Commuting can be an incredibly draining activity that consumes a lot of your day. Instead of treating it like a time drain that gets you from point A to point B, start using that time to really work on learning German. You don't even have to do the same thing every day. Just like you can spend your breaks using apps to learn German, there are radios, podcasts, and audio books that you can listen to during your commutes.
The Benefits of Passive Learning
Most classes focus on active learning, which they should when there are people present to work with you. However, a lot of our time is spent on our own. Passive learning provides a way of listening without trying to calculate a response. In our everyday conversations, we spend more time thinking about our responses than in listening. When it comes to learning a language, this actually hinders our ability to learn.
In the beginning, we actually need to spend at least as much time listening as trying to calculate our answers. Listening to German not only helps reinforce what you have learned, it helps you get accustomed to the accents. You aren't expected to imitate the accent, but getting familiar with the different accents will help you meet your goal of being able to understand native speakers. Watching German shows can definitely help when you have time at home. When you are stuck on a train or in a car, you have many other options.
Of course, one of the best benefits is that your commutes will become much more entertaining and productive. You can find music, authors, and programs that are enjoyable. Over time, this additional study time will be both enjoyable and productive in a way that develops your comprehension beyond what you get in a class, a physical book, or an app.
German Songs and Radio
Music is universal. While there may be cultural differences, the themes of music are almost always going to be familiar. From love and heartbreak to dilemmas and fun, you can find pretty much everything in German music that you have on your regular stations.
Music is the easiest place to start when hunting for great German to listen to. You can typically find something within just a few minutes because of today's technology.
All you have to do is use your phone and access your music to start hunting for a station. If you have iTunes, you should be able to run a search on the stations recommended here. You can also use YouTube or your browser to listen to the stations to determine which ones you want to start with, then make them part of your regular commute.
Deutsche Welle is one of the most popular stations for people just starting to learn the language. Run by one of the biggest broadcasters in the world, they offer music, podcasts, and other auditory experiences. They focus on simple German so that you can feel that you are actually learning.
When you are ready to move into something a little more difficult, you can start listening to Deutshlandfunk. They provide the latest in news. Naturally, they focus on news relating to Germany and Europe, but like other news programs, there is world information too. After listening, you can even visit their website to read over stories, making it a great way of listening, then verifying your comprehension.
Star FM is the station for you if you are interested in listening to German rock. They play the full range of different rock styles, from classic and easy listening to current and metal.
For those who prefer rap and hip-hop styles, TrueHipHop plays the many different types of German rap. Even if you don't care much for the style, it is actually the best type of music for really getting to learn any language. The words are much easier to understand because they are spoken, not sung, and this can help you hear the lyrics much better than regular music.
Those who love indie music should start with FluxFM, which will give you a taste of the German indie scene. They are more likely to incorporate English in some of their lyrics too, which will help you to get the gist of the song without having to look up the words later.
When you find songs you like, you can download them to your playlists to listen to them even when you can't go online. They also give you something to research and sing to, which provides a great way to get used to verbalizing in German with authentic German.
Great German Podcasts
German podcasts are great as you get a little more comfortable with the language. Many of them provide more authentic German that you will get in any textbook. This section covers a wide range of different podcasts, so you are almost sure to find one that you can enjoy.
German Pod 101 has several different learner levels, letting you choose the lesson you want to use. Some of them are a bit shorter, only about 15 minutes, so you need to pay attention to that if you drive to work. If you take public transportation, you can not only listen to the podcast, you can study the dialogue if you download the app.
Language Addicts has short podcasts that help you focus on vocabulary. They are perfect for cramming in a little extra vocabulary work. When you are very busy and don't have time to focus on vocabulary, you can turn that commute into your dedicated vocabulary study time.
One of the problems with speaking German with native speakers is that it can be incredibly difficult to understand every word - and that is where Slow German comes in. It is the perfect way to hear a native German speaker with authentic idioms and be able to catch each individual word. In the beginning perhaps you won't know every word, but you will have a chance to hear a native speaker so that it will be easier to pick up words later at a more natural speaking pace.
German Audio Books - Easy to Intermediate
This is the one place where making a recommendation is far too tricky because there are so many different audio books. You can listen to educational books that mix English with German. However, the best books to find on audio book are the stories that you already know. Look for your favorite books on one of the many audio different audio apps. Already being familiar with the story, you will have an idea of what they are saying and can learn new vocabulary along the way. Books like the Harry Potter series and Grimm Fairy Tales are fantastic because they use more basic language with some higher-level vocabulary added to them.
One of the worst things you can do is to push too hard. If you try to listen to stuff that is too advanced music-wise, you won't pay attention to the lyrics (this is common even in English - people tend to listen to the music long before listening to the lyrics). If you listen to podcasts or books that are too advanced, it will discourage you from listening. Also, you really do not want to be distracted if you are driving.
Make sure to choose things to listen to that are roughly on your learning level. Music is certainly an exception, which is why you should spend some time looking over lyrics of songs that you enjoy. Just because you listen in the car doesn't mean that you can't find other ways to study the things that you enjoy while you commute.
Learning another language provides you with the perfect way to turn your commute into a learning experience. All of the things that you probably already listen to when commuting are available in German. And when you feel you need to let your brain rest, you can always switch back to your usually listening stations, podcasts, or audio books. Once you have some time, you can enjoy researching what you listened to or practicing the phrases and words. It is the perfect way to make your regular commute into a productive study period.