There are many great options so it’s tough to know where exactly to start. Here’s a mixed list of YouTube channels and German sites where you can watch videos with subtitles. Note that the German sites might not be accessible outside of Germany—in that case, read the tip above about using a VPN.
BookBox is a YouTube channel that features videos with children’s stories being read aloud. The videos, which include subtitles, are read fairly slowly since the channel’s goal is to help kids learn to read. But if you’re beginning to learn German, BookBox is perfect because of the slower pace and the straightforward vocabulary. The videos are also all under seven minutes long, so you can easily fit them into your daily schedule if you’re super busy.
Recommended video: “Die Heinzelmännchen und der Schuhmacher” (“The Elves and the Shoemaker”) is one of those stories that everyone in Germany knows. In Cologne, where the story takes place, there’s actually even a fountain depicting it because it’s such a beloved part of the city’s cultural history.
2. Easy German
Easy German is another YouTube channel that’s ideal for intermediate to advanced learners. The videos cover a range of topics from grammar to everyday street talk. There are also videos that tackle specific vocabulary and cultural topics, like vocabulary to talk about being sick, or interviews about what Germans think of Facebook.
The people in the videos speak at a conversational speed, so the videos are excellent for practicing listening comprehension while following along with the German and English subtitles.
Recommended video: “Train Rides in Germany and Austria” highlights the differences between riding the train in both countries, but is also helpful for hearing the contrast between German and Austrian accents. Of course, taking the train is generally an important part of living in either Germany or Austria, so it also gives you local insight into the pros and cons.
3. Deutsch lernen mit DW (Learning German with DW)
Deutsch lernen mit DW is from Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster. The nice thing about their YouTube channel is that their videos are all categorized by level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, so there’s something for everyone regardless of how advanced you are. The videos cover topics like grammar, shopping and living in Germany.
Recommended video: It’s not exactly one video, but rather a whole telenovela series: “Jojo sucht das Glück” (“Jojo Seeks Happiness”). This series follows a Brazilian student who has moved to Cologne. It boasts a high production quality and is pretty entertaining. Intermediate learners will grasp vocabulary quickly and be able to follow the speed of conversation without any problem.
4. WDR Mediathek (WDR Media Center)
WDR is one of the public television networks in Germany, and they produce a wide range of content. Some of the content is online, including the news, which is always easy to follow if you’re up-to-date on current events. Content with available subtitles is marked with a clickable “UT” (an abbreviation of Untertitel, or subtitles) in the video.
Unlike the YouTube channels mentioned previously, WDR content is produced for the German market instead of for German learners, though it’s still accessible for all levels of learners. Their Media Center might be blocked outside of Germany; if that’s the case, try using a VPN, as outlined above.
Recommended video: Any video from “Die Sendung mit der Maus” (“The Show with the Mouse”) is bound to be interesting. It’s a famous show for children, but adults like to watch it just as much because it often explains things that you would never think about, like how a washing machine works or the secret to snowboards. Although the language is easy for children, the content is really appropriate for anybody.
5. ARD Mediathek (ARD Media Center)
ARD is another public broadcasting channel with its own online media center. Unlike WDR, the ARD content is probably better for intermediate to advanced learners because they have many made-for-TV movies. Like WDR, in order to watch videos with subtitles, make sure to choose videos that are marked in the search results with a “UT.”
Recommended video: Any video from the show “Tatort” (“Crime Scene”), which is more for advanced German learners. The show “Tatort” has been on since the 1970s and lots of Germans spend their Sunday evenings watching it. It’s similar to American shows like “CSI” or “Law & Order” and certainly worth checking out.
6. ZDF Mediathek (ZDF Media Center)
Like WDR and ARD, ZDF is also a public broadcasting network whose content is available online, but possibly limited to specific areas. If you go to their sub-site for audio programs and shows with subtitles, scroll down to the bottom where it says “Verfügbare Videos mit Untertitel” (Available videos with subtitles) to see what’s available. The videos on ZDF are more for advanced learners since the content is mostly TV shows, documentaries and news shows for the German market.
Recommended video: “Koch im Ohr” (“Chef in the Ear”) is a reality TV show where two teams compete; each team consists of a professional chef and a person with little experience in the kitchen. The chef needs to guide the regular person through the recipe just by talking to them through an earpiece. For German learners, it’s an ideal show to pick up vocabulary related to the kitchen and cooking.
Whether you’re watching something on YouTube or viewing content produced for the local German market, just remember to watch it with the subtitles turned on.
There are plenty of options available, and hopefully, with these tips, you’ll add watching German videos with subtitles to your regular learning routine. It’s a great way to have fun and improve your comprehension in no time.