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German: massive input in Berlin

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Senior Member
Joined 2930 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 1 of 295
25 August 2013 at 6:17pm | IP Logged 
I joined HTLAL shortly after I started learning German, and 424 days days later I thought it was about time that I started a log of my progress. :)

Despite having lived on-and-off in Germany, when I started learning last year I was at a sort of passive A1 level: I knew some words, could order food etc, but couldn't hold any sort of conversation and had trouble understanding simple written sentences that you see on street signs or on billboard advertisements. Sadly the typical level of someone living in a foreign country, who works in their native language (English), and whose friends and family all speak English.

As Kato Laob might say, although my language macroclimate was German, my language microclimate was definitely English.

It wasn't that I didn't want to learn German. I just didn't know how. I figured if I went to classes and trusted the teachers I would learn, but I found instead that classes created in sort of passivity in me. I was going to classes, but doing little learning outside of class, and the sorts of things I learnt - lots of grammar, big emphasis on lots of correct output from the very beginning - just didn't work for me. It wasn't that I went to bad schools. I ended up at one point doing the Goethe Institute courses from A1-B1, which while expensive are regarded as very good, but nothing stuck.

The problem I had with language schools was that I was learning lots of grammar rules, but I wasn't able to apply the rules in real life because I had very little vocabulary. I wasn't comfortable enough with the language yet to actually care that much about the grammar. I don't think I was alone in this. In the Goethe course, of my 15 co-students about 13 seemed to have given up on learning German by the end of the six months we studied together.

A bit later my wife got a dream job in London and we moved over. After about two years, I decided to learn to make another attempt to learn German again, as it was likely we were going to eventually move back to Germany, but this time I wanted to learn outside of traditional language classes. I went online and looked for German learning resources and developed my own study program based largely on the idea of input (the JATAT and Antimoon blogs were particuarly helpful in this regard). After a couple of months of learning German in London, I unexpectedly moved back to Berlin.

Study method

I wrote up a blog post at that time that re-reading a year later I basically still very much agree with (apart from the paragraph about the usefulness of monolingual dictionaries):

My study method has revolved around four things:

1. Read a basic grammar book in the first month to get orientated with the language.

2. Used Anki for about an hour a day to learn vocabulary. For every word I learnt there was usually one or more cards with sentences using the word, which not only helped me learn the word, but also gave me some implicit grammar. Perhaps 70% of my cards were sentence cards. I stopped using Anki after nearly a year of use, with over 9500 cards.

3. Watching TV/movies, which I started doing when I was low A2. I quickly found that I preferred dubbed TV series the best, as language was usually very clear, and I could get used to the vocabulary across multiple episodes.

4. Reading - first with Anki - and then with real books when about five months after I started learning. Using the Kindle with a pop-up dictionary was a real lifesaver here, and I was amazed at how much I could read given my level.

What worked?

I found the grammar useful for orientating myself to the language, but to be honest it wasn't that super useful. I haven't thought about grammar for more than a year, and get a bit of headache when I see posts talking about some grammar point.

Anki was really great in both building up vocabulary, and getting exposure to simple grammar via sentences, but after a year I really the need to take a long break.

Watching films was really useful, but reading probably is by far the most useful thing I have been done.


So my approach has been heavy input, with little or no output. At this point I would estimate my level is somewhere around B1 speaking/writing and B2 reading/listening. I am aiming to read about 1500-2000 pages per month, and see about 25 movies. I will see how far I get by the New Year and then assess whether I need to do more work on my output or just continue to plug away at the input.

Edited by patrickwilken on 01 September 2013 at 3:00pm

15 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2930 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 2 of 295
25 August 2013 at 6:26pm | IP Logged 
My movie log:



221. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011). NS. 7/10.

220. Skyline (2010). NS. 3/10.

219. Sphere (1998). NS. 6/10

218. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008). NS. 4/10.

217. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010). NS. 7/10

211-216. True Blood- Season 5 - 12 Episodes. NS. 7/10.

210. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. NS. 7/10.

209. Highlander. NS. 6/10.

208. The Bling Ring (2013). NS. Kino. 6/10

207. Smilla's Feeling for Snow (1997). NS. 5/10.

206. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). NS. 5/10.

