Please let me introduce… Peppa Wutz

peppaFollowing up on my recent post on learning German with the help of movies and in particularly silent movies, here’s a little addendum:

One really helpful way to improve your listening and general language skills is to watch children’s shows.

Their language is generally relatively simple, yet includes a large number of important phrases, and the pronunciation of the speakers concise.

And a lot of them are easily available on YouTube. In order to find those just e.g. search for “Peppa Wutz”, the German name for Peppa Pig, and spend the next few hours going from one recommendation to the next.

Shhh…. – Learning German the Silent Movie way

frauimmondposterOne of the most entertaining ways to immerse yourself in a new language is through its movies. You can kick back and get entertained while at the same time brushing up on your language skills.

Regardless of your current language skills, you are bound to pick up something new. Even absolute beginners can benefit.

Years ago when I watched LOLA RENNT which features a very important bag stashed full of money, my girlfriend who doesn’t speak much German and wasn’t even watching the film but just heard bits and pieces in the background, came over and asked me what the word “Tasche” means. Obviously the term was used so regularly that it stuck in her mind and she is still able to remember that word whenever she travels to Germany.

Though there are lots of opportunities these days to watch foreign language films via Netflix & Co., only a properly mastered DVD may offer you the flexibility you need to pick subtitles of your choice so that depending on the level you’re at you could do one of the following:

  • Watch the film in German with English subtitles
  • Watch the film in German with German subtitles
  • Watch the film in German without any subtitles

You could even do all three, i.e. start watching it with English subtitles, then – as you are already familiar with it – watch it again with the German subs and finally without any subs at all. It will become increasingly more difficult to understand it but as you are already familiar with the plot and dialogue you’re going to recognise and understand more and more of the actual text.

So far I haven’t told you anything that hasn’t been recommended elsewhere before

What is never really mentioned, however, is the idea to use silent movies (Stummfilme) as a learning tool.

True, there is only a hardcore set of movie fans left who still explore those films regularly, yet once you start to get into their archaic world and rhythm you will see that they provide wonderful imagery that is bound to live with you for quite some time.

And Germany during the Weimar Republic was the world’s leading producer of quality movies. Hollywood was just setting up shop at the time and one could argue that the large scale emigration of German and Austrian film makers to America following Hitler’s rise to power let to the proper resurgence of Hollywood. For starters: What would Hollywood have done without the likes of Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch, Robert Siodmak & Co?

But let’s forget about the historical and artistic qualities of German silent movies and focus entirely on their linguistic benefits.

Given that the majority of these products are indeed silent, all you really need to understand are the German language intertitles. And these are strategically placed in a way so that you can even pause the film if you can’t read and understand them quickly enough without interfering too much with the flow of entertainment.

Pause a proper modern movie in between and you have bizarre random cut-offs of faces and interrupt the natural pattern of speech between characters. Pause a silent movie and you just pause it at a point where the film was actually designed to be read and where you won’t interfere with the natural acting flow.

Of course, whenever silent movies are still shown these days, they usually come with English language intertitles, so make sure to purchase DVDs that offer the original German intertitles as an option. Or you could simply purchase the DVD via Amazon’s German website, where they will generally sell the German versions of those flicks.

As silent movies by and large are out of copyright, they can also easily be tracked through YouTube or Archive.org but again a lot of those versions come with English language intertitles.

Below please find some examples of German silent movies with German intertitles to get you started.

Mind you, some of them feature a more old-style way of writing and some have additional Spanish or English subtitles but these should still give you something of a head start nonetheless. Please also note that some of those productions are sliced up into various parts that can all be found online as well.

 (Part 1/3)

 (Part1/10)

Watching German television online

The subject came up during one of my lessons: Is it possible to watch German television online?

I definitely recommend to immerse yourself fully with anything German (listening to online radio shows, checking out German language YouTube clips, reading German language newspapers and magazines) so watching German TV would be a huge benefit for any student regardless of their skill level.

In actual fact, even if you are a complete beginner it would be helpful regardless of whether or not you understand the entire program: There will always be certain words and phrases that are being repeated and that will stick in your memory.

The good news is that it is indeed possible to view German TV programs online and from what I can tell (living in Ireland) there do not appear to be any restrictions in viewing those from a foreign internet connection.

Both of the main public TV channels have their online players if you missed a show:

The ZDF is the most easily accessible one. Just click on this link and all the programs are showing up for the previous week. Some (all?) of their programs also have German subtitles (“Untertitel”) available. Just click on the link underneath the screen that show an ear with hearing aid. This really beneficial if your German is not yet up to scratch to catch it all without this aid.

The ARD as well as all the regional channels associated with it also have their own player. Once you access this website you will see a heading that says “Sendung verpasst?”. Click on this and it gives you the option to sort the shows by “Sendedatum” (date) and by name (“Sendungen A-Z”). Once you choose which show you want to watch you then also have to click the camera icon. It takes a bit getting used to but once done, you should be flying.

The private stations I checked only appear to show clips of their shows and are often introduced by commercials but if you really can’t wait for the next season of I’M A CELEBRITY feel free to view clips of the German equivalent and marvel at how stiffly the presenters are trying to be funny. Ant and Dec they sure ain’t.