I. Tips for Improving German in a Classroom Setting
If you learn best in a classroom setting, here are some tips that will help you quickly improve your German listening skills in the classroom.
1. Record class activities on your cell phone.
If you have trouble understanding every spoken German word during your classes, record them. Later you can listen to class again and hear any of the words you might have missed the first time. These recordings will also help you become familiar with the sound of your teacher and classmates while they speak.
You should listen for the tone and intonation (sound of voice, high or low) of their words. This will help you pronounce difficult words more clearly and easily. Eventually you will find it easier to understand everything that is being said during classes.
2. Have a list of words to listen for in class.
Using a recording, write a list of the words you hear most often in class. Then, bring this list with you to class and listen for those words. Whenever you hear a word on your list, write a checkmark, dot or X next to the word. Which words do you hear the most often?
When making your list, you can also add words that you think you might hear in class. For example, if you’re starting a unit on traveling, add some German words for travel to your list.
Listen for the context, or how the words are used in sentences. This active listening exercise will help you understand when and why certain words are used. Once you’re comfortable with the words you hear all the time, you can focus on the words from your list with fewer check marks.
3. Ask your classmates for help.
While you can learn a lot from your teacher, it can also be helpful to learn from your classmates. Find someone in your class who wants to learn with you. You can agree on a certain podcast, speech, song or other audio and listen together. Then, quiz each other on what certain words or sentences mean.
By doing this with someone else, your classmate will probably understand words that you don’t, and vice versa. In addition to the listening practice, this will let you get to know your classmates better, which can make you more comfortable in class.
If you want, ask your teacher if you can share the audio with other students in class, and be sure to ask your teacher about anything you couldn’t understand.
Every word comes with an in-context definition, image, audio and multiple example sentences. You can even click on a word to see how it’s used in other videos across the site. Be sure to turn off the subtitles before you hit “play,” though, to really test your ears!
II. Tips for Improving German Listening with Independent Study
For those of you who prefer to study German alone, here are some tips to get better at listening.
1. Listen to the same German podcast every day for a week.
Find a podcast that you find interesting or entertaining and choose one episode. Listen to that episode every day for a week—while you’re driving, riding the bus, washing dishes, etc. Pick out words or phrases that are difficult to understand and look them up on the first and second days. Don’t forget to hit “pause” or to listen again.
After a couple of days, you should be able to listen for these words and understand them. It may also help to memorize parts of the podcast and practice speaking them out loud. Listen for the differences between yourself and speaker.
By the last day, you’ll find that you can understand much more than on the first. As you ear adjusts to hearing this German podcast episode, it’ll be easier to listen to new audio in German.
2. Join a conversation group.
Find a group of German learners who host a conversation table. Conversation groups usually meet regularly, but it’s not a class. You don’t have to come every week; the purpose is simply to converse (talk) in German. Meetup is a great place to look for German conversation groups. If you can’t find a group near you, start your own!
This will be a great way to listen to a variety of German accents and voices. If you’re nervous about speaking German, remind yourself that you are going to listen—and this is totally okay. You can even tell the other speakers this if you want to, if you think it’ll be weird to sit quietly. You could say something like:
Hallo, Ich bin Rebecca. Ich werde heute Abend auf das Hören konzentrieren, damit ich nicht viel sagen kann!
Practice that line before you go, and then after you say it, you can concentrate (focus) on listening! And besides listening and speaking practice, joining a conversation group can also be a fantastic way to make new friends.
So, whether you learn best in a classroom, one-on-one with a teacher or by yourself at home, practice listening the way that’s best for you. These tips will help you improve even faster than before. Good luck!