5 Tips on how to master the skill of listening in German

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Today on the blog, I am happy to welcome Anna Pastrikos again as she shares the third article of her series on learning German on My Swiss Story. Happy learning!

If you have read my last article, you will remember that I taught you 5 Tips on how to master the skill of speaking in German. But as we all know there is no good conversation without an attentive listener – so today we will look closer into the skill of listening and I will answer the following questions.

  • How can I improve my German listening skills?
  • What is the best way to improve my listening skills fast?
  • Which tactics can I use when I don’t understand what has been said? 
5 Tips on how to master the skill of listening in German | My Swiss Story | Picture credits: Unsplash

1. Start with listening exercises in your course book or online

Your first steps should of course be super simple – so it is best to listen to your coursebook exercises or other free exercises on your language level (look for A1 if you are a complete beginner). Listening to scripted listening audios for beginners has many benefits. Firstly, the audio will be adapted to your level. Moreover, the vocabulary is simple and relevant for short conversations. And finally, the pace of the conversation is much slower and the pronunciation clearer. Some of the great language learning books that are used in Swiss language schools and provide simple yet relevant listening audios are: Linie 1 Schweiz, Menschen & DaF kompakt.

2. Listen to German music or movies

Basically, from day 1 of your German learning, you can search online for some German music you might like. Don’t worry – German music is not just folk songs and Rammstein. I promise you can find some cool German music and there is something for every music taste. Here are some German artist that I personally like: Silbermond, Juli, Wir sind Helden, Revolverheld, Annan May Kantereit and Sportfreunde Stiller.

Slightly harder, but also very worth is listening to movies/series in German. For starters, I recommend watching it with English subtitles – so that you understand the movie but start getting a feel of how German is spoken (words, pronunciation, the basics). If you are already an advanced learner, you can already use German subtitles to listen as well as read along. My personal favourites are: Lola rennt, Good Bye Lenin, Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei, Der Baader Meinhof Komplex and Victoria.

5 Tips on how to master the skill of listening in German | My Swiss Story | Picture credits: Unsplash

3. Listen to an easy audiobook 

Listening to an audiobook is another great way of improving your listening skills. 

There are many different audiobooks out there ranging from A1 – C2. As a beginner, you can get an amazingly simple and easy one that repeats vocabulary or simple sentences. If you are an intermediate listener and not sure about your level, I recommend you aim for a little higher than your speaking abilities are. Usually, our passive knowledge in a foreign language is a lot higher than our active knowledge – meaning that you can understand a lot more than you can say. As an advanced listener, you could buy the accompanying book to read and listen to simultaneously.  Some great audio books you can try out are: Der kleine Prinz, Die Fremde and Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank.

4. Try these tactics if you have trouble understanding what has been said 

After practicing listening in your language course and/or at home via music, movies & audio books, it is time to engage in a real-life conversation. This can be tricky for various reasons: if your interlocutor is a native speaker he will probably speak fast and possibly not so clear. 

If you do attend a language course you will learn Swiss High German. However, most Swiss people speak with an accent that can be hard to understand for a non-native speaker. Therefore, I want to provide you with some tactics that you can use if you have trouble understanding what has been said:

Können Sie das wiederholen, bitte?Can you please repeat that?
Können Sie bitte langsamer sprechen?Can you please speak slower?
Könne Sie das auf Hochdeutsch sagen, bitte?Can you please say that in High German?
  • Watch for non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and gestures.
  • Pay attention to your interlocutor`s intonation. German follows certain melodies.
  • Does the voice go up and the end of a sentence? – It is probably a question.
  • Does the voice go down and the end of a sentence? – It is probably a statement.

5. Immerse yourself into the Swiss community

Whoever lives in Switzerland and speaks a little German will notice that the Swiss accent that is spoken in everyday life is A LOT different than Swiss High German. There is just one way to really learn the Swiss-German that is spoken in everyday life – and that is to immerse with the Swiss community. Think about your hobbies or find something that you enjoy doing and then meet like-minded Swiss people. This could be a sports group, a reading club, or a dance course.

5 Tips on how to master the skill of listening in German | My Swiss Story | Picture credits: Unsplash

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that I could give you some useful tips on how to improve your German listening skills. The most important thing is to practice in many ways – such as listening exercises, songs, movies, or audiobooks. After some practice, the best is to jump right into a conversation. If you are a complete beginner, simply say that and do not be shy to ask someone to speak slower or repeat something that you did not understand. 

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Guest author: My name is Anna Pastrikos – I’m a passionate language teacher and the Founder of the German Academy Zurich. On my blog, you can find tips and advice on how to pass the Telc and Goethe exams.

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