by olarte.ollie via Flickr

by olarte.ollie via Flickr

Germans just love their Krimis (crime fiction), whether in paperback format or on the silver screen. One of the most famous German detective series on TV is probably Tatort which has been serving fresh murder mysteries since 1970 and still captivates millions of viewers each Sunday evening.

Today, I’d like to talk a bit about how detective series can be a great language learning tool, especially when it comes to reading German Krimis. For the more auditory and visually inclined, skip to the end of this article to find links to German detective series.

Dial “D” for Dialogue

One of the great aspects of the crime fiction genre is that you’re bound to have a lot of dialogue. Witnesses have to be convinced to speak out, suspects need to be interrogated, and then there’s the ongoing banter between the detectives.

If you’re tired of repeating out of context sentences in Duolingo or from your textbook, German detective stories will provide you with tons of authentic dialogue full of colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions.

This more natural language can sometimes be tricky to grasp at first, but while grappling with it you’re learning how people actually speak.

Describe it in Deutsch

Furthermore, each Krimi will contain descriptions of people, objects and places. Depending on the author and date of publication, these descriptions will often be just rich enough to convey an atmosphere and important information, but not too literary as to get lost in them.

Whereas other genres may contain a lot of descriptions as well, with crime fiction you actually have to pay attention, lest you miss that important connection or clue which is key to understanding the whole murder mystery.

Keep Those Pages Turning

Last but not least, a good detective story (whether in writing or on screen) will keep you at the edge of your seat. Let’s face it, learning a language is hard, so any incentive you can get is heaven-sent.

Naturally, you’ll need some basics before you can delve into a German detective series, but as soon as you understand enough to get hooked, you can use the “What will happen next?” effect to help you continue when the going gets rough.

In other words, some vocabulary will be completely mind-boggling, some sentence constructions will seem like from a different planet, but as long as you’re burning with curiosity as to how it will all turn out, you can pull through even the most difficult parts.

How to Get Started With German Detective Series

As mentioned above, the crime fiction genre is very popular in Germany, so you’ll find many detective series on German TV. And you don’t even have to live in Germany, since many of them are also available as video-on-demand, free of charge.

Television and Video-on-Demand

The Tatort series is broadcast every Sunday evening at 20:15 CET. You can either follow the live-broadcast or watch the video which is available for seven days after the initial broadcast in the ARD Mediathek. The second most popular German detective series in terms of rankings is “Polizeiruf 110“, which is also available either live or on the Mediathek.

Additionally, there are a range of Krimis on ZDF like “Ein fall für zwei”, Ein starkes Team”, “Bella Block”, etc. which you can find through the ZDF Mediathek.  Note: If a video has the icon “UT” that means you can get German subtitles (Untertitel) while watching.

Novels and Detective Stories For Learners

If you’re looking for a German mystery to read during your holidays or on your commute, there are a number of places to get started. First of all, I’d recommend to take a look at Friedrich Dürrenmats “Der Richter und sein Henker” which is not only a classic but also ranks on top of the Krimi Forum’s top 100 German crime fiction novels.

Another good starting point is to look at the Amazon bestseller list of the genre or this this reader-curated list of best german detective novels.

If these books still prove too difficult for your language learning level, you can also check out my Baumgartner & Momsen detective series for intermediate (~B-C) German learners which is specifically designed with students in mind and contains a lot of vocabulary, expressions and even a few text-comprehension questions to check yourself as you go along.


These books are available as paperback editions and ebook editions for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and a dozen other formats.

img: Some rights reserved by olarte.ollie