No matter where in the world you live, the easiest way of keeping in touch with the spoken German word is online radio. Unlike German TV, German radio broadcasts over the Internet are not restricted to listeners in Germany (i.e., there is no geo-blocking). All you need is a computer or some portable device such as tablet or mobile phone and an Internet access. In addition, you will need to have Adobe Flash Player and Windows Media Player installed on your device. And that is pretty much it.
There are nearly one hundred public radio stations and over four hundred private stations licensed in Germany, offering a variety of programming (for a complete list of all German radio stations see this page). Most of them offer their broadcasts over the Internet. A few of them have a national coverage as most stations are just regional or local. The ones that are of the greatest value to a German learner are obviously those that primarily deliver spoken content rather than music. Given the large size of the German radio broadcasting market they are not too hard to find.
For German learners, there are many benefits of listening to German radio broadcasts. For example, many programmes are broadcast live (they are not moderated) and people speak naturally as they do in real life. This makes the language very authentic unlike in movies. You can hear people speaking with different accents or in different dialects, especially if you are listening to regional stations. You can listen to the radio for hours at home (or sometimes even at work) and inhale the language and new vocabulary almost subconsciously. Since there are so many radio stations in Germany and elsewhere in the German speaking world, you will surely find topics that you find interesting. In addition, radio enables you not only to practice your German listening comprehension skills but also to learn something about Germany, its regions, people and their way of life.
Some Recommended German Radio Stations
Since public-service radio stations are financed through license fees paid by radio listeners living in Germany, they tend to deliver more spoken content than private stations. The programme quality is generally very good and broadcasts are not being constantly interrupted by commercials. Here are some good examples:
- Slowly Spoken News (Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten) from Deutsche Welle is an excellent starting point for German learners whose language skills are on the intermediate and upper intermediate level (B2-C1). You can listen to the news online (while reading the full transcript, if necessary), or download them in the MP3 format and play them on your device. If you find the language annoyingly slow, your language skills are probably good enough to understand broadcasts of regular radio stations listed below.
- Deutschlandradio is not a radio station in itself but a public-service radio broadcaster operating three popular nationwide networks highly recommended to all German learners:
- ARD Radionet gives you a clickable list of all regional radio stations associated with the largest German public-service broadcaster ARD. Although most of these stations primarily focus on music and entertainment briefly interrupted by short news, there are also channels delivering all sorts of interesting reports that can be best recommended to German learners. Some examples include:
- HR-Info (Hessischer Rundfunk) – politics, economy, health, travel, etc.
- B5 Aktuell (Bayerischer Rundfunk) – politics, economy, culture, religion, etc.
- WDR 5 (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) – politics, economy, science, culture, society, entertainment, etc.
Internet Radio Portals
If you like to listen to the radio on your desktop, Internet radio portals are an ideal tool where to look for German stations that best suit your taste (especially musical taste). They provide lists of radio stations and their live streams for you to play, often with a brief description of what each station focuses on. Here is a small selection of radio portals that you may find useful:
Mobile Radio Apps
Mobile German-radio apps have found many fans not only among German learners living in foreign countries but also among native Germans themselves, especially those who are regularly travelling abroad as they enable them to listen to their favourite local radio station from anywhere in the world. You can create your own playlists of favourite German radio stations and train your listening comprehension even when travelling on the train or waiting at the doctors. Here you will find some of the best free apps for downloads:
Please note that we have not tested all of these radio apps recently. Just like mobile devices, they are being constantly improved, so you may need to try more than one to find reliable, uninterrupted service. In addition, you may also use general radio apps not specifically designed for German radio and create your own German radio playlist.
So, make listening to German radio online a daily routine to improve your vocabulary and listening comprehension skills. As an added benefit, you will familiarize yourself with the realities of daily life in Germany and will learn to better understand the German people, their joys and their worries, which in turn will help you also better understand their language. Given the large variety of German radio stations that you can listen to over the Internet you are guaranteed to find your favourite German radio programme.