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Movies, Resources

20 Movies You Have To Watch If You Are Learning German

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Improving your foreign language skills through the arts of movies and tv shows is not only very fun – it is also very effective and useful.

Why learn a language through movies?

The themes that are featured in movies are often very telling of the things that are big issues in a country. In Brazil, there are many movies involving favelas and police squads. Now, this doesn’t mean everyone in Brazil lives in a favela, but these movies could not be made in for example Sweden. Romantic comedies tell a lot about the ways people see romance, what people see as the ultimate love story.

A lot of Western movies revolve around Christmas, and that is because Christmas is a very important celebration in Western culture.

Another important thing when learning a language is that it is the easiest way to be exposed to real speech. In comparison to most language courses, these conversations aren’t meant to perfectly match the words you just had to learn with spaces in between the sentences to have you process it. Much of what you will hear you won’t be able to understand and that is exactly why you should watch it.

The best thing is that you are exposed to the way native people speak without having to respond to it. You also have the ability to add subtitles, be it in your own language or the language you are trying to learn, or pause it and write things down. All of these reasons make movies and tv shows the perfect aid for your language learning journey.

So, without any further ado let’s get into the list. Here are 20 movies you must watch when you are learning German.

1. Das Leben der Anderen

“The Lives of Others (German: Das Leben der Anderen) is a 2006 German drama film, marking the feature film debut of filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, about the monitoring of East Berlin residents by agents of the Stasi, the GDR‘s secret police. It stars Ulrich Mühe as Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler, Ulrich Tukuras his superior Anton Grubitz, Sebastian Koch as the playwright Georg Dreyman, and Martina Gedeck as Dreyman’s lover, a prominent actress named Christa-Maria Sieland.” 

2. Der Untergang

Downfall (GermanDer Untergang) is a 2004 GermanItalianAustrian historical war drama film depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitler‘s rule over Nazi Germany in 1945. It was based on several histories of the period. The film was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, and written and produced by Bernd Eichinger. The film received critical acclaim upon release and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.”

3. Gegen die Wand

“Cahit Tomruk is a Turkish German in his 40s. He has given up on life after the death of his wife and seeks solace in cocaine and alcohol. One night, he intentionally drives his car head-on into a wall and barely survives. At the psychiatric clinic he is taken to, Sibel Güner, another Turkish German who has tried to commit suicide, approaches him. She asks Cahit to carry out a formal marriage with her so that she can break out of the strict rules of her conservative family. Cahit is initially turned off by the idea, but then he agrees to take part in the plan.”

4. Auf der andere Seite

“Retired widower Ali Aksu (Tuncel Kurtiz), a Turkish immigrant living in the German city of Bremen, believes he has found a solution to his loneliness when he meets Yeter Öztürk (Nursel Köse). He offers her a monthly payment to stop working as a prostitute and move in with him. After receiving threats from two Turkish Muslims for the work she does, she decides to accept his offer. Ali’s son, Nejat Aksu (Baki Davrak), a professor of German literature, does not have time to respond to the prospect of living with a woman of “easy virtue” before Ali is stricken with a heart attack. He softens to her: he learns that she has told her 27-year-old daughter she is a shoe saleswoman, sending shoes to her in Turkey to support that story, and wishes her daughter could receive an education like his.”

5. Das Experiment

“For two weeks, 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards in a prison. The “prisoners” have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the “guards” are told to retain order without using physical violence.”

6. Lola Rennt

Run Lola Run (GermanLola rennt, literally “Lola runs”) is a 1998 German thriller film written and directed by Tom Tykwer, and starring Franka Potente as Lola and Moritz Bleibtreu as Manni. The story follows a woman who needs to obtain 100,000 Deutsche Mark in twenty minutes to save her boyfriend’s life. The film’s three scenarios are reminiscent of the 1981 Krzysztof Kieślowski film Blind Chance; following Kieślowski’s death, Tykwer directed his planned film Heaven. The film was released on DVD on 21 December 1999 and on Blu-ray on 19 February 2008.

