Listening Practice Ideas and Resources

Listening Practice Ideas and Resources

Ohne Computer

Am Computer

Ohne Computer

Activities in Ann Arbor

For details, ask Hartmut to put you on the “allstudents” list, through which you receive a weekly email about dates and times. Attendance at the following events can generally be used to make up absences in German 101-232, if you get the instructor there to notify your instructor that you participated.

  • Kaffeestunde und Deutschtische im Max Kade Haus in North Quad
  • Deutschtische in der Residential College in East Quad.  These generally take place MTThF 12-1 in a room on the ground floor; ask at the front desk.  Bring lunch, or get it in the EQ cafeteria.
  • Click on the link to see a list of other Conversation Opportunities in/near Ann Arbor

Watching (Subtitled) Movies

  • Watching subtitled movies is great listening practice. Don’t feel bad about reading the subtitles! The key is for you to consciously correlate what you’re hearing in the subtitles with what you’re hearing. Focus on what you can understand, and on moments when you’re understanding more than the subtitles are telling you. If you’re just reading the subtitles and not paying attention to what you’re hearing, then your listening skills won’t benefit much.
  • If you have time, you should watch each movie twice: once with the subtitles on, and once with the subtitles covered up. Your listening skills will benefit greatly from the second viewing, when you’ll have a good idea of what’s being said and can really focus on what you’re hearing.
  • You can find an excellent selection of movies at the Askwith Media Library in the UGLi. You can check films out from Askwith and take them home.
  • Click here for a list of videos on reserve at the Language Resource Center. You need to watch these movies in the LRC, i.e. they can’t be checked out.
  • Netflix also has a great selection of German films.
  • The Ann Arbor Public Library has an excellent collection of German films. Click here to see their holdings.

Mehr Ideen

  • Live at the Max Kade German Residence
  • Watch Deutsche Welle TV in the Language Resource Center or on UMTV.
  • You could try buying Tell Me More: German or some other commercial language learning software or CDs, and try out their listening activities. For any such materials, you will find online reviews from people who loved them and others who found them useless, but they do all emphasize listening.
  • Find some American friends or relatives with whom you can speak German. Or some old German Americans.  Or look out for German
    tourists, and generally keep your ears open to see if you hear any German spoken by the people around you.

Am Computer

Text to Speech Options

Your computer should have a “Text to Speech” option, and you may be able to set the language for this to German. Here is some information about this sent to me by a user of this site, including some ideas for how to make use of this feature (vielen Dank, Tyler!):

Most versions of Apple’s OSX operating system come with a built-in feature called Text to Speech. It’s a tool with quite a few options for helping those who want/need a different form of accessibility to their computer. In particular, there’s an option to set a key phrase (I use ‘command+0’) to speak a selection of highlighted words. Click here for some instructions on how to do this. It seems that it wasn’t until the release of OSX v. 10.7 that the American version came with a Deutsch voice. […]

I use voiceover to listen to the pronunciation of the questions and answers from the various practice exercises on the UM site. I simply highlight a particular sentence and hit command+0.

Also, voiceover can be accessed on the command-line with the CLI command `say`. So I can open a terminal and run, “say Jeden Tag esse ich SPAM,” and voiceover will speak that phrase in Deutsch. I’ve written a couple of computer programs to help me compose sentences and answer questions using this command. I can have my programs write and speak a phrase at the same time, which I think is helpful in retaining vocabulary.


More info about this app is here. Duolingo is not just focussed on listening, but does use (very clear) audio regularly. It is in general a great supplement to German 101-231, and in particular a great way to get some additional listening practice!

