English is my first language. I have taken four semesters of university German in preparation to go abroad in 2015 to work and study.

My question is this - how can I practice and improve my German in the coming months before heading over? Is there something I can listen to in my car, a good website to practice with, etc?

I'm most concerned with improving my speaking and listening abilities. Let me know what I can do!

  • 2
    Have you Googled on "skype to practice languages"?
    – DJohnM
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 16:14
  • No but I will now! :)
    – Tanner
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 16:16
  • Maybe italki or a similar platform will be of interest to you. Those are specifically aimed at people wanting to do online language exchange.
    – drat
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 6:23

3 Answers 3


A few ideas that worked well for me (but they don't seem specific to German or to your situation and only the first one is really about listening):

  • Watch TV. I had multiple ways to get German TV where I live(d) but even if you don't, I think that most of the contents in the ARD Mediathek and ZDF Mediathek should be available for free everywhere. Many radios are available for free on the web too.
  • Subscribe to a newspaper. There is a US company offering subscriptions to Die Zeit (a well-know weekly newspaper) and many magazines.
  • Buy and read some books about your field, not to learn anything new but to familiarize yourself with the terminology. The lexicon is obviously more limited but cookbooks – if that's your thing – work too to get some daily exposure to the language (I was only able to read novels much later).

You have to force yourself to spend time doing all this. Befriending a German speaker (or more…) also helps a lot. Also know that very few people are really fluent before they first go to a German-speaking country. It will feel a little frustrating at times but you shouldn't worry about that, it will suddenly all fall into place at some stage.

Once you get to Germany, working (internship) or following a course with only German students is good too. It will seem daunting at first but it works surprisingly well if you just try to fit in and speak German. At least, it has been my experience.

  • When I was a kid I watched RTL, Sat1 and Pro7 a lot, and although I'm not using it as much, I still haven't forgotten most if German.
    – SztupY
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 16:36
  • @SztupY can you provide links for those please?
    – Tanner
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 11:42
  • @Gala where would I subscribe to a newspaper? They would deliver in the U.S.?
    – Tanner
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 11:21
  • @tannman357 I think they do. They charge extra for postage, though, and it will take forever for the paper to come to you, which is a bit annoying for a daily (I did it from another European country and it took a couple of days, which was bearable). Most German newspapers also have “e-paper” versions for tablets, which could be an option.
    – Gala
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 12:17
  • 1
    Alternatively, you might subscribe to a weekly newspaper, e.g. Die Zeit (it's very well regarded, there is really a lot to read and it does not get old so quickly). There is a US company offering subscriptions (and many magazines as well).
    – Gala
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 12:20

Try to join the Couchsurfing or BeWelcome networks in order to meet travellers who speak native German. Or watching movies dubbed in German, and also subtitled, to fill the gaps when you don't understand something spoken. Or web radios with a bit more speaking and less music. Also, maybe the higher levels of Duolingo or Memrise could help, but indeed they need dedicated time. Anyhow, meeting native speakers is the best way. If you are still in a university environment, try finding Erasmus students (in Europe) or others who come with some scholarship to your place - try posting flyers in campus area, or posts on facebook groups. Or, even more, organize German movie night and invite friends and colleagues from your German class - if shy, ask a teacher to moderate.

If you have time and opportunity, take a gap year for volunteering - if you are European citizen, try EVS (European Voluntary Service), for me it was the best way to learn Czech almost from zero. And in fact, when locals heard that my Czech is way worse than their English, they helped me out and were more friendly.


To make you really prepared you need to speak in German with native speakers. Speaking with non-native speakers would also help, but only if they are not native speakers of your language.

It's important to have a broad vocabulary, so there will never be too less learning. As for newspapers and news in TV, they are useful to learn the basics, but nothing more. The people on the streets are speaking with other accent, using other words. Movies (German ones, not dubbed!) are better ones, but the actors still speak more formal, trained language than the regular people.

So you could learn German for 5 years watching TV, and understand no word when coming there! Don't be surprised, from example of many people from Eastern Europe, you need at least 10 years of intensive learning to speak German maybe not fluently, but somewhere near that.

If you can't speak with native speakers, concentrate on German TV series and shows, look for some talk shows etc. Anything, where there are people from the street talking, or at least the actors imitating the people from the street talking.

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