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LEARNING GERMAN

The best podcasts to take your German to the next level

Podcasts are the new best thing when it comes to language learning. So why not put those spare moments to use and improve your German, whatever your level.

The best podcasts to take your German to the next level
A typical podcasting app. Photo: DPA

Beginner

1. Learn German by Podcast

This is a great podcast if you don't have any previous knowledge of German. The hosts guide you through a series of scenarios in each episode and introduce you to new vocabulary based on the role-plays. Within just a few episodes, you will learn how to talk about your family, order something in a restaurant and discuss evening plans. Each phrase is uttered clearly and repeated several times, along with translations.

Learn German by Podcast provides the podcasts for free but any accompanying lesson guides must be purchased from their website. These guides include episode transcripts and some grammar tips. 

2. Coffee Break German

Photo:DPA

Coffee Break German aims to take you through the basics of German in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where German native Thomas teaches Mark the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark begins at the same level as you. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break German Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes.

3. German Pod 101

German Pod 101 aims to teach you all about the German language, from the basics in conversations and comprehension to the intricacies of German culture. German Pod 101 offers various levels for your German learning and starts with Absolute Beginner.

The hosts are made up of one German native and one American expat living in Germany, in order to provide you with true authentic language, but also explanations about the comparisons and contrasts with English. This podcast will, hopefully, get you speaking German from day one.

Their website offers more information and the option to create an account to access more learning materials.

4. Deutsch Warum Nicht

Warum Nicht is a language course that follows the character Andreas, who is a journalism student, working as a doorman at a hotel. You will hear natural, German speech as Andreas interacts with people in his life.

An English-speaking narrator presents the situations and encourages you to understand as much as you can but to try at least to get the gist of what is being said. This podcast has a more formal feel to it and is a great way to train your listening skills. 

Deutsche Welle also offers other podcasts for German learning on their website.

Photo:DPA

Intermediate

5. The Easy German Podcast

There’s the German we learn in school, and then there's the German we actually hear on the streets. Filled with particles like mal and halt, and endless colloquial terms, everyday German sometimes leaves learners with a baffled “Bitte?” The Easy German Podcast, a addition to the popular YouTube channel, gives listeners a taste of German as it’s actually spoken, through lively weekly discussions between its Berlin-based co-hosts Carina Schmid and Manuel Salmann, and sometimes guests.

There's a new episode every couple of days, and the hosts discuss topics from around the world with a lot of honesty, humour and personal anecdotes. They also break down vocabulary and answer questions from listeners. As an added plus, a transcript is available for every episode, as well as several lists of Vokabelhilfe and German resources.

6. A Flavour of German

Famous German idiom: Es ist mir alles Wurst! (lit. It's all sausage to me). Photo:DPA

The makers of Coffee Break German bring you another podcast to improve your German skills after you’ve mastered the basics. A Flavour of German follows a similar pattern to Coffee Break German, with a native German speaker and German learner. This time, however, the focus is on idioms and common phrases, ranging from the weather, to love and anger. Each episode is just eight to ten minutes long so is perfect to enjoy in those spare moments.

7. Slow German by Annik Rubens

This podcast does exactly what it says on the tin. Annik Rubens, a journalist from Munich, has casual conversations entirely in German about different themes related to daily life and culture. The language is authentic and everything is spoken in a slow and clear voice. Vocabulary lists can be found on the website, along with a catalogue of episodes and streaming services.

A premium package is available with access to bonus materials, including grammar lessons, quizzes and fun facts.

Photo:DPA

8. News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. The content of the show is based on the things really going on in the world today, so you can simultaneously find out more about current affairs and learn German. The speakers are extremely clear and aim to make the podcast enjoyable to listen to. For the first part of each episode the hosts talk about a current big news story, then the second part usually features a topic which is underlying in society.

Additional subscription packages, which include many fun interactive exercises, are available on their website.

9. Expertly German

Some German words can look intimidating but don't have to be, especially when placed in a real world context. The new podcast Expertly German includes and explain a lot of economic and business terms from current news stories, and also provide a helpful transcript at the bottom of each episode. They also include interactive exercises, usually in the form of grammar-related quizzes.

Advanced

10. Sozusagen!

Photo:DPA

Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. The level of this podcast is slightly higher and is aimed at advanced learners. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.

11. SBS German

This podcast has the feel of a well-produced radio talk show. In each episode they discuss either a global current event, or a heavily-debated topic within society. Previous episodes have included talks on the World Cup, staying healthy and the taboo subject of death. The hosts speak very naturally and are very easy to listen to.

