Improve Your German Listening Skills and Feel More Confident When Listening
I’ll start with a disclaimer that when it comes to language learning and listening to German, there are no quick fixes or ‘easy ways’ to improve listening skills in German. In fact, you might be surprised to know that hard work and time are both essential elements. Shock, right?! That being said, if you are looking to improve listening skills in German, then employ the suggestions below and I am sure that your listening skills in German should improve.
These tips are suitable for all levels from beginner to advanced.
1. GO FOR THE GIST
When listening for the first time, try to pick out the main ideas and don’t get hung up on understanding every single word. Focusing on the overall message can also be a beneficial start to improve listening skills in German. As you are practising, this method is great, as it doesn’t make you get bogged down with all the details and allows you to feel confident in understanding something.
2. CONSIDER THE CONTEXT
I teach many GCSE German and A-Level exam students many have thanked me for suggesting that they check the context of the extract in exam questions to help improve German listening skills. They find it helps them to focus better. Is it about the weekend, a holiday abroad or politics? Considering the context of the audio allows learners to shed light on words and phrases they don’t recognise.
3. LISTEN REGULARLY
Ultimately, the more you listen to German speakers, the better you will become at understanding German. I’d recommend finding and listening to a range of authentic German content online to match your level (or a step higher) and listen to them on a regular basis.
- German news, such as NachrichtenLeicht.de for beginners
- German speaking YouTubers (minimise the screen)
- German podcasts
- Radio stations
- Music in German
- TV shows in German
- Short German stories with audio FOR BEGINNERS
I’d also suggest choosing topics of interest to you. This list of 8 German Listening Websites I put together in 2018 will help to get you started. However, don’t just listen passively…!
4. JOT DOWN AS YOU LISTEN
Passively listening doesn’t class as an ‘easy way’ to improve your listening skills. It’s fine if you just want to listen. Instead though, jot down key words or phrases. I suggest writing a list under: ‘nouns’, ‘adjectives’, ‘verbs’ or ‘useful phrases’. As an added challenge, do this in German or in English so you can translate into the other language later.
Alternatively, jot down phrases in different time frames, such as present, past, future etc. These types of note taking listening practice activities will help you focus on what is being said to aid with understanding.
You can then use these notes to summarise what you have understood in your own words, either in your head or written down.
It’s not necessary to write everything down so don’t frantically note every word down.
4. IMITATE / REPEAT WHAT YOU HEAR
Imitate the sounds and pronunciation you hear aloud, as well as strings of sentences you hear. You can do this as you listen or by pausing the extract whilst listening if possible. This will help reinforce what you have learned and heard and help to improve your retention of the material.
5. LISTEN ACTIVELY
Aim to actively listen when you are in a conversational situation with a German speaker. You may not be able to go to a country, but you could get a private German tutor or speak with friends or family who speak German.
Firstly, engage with the speaker perhaps by nodding or asking questions to clarify anything you don’t understand. This will ensure you are focused on what the interlocuter is trying to communicate. Ensure you ask for feedback on your pronunciation and comprehension too. This will help you identify areas where you need to improve and give you an opportunity to practice these sections further to get better.
6. LOOK UP NEW WORDS
If you can get hold of a transcript (you could use a German to English translation service) try to look up new vocabulary using a German-English online dictionary or app. Note it down and aim to use them or recognise them in the future.
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