News programs are written clearly and directly, making them perfect for language learning. The news can be your own personal German classroom.
Also, language is about making sense of real life issues. News is called news for a reason: news is by definition fresh and current. News programs focus on issues that you care about and on how you live your life. It makes sense to learn German in the context (situation) you can actually use.
And learning German isn’t just about improving your vocabulary. It’s also about being able to connect with German speakers. When you know what’s going on in their world, then you’ll be able to speak their language better.
Here are some steps to get you started.
1. Watch and Read High Quality News
Lots of really mediocre (not so good) content is out on web. Go for quality.
Seek out news sources with crisp clear writing. The sentences should be short and declarative, which means they should use a subject-verb-object pattern. The writing in the story should be as easy to read as the headline or title at the top.
Try to find news sites where the staff comes from different cultures. The stories are more likely to give you more than one viewpoint (perspective) on a problem.
Some web sites bring together the best quality news stories the Internet has to offer. They are called aggregate (combining) sites, which means they put all the good videos in one place. Video news has a particular advantage for German learners because you can see, hear, and read all at once, but you need a good collection (group) of videos to draw from.
2. Watch and Read News That You Like
Politics isn’t your thing? Plenty of other types of news are out there.
Love football/soccer? You know there are web sites for that. If you are an advanced speaker, ESPN may be a great site for you. ESPN Football Club offers all the football coverage you want, including stories about the game in just about every country in the world. You may be able to see some broadcast videos if your cable provider can give you access.
As a beginner, you want to find the right kind of sports site that will give you information in a way you can understand. Lots of sports commentators speak very fast and seem to shout. Rather than seeing the commentator as he or she speaks, the game action is shown on the screen and you hear the commentator screaming (talking very loudly) in the background. Not being able to see who is speaking can make the story pretty hard to follow.
Sites designed for younger readers also work well for German language learners and still provide specific information that you find interesting. Sites also are available for travel buffs in National Geographic Kids and science fans at Kids Discover.
How-to stories give information in a detailed way. How-tos do exactly what the name suggests: tell you how to do something that you want to learn..
Finding news in German on topics you care about will keep you motivated to learn. Plus, it’s just more interesting.
3. Read the news out loud with a pen in hand.
Instead of just reading words to a story inside your head, read the words out loud. Reading out loud helps you slow down and sort out the words’ meanings. If you don’t know a word, highlight it or write it down and come back for a definition if the meaning does not become clear later in the paragraph. Reading news is a great way to learn German because the articles tend to be short and the vocabulary tends to stay the same on each topic.
Let’s say you are reading the Time for Kids article “An Amazon Adventure” about the movie Rio 2. As you read, you are going to find unfamiliar idioms. Right away, the writer refers to something as a ‘flick.’ You’ve got your pen ready to write down the word. Rather than dragging out a dictionary, keep reading. It probably will become clear quickly that ‘flick’ is another word for movie. If the meaning does not become clear, you don’t have to hunt for the word later. You’ve got your list ready.
If you don’t know a word in an online video, hit the pause button and write the word down. Come back it to later and find the definition.
Having the subtitles available for videos can make all the difference in learning German. Play the video with the sound on and listen carefully to the pronunciation. Rewind and play the same section again, but this time with the sound off. Read the subtitles (those words at the bottom of the screen) out loud. You’ve already selected content at your learning level and on topics you care about. Reading the text with the video will help you build German vocabulary on things that interest you, plus give you more confidence in your pronunciation.
Pretending to be your favorite sportscaster or television host is lots of fun. After all, learning German should be fun. Use the news in a way that works for you.