9 of the Best Podcasts for Learning German

German is a great language for learning by podcast. There is a big selection, so I've gone and selected 9 of the best shows for you to discover.

In this article, you'll find

  1. German Podcast Courses from Deutsche Welle
  2. Podcasts in Slow German
  3. German Video Shows
  4. Story-Based and German Culture Podcasts
  5. A tip on how to find podcasts produced by native German speakers
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Benny Lewis Has a New Language Hacking Series: Here's My Review

In today's review, I'm excited to bring you guys my first impressions of Language Hacking German - A Conversation Course, the new book by Benny Lewis.

In this series, you can also get books for learning Spanish, French and Italian.

TL;DR: I'm impressed with the design, structure and method used by these books.

They're awesome, if you're anywhere between A1 and A2 pick up a copy and use it to practice. Also looks like a good potential Christmas present.

Benny.. Who Dat?

If you read language articles on the internet, you've probably come across Benny Lewis. He runs the website Fluent in 3 Months and has been blogging and learning languages for over 10 years. Benny has previously published a book with a real publisher, which is an inspiring thing for all of us language bloggers.

More importantly, he brings a more modern approach to language learning into book shops. I'm very much on board with that!

This particular series, "Language Hacking", is a collaboration with Teach Yourself, whose materials have always been language learner favourites. I've checked these courses out and used them, and they're definitely one of the best brands for self-teaching materials on anything.

"Language Hacking is a state of mind. It's about positivity and an approach that puts everything you're learning into practice immediately." - Benny Lewis

Advantages of The Language Hacking Book

My first impression was that this book is really good-looking! It's got a nice size to it, the design throughout is engaging and interesting, and it just feels very nice to hold in your hands. You can see straight away that they're trying to make #languagehacking into a thing, so the message is clear: This book is for 21st century learners.

The Structure

The structure of the book follows that of a traditional self-teaching language book, so it's not trying to overthrow everything good in the system. The design is lively and engaging, with vocab delivered in sentence structures, culture tips, conversation examples and exercises. It's a great "complete package".

What's different here is that this focuses very much on conversation as the goals and "learning outcomes". The book avoids mentioning grammar concepts in favour of setting the learner a mission with every unit. What I really liked is that each unit clearly sets out the mission as a use case, describing what kind of situation you would find yourself in when you will use what you are learning.

In each mission you learn some new stuff, and there are exercises so you can test that you learnt it correctly. The #languagehacking system adds in Benny's "Conversation Countdown" methods of building a script and sharing it immediately with a dedicated web area sponsored by italki.

The design is all about making language learning less intimidating. I hardly saw any grammar terms mentioned, with focus on descriptions like "slingshot words" instead of "subordinating conjunctions". In fact, this style combined with the mission and scripts system feels perfect for new learners, but also for experienced learners as they'll be able to breeze through this and create sentences quicker.

You're In Good Hands

£11.89

The brand "Benny Lewis" is present throughout the book, and that worked really well for me. As you work your way through it, you get to feel as if someone is on the journey with you and guiding you through this course. The quotes and images of Benny were a fun addition - I'm not a fan girl, but as a structure this worked very well for me.

Each mission mentions a small #Languagehacking tip in the introduction - a great concept. As you're learning your new language, I can imagine how much these little tips will help you build more confidence and feel ready to speak quickly.

Anything Else You Need To Know?

The book doesn't solve a key problem of language learning, which is the idea of being too busy. It's written with "conversations with natives" in mind, so if you're learning languages without immediate travel plans you may feel cut off from many of the examples. The scripts system is also nice, although I would prefer to make my own -- this is because I'm experienced and relatively "fearless" as a language learner, not because the idea itself is bad.

If you're a very long-standing Fluent reader, you'll have read my thoughts on the use of the word "hacking" in the context of language learning. I'm not a fan of the name of this series, but the "language hacking" brand is what Benny Lewis has used for years.

The tiny things are exactly what makes this so good for more inexperienced language learners. They were nitpicks, really - overall this is an impressive product.

Audio Access

At first I grumbled that there is no CD with this book, but I quickly remembered that we live in the 21st century and all the audio is downloadable. So it does come with audio, and the example sentences I heard were very good and match the book scripts excellently. You can get the audio from www.teachyourself.com/languagehacking.

