically neat man called Mr Wehrli, who keeps tidying up wherever he goes. In one episode, he even tidies up Van Gogh’s painting of his bedroom in Arles.
Even though this broadcast is challenging, it is so charming that you should give it a go, once you’ve tried the simpler podcasts and have become a little more confident.
A few of my other favourites from this series:
- Wie schlafen Pferde? How do horses sleep?
- Leb wohl, lieber Dachs – Farewell, dear badger (from Youtube)
- Herr Wehrli räumt auf – Van Gogh – Mr Wehrli tidies up – Van Gogh
- Bunte Wolle – Colourful wool
The embedded video below shows Herr Wehrli, the fanatically tidy man I mentioned above, getting himself into trouble for tidying up wherever he goes. He has a strong Swiss accent, but the voiceover is beautifully clear German – and there are subtitles!
♥The last podcast that I am recommending is neuneinhalb. You can download this video podcast once a week. It lasts for nine and a half minutes and each film sums up an important issue in European or global society.
The two young presenters are funny, sympathetic and interesting, while the filming is sparky and original. The podcasts are directed at teenagers and young adults in Germany and cover topics such as being gay and “coming out”, extreme right activists in Germany and their violent tendencies, elections in the United States, and how advertising agencies digitally enhance photographs to make models appear more beautiful. As you can see, there is a broad range of topics and a fresh, modern focus. The language used is often light-hearted and colloquial, but the young presenters also provide careful, intelligent explanations and summaries of complex issues.
All in all, this is a highly recommended podcast, but it is undoubtedly challenging. Under the Extras page in the main menu of this blog, I have embedded some of these podcasts and listed some vocabulary that will help you to follow them and get the gist of what is being said. This might help you to tackle more complex themes and challenging topics in German. For most students, this podcast is most likely to be useful in the senior years.