German Reading Practice: 20 Resources for Beginners
Let’s talk about German reading for German learners.
Does it really help? And where can you read in German, then?
That’s where I come in. I’ll help you find the best German reading resources for you in this post.
Table of contents
- Reading Will Help You Improve Your German
- Stay up to Date: Read German Newspapers and Magazines
- Culture Reading: Look Up Online German Encyclopaedias
- Read and Relax: Get German Novels
- German Short Stories
- German Children’s Stories
- German-English Poems and Plays
- You’re All Set for Your German Reading Practice!
Reading Will Help You Improve Your German
One of the surest ways to become disillusioned with learning a language is to focus on one resource alone. That’s why I advise language learners not to rely too heavily on textbooks and look elsewhere for ways to improve their knowledge.
Anyone wanting to become fluent in German should be continually looking for methods to build three key skills – listening, speaking and reading. There are endless ways and opportunities to enhance them, with many resources available online.
Watching German movies will help you hone your listening skills.
You can improve your spoken German by having conversations with native speakers by any means necessary.
As far as reading goes, there are many methods available to build your vocabulary and learn German fast. From novels to plays, non-fiction texts and children’s stories, there is something for everyone, no matter what their learning level or interests.
Stay up to Date: Read German Newspapers and Magazines
Newspapers can be easily accessed online, often without a subscription.
They offer an insight into politics, current affairs, sports and culture. They’re also written in Standard German, making them accessible even for those at the early stages of learning German.
German News in Simple Language
Nachrichtenleicht, or “News Easily”, is a website that makes news uncomplicated.
Every week, they publish articles about world politics, sport and human-interest stories in simple language. They omit long, difficult words, embrace shorter sentence structure and are largely concerned with presenting information as plainly as possible.
The service is designed for people with language difficulties, making it ideal for anyone wanting to learn German online. You can get up to speed on current affairs within Germany and expand your knowledge of the language at a level that’s suitable for beginners.
Germany’s Most Widely Circulated Magazine
Der Spiegel is a German weekly news magazine, with a circulation of more than one million.
Likened to Time magazine, it’s known across German-speaking countries for its investigative journalism and is cited as being one of Central Europe’s most influential magazines.
It’s for intermediate to advanced learners and will give you exposure to high level German language.
If you are unable to get a hard copy print of the magazine, check out the articles featured on Spiegel.de.
News for Younger Readers
Neon targets a younger audience, using an aesthetically pleasing spread and covering topics ranging from cultural issues to band reviews.
You’ll even find a section titled Useless Knowledge, which contains random gems of information.
For example, German language learners who also own bars will be delighted to discover that “Guests in a premises where the music is 88 decibels loud drink more than guests at a bar with 72 decibels.”
Get that music pumping!
Culture Reading: Look Up Online German Encyclopaedias
It never hurts to have a dictionary on hand when learning a language, whether in hard copy, or online.
The following resources will help you learn all kinds of unfamiliar words and phrases.
In case you didn’t know, the world’s most famous online encyclopaedia is available in German.
Navigate to the German version to read articles on just about anything you fancy!
Also make sure to click “Deutsch” on the language menu if you find yourself reading an article in English!
Hurraki is a German online encyclopaedia that works a lot like Wikipedia, with an emphasis on plain language.
It’s an online community where people can add and edit articles in simple German. The website is designed to be easy to reference and read.
Read and Relax: Get German Novels
If you enjoy reading novels in your native language, you have an excellent opportunity to transform passive time into active time!
Read Translations of Books You Already Know
A brilliant way to get German reading practice is to re-read books you’ve already read in your native language. By picking books that are already familiar to you, you’ll find it easier to translate the stories and keep in the loop with what’s going on.
If you grew up devoted to the Harry Potter series and devoured the books in your youth, why not try reading them in German? You can pick up the German versions by searching for Harry Potter German Edition on Amazon.com.
Since the story’s familiar to you, you’ll find it easier to translate what you’re reading.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be Harry Potter – any English book whose plot you know will make for perfect German reading practice.
Discover German Authors
If you wish to delve deeper into the world of German culture, take up the challenge of reading novels written by German speaking authors.
Franz Kafka was a famous novelist of the 20th century, publishing both books and short stories. Die Verwandlung ( The Metamorphosis) is one of his most celebrated novels, which can be purchased in a dual-language format.
Siddhartha is a story by Hermann Hesse, similar to the book The Alchemist with its theme of self-discovery and written in a style that is simple and lyrical. It too can be bought online as a dual-language book, making it ideal for intermediate learners.