Conclusion

Overall, this is one of the most impressive versions of a language course I've seen in a while. The way that it incorporates "hacking" ideas (I'll just call them shortcuts) into a traditional self-teaching book design was fantastic.

These Language Hacking courses are an incredible addition to the bookshelves of any language learner, but particularly for those that are new to the language.

Overall, a clear 5/5 - kudos to Benny Lewis and Teach Yourself. This is not a grade I give readily at all, so you can trust that this course is well worth your investment if you want to learn a new language. I hope they publish more versions soon.

How To Get This Book For Yourself

£12.28

The links below are affiliate links, so you'll be supporting Fluent at no extra cost to yourself. Go ahead and click to take a look!

On Amazon

Click here to go directly to Language Hacking on Amazon.com

And click here if you're buying in the UK

Having seen the printed copy of this book (but not the kindle version), my feeling is that you are best served by investing in the print. The prices are currently very similar, and you'll be able to take notes and write in your book, take it everywhere and share it easily.

Yes, I'm analogue girl. (You can write me a postcard to tell me what you think of that!)

The Story of Bilingual German-English Live Training

One of the worst moments I've ever experienced in German teaching was the time I tried to introduce a class of lunchtime learners to the Akkusativ case. Armed with whiteboard and sample sentences, I walked into the class, and I felt so ready and so excited to be teaching this (what I thought) awesome system in grammar.

"So when you have an object in your sentence, here's what happens..", I explained to them, with colour-coded underlining to illustrate. I thought I was doing well..until I saw everyone's face. In this classroom, at 12:45, in the middle of a busy workday, something clearly wasn't working.

That's when I realised that language teaching and language learning are not the same thing. And even worse, that what I was explaining didn't make sense to half of these people and they didn't care either.

Relevant Teaching

I came out of that class feeling absolutely defeated. I think I even cried, feeling like I'm failing myself and my students. And the experience always stuck with me and built part of the philosophy that is behind my actions now: The LEARNER is in charge of learning a language. And the learner, that's you right there reading these words.

When you're taking classes with me, you can get the solid and important explanations at your own pace in my online courses, but in live lessons I avoid explainers and I never lead with them.

Instead, the key to the Fluent Language method is relevant teaching.

For you as a German learner, that means experiencing language immersion at a good pace, making your own conclusions, and answering questions regularly. It's important to speak or write early, but it's also important that you're learning relevant and well.

Action: Bilingual Live Training

In my most recent teaching venture, I created a bilingual webinar - the first one I ever taught, and a successful one too.

Thank you so much if you were among the lovely people watching on Saturday. It was a challenge for me to teach in this way, but an incredibly rewarding experience to know that the viewers were following along, answering questions, and understanding the immersion concept.

Do you want to try it out? Catch up with the webinar today, and make sure you also download your worksheet and follow along. Click here and find all you need at the webinar live page.

Did you watch the webinar? Did you learn something new and use the worksheet?

Tell me how you enjoyed it in the comments below, and make sure you sign up for my newsletter to learn about the next one.

How to Party With The Football-Crazy Germans This Month (+ German Anthem Video)

There's chanting in the stands, sunshine in the streets and everyone is dusting off the Mannschaft jerseys: Euro 2016, this year's biggest football tournament has finally started!

Party With German Friends

If you're learning the German language, you already know how important the sport is to Germans. There are over 6.5 million football club members in Germany, but during Euro 2016 those numbers pale into insignificance. You're safe to say that at least half of the Germans you'll meet are going to take an interest in this tournament.

By the way: As a Welsh learner, I've already picked up a few new words by learning the Welsh national anthem. Never say sportsball isn't for learning.

So Why Miss Out On Euro 2016 Fun?

No matter who you are supporting, no matter if you even care about who wins, the excitement is going to be unavoidable in the coming weeks. The following tips are guaranteed to help you feel at home in any Fanmeile or public viewing zone (those are what the Germans call their big screen areas)

1) Don't Bet On The Favourites

Germans are a risk-averse bunch. The classic British tradition of supporting the underdog is puzzling to many of them. Why go for anything but the most promising option? So if you want to get with the German mentality as a football supporter, reserve a soft spot for the most likely tournament winners.

For Euro 2016, the strongest football teams are Spain, Italy, Poland, the reigning world champions Germany and host nation France.

But don't go out and place a bet on them to win. Bet shops and betting agencies in sports are less commonplace in Germany as Germans prefer wise investments to anything as risky as gambling.

