Are you looking for some German TV shows to help you learn the language?
Then look no further!
In this article I’m going to show you 10 of the best German TV shows to help you improve your language skills, spice up your learning and have better conversations.
Editor's note: before we get started, if you’re looking for an online German course, here’s the course we recommend: German Uncovered – Learn German Through the Power of Story, a course with a fascinating new method.
Why Learn Through German TV?
Variety is important when you’re learning German.
If you spend all of your time reading textbooks, it’s pretty easy to get bored and burnt out. Sometimes your brain just doesn’t want to take in what it’s reading.
German TV provides a fun alternative, which helps you work on some of your core skills and essential parts of language learning.
- Improve Your Listening: By actively paying attention to what characters are saying
- Improve Spontaneous Understanding: You learn to tune into the next scene without all of the context of what someone will say, kind of like being stopped on the street
- Sound More Fluent: By taking notes of redensarten (ways of speaking) people use
- Learn New Accents: Much like English, German has plenty of accents to learn to listen to. This way you’ll be exposed to plenty of new ones.
All while being exposed to German history and culture which play a large role in the shows on this list.
Hold Your Horses…Won’t This Be Hard?
Watching German TV can be a challenge. But, there are ways to make it easier.
The simplest trick is to turn on subtitles. These will give you a text to follow along with which matches the speech so you can pick out words you may not be able to make out just yet.
If you’re working with a tandem partner, or as part of a class, you could also watch stuff together. If they’re fluent in the language you can pause and get a recap of the last scene to see if you understood correctly.
Also be sure to match the speech to the context. Think about:
- What the characters are doing in this scene
- What happened in the last scene
- Their body language, expressions and tone of voice
This will help you to get a clearer idea of what was said and you might “hear” the words properly a few seconds later, when your brain pieces it all together.
Finally, don’t be afraid to rewind scenes and listen to the bits you didn’t quite catch. Play them back two or three times to ensure you understand what’s going on.
The key here is to not worry too much.
Listen out for the key words in speech – the ones which provide context and let you follow the main story – and don’t worry about little filler words which pad out the sentences. You don’t need to understand every word to enjoy the show.
If you do feel like this all a little too much, try scaling it back and watching a show which is designed for language learning, like the ones Easy German create.
Anyway, let’s get into the list shall we?
10 German TV Shows To Help You Learn (And Improve Your) German
This list is 10 great shows for you to learn from. This is my personal list, from recommendations from friends, learners, and my own experience. I’ve also tried to include some newer shows, like Netflix series, to give you some extra options to learn!
So, without further adieu, here are 10 great German TV shows for you to watch to help you learn German!
1. Türkisch Für Anfänger
Türkisch Für Anfänger (Turkish For Beginners) is a comedy series about two families experiencing a culture clash.
After a German mother-of-two falls in love with a Turkish father-of-two, the families move into the same house and hilarity ensues. Take a look for yourself:
This culture clash plays a large role in Germany, as it has the world’s second largest population of Turkish people, and this shows provides a great and funny insight for outsiders like you and me.
Dark takes place in the fictional town of Winden and follows the mystery of a missing child who entered a cave and never returned.
It’s sci-fi meets real-world drama and it’s written in an absolutely gripping way. My girlfriend and I devoured the entire first season in three days!
It can take a little while to get used to the speech. Although they speak Hochdeutsch, which is pure German, some of the characters have a tendency to mumble. So, if you’re still new to this, be sure to put subtitles on for the first episode or two.
Here’s a trailer for the show:
It’s Netflix’s first foray into the world of German TV and it does not disappoint.
3. Babylon Berlin
Babylon Berlin is a police drama which takes place in 1929 during the Weimar Republic era of Berlin.
A police commissioner is transferred to Berlin from Cologne and follows his dive into the criminal underbelly which sprouted after the first world war. Here’s the official trailer:
From a cultural perspective, it showcases, in many ways, the conditions which made Hitler’s rise to power possible. It’s a refreshing look at German modern history which isn’t influenced by American ideals.
4. Doctor’s Diary
Doctor’s Diary is a comedy about a German doctor in her search for love. For fans of shows like Scrubs, this a great German language substitute. It’s also the first show I watched while trying to learn German!
Gretchen, the main character is as clumsy in life as she is in love, and the show is jam-packed with her endless mishaps and fumblings through life. It’s sweet, funny and harrowing at times.
Here’s the trailer for season two:
There is some medical German in the show, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t understand some of the diagnoses or health issues in the show, it’s more about her story anyway!
Stromberg is Germany’s answer to The Office. It’s closer to the original BBC version than America’s take on the concept. So much so that the BBC threatened legal action and eventually received an “inspired by” feature in the show’s credit.
Regardless of which version of the show you’ve watched previously if you enjoyed it, you’ll find something to entertain you in this show’s episodes. Here’s a trailer for the TV show’s film for a quick glimpse:
There are some concepts which take a little getting used to, like everyone in the office being referred to in the formal “Sie” form, but this can be useful for your own German work settings.
No list of German TV shows would be complete without Tatort.
Tatort, which translates to crime scene in English, is Germany’s longest running TV drama. They’ve been making 30 feature-length episodes a year since the 1970’s, and it’s probably the most talked about show on TV.
It follows an ever-changing cast of police detectives across Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, as they solve crimes and lay the week’s biggest mysteries to rest.
Some of Germany’s best known actors, like Til Schweiger, have graced Tatort’s cast, like in this trailer here:
Bonus points if you can name the famous German female singer in the trailer, too.
Pastewka is a long-running German sitcom which tells the story of Bastian Pastewka. This is a fictionalized version of the comedian of the same name who plays him.
He’s rash, short tempered and often irrational. Yet, absolutely hilarious. Take a look at this scene of him trying to order from Burger King:
If you like simple sitcoms with easy-to-follow stories, you can’t go wrong with Pastewka.
8. DEUTSCHLAND 83
DEUTSCHLAND 83 is a drama following an East German soldier who is pulled from his mundane guard post job and is placed as a Stasi spy in West Germany.
It’s critically acclaimed and for good reason. It’s a gripping, hard-hitting show which gives you an impeccable taste of life in Germany in the 1980s.
The time before the Berlin wall fell is still a much spoken about topic in Germany and it pays to know some of the history behind it. This gives you a live-action insight and a cool way to learn about modern history.
9. Der Tatortreiniger
Der Tatortreiniger (The Crime Scene Cleaner) is a German dark comedy based in Hamburg. It centers on the escapades of a crime scene cleaner and the people he meets every day.
It’s one of those shows where you think, “I shouldn’t laugh, but I’m going to.” Take a look at the trailer to see what I mean:
When I first learned German and tried to watch this it was pretty tough. But as I got to the B2 level it became much easier!
10. Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten
Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times) – or GZSZ for short – is a long-running German soap opera targeted it at a teenage to a late-twenties audience.
It’s based on the Australian show, The Restless Years, but has since grown into its own standalone show. It’s got a cult following and often crops up in daily conversations, so never worry about missing an episode, someone will fill you in!
I mean, just take a look at this trailer, how could you not want to watch more?
Thanks to this being geared towards a younger audience, much of the speech is what you’d find daily in your life in Germany. So, it’s perfect to brush up on your conversation skills.
It’s German TV Time…
I hope by now you have a good idea of which German TV shows you can watch to help you learn German, and have more fun while doing it.
But I want to know; Are there any shows you feel should be on this list? Any that you love to watch?
Let me know in the comments…
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.