Specific Sites

  • Easy German & Super Easy German: Two great series of videos with enthusiastic hosts (mostly young Germans – the series began as a high school project) introducing German language and culture in clear, simple German. Access both playlists for free via the Easy German home page. All videos include clear subtitles in German and English. Paying for a membership supports the site and gets you access to additional features. 
    • The Easy German Podcast Great listening practice for students in German 221/231 (or at the B1 level) and above. Great topics like “In Deutschland wird nicht gelacht,” “Darf man über Politik sprechen?” “Wir shorten die Aktie [=stock, share],” “Impostor-Syndrom” usw. A transcript of the first 2 minutes or so of each podcast is available if you scroll down. Subscribers have access to the full transcript, and to a “Transcript Player” that makes it easy to follow along in the transcript, and also includes lists of useful vocab.
  • The Lernen to Talk Show: A student who went to Germany for a year in 2011/12 created a series of 6-7 minute videos once a week to document his progress in the language. Each video is carefully subtitled in German AND English. Use the “Settings” icon to toggle between the two. The errors in the English are intentional attempts to mirror errors in the German. As of episode 7, there are also annotations below the videos, providing additional info and explanations. A newer version of the site is here, but is currently (January 2020) not working as well as the original blog (updates may be coming). Watching these carefully is great listening practice, and you may find it inspiring to watch his rapid progress!
  • extr@ auf Deutsch: Entertaining soap-opera spoof about Sam, an American eager to learn German, who generates a lot of excitement when he bursts into the problematic love triangle of Sascha, Nic (who loves Sascha), and Sascha’s roommate Anna (who loves Nic). The series, made for language learners, consists of 13 episodes, each divided into three 6-10-minute parts. The German is simple, clear, and useful, and the videos are captioned to help you follow along. The exaggerated laugh-track lets you know when a joke has been made, and some of the jokes are funny. The link takes you to the first episode; find the others via the related links.
  • Yabla German Great site, but not free – but see below re: how to sign up for free through the LRC.
    • Yabla allows you to watch their library of authentic German videos (TV clips, music videos, etc.) with various features to promote listening practice:
      • You can slow down the audio. The pitch will be corrected so it still sounds fairly normal.
      • All videos are accompanied by German and English captions. For easier texts, hide the English ones. Click on words in the German captions to look them up in an online dictionary.
      • The “loop” button allows you to play a certain segment over and over (click “Loop” at the point where you want the loop to end, then click on the progress bar where you want it to start)
      • Click “play game” to see some fill-in-the-blank activities based on segments from the video clip.
      • New clips are added each week. You can browse their library without signing in to see what’s available.
    • The LRC has purchased 30 subscriptions to German Yabla, available on a first come, first serve basis. To request a subscription, go to the LRC home page, click on YABLA, then click on “Register for German Yabla” and fill out the request. You need to use your umich email address in order for your request to be accepted. You’ll be signed up for 30 days at a time (or put on the waitlist if all 30 spaces are taken), and can renew your subscription if no one is on the waitlist to sign up.
  • Annik Rubens in Germany has created this blog in which she speaks slowly and very clearly on a variety of subjects. You can follow the transcript in the blog. The German is generally quite complex, but there is also an “Absolute Beginner” section consisting of a few podcasts in English introducing some practical German vocabulary.
  • Verbotene Liebe This is a long-running German soap opera. The link takes you to episode 1; the related links should generally take you to the next episode, and if you make a YouTube account, you can find where you left off in your viewing history. Subtitled versions of many of the episodes are available, but the visuals and the soap opera plots should make it easy to follow even without subtitles. A new story cycle usually starts every two years or so, usually built around some sort of forbidden love at first sight.
  • Tagesschau in 100 Sekunden Watch the main news of the day, condensed into 100 seconds; updated multiple times daily. The visuals and text should help you follow what’s going on. Very clear German, and interesting to compare with the headlines in the U.S. If you have more time, watch the 20 Uhr Tagesschau, which is 15 minutes long.
  • Nicos Weg Great listening practice at the A1 level. The story follows Nico who comes to Germany from Spain to visit his aunt. He ist just starting to learn German. His bag with all of his stuff is accidentally taken by a stranger just after he arrives, and he has to get it back. This video combines all the episodes into one film, 1 hour and 45 minutes long, and includes links to lots of additional study resources.
  • Mein Weg nach Deutschland Goethe Institut series for early language learners about Nevin, who has recently arrived in Germany and navigates a variety of practical situations. Clear, slow German, and lots of very useful practical information. Accompanied by exercises. You may also be able to find versions with subtitles, or a transcript.
  • Die Sendung mit der Maus Video Podcast Die Sendung mit der Maus is a popular kids’ show with ingenious simple explanations of how things work that are just as educational for adults. Great listening practice! All the more recent episodes are available here; however, the oldest of these files (from 2008 through October 2009) don’t seem to work.
