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LEARNING GERMAN

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

Once you've learned the basics of German, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for German learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German
A man listens to audio via his mobile phone. Photo: dpa/kite_rin - stock.adobe.com | TARGOBANK AG

STARTING OUT

Coffee Break German

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 Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, 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 is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. 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

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.

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.

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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. 

DEVELOPING YOUR GERMAN

Easy German

This podcast takes the form of a casual conversation between hosts Manuel and Cari, who chat in a fairly free-form manner about aspects of their daily lives. Sometimes they invite guests onto the podcast, and they often talk about issues particularly interesting to expats, such as: “How do Germans see themselves?”. Targeted at young adults, the podcasters bring out a new episode very three or four days.

News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. What’s more, it helps you stay informed about the news in several different levels of fluency.

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 socially relevant topic. 

A new episode comes out once a week and subscriptions are available which unlock new learning tools.

SBS German

This podcast is somewhat interesting as it is run by an Australian broadcaster for the German-speaking community down under. Perhaps because ethnic Germans in Australia have become somewhat rusty in their mother tongue, the language is relatively simple but still has a completely natural feel.

There is a lot of news here, with regular pieces on German current affairs but also quite a bit of content looking at what ties Germany and Australia together. This lies somewhere between intermediate and advanced.

A woman puts on headphones in Gadebusch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: dpa | Jens Büttner

PERFECTING YOUR GERMAN

Auf Deutsche gesagt

This is another great podcast for people who have a high level of German. The host, Robin Meinert, talks in a completely natural way but still manages to keep it clear and comprehensible.

This podcast also explores a whole range of topics that are interesting to internationals in Germany, such as a recent episode on whether the band Rammstein are xenophobic. In other words, the podcast doesn’t just help you learn the language, it also gives you really good insights into what Germans think about a wide range of topics.

Sozusagen

Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. This isn’t specifically directed at language learners and is likely to be just as interesting to Germans and foreigners because it talks about changes in the language like the debate over gender-sensitive nouns. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.

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GERMAN TRADITIONS

The vocabulary you need for the perfect Christmas in Germany

There's nothing worse than finding yourself tongue-tied as you sit around the table with German friends and relatives over Christmas. To make sure the festive season goes off without a hitch, here are some words and phrases that may come in handy.

The vocabulary you need for the perfect Christmas in Germany

Christmas is almost upon us, and it’s the perfect time of year to spend time with loved one and treat ourselves. Of course, for international residents in Germany, the season can also present one or two linguistic challenges.

Even if your German friends and family speak good English, it’s nice to be able to impress them by thanking them for a delicious dinner or the ideal gift in their native tongue – or telling them how much you like their festive decor.

If the idea of doing that is turning you into the Grinch, never fear: we’ve got a handy guide for some of the key vocab that you’ll need to get through the season. 

So whether you’re counting down the days until Christmas or swapping presents around the tree, here’s how to navigate the festive season in true German style. 

General vocabulary 

Let’s deal with some of the basics first: what is this time of year even called in German?

Well, the general term for Christmas is ‘Weihnachten’. This tends to mean Christmas Day (the 25th) and can also be referred to as Weihnacht, Christfest or Heiliger Christ.  

As you may know, however, the main day of celebration for most Germans is the 24th, or Christmas Eve. This is known as Heiliger Abend or Heiligabend, which basically translates as “Holy Evening”. It’s when most children can expect a special visit from Father Christmas or Santa Claus, who is known in German as the Weihnachtsmann

In parts of western and southern Germany – as well as in Switzerland and Austria – a rather more glamourous gift-giving figure replaces the rotund man trying to squeeze down a chimney. Here, the Christkind – who is normally presented as an angelic young lady – will bring gifts to the children who’ve been good all year round.

The word in German for describing these traditions is Bräuche, which means “customs”, though Traditionen can also be used. These may come in handy when asking your friends about the festive practices in their region.

You can kick off an interesting discussion by asking something along the lines of: “Welche Weihnachtstraditionen habt ihr in deine Region?” (Which Christmas traditions do you have in your region?) or “Gibt es bestimmte Weihnachtsbräuche, die hier in Sachsen üblich sind?” (Are there certain Christmas customs that are common here in Saxony?).

And if you want a general word for a Christmas celebration, the word to use is Weihnachtsfeier

READ ALSO: How do Germans celebrate Christmas?

