Thursday, November 5, 2009

Learn German through podcast

One of the most helpful tools in language learning is to hear the target language being used. Hence, podcasting is a medium especially fit for teaching a language and the supply of free language learning podcasts is amazingly large. You can pick almost any (living) language and find at least a handful of podcasts offering you to teach it to you. Last time I wrote about one podcast teaching Dutch, today I want to relate my adventure into German teaching podcasts. And I can promise a post about Hebrew learning podcasts very soon.

As was to be expected, the amount of German learning podcasts is staggering. I have made a quick survey of five of them, each with different starting assumptions, levels and method. I am not going to recommend any one in particular. I think language learning eventually is both very personal and also in need of a multi-method approach. In general I'd say one should not rely on podcasts alone and neither on one podcast alone. Try them all and soon you will find what combination works for you.

My Daily Phrase German (feed)
This is a podcast by Radio Lingua Network which seems to have podfaded and been followed up by One Minute German and A flavour of German. This course starts with the basics and concentrates on phrases. A general remark about phrase podcasts should be: phrases alone will not help you very much. Without grammar and vocabulary, you will not know what you are actually saying and you will hardly succeed in understanding, let alone, dealing with replies. Nevertheless, phrases are part of language learning, they are a good addition and a nice starting point.

Learn German (Germanpod101) (feed)
Also a podcast with basics. Apart from phrases there is also basic grammar. These first two podcasts I mentioned are a nice place to start.

German GrammarPod (feed)
German grammar is not particularly easy, not even if you come from familiar languages such as English and Dutch. In spite of it being a rather intimidating subject, I advise anyone who wants to learn German to pay ample attention to grammar. The German Grammarpod systematically goes through German grammar and you will find it a good supplement to your German learning. For more advanced learners, this podcast is also a good refreshment and testing tool.

Deutsch - warum nicht? (Deutsche Welle) (feed)
This course in German leans heavily on letting you get the flavor of German. I totally agree that you will have to listen to naturally used language in order to effectively picking it up, but it cannot replace systematic learning. Try Deutsche Welle and see if it matches you. If you have a starting basis in German, it may be fun.

Slow German (feed)
At any stage of advancement in German learning, I would recommend Annik Rubens's podcast Slow German. Annik reads a complete text in a slightly slower and meticulously pronounced German as to make it easier to follow for non-native speakers. Even from a very low level starting point it makes sense to listen in. Even if you do not understand all, you will be able to tell the words apart and get a good feel of the pronunciation and free use of the language. Slow German will expose you to German and a regular listen will prove to be a tremendous support to all other efforts you put in German learning.

Many of these podcasts have additional learning materials, frequently at a premium. I would say you should use anything you can lay your hands on for free. After some time you will have figured out with which podcast you connect particularly well and then should consider spending some money to make the investment complete.

Of course, if Slow German or any of the other podcasts begin to get too slow for you, try some regular podcasts in German. There are a considerable number I have reviewed on my blog:
Skythen-Podcast (history)
Leben und Überleben mit 45+ (life after cancer)
Junggesellenblog (personal audioblog)
Meiky's Podcast Show (audioblog and audio plays)
Geschichtspodcast (history)
Volkis Stimme (satire)
Schlaflos in Muenchen (audioblog)
Ersatz TV (science)
Deutsche Klassiker (literature)
Omega Tau (science and technology)
Dichter und Denker (Culture and thought)
Wanhoff's Wunderbare Welt der Wissenschaft (science)
Fraunhofer (science and technology)
Ganz einfach leben (ecology and economics)
Der Sontagssoziologe (sociology)
Brieftour (audioblog)
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