YouTube stands as a great medium for those language learners out there looking to take their German skills to the next level—without the aid of subtitles. With a focus on the more advanced learners among us, below you’ll find a host of some of the better cartoons to keep you learning and entertained at the same time!
While you might not find an official German YouTube channel for some of the titles below, I’ve linked them to a page where you can access various episodes. Enjoy!
“Albert sagt… Natur – aber nur!” (“Albert Says Nature Knows Best”)
“Albert Says Nature Knows Best” is a German science cartoon featuring Albert, a mythical creature known to be a bit of an adventure-seeker. Albert, along with his pal Zora, are committed to sharing insight into a host of topics associated with nature and the environment as a whole.
Some of the topics these two pals have covered include climate change, the effects of fossil fuel and nuclear energy consumption and how birds contribute to the natural cycle of life. Note that a spin-off series called “Albert auf Entdeckungstour” (“Albert Asks What Is Life?”) finds Albert and Zora continuing their adventures, but this time with the help of a time machine.
One particular episode advanced language learners can immediately take advantage of is entitled “Mit der Medizin Unterwegs” (“On the Go with Medicine”). This episode finds Albert helping his friend Zora through an illness by showing her how medicine works to fight sickness in the body.
Higher level medical vocabulary coupled with compelling illustrations are used to help viewers better understand and make associations. This kind of terminology is a smart (and practical) addition to a language learner’s vocabulary list.
This Canadian cartoon series follows the adventures of a young boy named Calliou as he navigates the world, along with his family and friends. Caillou is typically found on YouTube in a series of short compilations and includes such topics as Caillou learning to tie his shoes, discovering nature with his Opa and learning about foreign customs and traditions.
One great episode includes Caillou and his trip to the dentist. Storylines like this one include basic situational vocabulary and are tied up in a series of minutes. Slow voice-over narration of the videos supports ease of understanding.
“Die Fantastische Welt von Gumball” (“The Amazing World of Gumball”)
“The Amazing World of Gumball” is a British/American collaboration featuring a 12-year old cat named Gumball and his goldfish brother Darwin—characters who can’t help but find themselves involved in a series of zany antics.
While the premise is often silly and later a bit dark with the introduction of “the Void” (a place where the universe’s mistakes reside), the vocabulary is one that advanced language learners can use on a day-to-day basis.
And since the dialogue is spoken relatively fast with an array of comic accents, this series makes for good practice for higher level listening training.
“Der Kleine Nick” (“Little Nick”)
This series, developed from a children’s French book series, tells the story of a young boy named Nick. The cast includes a host of cartoon characters from Nick’s parents, to his best friend Otto and his various schoolmates.
The series often takes place during the school day, where Nick navigates his way through one situational event after another. This particular episode finds Nick struggling to solve a math problem and trying to secure a written excuse from his parents to avoid doing the work. This storyline is a key example (albeit comic) of vocabulary associated with problem solving.
“Feuerwehrmann Sam” (“Fireman Sam”)
This series tells the story of Fireman Sam and his firefighter colleagues in the Welsh city of Pontypandy. In each episode, Sam and his colleagues are called upon to help local citizens in a series of life-threatening situations.
Because the series is heavy on dialogue, it helps viewers with conversational skills training. In addition, learners can absorb new vocabulary associated with emergency situations. And because of the clear imagery connected to the dialogue, this cartoon allows for easy pick-up of new words.
“Kleine Prinzessin” (“Little Princess”)
Originally British, this cartoon series tells the story of a little girl who lives in a castle with her parents. She—a tad bratty in nature—learns that she doesn’t always get what she wants. This series is a good starting point for those going it alone without subtitles for the first time.
The dialogue is relatively simplistic in nature, spoken at a slow pace. Also, the episodes typically last around 10 minutes, making for a quick watch for those in a time crunch.
“Lauras Stern” (“Laura’s Star”)
A German original, this series is based on a book by author Klaus Baumgart. The background of the series tells the story of Laura, a seven-year-old girl who finds an injured star, brings it home to nurse it back to health and then embarks on many an adventure with her new friend.
In most episodes, Laura is confronted with a problem and searches out a solution. Dialogue is also clean and accent free, making for easy listening comprehension.
“Meine Freundin Conni” (“My Friend Conni”)
Conni is the seven-year-old protagonist of this cartoon series that was also developed out of a successful book series. It follows Conni in daily life as she navigates the world, learning and discovering new things around her.
This particular episode is a great one to start with and involves her taking a train ride for the first time with her mother and brother. Key vocabulary and sentence structure related to travel can be garnered from this episode—a very practical addition to your on-going word list.
Peppa Pig is an animated British series adopted by the German market. Peppa is young female pig who lives with her parents and younger brother, George. The series revolves around Peppa’s everyday activities and her interaction with her family and friends.
Along with simple dialogue from the show’s characters, this series also features voice-over narration, which provides further clarification and helps with comprehension.
Start with this particular episode, which finds Peppa and her family on their way to her grandparents’ house. You’ll get good vocabulary practice by hearing lots of words associated with time and traffic.
Trotro is a donkey and the title character of a series of French children’s books adapted to television. This cartoon follows the day-to-day life of Trotro and stands as another good starting point for cartoon viewers looking to ween themselves off subtitles.
Episodes cover very elementary topics like Trotro cleaning up his room, making soup and learning to read. The clips are short in nature and slow paced, with easily digestible dialogue.
So there you have it—ten examples of great animation to get you started on your subtitle free language learning journey. It’ll be hard at first, but don’t give up.
The key to learning and retaining is active listening—so open your ears, let your mind absorb the content, let your hand take note of any word you don’t understand, then reset and…repeat, repeat, repeat.