In the run-up to Christmas

Of course, it’s not all about ripping open gifts and enjoying a slap-up meal on Christmas Day (or Eve). In fact, the festive period really kicks off on November 27th, which marks the start of Adventzeit

The word Advent stems from the Latin for “arrival” and it’s a time of preparation for the arrival of Christ at Christmas. There are many German traditions that occur over the weeks running up to the 24th (when Adventzeit ends). Alongside the customary Adventskalender (advent calendar), you may see German friends or relatives lighting the candles on an Adventskranz

The Adventskranz is a wreath made out of fir sprigs with four candles, which are normally a festive red colour. These symbolise the four weeks leading up to Christmas, with a new candle lit on every Advent Sunday. 

A giant Adventskranz in Waldbreitbach

A giant Adventskranz floats on the river in Waldbreitbach, Rhineland-Palatinate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

You may also notice that your local Weihnachtsmarkt (or Christmas market) opens on or around November 27th. This staple of the German Christmas period is normally timed to coincide with Adventszeit – though in some cases they do stay open after Christmas so people can enjoy another mug or two of Glühwein before the New Year. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without some festive treats, and Germans in particular are known to enjoy Adventsbacken – delicious cakes and cookies that are common at this time of year. Some Gebäck (little biscuits) are formed into festive shapes like stars and Christmas trees and flavoured with seasonal spices. But the king of all Adventsbacken has to be the Christstollen, a delicious type of fruit cake with marzipan that originated in Dresden.

In essence, this time of year is all about Vorfreude – the joy involved in looking forward to something before it happens. 

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Around the dinner table

A major part of traditional Christmas celebrations – in Germany and elsewhere – is enjoying a hearty meal with loved ones. That’s why brushing up on your eating and drinking vocab is essential for making it through the festive season.

Firstly, what can you expect to be served by your German pals, or Kumpels, over Christmas? Well, the Weihnachtsgans (Christmas goose) or Ente (duck) is normally an essential component, prepared with seasonal herbs like thyme and marjoram and infused with other flavours like sour apples and onions.

As a side dish, Rotkohl is standard: juicy, cooked-down red cabbage sweetened with apple juice and red wine. Then you’ll need potatoes (Kartoffeln) or dumplings (Knödeln) and lashings of Bratensauce (gravy). 

A traditional German Christmas dinner

A traditional German Christmas dinner with goose, red cabbage and potatoes. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

There are also other dishes that are commonly enjoyed by families on Heiligabend, such as Kartoffelsalat mit Würstchen (potato salad with sausages) in eastern Germany or even Karpfen mit Sauerkraut (carp and sauerkraut) in the coastal region of Schleswig-Holstein.

If you want to compliment your host on their excellent cooking skills, you can describe the food as “lecker” or “köstlich” (delicious) or simply say, “Danke, das hat mir geschmeckt” as the table is being cleared. 

And if Uncle Günther is trying to foist yet another helping of potatoes on you when you can’t eat another thing, you can always say: “Danke, aber ich kann nicht mehr!” (Thanks, but I can’t eat anymore) or “Das war köstlich, danke, aber jetzt bin ich wirklich satt!” (That was delicious, thank you, but now I’m really full). 

READ ALSO: 10 German Christmas cookies you have to bake this winter

Opening gifts 

Gift-giving is another key tradition for Germans at Christmastime. The gifts are usually placed under the Christmas tree, which is called Weihnachtsbaum or Tannenbaum in German.

Traditionally this was put up on Christmas Eve, though these days it’s not unusual for people to put it up much earlier. (Incidentally, the decorations on the tree – and elsewhere in the house – are known as Schmuck, or Weihnachtsschmuck.)

A cat snuggles up among Christmas presents

A cat snuggles up among Christmas presents under the tree. Photo: picture alliance / Ole Spata/dpa | Ole Spata

Don’t, whatever you do, make the mistake of using the German word “gift” to describe the presents that you buy people. Das Gift is a common false friend in German, because while it sounds like the English word it actually translates as “poison”. Instead, use the word Geschenke (or Geschenk in singular)to describe the gifts you’ve lovingly picked out for people. They’ll tend to be wrapped in Geschenkpapier, or wrapping paper, so people get a nice surprise when they come to open them. 

To thank people for presents without reverting to “Vielen Dank” over and over again, a few of these phrases may come in useful:

“Es gefällt mir sehr gut!” (I really like it!)

“Das ist sehr großzügig von dir.” (That’s very generous of you.)

“Wie hast du gewusst? Ich liebe Schokolade!” (How did you know? I love chocolate!) 

“Was für ein schönes Geschenk. Danke dir.” (What a beautiful gift, thank you.)

READ ALSO: What’s the history behind Germany’s Christmas traditions?

Keep a handful of these phrases in mind and you’re sure to impress your German friends with your language skills this Christmas. Got any tips of your own for celebrating the festive period in Germany? Let us know. 

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