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Learning a new language

So, you’ve decided to learn German and are wondering how best you should learn it? Research has shown that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn a new language, as you tend to learn it more naturally, more like you learn the language your parents speak. There are other factors that affect how easy it is to learn a new language, including motivation, ability, interaction with people who speak that language, and language learning techniques and aids. Not everyone is still young when they decide to learn German, more’s the pity and not everyone has access to a wide variety of aids and techniques, but most people can read German books and magazines, watch German movies and TV programs, use language-learning programs online and in books.

This article explores the reasons why watching German movies can help beginners learn the language.

Why learn German by watching movies?

Watching German movies and TV shows as well as listening to German songs and radio programs is the next best thing to actually having practice with German speakers. If you don’t live in Germany, Austria, or one of the few places overseas where there are nuclei of German speakers, it can be hard getting used to the accent, pronunciation, and use of the language. That’s where listening to and watching German movies can help. Most movies are fictional and the conversation tends to be quite colloquial. This is of great help when trying to learn how to speak German. You can also help learn German by watching German language documentaries. These are far less likely to be in colloquial German, making it easier to understand some of the words as there will be fewer idiomatic expressions and slang terms, which you would normally expect in a movie.

Much depends on your own interests and what you find enjoyable to watch yourself. The more enjoyment or interest you get out of watching a particular movie or documentary, the more likely you will learn German with movies.

Tips on learning German by watching German movies

Here are some tips for learning German for beginners using movies.

Tip#1 Don’t start with movies that are too difficult to follow.

It’s best to gradually work your German movie list for learning German up the difficulty list. Movies for kids are often quite good as the vocabulary is often quite limited compared to a movie designed for adults. The downside is that you may be put off watching any kids’ movies – not just those in German.

Tip#2 Make sure you can start and stop the movie

For most DVDs, you can manipulate the remote control so that you can start and stop a movie so you can catch the words being used. You are unlikely to understand everything at first run, so an ability to rewind parts of the move so you can pick up on the vocabulary is a good technique.

Tip#3 Try not to use subtitles all the time

While sub-titles in English do help you to understand what is being said in the movie, this won’t necessarily help you learn German! If you can choose whether subtitles are displayed or not, then this may be of value. Watch segments of the film and even try and write down what the German words are being said, and then translate them. Then you can rewind with the sub-titles on and see how well you did.

Tip#4 Make a list while watching of words or phrases

Make a list while watching of words or phrases you have understood and practice saying the words out loud as closely as possible to the way they are pronounced in the movie. Again, using the remote control, you can listen to a segment of conversation, pause the movie and try and repeat what has been said as closely as possible, then rewind and listen again. 

A list of 10 of the best movies to help beginners learn German

  1. Almanya: Willkommen in Deutschland (2011)
  2. Bella Martha (2001)
  3. Bibi Blocksberg (2002)
  4. Das Leben der Anderen (2006)
  5. Friendship! (2010)
  6. Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)
  7. Lola rennt (1998)
  8. Nosferatu – Phantom der Nacht (1979)
  9. Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (2005)
  10. Soul Kitchen (2009)