2) Get The Grillparty Started

Football World Cup and European Cup tournaments take place in the summer - perfect timing for millions of Germans to open up Balkonien (balconia - a German word for "holidaying at home") and invite their friends round for a BBQ and viewing party.

For the best German Grillparty, you need a venue (garden, allotment, balcony, public BBQ area), a TV to watch the match, some meat (despite the vegan trend, Germans tend to be non-veggie), salad and veggies, and a good supply of drinks. No need for spicy sauces - German foods are rarely hot and spicy.

3) Be A Fachsimpler

Fachsimpeln (playing the expert) is a hobby no one can resist entirely, and watching sports among friends is no exception. When you're among your friends and everyone is playing armchair pundits, listen out for some of the following words to help you keep up:

  • Der Anstoß - kick off
  • Die Schwalbe - dive (when a player feigns injury)
  • Der Stürmer - striker
  • Der Verteidiger - defense player
  • Das Mittelfeld - mid-field
  • Der Elfmeter - penalty
  • Der Eckball - corner
  • Der Freistoß - free kick
  • Das Foul - foul
  • Verlängerung (in der Verlängerung) - extra time
  • Ich bin für Deutschland. - I'm supporting Germany
  • Wie steht es? - what's the score?
  • Der Pokal - cup (in a sporting context)

By the way, you can practice these sentences and learn a lot more about how Germans talk in my German pronunciation course.

4) Be About The Team, Not The Player

Back in the early 2000s, German football wasn't quite as successful as it's looking today. Our teams were made up of good players, but the team spirit was lost. In recent years, German football has undergone a transformation and brought in a new focus on the whole team.

The official song, motto and hashtag for the German football team in Euro 2016? Jeder für Jeden (or #jederfuerjeden) - everyone for everyone. This team is not about running around behind a super famous striker. They're hoping to bring home sporting glory together.

5) Learn Some Football Quotes

Football coaches and football players are people who are often asked for their opinions, and every now and then produce a piece of wisdom second to none. You can find many quotes attributed to German coaches on this Spiegel.de page. From Der Ball ist rund und das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten, to nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel, you won't need to be fluent in German to join in with your football-crazy friends this summer.

Or if you want to hang out and watch football with me for the night, all you really need is a passionate supply of these lines. Let's be honest, even shouting "Mesuuuuut!" at strategic moments will be wonderful.

german football

Who Are You Supporting?

Football tournaments are an awesome way for people to get together and have a bit of fun (that's valid for the incredibly underfunded womens' sports too, by the way).

Are you joining in this summer? What's your favourite football quote?

Let me know in the comments below!

Grammar ♥︎ Practice auf Deutsch: 3 Twists That Trip Up German Learners (And How to Overcome Them Easily)

german language lesson

Before I dive deeper into German grammar for this week's useful blog post, I want to take a minute to say "I know!" to all of you who think that German is a hard language to learn. Today's article is about to prove that you guys are not entirely wrong. Yes, the German language has some Tücken (twists).

But read on to discover how to get over each of these twists without ever worrying about them again.

Just like I did in our French Grammar Practice, I've selected 2 topics for German beginners and 1 twist for advanced learners. So there's something here for everyone.

Twist #1: sie is not Sie is not sie

The little words that can take the place of a noun or a name in language are called pronouns. They are placeholders that make it easier for us to communicate - just imagine how that previous sentence would work if I didn't have the words "they" and "us" for example! When you learn a foreign language, you start picking up its pronouns very early.

In German, this is particularly true as the verb doesn't do all that much by itself. The way pronouns are used is pretty similar to English, but here's the sting: 3 German pronouns look similar when they are not similar at all. I'm talking about the word sie, which you'll spot 3 times in the German pronoun table.

Many German learners are aware that Sie is the polite "you" in the German language, addressing a person from a point of distance or respect. It's corresponding to the French vous in this way. But if you think that's all you need to understand sie, it is time to take a look at the full verb table:

german verb table

Sie pops up three times, but each time this word stands for a different person. There is more to it than just the polite "you".

There are three different kinds of sie

  • It stands for the female 3rd person singular pronoun - that's "she" in English

Examples:
Sie heißt Melanie. - Her name is Melanie.
Das ist meine Schwester. Sie kann auch Spanisch. - This is my sister. She speaks Spanish too.