205. Gorky Park (1983). NS. 7/10

204. Carrie (1976). NS. 8/10.

203. Babylon A.D. (2008). S. Tired so watched with subtitles, but understood nearly everything. 6/10

202. Francis Ha (2012). NS. Kino. Not bad - understood a surprising amount of the dialogue. 7/10.

201. eXistenZ (1999). NS. 7/10.

200. Berlin: Sinfonie Einer Grosstaat. (1927). Great silent film about Berlin. 8/10

JULY 2013

200. Reservoir Dogs. NS. Still missing lots of speech, but am understanding fair parts of the conversations. 8/10.

199. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). NS. Such a pale comparison to the book. 5/10.

198. The Matrix Revolutions (2003). NS. 6/10.

197. Wall Street 2. NS. Didn't understand many of the conversations - though got Blasen - really disappointing movie though. 4/10.

196. Tartort. Mankells Wallander: Das Gespenst. 28-07-13. NS. Understood much more of this Tartort set in Leipzig, but still failed to follow quite a bit of the plot. Still much better than last time. 6/10.

195. Lucky Number Slevin (2006). NS. Had trouble following large parts of the conversation for some reason. 6/10.

194. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. NS. 9/10.

193. Mission: Impossible (1996). NS. Fun film. Love the very dated looking technology. 6/10.

192. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). NS. 5/10.

191. Transsiberian (2008). NS. 5/10.

190. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). NS. 2/10

189. Sideways (2004). NS. 8/10.

188. Only God forgives (2013). NS. K. Refn with a hyper-real crime rampage in Bangkok. 8/10.

187. Troy (2004). NS. 7/10.

186. Alien³ (1992). NS. Some trouble following the speech, but nearer the end got really into the film. The first three films really stand up well to time. 8/10.

185. Aliens (1986). NS. Great film. Had some trouble at the beginning, but later on in the film understood most. 9/10.

184. The Bourne Supremacy (2004). NS. Excellent. Needed something to wake me up after HP. Nice hearing German spoken in Berlin. Dubbing good. 8/10.

183. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005). NS. I enjoyed finishing the book today, and thought the film was OK, though there was a little too much cut from it. 6/10.

182. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). NS. No trouble following it without subtitles. 7/10.

181. Gattaca (1997). NS. Again relatively OK to watch without subtitles. One of the more interesting scifi films to come out in the last few years. Some obvious plot holes: why on earth is his brother the investigating detective in the murder? More seriously, just because you can pick the best of say four embryos why does that suddenly create some sort of master race? There is way to much variation in human DNA for that sort of thing. Interesting to see the film only shortly after the technology predicted in the film has become available. Still love the idea of going into space in business suits. 7/10.

180. Jacob's Ladder (1990). NS. Great film. No problem following this without subtitles. 8/10.

179. Manhattan (1979). S. Had to watch with subtitles, but understood most. 7/10.

178. Contagion (2011). NS. Confused about one point, but basically understood film without subtitles. 7/10.

177. Wild at Heart (1990). NS/S. Good film, only hated the dubbing of Nicholas Cage. 8/10.

176. The Wrestler (2008). NS. 9/10.

JUNE 2013

175. Jackie Brown (1997). Didn't have the subtitles for this, was able to understand OK, but some gaps in the dialogue. Great film. 8/10.

174. Spy Game (2001). Had difficulty with comprehension. 6/10.

173. Pulp Fiction (1994). My German Tarantino marathon continues. Watched it with subtitles, but really could understand things very well. Great film. 10/10.

172. Ronin (1998). 8/10

171. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004). 9/10

170. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003). 9/10

169. Django Unchained (2012). I enjoyed it much better the second time around in German, without subtitles. I couldn't follow all the conversations, but it didn't matter to the enjoyment of the film. 8/10.

168. Underworld: Awakening (2012). 5/10.

167. Collateral (2004). Beautiful scenes of LA, but plot is completely unbelievable. 3/10.

166. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009). 6/10.

165. Blade (1998). Understood the dialogue a lot better in this film even without subtitles. Not sure what the difference was. Both Snipes and Kristofferson were excellent. The basic plot was somewhat idiotic (ancient blood god temple in downtown LA?), but otherwise enjoyable. 7/10.

164. The Art of War (2000). Dialogue a bit difficult it bits. Wesley Snipes was reasonably good, but the script wasn't. 5/10.

------------------Ein Jahr Deutsch------------------

163. The Fifth Element (1997). I watched this with subtitles and understood nearly everything. It's strange how my comprehension varies so much between movies. Nice dubbing. 7/10.