  • David Lynch’s Interview Project Germany: Enter via the German or English home page. The project crew went on a road trip through Germany in 2011 and recorded short interviews (about 5 mins each) with 50 people they met along the way. Each video is briefly introduced by David Lynch, and accompanied by a text summary; there is an option to turn on English subtitles. Going to the English version of the site lets you see the summaries in English, and the videos automatically appear with subtitles. Based on a similar series filmed in the U.S. in 2009-2010. Watching the interviews with subtitles is great listening practice, and a chance to hear a variety of German dialects. Taken together, these interviews offer a unique perspective on German culture!
  • Deutsche Welle: Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten Here you can listen to German news spoken slowly and clearly, and simultaneously follow along in the text. Click here to look for other audio offerings on the Deutsche Welle site!
  • Piggeldy & Frederick YouTube Channel Each episode centers around the little pig Piggeldy asking his big brother Frederick a question like “Was ist das Meer [=the sea]?” or “Was ist ein Schmetterling [=butterfly]?” or “Was ist Fernweh [=wanderlust, the longing for distant places]?” Frederick is always initially eager to show Piggeldy the answer, but sometimes gets exasperated by Piggeldy’s questions, which often revolve around why things don’t have more logical names (e.g. if the Schmetterling eats nectar all day, why isn’t he called “Nektarling”?). Useful vocab:
    • Piggeldy wollte wissen, was _____ ist = P wanted to know what _____ is.
    • Nichts leichter als das! Komm mit! = Nothing’s easier than that! Come with me!
    • Piggeldy folgte Frederick = P followed F
    • Wenn __________, warum heißt er/sie/es / heißen sie dann nicht _________? = If _____________, then why isn’t it/aren’t they called _________?
    • Sie liefen….auf dem Weg…= They walked/ran…on the way…
    • Quatsch nicht dazwischen/Plapper nicht dazwischen = Don’t interrupt me with your nonsense [lit: Don’t talk nonsense in between (what I’m saying)]
    • Unterbrich mich nicht = Don’t interrupt me
  • Heidi Kids’ cartoon based on the classic children’s novel by Johanna Spyri. Heidi comes from Frankfurt to stay with her grumpy grandfather in the Swiss alps. 50 episodes; you should be able to find the two missing from this playlist. No subtitles, but very clear, simple German, and the auto-generated YouTube subtitles are reasonably helpful. Highly recommended by a student who watched this after completing German 102.
  • Old Textbook Video Series now on YouTube These are often campily amusing :)
  • ZDFtivi Mediathek Long list of video clips of kids’ shows available online from one of Germany’s main TV stations
  • BBC German Page Often includes some good listening resources
  • Die drei ??? These radio plays about 3 boy detectives were originally intended for children, but as the audience and the speakers themselves have grown up over the years since the first episode was released in 1979, more and more adults enjoy the show, collect episodes, etc. The audio is clear, and the plots follow “mystery” conventions, so it should be possible for you to be able to follow the plot after a semester or two of German. Don’t worry if there are parts you can’t understand! The series originated in the US, but was more successful in Germany. The original episodes are based on English originals; the newer episodes were written entirely in Germany. More info about the series is here (Deutsch) or here (English).
    • Schatten unter Hollywood This is a “fan version,” not an original recording. The link takes you to part 1 of 6; follow the links to see the remaining parts. Episode summary (copied from the episode guide linked below): Eine weiße Gestalt [=figure] stürzt [=falls] vom berühmten Hollywood-Schriftzug in Hollywood Hills und verschwindet spurlos [=disappears without a trace]. Fragmente eines seltsamen Briefs tauchen auf [=appear], Menschen geraten in [here: fall into] hinterhältige Fallen [=devious traps] und die drei ??? bekommen es mit dem Geist einer Hollywood-Schauspielerin zu tun [bekommen es mit…zu tun = have to contend with]. Sehr schnell wird den drei Detektiven klar, dass dieses Abenteuer sehr viele Gefahren birgt [=conceals many dangers]!
    • Fan-Hörspiele Here you can download for free radio plays created by fans that follow the original books more closely.
    • Episode guide Click on “Hörspiele” and then on the center link (“??? – Hörspiele”) to get access to summaries and commentaries on all the episodes.
    • Here you can pay to download mp3s of more episodes. Look for “Die drei ???” (not “Die drei !!!” or “Die drei ??? Kids”)
  • Lebendiges Museum Online Archive Here you can choose from a wide range of historical audio and video files (to see the video tab, scroll all the way to the right) as well as all kinds of other statistics, maps etc.
  •’s German Language Lab Lots of listening practice ranging from the alphabet to tongue twisters.
  • Marvellous site where you can download free mp3 files of various (mostly literary) texts being read aloud in very clear German. Clicking on the audio icon gives you just an excerpt of the text ==> click on the disk icon to download the entire text. You can also click on the document icon to see the written version of the text in a separate browser window. To find a specific text, click on “Autoren.” A good starting point might be the Grimm fairy tales, which you can get to via the site’s home page.
  • Deutsche Welle Audio on Demand and Deutsche Welle Video on Demand Lots to choose from, including music, news, science (Projekt Zukunft), a 5-minute sports show etc.
  • Lyrikline A poetry site.  Click on “Autoren” for a selection of authors, for many of whom you can then hear a recording of the poet herself/himself reading the poem!
  • Deutsch 328 an der Creighton University: Studies in Contemporary German Culture–The Last 25 Years. Professor Böhlke
    has compiled a great collection of online audio and video files as part of this course, which you can access by clicking on the links in this online syllabus. Those labeled “PW” are password-protected, but all others are freely accessible.