7. Good Bye Lenin

The film is set in East Berlin, from October 1989 to just after German reunification a year later. Alex lives with his sister, Ariane, his mother, Christiane, and Ariane’s infant daughter, Paula. It appears that his father abandoned the family and fled to the West in 1978. In his absence, Christiane has become an ardent supporter of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (the Party). On the other hand, Alex takes part in an anti-government demonstration. There he meets a girl, but they are separated by the Volkspolizei before they can properly introduce themselves. When Christiane sees Alex being arrested, she suffers a near-fatal heart attack and falls into a coma. While visiting his mother in the hospital, Alex encounters the girl he met in the demonstration, Lara, a nurse from the Soviet Union who is now caring for his mother. Alex and Lara soon begin dating and develop a close bond.

8. Nirgendwo in Afrika

In 1938, the Redlich family flees to Kenya from Leobschütz in SilesiaNazi Germany, to escape the increasing persecution of the Jews. Walter, a former lawyer, finds work as a farm manager and sends for his family. His wife Jettel has trouble adjusting to life in Africa, although their daughter Regina quickly adapts to her new environment, easily learning the language of the country and showing interest in local culture. Regina soon forms a close friendship with the farm’s cook, Owuor, who helped save Walter’s life when he had malaria. The only German contact that Jettel has is through a friend of Walter’s named Süsskind, an ex-German who has lived in Africa for years. Jettel asks Süsskind why he was never married, and he states that he had a habit of falling in love with married women.

9. Funny Games

Two psychopathic young men take a family hostage in their cabin.

Funny Games is a 2007 psychological thriller film written and directed by Michael Haneke, and a remake of his own 1997 film Funny GamesNaomi WattsTim RothMichael Pitt, and Brady Corbet star in the main roles. The film is a shot-for-shot remake of the 1997 film,[3][4][5] albeit in English and set in the United States with different actors.[6] Exterior scenes were filmed on Long Island.[6] The film is an international co-production of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy.[7][8][9]

Haneke has stated that the film is a reflection and criticism of violence used in media.[10]

10. Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage

” Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (GermanSophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage) is a 2005 German film by director Marc Rothemund and writer Fred Breinersdorfer. It is about the last days in the life of Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old member of the anti-Nazi non-violent student resistance group the White Rose, part of the German Resistance movement. She was found guilty of high treason by the People’s Courtand executed the same day, 22 February 1943.

The film was presented at the Berlinale in 2005 and won Silver Bear awards for Best Director and Best Actress (Julia Jentsch). It was nominated in September 2005 for an Oscar in the category Best Foreign Language Film.”

11. Stalingrad

“The story follows a group of German soldiers, from their Italian R&R in the summer of 1942 to the frozen steppes of Soviet Russia and ending with the battle for Stalingrad.” *

“Stalingrad is a 1993 German war drama film directed by Joseph Vilsmaier. The movie follows a platoon of World War II German Armysoldiers transferred to Russia, where they ultimately find themselves fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad.

The film is the second German movie to portray the Battle of Stalingrad. It was predated by the 1959 Hunde, wollt ihr ewig leben(Stalingrad: Dogs, Do You Want to Live Forever?).”

12. Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei

“Three activists cobble together a kidnapping plot after they encounter a businessman in his home.”

The Edukators (GermanDie fetten Jahre sind vorbei)[a] is a 2004 German-Austrian crime drama film directed by Hans Weingartner. It stars Daniel BrühlStipe Erceg and Julia Jentsch as three young, anti-capitalist Berlin activists involved in a love triangle. The friends, calling themselves “the Edukators”,[b] invade upper-class houses, rearrange the furniture, and leave notes identifying themselves.

Weingartner, a former activist, wrote the film based on his experiences and chose to use nonviolent characters. The film, shot in Berlin and Austria with digital hand-held cameras, was made on a low budget which Weingartner said kept the focus on the acting. First shown at the Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2004 and released in its home countries later that year, The Edukators was praised by critics and audiences. It grossed more than $8 million worldwide and received a number of awards and nominations. It did, however, receive criticism mainly for its political statements and also for its long running time.”

