When you think about which stations to choose when you want to train your German listening comprehension you must be aware that the broadcast systems are divided into state and private TV and radio.
Everybody living in Germany has to pay a yearly fee for possessing a television and radio. This money along with subventions from the federal government and the regions is given to the public or state TV and radio stations, so that they can concentrate on making quality programmes and don’t depend on getting a maximum of advertising like the private stations depend on.
Along with the money comes what Germans call “Bildungsauftrag” which translates to educational mandate. I’m not saying that private stations wouldn’t (sometimes) provide their viewers and listeners with quality programming, let’s say the German public stations can afford to serve some niches that would normally not attract the most viewers/listeners.
As learners of German as a foreign language I would recommend you to have a look at some of the programming and handy features these public broadcasters off you.
Also, they (mostly) speak proper German and maintain a certain level civilized behavior, something private stations are sometimes lacking.
Even if you’re not living in Germany and thus pay the fee mentioned above, you can still access the online programming of the following stations.
The first German TV station is the ARD which stands for Allgemeine Rundfunkanstalten Deutschlands. Its internet portal can be accessed at www.ard.de You’ll find sections such as culture, science, programming for kids and also links for its radio stations (WDR)
Programs such as the daily news “Tagesschau” or sports “Sportschau” have their own smartphone app. The Tagesschau also has its own dedicated site at www.tagesschau.de with news items from Germany, Europe and the world.
What I particularly like are the transcripts you get for most of the radio reports. That’s really handy for learners. you can listen to the files several times and if necessary simultaneously read the transcript. I will post a separate how-to article about this, soon.
ZDF stands for Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen with the ZDFmediathek providing the majority of the content and dedicated sites for sports and news at www.zdf.de.
The ZDF focuses a bit more on entertainment such as cooking shows, talk shows, pop culture, documentaries etc than the ARD does. It also tries to attract a younger audience as the “Öffentlich Rechtlichen” are know for usually serving an older audience compared to the private stations. Over the past couple of months the ZDF added a lot of modern show concepts centered around music and also technology related topics.
Due to that the language is slightly more colloquial but ZDF moderators still maintain proper German.
This station is a franco-german collaboration with funding from the European Union. Therefore, topics focus on what’s relevant in both of the countries, may it be historic or current politics and culture.
From my three picks, ARTE is the most sophisticated and intellectual one and provides quality, sometimes artsy, coverage. The documentations and reports are usually longer than the ones on ARD and ZDF and also cover niche and avant-garde content.
Their German portal is available at www.arte.tv/de
Most of their internet content is available for seven days due to legal restricts. Some programming is also available for a bit longer.
All three stations will offer you a great choice of content to practice your German listening comprehension.
Next time I’m going to cover some regional stations to get you into the various different German dialects. And if you have a suggestion or tip to share, let me know about it in the comments below this post.