12. Elementarfragen

Elementarfragen is produced by Viertausendherz and is a German podcasts aimed at Germans. The episodes are in depth and definitely on the long side, lasting from one to two hours each. More serious topics are discussed, from Chernobyl, to psychiatry, to the Red Army. Experts on the issues are invited to present certain facts and give their opinions.

Not the most light-hearted show to listen to, but it will definitely have you speaking more like a native in no time.

13. Was Jetzt?

Die Zeit's daily news podcast, Was Jetzt, is aimed at native speakers but the host speaks clearly about a wide range of topics, all concerning the most interesting daily news from Germany and around the world. With each episode around 10 minutes long, it's a fun way to digest the top news stories of the day in the eyes of Germans.

 

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

10 famous Germans with surnames that have ridiculous literal meanings

German last names can be quite hilarious when you look at them literally.

10 famous Germans with surnames that have ridiculous literal meanings
Sahra Wagenknecht's surname has an amusing literal meaning when translated to English. Photo: DPA

1. Albert Einstein: Albert One-Stone

Photo: DPA

The great physicist didn’t remain German for long – he took on Swiss citizenship as a young man to avoid military service. But he was born in Ulm and went to school in Munich.

We would like to think that the Nobel Prize winner was descended from ancestors who only had a single rock to their name (and who were constantly looked down upon by neighbours the Zweisteins).

The actual meaning of the name is rather different. It comes from einsteinen, meaning to surround with stone, and refers to defences built around settlements in the Middle Ages.

2. Franz Beckenbauer: Franz Bowl-Builder

Photo: DPA

It is probably just as well that der Kaiser became the most famous footballer of his generation. How else would he have shrugged off his rather odd surname? Apparently some far-flung forefather was a master of sculpting the curvature of bowls. Are we stretching the matter by suggesting that the great Bayern Munich footballer still lived up to the name by curving elegant passes around the pitch?

3. Helmut Kohl: Helmut Cabbage

Photo: DPA

The deceased former Chancellor was often mocked during his time in office for his lack of refinement. And the fact that his last name meant cabbage didn’t exactly help. Satirical magazine Der Postillon joked after his death in June that he was being given a very special honour for his service to Germany – having a type of vegetable named after him.

4. Dirk Schimmelpfennig: Dirk Moldy-Penny

Photos: DPA/EPA

Why on earth someone ever decided that “Moldy Penny” was a suitable surname, we'll never know. Ancestry.com and Focus magazine say that it was a nickname for misers who let their pennies become moldy because they never spent them.

Whether the family of Germany's Olympic Sports Confederation head still carries on that personality trait is yet another question.

5. Bastian Schweinsteiger: Bastian Pig-Climber

Photos: DPA

German football star Schweinsteiger's last name could literally translate to pig-climber, but more likely it means pig-overseer, like on a farm.

As if his full last name didn't sound silly enough, it has also given the ex-Man United midfielder a regrettable nickname: Schweini (piggy).

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He's not the only one with a lamentable last name: Former national team captain Phillip Lahm is one of the best players Germany has produced in recent years, leading his team to the 2014 World Cup victory. But his surname in German means lame, feeble or slow.

6. Left Party leader Sahra Wagenknecht: Sahra Wagon Servant

Wagenknecht on television programme Anne Will. Photo: DPA/NDR

The word Knecht means servant or farm labourer, so it seems the Die Linke (Left Party) leader has come a long way since her family's presumed more humble beginnings.

7. Author and journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer: Jürgen Death-Yards

Photos: DPA

Ok so this one doesn't exactly translate. But Tod does mean death, and Höfe are courtyards, so naturally our thoughts jump to the morbid when hearing the name of this journalist, who was also once a member of the German parliament (Bundestag) and later became the first Western reporter to get embedded with Isis.

8. Actress Hannah Herzsprung: Hannah Heart-Leap

Photos: DPA

Watching this 34-year-old Hamburg native on screen might just make your Herz leap if you have a crush on the actress, who has appeared in the 2008 German-American drama The Reader.

And it seems she comes from a line of people with feel-good family names: Her mother is designer Barbara Engel (Angel).

9. Carl Bratfisch: Carl Fried-Fish

Fish and chips. Photo: DPA

This Prussian musician composed works such as the Steinmetz March.

How often everyone just assumed he wanted the fish 'n' chips due to his name, Wikipedia does not reveal.

10. Author and pastor Hartmut Hühnerbein: Hartmut Chicken-Leg

Photos: Tohma/Wikimedia Commons, and DPA.

This Lower Saxon-born religious figure was the former president of Christian nonprofit CJD, which does social work and educational training for young people. Pastor Chicken Leg has also written a number of books, including “Just Believe” and “Window of Hope”.

For all The Local's guides to learning German CLICK HERE

 

 
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