162. Arsène Lupin (2004). Poor adaption of French adventure novels. The multiple multiple endings were simply annoying. I felt like there were large sections I didn't understand. 4/10.

161. Magnolia (1999). I love the movie, though the constant over dubbing of voices with songs in English made things hard to understand. Not sure all the set pieces worked (e.g., all the characters singing at one point). 7/10.

160. Abduction (2011). The worst film I have seen on this list. It might have helped if I had realized that the lead actor was on Twilight. Sad to see Signourny Weaver in this. 2/10.

159. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). 7/10.

158. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) 8/10.

157. Ruby Sparks (2012). 5/10

156. Pandorum (2009). It's amazing how much more of this film I understood since I last watched it about seven months ago. The last time I watched it I remember only getting a few words - in particular 'verschwinde" - now I felt I understood most of what was said. Certainly no sense that I was missing out most of the story. 8/10.

155. Tatort: Spiel auf Zeit (26 May 2013). Understood more than last time, but still missed lots of the plot. It's strange how much harder Tatort is to understand that most movies (at least dubbed ones).

154. Solaris (2002). I've watched a 100 films since I last saw this film. It's strange. I know my German level is much higher now, but the sorts of comments I want to write (e.g., "understood much of what is said") is the same as what I would say now, so it makes me wonder how much these insights into our own abilities are really worth. I enjoyed this film a lot more this time around. 8/10.

153. The Mechanic (2011). Not a great remake of the original. Ruined by the 'happy' ending with Jason Straham surviving. 6/10.

MAY 2013

152. Lawless (2013). I am now at a point where I can watch most movies even if I don't know the plot beforehand and understand much of what is going on (except for Tatort for some reason). I still have a long way to go, but I can feel my Deutsch getting better relatively fast. I have been watching a film or two per day for the last week and it's certainly helping my comprehension. 7/10.

151. The Dark Knight (2008). Nice dubbing. I understand a lot of the more basic parts of the conversations, but there are still large sections that I have trouble fully understanding, especially longer monologues, but I can still see a definite improvement in the last few months. 8/10

150. Layer Cake (2004). Given the fastness of conversations I was surprised at how much I could follow. Not a bad film for #150. 8/10

149. X2 (2003) 8/10.

148. Underworld: Evolution (2006). 6/10

147. Drive (2011). Undubbed definitely better. Great film. Too much English in the songs to feel you are really watching a dubbed film in some ways. 8/10.

146. X-Men (2000). 7/10.

145. The Great Gatsby (2013). Seen at the Passage Kino in Neukölln. Nice night out with K. 8/10.

144. Underworld (2003). 7/10.

143. Tatort: Spiel auf Zeit (26 May 2013). For some reason I have a lot of trouble understanding Tatort. The first time I watched this in a bar in Berlin, which was nice. I'll just have to keep going until it starts to make more sense. Found the story set in Stuttgart implausible. 5/10.

142. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Definitely preferred the book. Had trouble understanding the movie, perhaps because I had the words of the book too clearly in my mind so I didn't make enough effort to understand what was being said. 6/10.

141. X-Men: First Class (2011). 8/10

APRIL 2013

140. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001). Preferred the book, but interesting to watch. I felt I was understanding most of what was said, and there were moments when I even forgot I was watching in German, presumably because I have just finished the book. 7/10.

139. 300 (2006). Difficult to follow some of the conversations, but OK. 8/10.

138. Total Recall (2012). Scifi. Watched without subtitles and understood fine. I don't understand why there was so much hate directed to this film, it seems like a fine action/scifi, but then I have never seen it in English. 8/10

137. Klapperschlange (English: Escape from New York). (1981). Scifi. Kurt Russell goes into ex-NYC in 1997 -- since 1988 an anarchistic penal colony -- to save the president of the USA. 8/10.

136. Total Recall. (1990). Scifi. Arnie goes to Mars. Liked this directors cut of the movie. It's stood up well to the test of time. 8/10.

135. The Safe (2012). Jason Straham killing his way through NYC to protect a young girl. I like the cinematography. Watched with German subtitles. This certainly helps understanding, but I am wondering if this helps or hinders auditory understanding. Still lots of German input. 7/10.

134. The American (2010). Enjoyed this a lot more the second time around as I could understand much more of the dialogue (though I did have German subtitles playing too). 8/10.