13. Der Baader Meinhof Komplex

“A look at Germany’s terrorist group, The Red Army Faction (RAF), which organized bombings, robberies, kidnappings and assassinations in the late 1960s and ’70s.”

The Baader Meinhof Complex (GermanDer Baader Meinhof Komplex) is a 2008 German film by Uli Edel in his first directorial project since 2000’s The Little Vampire. Written and produced by Bernd Eichinger, it stars Moritz BleibtreuMartina Gedeck, and Johanna Wokalek. The film is based on the 1985 German best selling non-fiction book of the same name by Stefan Aust. It retells the story of the early years of the West German far-left militant group the Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Fraction, or Red Army Faction, a.k.a. RAF) from 1967 to 1977.

The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe in the Best Foreign Language Film category.”

14. Das schrekliche Mädchen

“When a young woman investigates her town’s Nazi past, the community turns against her.”

The Nasty Girl (GermanDas schreckliche Mädchen) is a 1990 West German drama film based on the true story of Anna Rosmus. The original German title loosely translates as “The Terrible Girl.”

The film was selected as the German entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 63rd Academy Awards.[2]

15. Herr Lehnmann

“Frank Lehmann (Christian Ulmen) is a bartender working in Kreuzberg, a borough of West Berlin in October 1989, in the final weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall. As he is approaching his 30th birthday, his friends start teasing him by calling him “Herr Lehmann” (“Mr. Lehmann”). He has little interest in anything outside of SO 36, the eastern part of the borough of Kreuzberg. He has a brief relationship with Katrin (Katja Danowski (de)), a cook at a nearby bar. His best friend, Karl (Detlev Buck) slowly goes mad, and his parents show up for a visit, disrupting his laid-back lifestyle.”

16. Comedian Harmonists

“In 1927, unemployed German-Jewish actor Harry Frommermann is inspired by the American group The Revelers to create a German group of the same format. He holds auditions and signs on four additional singers and a pianist. Naming themselves the “Comedian Harmonists”, they meet international fame and popularity. However, they eventually run into trouble when the Nazis come to power, as half the group is Jewish.”

17. Das Wonder von Bern

“Richard, a coal miner from Essen, returns after eleven years of being a Soviet prisoner of war in Siberia. In the meantime, his wife, two sons, and one daughter have reached a minimum standard of living without him. When he is unexpectedly repatriated in 1954, he has severe problems in reintegrating himself with his family and country. His wife is running a small business, his elder son has become a Communist challenging his father’s ideals of the Nazi time, his daughter flirts with British soldiers who are his former enemies, while his 11-year-old son Matthias, who never knew his father, admires a local football hero instead, Helmut Rahn of Rot-Weiß Essen.

While Richard is initially very stern about Matthias’ love for football, he gradually softens such that, on the night before the final game, father and son drive to Bern to see the match.

An additional plot of the movie is the personal triumph of Helmut Rahn, for whom Matthias becomes a lucky mascot. Rahn, nicknamed “The Boss”, has a successful record at club level, though is rarely chosen to play at national level in trainer Sepp Herberger‘s team.”

18. Der bewegte Mann

“Axel (played by Til Schweiger) has just been dumped by his girlfriend Doro (Katja Riemann), and needs to find a new place to live. He meets Walter a.k.a. Waltraud (Rufus Beck), a transvestite who participated in a heterosexual men’s group to provide a gay man’s perspective. Walter talks Axel into joining him and some friends at a gay party afterwards, and tries to convince Axel to move in with him. At the party, Axel decides instead to move in with Walter’s best friend, Norbert (Joachim Król), whose boyfriend has just left him. Later, at Axel and Doro’s apartment, Norbert tries to seduce Axel while they browse old photos. Just when Norbert has shed all his clothes, Doro shows up at the door, and Axel hastily hides Norbert. Doro explains to Axel that she’s expecting his child and wants to give their relationship a second chance. She is not amused to discover a naked man in the wardrobe, but Axel manages to convince her that nothing has happened. Excited about fatherhood and eager to return to Doro, Axel forgets about his new friendship with Norbert.”

