Learning German with DW

written on 07/12/2020
by Heidrun Strobl


”Dear listeners in the distant lands“

With these words from the German President Theodor Heuss, the shortwave transmitter 'Deutsche Welle' was first broadcast on the 3rd May 1953 from Cologne.

The theme song originated from the opera Fidelio, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, and was inspired by the following text passage: “ [...] es sucht der Bruder seine Brüder, [...] und kann er helfen, hilft er gern” (the brother seeks his brothers [...] and if he can help he is happy to help).



Eight years after the end of the second world war it was the station’s mission to build international partnerships.

The aim of the broadcaster was to convey a political, economic and cultural image of Germany to listeners abroad.

For many decades, the theme melody was played on celeste with the typical shortwave interference. Today only fragments of the Beethoven original can still be recognized.



Initially only broadcast in German from Cologne, the DW reached a large audience all over the world. The first foreign languages were added as early as 1954.

In 1992 came the television broadcasts and shortly after an online presence followed. The TV channel broadcasts in Arabic, English, German and Spanish.

The DW is a public broadcasting company financed by federal tax resources with headquarters now in Bonn and the main studio in Berlin.



The shortwave transmitter, once intended for Germans or German speakers abroad, has transformed into a media company which now works digitally in editorial offices for 30 languages bringing information to places where it may otherwise be blocked or censored.

While it used to be easier to reach even the furthest corner of the world on shortwave, it is now possible to include even more people thanks to social media and partner networks. 



Working locally in the target regions with regional partners ensures that the content caters to the audience’s interests and demands.

The DW Academy founded in 1965 is now Germany’s leading organisation for international media development and has been responsible for the training of thousands of young journalists over the last decades.

At the locations in Berlin and Bonn 3400 people are employed from about 60 nations.

In 2020 the DW reached 249 million listeners weekly.



If you are interested in learning German then you are in the right place at the DW!

The DW offers free German courses by means of e-learning, audio, podcasts or also in the good old-fashioned way: analogue with worksheets to print out.

You can learn and improve your vocabulary with a vocabulary trainer. Furthermore, you can also hear the news there, spoken particularly slowly so you can train your  listening comprehension.

Give it a try! Viel Erfolg 

Go to the DW Website

Go to the DW YouTube Channels


Photos 1-3 & 6 : ©DW,  Photos 4 +5: ©DW/M.Müller