133. Oblivion (2013). Scifi with Tom Cruise saving the world after it's been destroyed. Watched in a cinema in Stralsund. 5/10.

132. Kon Tiki (2012). The story of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl's crossing of the Pacific by raft, to show that it was possible for South American's to have settled Polynesia. Dubbing was pretty good, and easy enough to understand. Funny how many ideas 'the Life of Pi' ripped off from the book/movie. 7/10.

131. Herr Lehmann (2003). I like this a lot more now that my German has improved. It's amazing how much the feel of this film would fit into the Fitzroy of the late 1980s. 8/10.

130. Inception (2010). A huge difference in my understanding from the last time I watched this. Now I have the sense that I am missing individual words that I can guess at, rather misunderstanding most of the film. I feel like I am slowly starting to understand the structure of the language, which is helping me finally start to make sense of things. I still have a long way to go, but it feels nice to be slowly improving. 9/10.

128. Watchmen (2009). I had the feeling of being able to follow large parts of the film really well, albeit though I had to concentrate pretty carefully. I got the strong sense that my reading is starting to transfer into understanding of speech, which is great. Definitely a much better understanding of the film then when I last watched it five months ago. 8/10.

MARCH 2013

127. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006). Watched this on TV with huge ad breaks. 6/10.

126. Cloud Atlas (2012). Had a great deal of difficultly understanding this. I am not sure why, K also said she had trouble, so perhaps there was something wrong with the dubbing, though I suspect it had more to do with my actual level. 7/10.

123-125. Lost. Season 1 - The first six episodes. Having trouble getting back into this show, so I am listing the episodes here, rather than the full season. If I finish watching the whole season I'll relist this higher up.

122. Hitchcock (2012). Romance between Hitchcock and his wife Alma during the filming of Psycho. 7/10.

121. Take This Waltz (2011). Romance comedy/drama set in Toronto, directed by Sarah Polley. Great cinematography, but none of the characters were very believable. 5/10.     

120. Quellen des Lebens (2013). Story of a troubled German family told through the eyes of the grandfather, father and son. Would have liked something a little more believable. Still interesting attempt. 6/10.


No films watched.


119. Oh Boy (2012). Lost 30ish man wondering around Berlin for the day. 7/10.

118. Henry and June (1990). Again.


117. The Hobbit (2012). Hollywood milking the cow to death. 4/10.

108-116. Battlestar Galactica - Season 4 - 20 Episodes. The God angle is annoying, but still an excellent series. Big improvement in comprehension in the last few episodes compared to the first few episodes. And all along the watchtower works so well. 7/10

107. Children of Men (2006). Great dubbing, excellent film. 9/10.


106. Tatort (25.11.12). With the Munster team. Still having a lot of trouble understanding Tartot for some reason. 5/10

105. The American (2010). George Clooney, the gun maker and assassin, hides out in Italy. 5/10.

104. Total Recall (2012). Again.

103. Skyfall (2012). My first James Bond in German. 7/10

94 -102. Battlestar Galactica - Season 3 - 20 Episodes. 7/10

93. Total Recall (2012). Unlike most others I enjoyed this remake of PKD story. This was one of those movies where I felt I was understanding much of what was said; something I would never have believed at the start of the challenge. 7/10.

92. Ziemlich beste Freunde. 6/10.

91. Gegen die Wand (2004). This, along with Kurz und Schmertzlos, is my favorite Faith Akin film. 8/10.


82-90. Battlestar Galactica- Season 2 - 20 Episodes. (2005). It's amazing how much my German has improved since I first started watching this series. I had quite a lot of difficulty following Episode 1 of Series 1; by Episode 20 of Series 2 I was surprised at how much I can follow. Paradoxically my watching has been getting a little sporadic lately, perhaps because while my German is much better I am still far from fluent and feel somewhat frustrated by my progress. I imagine this is similar to what athletes feel and only solution is keep going. 8/10

81. Watchmen (2009). 8/10.

80. Supernova (1999). Surprisingly good Scifi/Horror film, with James Spader leading an emergency interstellar rescue team, who comes across an alien civilization-killer-bomb. 7/10.

