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A Beginner's Guide to
Following the News in German

With vocabulary and links

Using Online German Media to Expand Your Vocabulary


I have always stressed the importance of using online and other media to expand your vocabulary and improve your German comprehension. But beginners often make the mistake of thinking this does not apply to them. Falsch!

By using the Web and print media, beginning and intermediate learners can not only speed up their acquisition of new vocabulary, but also gain access to words and phrases not found in textbooks. (How many books—even advanced ones—teach you expressions such as "mad cow disease," "insurgents" or "hostile takeover"?) An added benefit of branching out and using the German-language media as a learning tool is that it makes German a lot more interesting.

I have already written about Using the Web to Learn German and why you should be Listening to German on the Web. I have also shown you how to find German Newspapers in the US and Canada. But this article is aimed specifically at helping you find and make use of current news articles and features from online German media—radio, television, newspapers and magazines.

When I first wrote this article, Germany was dealing with concerns ranging from BSE ("mad cow disease") to Boris Becker's messy divorce from his American wife. At the time of this update, Germany and the rest of the world are dealing with Islamic terrorism, the war in Iraq (Irak), and an "atomic" North Korea. The post-9/11 world has changed many things, including how the media work. We all know almost instantly about the latest terrorist attack or natural disaster anywhere in the world. But what about more local or regional issues?

Most Americans (and Canadians, Australians, Britons, etc.) are blissfully unaware of the big and small, serious and not-so-serious matters that fill the German media today. If you think you can really know what's going on in the world just by following your local and national media, you're in for a big surprise. When you look at world events from the perspective of the German news (Nachrichten)—or any other country's media for that matter—you discover things that your own news sources have ignored. It's not a conspiracy that keeps you from learning about certain things. News events naturally have different priorities in different places. German political scandals rarely make the US news. Many "famous" Germans are unknown in the US or Canada. Although she's a famous person in Germany, Barbara Becker can walk down the street in her US homeland without being recognized. You've probably never even heard of Thomas Gottschalk, either. That's why the very famous German TV personality and film star lives with his family in Malibu, near Los Angeles, when he's not working in Germany. (But if you follow the German media, you also know Gottschalk bought a castle home on the Rhine in 2004.)

The news these days may not be very good (Is it ever?), but it is current. Whatever your interests may be, you can follow them in German. If you like sports, you'll find an entirely new dimension in the areas of soccer or Formula One racing. If you'd like to know more about German or Austrian politics or the economy, you'll find almost nothing in the US media, but a lot in European online newspapers or magazines. If you're more into celebrities and gossip, you'll have a whole new world for that. You can even see what's going on in photos and videos provided by German-language media outlets.

On the following pages you'll find vocabulary, strategies, and links to help you take advantage of the fact that the German media are strongly represented on the Web. We've also got some helpful tips that beginners can use to make sense of the real German they'll encounter on the Web or in print.

NEXT > Strategies for Beginners

Beginner's Guide 1 > Guide 2 > News Links > News Vocabulary

MORE > DER SPIEGEL in English - About the English edition of this German news magazine

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