There are many ways to learn or teach German, but my favorite approach is using stories. There are a number of reasons why learning German with stories is so effective, but the best one is this: because it’s fun!

Learning a language can easily become a chore, so anything that takes your mind off the hardship while still staying engaged is a heaven-sent. It’s a bit like “suspense of disbelief”: we need to suspend our knowledge that the content of a movie or book is “just fiction” in order to enjoy it. If we’re constantly reminded that it’s “not real”, we won’t easily identify with the characters and will have trouble experiencing the story from within.

In the same way, by suspending our awareness of the fact that we’re learning a language, we can sometimes get much more out of it. Have you ever had the experience of being so engrossed in a book or a story that you completely forgot everything around you? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

There’s only one catch: you have to find stories which are both simple enough to be understandable (on your level) and interesting enough to keep you going. And this is often easier said than done.

This is why I’ve collected a few German short stories for beginners in this post. Most of these short stories are from the post-war era. Why? After the second world war, many German authors felt that just like the country had been torn to smithereens, so had the German language, therefore they started writing short stories in a new simplified language, free from the pathos or ideological tendencies of their predecessors.

Turns out these short stories are also a great way to practice German for intermediate learners and even beginners.

(All direct links found by simple Google searches and posted for educational purposes only)

 

Die Küchenuhr, by Wolfgang Borchert

This short story is about a young man who has lost his home and family during a bombing. Through a remaining kitchen clock he remembers the care of his mother and understands his lost family life as a blissful state.

“Die Küchenuhr” is one of the most well-known short stories by Wolfgang Borchert and is often studied in German classes to introduce students to the concept of Trümmerliteratur,

germany-flag Read the short story in German here (PDF) or here (HTML). Update: here’s another PDF edition of this story, complete with exercises.

english flag Read an English translation of the short story here.

unknown Additional material: Quizlet to help you understand and practice vocabulary from this short story.

 

Der zufriedene Fischer – Eine Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral, by Heinrich Böll

In this short story by literary Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll, a fisherman and a tourist exchange their views about life and “work ethic”. Written in the middle of the German Wirtschaftswunder (economic boom) in 1963, this short story was questioning the new-found German prosperity but its content is timeless and more valid now than ever.

germany-flag Read the short story in German here.

english flag Read an English translation of the short story here (PDF) or here (HTML).

unknown a short animated LEGO video about this short story, an audio reading (starts at 0:30) via Wattenichsachs, or:

 

 

Der große Wildenberg, by Siegfried Lenz

Written in 1958 this German short story is about a man who goes to a job interview and gets entangled in the cogwheels of bureaucracy.

germany-flag Read the short story in German here.

english flag English translation of this short story not available.

unknown an audio reading on Youtube

 

Skorpion, by Christa Reinig

More a parable than a short story, this text deals with a man who feels excluded from society due to his appearance and tries to convince people to accept him while walking through a city.

germany-flag Read the short story in German here.

english flag English translation of this short story not available.

unknown an audio reading on Youtube

 

Auf der Flucht, by Wolfdietrich Schnurre

Written between 1945 and 1948, this short story by Wolfdietrich Schnurre is about a family fleeing through a barren landscape. Pained by hunger the family is looking for food, and when the father eventually finds a loaf of bred he is forced to evaluate his real motives.

germany-flag Read the short story in German here.

english flag English translation of this short story not available.

unknown an audio reading on Youtube

 

Even More German Short Stories for Beginners

collection of German short stories for beginners

If you’re looking for even more German short stories for beginners, this PDF contains 16 stories (including some of those mentioned above).

Should these stories still be too difficult, you can also take a look at my book “Café in Berlin” (or the sequel “Ferien in Frankfurt”) which is a collection of very short German short stories for beginners written in a simplified language and supported by an extended dictionary and comprehension questions. This book is designed as a stepping stone to learning German with authentic literature.

There’s also an animated video for the first and second chapter of this book, complete with German subtitles and exercises.

 

Which German short stories do you think are good for beginners? Write a comment!

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