19. Anatomie

“Medical student Paula Henning (Franka Potente) wins a place in a summer course at the prestigious University of Heidelberg‘s Medical School. Her grandfather had been a noted professor there, and was famous for developing a useful drug, Promidal. The course will be taught by Professor Grombek, who announces the hard work ahead. He also tells them that he will be using the elimination system, where the six lower grades will be periodically discarded. During one of their courses on anatomy, the body of David, a young man whom Paula met and helped on the train trip to Heidelberg, turns up on her dissection table. She is then humiliated by Professor Grombek, who dares her to cut and dissect the heart. She remarks that the body presents strange cuts, but this is dismissed as bad handling by the morgue caretaker. She decides to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. When she goes to cut a sample for an independent test she is amazed to find a triple “A” mark near David’s ankle. She is then startled by the medical school’s mortuary preparator,[3] who wants to know if Professor Grombek is aware of her acts.”

20. Schattenboxer

“Eddi is just back in town after his imprisonment. He plans to free his African jail comrade Timpe, because the latter will get no asylum in Germany and probably be killed when sent to his country. When freeing Timpe at the airport, Eddi and his comrades find out that the police officers are smuggling drugs when escorting those who get no asylum back to their countries. Eddi decides to take advantage of the situation.”

I hope you enjoyed this list! What movies do you recommend for people learning German?

 

Linguistics, Tips

Science Confirms: Alcohol Improves Your Speaking Skills In A Foreign Language

If there was a type of potion that would magically improve your foreign language skills, would you take it?

Turns out the answer had been right in front of us the whole time. Anyone who has ever learned a foreign language and then had a conversation in that language while under the influence of alcohol has probably thought “Damn, why was I so much better than I normally am?”

You weren’t the only one thinking that, and the hypothesis reached the academic community. Researchers from the University of Liverpool, Kings’s College in London and the University of Maastricht joined fores to prove what we had all long been suspecting – that alcohol actually does improve your speaking skills in a foreign language.

At the University of Maastricht they did a study with 50 native German students who were studying there and had recently begun learning the local language – Dutch.

All these students had recently passed a language exam to attest to their level of Dutch. Then the group was separated into two. One group got alcoholic beverages while the other were served a non-alcoholic variant.

The students were then asked to have a two minute conversation in Dutch with a native speaker. The conversations were recorded and the Dutch conversational partners were asked to give a score to the abilities of the student without knowing whether they had consumed alcohol or not.

Interestingly the alcohol had no effect on how the students themselves rated the conversation, but scored significantly better in the ratings given by their Dutch conversation partners. Especially on their pronunciation the native speakers gave much higher scores to those who had consumed alcohol in comparison to those who didn’t.

For all of us who feel a bit of fear and hesitation when speaking in a foreign language this is great news! Getting that glass of wine or beer can give you a little bit of ‘Dutch courage*’ (pun intended)

It should be noted that the research was only done with small amounts of alcohol that will help you get over the fear of making mistakes which might make your speech more fluent, but large amounts of alcohol will probably not improve your speaking abilities in any language.

 

*Dutch courage also happened to be the name of the study. 

How To Say

How To Say ‘Knock Knock’ in 35 Languages

We all know every language has their own words, but even sounds are described differently around the world!

Here is a list of 35 languages and how they translate the “knock knock” sound.

 

Albanian – “Tak Tak”

Arabic (Morocco) – “Dak Dak”

Arabic (Syria) – “Taq Taq” / “Taa Taa”

Bulgarian – ” чук чук” (“Chuk Chuk”)

Cantonese – 咯咯

Chinese – 扣扣

Czech – “ťuk ťuk”

Dutch – “Klop Klop”

English – “Knock Knock”

Finnish – “Kop Kop”

French – “Toc Toc”

Georgian – “Kak-Kuk”

German – “Klopf Klopf”

Hebrew – “Tuk Tuk”

Hungarian – “Kopp Kopp”

Indonesian – “Tok Tok Tok” (mostly said 3 times)

Xhosa (South Africa) – “Nqo nqo”