Cornelia Funke has been referred to as Germany’s version of J.K. Rowling, penning fantasy tales for young adults. Tintenherz (Inkheart) is the first book of a trilogy about a young girl and her father who have the ability to bring characters to life by reading a story aloud.
If the copyright laws in your country allow it, you might be able to explore the selection of free German eBooks on Project Gutenberg.
German Short Stories
If the idea of reading an entire novel in a foreign language is a bit too overwhelming at this point in your studies, consider reading short stories instead.
Germany Through the Eyes of a Newcomer
Café in Berlin is a collection of ten short stories, which follow the life of a young man from Sicily who has just moved to Berlin.
It explores daily life in the German capital, offering insights about the country and people from a foreign perspective.
The text is targeted at beginners and aims to help language learners build upon their knowledge of isolated words and phrases, to understand how these can be worked into sentences.
Essays Covering Life in Berlin
Wladimir Kaminer is a Russian-born German short story writer. After emigrating to Berlin in 1990, Kaminer immersed himself in the city’s art and literature scenes.
Although Russian is his first language, his writing is entirely in German.
In describing what it is he writes about, Kaminer claims to make notes about the world, the past, present and future, social reality and life observed through the eyes of a migrant.
His first book, Russian Disco, is a series of short autobiographical essays about life in Berlin just after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Use this book as a resource for German reading practice, as well as a direct account of what life was like during one of the most exciting and rapidly changing times in modern German history.
German Children’s Stories
If reading a novel or a short story for adults seems too advanced at this stage in your learning, I’ve got you covered with some great children’s books.
Children’s books are more likely to use simple words and sentences, making them easy to understand. And illustrations can help you get to grips with what’s going on even if you don’t understand every word.
The Brothers Grimm
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German academics who collected and published folktales during the 19th century.
Their stories, which include the likes of Aschenputtel (Cinderella), Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty) and Hänsel und Gretel (Hansel and Gretel), have been turned into films by Walt Disney and, more darkly, were used as propaganda by the Third Reich.
The Grimm Brothers’ original stories are still popular bedtime stories – the words of watered down versions of the tales told to children by parents the world over with the hopes of carrying them off to sleep!
The Grimm Brothers’ folk stories are tales many of you would have grown up both reading and having read to you. This makes them an excellent resource for building upon your reading skills in German.
As the original stories are no longer copyrighted, there are resources available online which feature each stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” in German and English.
Max and Moritz
Lesser known in the English-speaking world is the children’s book Max and Moritz (A Story of Seven Boyish Pranks), originally titled Max und Moritz – Eine Bubengeschichte in sieben Streichen.
Written and illustrated by Wilhelm Busch and published in 1865, it’s a humorous tale told in rhyming couplets. The book is well known and adored across German-speaking countries and remains a popular choice for children’s bedtime stories.
The book covers seven pranks that Max and Moritz – tormentors and troublemakers – play on their family members, teachers and acquaintances.
As this text is also available within the public domain, the original German version and English translated text can be found online. Try the “dual language” option to read the story side by side in both languages!
Continue to test your German language knowledge with a series of quizzes on the text.
German-English Poems and Plays
Once you’ve reached a more advanced level of learning, you can look to German poems and plays to build your German skills.
Dual language books are a helpful resource for this. You can read them as a standalone text and have the English version available for when you come across words or phrases you don’t fully understand.
If you have an interest in poetry, start with a dual-language book that features the poems of many renowned German poets, alongside the English translations.
If you want to get more specific, try reading the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His poems have been translated and appear in dual language books for easy side-by-side reading.
Fun fact – the Goethe-Institut, an operation that promotes the study of the German language abroad, is named after him!
For German practice through plays, start with Der Besuch der Alten Dame (The Visit of the Old Lady), a tragicomedy written by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. This play is about a wealthy woman who returns to her hometown seeking vengeance. She wants the townspeople to rally together to kill the man who abandoned her, in exchange for money.
The printed version of this play features the full German text on one page, accompanied by the English translation and notes on the next page.
The book also has an extended vocabulary at the back and a detailed introduction in English, explaining the social and historical context of the piece.
You’re All Set for Your German Reading Practice!
I hope you’ve found the ideal resource to get you started on reading German!
(Psst… There’s also plenty of content on the Fluent in 3 Months blog if you’d rather read about German than in German.)
If you need more German content, check out my list of the best online resources to learn German.