  • It stands for the 3rd person plural pronoun - that's "they" in English

Examples:
Sie kommen aus Deutschland. - They are from Germany.
Das sind meine Geschwister. Sie können auch Spanisch. - Those are my siblings. They speak Spanish too.

  • It stands for the polite "you" (grammatically that's also the 3rd person plural, kinda like addressing a royal "we")

Sie kommen aus Deutschland, Frau Krämer. - You are from Germany, Ms Krämer.
Wie heißen Sie? - What is your name?

How To Know The Difference

The first distinction is so easy to spot that I wouldn't even call it a "language hack". When you see Sie and the first letter is a capital letter, it's the polite you. Make sure you use it this way in your writing too.

If you're in a conversation (and you can't hear the capital letter), check out what the verb is doing.

When the verb ends in -t, you're looking at a "she".
When the verb ends in -en, it's most likely "they" or "you"...and then you have to figure out what the sentence is about and take other clues.

Twist #2: Prefixes are Everything

If you're going to learn one thing about German at an early stage, it's that the little things make all the difference. For example, take the concept of the separable verb. At the heart of it, you've got a verb like machen (to make, to do) or kommen (to come). Add a little prefix (usually 2-4 letters) to the verb, and suddenly you've twisted the meaning.

The good news here is that learning prefixes pays off a billion times over, as you'll be able to add them to pretty much any verb going to make yourself understood in spoken German. Prefixes split off when a verb is used in the sentence, so make sure you look out for them at the end of the sentence. So in other words, the final word in a sentence is very important in German. Sometimes it can twist the whole meaning.

Check out the following video from my German Grammar video Course for a detailed explanation.

Here are a few example sentences:
Wir kommen am Freitag. - We're coming on Friday.
Wir kommen am Freitag an. - We're arriving on Friday.
Ich komme heute. Er kommt am Freitag nach. - I'm coming today. He'll follow on Friday.
Wir fahren nach Berlin. Kommst du mit? - We're going to Berlin. Are you coming?

Test Yourself

How many words can you spot that carry the prefix auf? When you think of it's generic meaning "up", how many meanings can you guess from the following list?

  • aufmachen
  • aufgehen
  • aufstehen
  • auflegen

Let me know what your guesses are in the comments.

Twist 3: For Advanced Learners, werden becomes complex

The dictionary meaning of the German verb werden is "to become", plain and simple.

But watch out for two other ways that the verb is used. It teams up with another verb to build two advanced structures.

When werden works with another verb, the sentence structure is always:

Subject + werden + (any adverbs) + (any object) + the other verb

The other verb is what's really happening. If it stands in the infinitiv (that means it's not changed at all from how you find it in the dictionary), the sentence is in the future tense. For example, Ich werde etwas essen means "I will eat something". If it stands in the participle (this is that past tense form with ge-), then you're looking at the passive voice! For example, Etwas wird gegessen is not future tense at all

Examples:

Ich werde nach Berlin fahren. - I will drive to Berlin.
Ich werde nach Berlin gefahren. - I'm being driven to Berlin.

Ich werde den Käse kaufen. - I will buy the cheese.
Der Käse wird gekauft. - The cheese is being bought.
Der Käse wird gekauft werden - (combining future and passiv) The cheese will be bought.

So whenever your form of werden pops up, pay attention and make sure that you don't end up confusing future and passive. They're pretty different.

How to Escape The Werden Trap

One easy tip to speak German without the pains of werden is to avoid using the future tense altogether. That's what native speakers do all the time, simply using the present tense together with words like morgen (tomorrow) or gleich (in a minute). It's so simple, it's practically Chinese grammar! (Someone once told me Chinese doesn't have conjugation. I was like "whoah"!)

Where To Look For More German Grammar Explanations

If you're studying German grammar in your first year, you will find answers to every grammar question in my video course Easy German Grammar for Beginners. It contains dozens of simple videos, quizzes and workbooks to help you become a confident speaker.

For advanced learners, the best grammar book I know is Deutsche Grammatik, supported by a great website and useful tables. It's helped me explain so many rules in clear terms, and was a support when I made the full video course.

Which Parts of German Grammar Do You Find Tricky?

Word order, verbs, cases...there's a lot to discover in German grammar. Has any of it tripped you up? Let me know in the comments!