I've taken german in school for several years, meaning I got the basics of the language somewhat ingrained in me. One of the ways to improve my skills, I notice, is by watching english (or swedish, which is my native language, but I'm not asking for that here) subtitled tv shows in german. However, I would like to get hold (preferably free) of subtitled tv shows with some kind of intellectual content (could be philosophical discussions, science shows et cetera).

(For example, I find the show "Quarks & Co" pretty okay. Problem is, it's not subtitled.)

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    German or English subtitles? Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 10:51
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    Thanks for clarifying the question. But let me mention that I'm improving my English by watching English movies with English subtitles. Seeing it written and hearing the pronunciation at the same time. Switching in my mind between German subs and English speech just disturbs me. I only can concentrate on one. Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 11:58
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    Well, my main problem right now is the vocabulary and I'm noticing this doesn't really improve by, for example, just reading german. I need to hear new words at the same time as I'm seing the translation.
    – Speldosa
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 14:00
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    I'd say learning new words is easiest by watching foreign-language video with subtitles in the same language, adding the meaning by context. This creates a lot of errors, but those disappear with time. That is exactly the way kids learn new words, I think. Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 6:03
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    I find it quite weird, that Speldosa has to justify himself for his learning approach. I think on a beginners stage, any language exposure helps. Especially since Swedes are used to subtitled shows. But I agree, that the same-language-subtitles approach is better for advanced learners. Anyway, I think you'll be unlucky for your choice of genre. Basic rule of thumb: A DVD release will have subtitles, but the general "eduatainment" stuff like Quarks & Co doesn't make it on DVD. You could send a kindly worded enquiry to WDR or the like: www1.wdr.de/themen/global/kontakt/kontakt112.html
    – Jules
    Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 8:59

4 Answers 4


Unfortunately I can't really recommend any German tv shows, as I am not satisfied with the program on German tv. But I could point you to Deutschlandfunk, which has transcripts for some shows (see this answer).

On the other hand I don't believe in the need for a text to read along if you have already some knowledge of a language. I don't really have any facts to back up this theory beside my personal experience. If you feel that you want to give a radio show without a transcript a try, have a look at "Zündfunk Generator": The topics range from politics to culture or the evolution of human society.

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    Well, another reason I want a fully translated show is that I really don't have the motivation to sit through an entire program that I don't really understand that much of. If I can take something with me even if I don't improve my german, I'm satisfied no matter what. (This is pretty much how I learned english, by the way.)
    – Speldosa
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 19:55
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    Good answer. Once in a year, I see persons praising Deutschlandfunk, and I feel good about it. There are so many lowbrainers that love the pop channels and hate me for loving Deutschlandfunk (and one or two similar channels). I hate it when they (the mainstream channels) announce the wheather, or the news, and cannot resist playing some boring percussion in the background to create the notion of "the action is still here, stay with us!!!". Attention by percussion, doh! Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 6:06

I did some research online and found no English subtitles für German TV programs. There seems to be no market for it. There are German subtitles for most programs.

You will find a couple of good movies with English subtitles.

I have to agree with 0x6d64: The quality of German television is quite low. As regards an intellectual tv show: Check out Alpha Centauri where the astrophysicist Harald Lesch explains how the universe works. Unfortunately, there are no English subtitles for it, but he speaks slowly and clearly.

  • Also the other shows at the same time slot (22:45 to 23:00 on week days) are generally quite good, for example Geist & Gehirn by Manfred Spitzer.
    – celtschk
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 10:45
  • +1 for mentioning Alpha Centauri
    – Tex Hex
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 19:46

There are a lot of TV shows in the ARD that are broadcasted with German subtitles. They use Videotext-Untertitel on text page 150.

Have a look at WDR Zusatzdienste, Untertitel or tv butler overview. Also 3sat provides some shows.



Above link shows you youtube vids, longer than 20 min and with captions/subtitles, use the filter options.




Podcasts in conjunction with a variable speed player like Astroplayer or Winamp with pacemaker also worth a try for learning languages. As mentioned Deutschlandfunk is a good source for german intellectual podcasts.

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