Zulu (South Africa) – “Koko”

Italian – “Toc Toc”

Korean – 똑똑똑 / “Ddok Ddok Ddok”

Lithuanian – “Tuk Tuk”

Mandarin –  “叩叩”

Norwegian – “Bank Bank”

Papiamento (Aruba) – “Tok Tok”

Persian – “Tagh tagh”

Polish – “Puk Puk”

Portuguese – “Toc Toc” / “Truz Truz”

Romanian – “Cioc cioc”

Russian – “тук тук” (Tuk Tuk)

Serbian – “Kuc Kuc”

Spanish – “Toc Toc”

Turkish –  “Tık tık”/ “Tak tak”

Urdu – “Khat Khat”

Venda (South Africa) – “Ndaa”

Vietnamese – “Cốc Cốc” *

 

*Fun fact; this is also the name of a popular search engine in Vietnam

Resources

Learn German in 400 Words

What if I told you 400 words is all it takes to survive in a language?

To express yourself in a foreign language is never easy, but by learning the most basic verbs, descriptive adjectives and nouns you can cover most daily interactions and have a head start when trying to learn this language.

At The Foreign Language Collective we have created a list of the 400 most basic words and have asked people in our community to translate them to their native language.

Together we have created multiple guides to help you communicate yourself in any language.

The main focus of this guide is communication. Grammatical perfection is something that takes time, but communicating is the basis of any language.

The idea is that these words can serve as your basic skill set from where you can build understandable and descriptive sentences to allow you to communicate yourself.

The guide is built from basic verbs and sentences, as well as nouns and adjectives that can help you describe things or people.

That is why we have included lots of words like “big” or “small”, “dark” and “light”, but also words like “more” and “less”.

From here you can describe things as “More big”, which may not be grammatically correct but it will in most cases be understood.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor why use many words when a few will do

You can also combine words like “Yesterday” and “Tomorrow” with your basic verbs, so you can say things like “I go tomorrow”, which in some languages is grammatically correct, in others it is not, but it will always be understood.

We are aware you can not become fluent with 400 words, but the idea is to give you a good base for you can communicate and understand the most basic things. From there on you can get the conversation going, ask questions and learn more.

Learning many words or grammatical often doesn’t make sense until you actually need it, so when the time is right you can move on and research the things you think are missing in your communication.

Whether you just want to cover the basics or continue learning this language until fluency, these 400 words are a great start for you.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD OUR SURVIVAL GUIDE IN GERMAN

Want to know more about our Language Survival Guide and the languages we offer them in? Make sure to check out our page and follow us on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss any updates.

 

 

Dialects, Expressions

6 Words in German You Need To Know When You Visit Austria

 

Author’s Note: This post was originally written during my time in Austria as an exchange student. I’ve left in the introduction in order for you to better understand my mindset as an exchange student.

I can’t really believe it, but I’ve spent half a year in this amazing country. The time’s flown, but somehow, part of me feels like I’ll be here forever. The fact that I’ll be in Wisconsin in four months…at college in six? That can’t be real…can it?
Ok, enough with the existential crisis. To celebrate my six months here, I thought I’d share my favorite words in the Austrian-German lexicon. Some of these are dialect words, while others are used in standard High German, but to me, they represent Austria.

1. Genau

Pronounced like “ge” in “get” and “now”

Genau is used as a general form of agreement, but I can say it’s used for everything. It’s also my favorite word in German. Basically, if The Fault in Our Stars was set in Austria, I would bet a significant sum that Hazel and Augustus would have “genau” be their always. (Genau? Genau).

2. Achso/Also/Ahso

Pronounced as it’s written

This is a filler word, similar to the English “oh” or “well”. It’s used in two contexts: To begin a speech, “Ahso, heute rede ich von…” (Ok, today I’m speaking about..); or to express understanding/astonishment, “Das Kinoticket kostet $5. Achso, ich dachte, dass es war nur 4″. (The movie ticket costs $5. Achso, I thought it was only 4).

3. Ur

Pronounced as “oohr”

Ur is an intensifier, a bit like the English “so”, or “really”. For example, it’s quite common to hear “Dass ist ur cool”, which translates to “That’s really/so cool”.


4. Oida

Pronounced Oy-da

Oida is probably THE Viennese dialect word, at least as of now. It’s extremely versatile, and can be used in any situation, to express any emotion. Annoyed? Oida. Happy? Oida :0) Surprised? Oida!

5. Scheiße

I believe everyone knows the pronunciation and definition of this word, but if you don’t, here’s a hint on the meaning: Shit. Unlike the English, it’s not really an offensive word, more similar to “crap”. For example, saying it in school, in front of a teacher, elicits no reaction. Considering the sheer amount of times I’ve heard and used it, it really had to be included on this list.

6. Oachkazlschwoaf

Ok, I’m not even going to try and write this one out… Just try and pronounce it, if you dare. It means “squirrel’s tail” in the Lower Austrian dialect, and is generally used to tease foreigners for their accents. Also incredibly fun to say.


Well, that sums up my mini-dictionary of entertaining Austrian words. If you’d like to read a more in-depth post on the Austrian dialects, let me know, as I truly enjoy talking about it.

Minority Languages

Did You Know the English Language Has A Secret Brother?

You may want to sit down for this because you are about to find out your Germanic mother gave birth to another language. That’s right. In the north of the Netherlands there is a province called Friesland, and the language they speak bears an uncanny resemblance to English.

Map of UK + Ireland, the Netherlands and Friesland

If you are confused right now, you are probably not the only one. Not many people outside of the Netherlands know of this language, and in fact even within the Netherlands people often think Frisian is merely a dialect. For those of you who still think that, let me help you right here with this Germanic language family tree.

 

As you can see both English and Frisian are actually part of the Anglo-Frisian branch, whereas Dutch stems from Old Low Franconian. Generally people already consider Swedish, Danish, German and Dutch to be somewhat similar to English, but ‘genetically´ Frisian is the closest language to English. The influence of French on English and Dutch on Frisian might make these similarities harder to see, but we all know you can’t forget your roots.

When we compare certain words and word categories in English, Frisian, Dutch and German we can see how close the two languages really are, especially when we take a look at the pronunciation.

For example the word “cheese”. In Dutch it translates to “kaas” and in German to “Kãse”, which is all similar enough. The Frisian version however is “tsiis’, which on paper just looks like something typed by your cat when he walks across your keyboard, but when you consider the pronunciation of the double I is almost identical to the English double E, whereas both Dutch and German chosen a completely different vowel for this word.

Not only that, but in many other words where English has the “Ch” pronunciation, the Frisians have kept very similar phonetics (only they attach different letters to them).

Another set of examples of words where the Frisians have stuck to the English phonetics is in words like “sleep”  or “sheep”. The Frisian “IE” is identical to the “II” sound, which as mentioned before is like the English “EE”,  while for some reason both Dutch and German have both gone with an “A” sound in these words.

 

But the similarities don’t stop there. When you look at the English words like “Way” and “Day”, where the “Y” has been switched for a “G” in Dutch and German, in Frisian they have kept the “I” sound, and though it is written with an “e”, the “EI” sound in Frisian is comparable to the “YE” or “IE” in “dye” or “die”.

 

And last but not least, an “N” before a ‘voiceless fricative’ (meaning an “S”, “F’ or “TH”) can be found in Dutch and German, but is largely lost in English and Frisian.

Interestingly, though Frisian is still widely spoken in Frisian households the education is generally in Dutch. This means that when people in Friesland learn English it will most likely be taught in English, which means many Frisians don’t make the connections between English and their native language (and I say this from experience).

So now you know that Friesland is not only the province with the coolest flag (see Exhibit A) with it’s famous pompeblêdden (not hearts), but also that one province that speaks a language that is ridiculously close to English.

If you are interested in learning minority languages such as Frisian, try your luck with the Memrise App.

 

Bonus, the Frisian word for “this” is “dizze”, only proving my original hypothesis that Frisians are the real OG’s

Exhibit A