79. Tatort (14 October 2012). Borowski und der freie Fall. Kiel investigating team. 6/10.


78. Rampart. (2011). 6/10

77. Dune. (1984). I remember liking this campy scifi adaption of Fred Herbert's classic by David Lynch more. Perhaps the dubbing really ruined it or I saw a particularly bad cut for German audiences; though I suspect I might have just misremembered liking it this much. In the last week I have started keeping a dictionary with me and noting down individual words that I don't understand; this is a big change. I feel I am now understanding much more now, and it's got much clearer what I do and don't understand. 6/10

76. Muriel's Wedding. (1994). Strange to hear this classic Australian movie, with its extreme Australian accents, dubbed in German. Had more difficulty understanding some of the language here than some other movies I have watched recently, but still enjoyable. The movie itself holds up well nearly 20 years later; and it has an even darker subtext that I had originally appreciated. Flee Porpoise Spit or die! 6/10.

75. Henry and June. (1990). Surprisingly good dubbing; I expected that German would clash with the Paris story, but it worked well, perhaps because the original was filmed in English anyway. My German is definitely getting better. At the moment I am watching programs with a dictionary in hand, and adding some new vocabulary to Anki as I go. Now I know amongst other things, that 'geil' means something similar to 'hot' in English. 8/10.


74. Klapperschlange (English: Escape from New York). (1981). Scifi. Kurt Russell goes into ex-NYC in 1997 -- since 1988 an anarchistic penal colony -- to save the president of the USA. The president is played nicely by Donald Pleasence. 7/10.

73. Pandorum. (2009). Solid scifi/horror of (space)ship of lost souls; filmed in Berlin in English. Good performances by Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid. 6/10

68-72. Battlestar Galactica - Season 1 - 13 Episodes. For some reason I found the German hard to follow at first, but things got progressively easier as I watched the season. Since the episodes are a little over 40 minutes long, I am counting the 13 episodes as five movies. 7/10


Mostly watching dubbed TV shows in the past week (in particular True Blood). This seems to be working well as a way of watching a lot of material.

62-67. True Blood - Season 3 - 12 Episodes. 7/10.

61. Hunger Games (2012). 6/10

56-60. True Blood - Season 2 - 11 Episodes. 6/10.


Visited my in-laws last weekend and raided their DVD library for a few dubbed films:

55. Dark Blue (2002). Of the three DVDs I borrowed, this was the hardest to understand. Not a bad story though. I prefer the non-dubbed Kurt Russell, but overall not bad. 6/10

54. Solaris (2002). I loved both the book and original Russian version by Tarkovsky, and so avoided seeing the Sondenbergh version when it came out. Not a bad job at dubbing; though the dubbing for George Clooney somehow lacked the warmth of his real voice; though I also thought Clooney lacked the warmth of the original Lithuanian actor Donatas Banionis. Overall I liked the original Russian version much better, but I probably missed some subtlety given my poor German level. I did like the new ending better in some ways from the Russian version, which I never really understood/liked. However, I didn't feel the film captured the alienness/inscrutability of Solaris' actions. I am surprised how much better my German is getting though; I understood much of the discussion of the film which surprised me. 7/10.

53. Basic Instinct (1992). Fun film, and at least I now know the German for ice-pick. 8/10

48-52. True Blood - Season 1 - 10 Episodes. 7/10.


47. Invisible Frame (2009) & Cycling the Frame (1988). Two short art-docofilms, by Cynthia Beatt, with Tilda Swinton cycling around the the border of the Berlin Wall. The first filmed in 1988 gives a great sense of not only the Wall, but also the normalicity around it; the second is a follow-up with many of the same shots filmed 21 years later, with a bigger budget, after Tilda Swinton had become a much bigger star. No German (hardly any spoken words at all - especially in the first), so I am not counting it towards the challenge, but worth checking out if you are interested in Berlin. 8/10.

42-47. Breaking Bad - Season 4 - 13 Episodes (2011). 9/10.

**. Hundestage (2001). A disturbing and bleak Austrian first feature by Ulrich Seidl exploring varying deviant and destructive (predominately sexual) relationships in a suburb in Vienna. I am not counting this one towards the challenge; I wasn't able to parse the Austrian properly, so ended up relying on subtitles. 8/10.

41. Sons of Norway - Sønner av Norge (2011). My first German-dubbed Norwegian film in the cinema. About the relationship of a father and son after the wife/mother dies. The boy gets into punk, and his hippy father joins in. I felt it left too much unexplored, with an ending that leaves a sense that the third act is missing, but interesting all the same. 5/10.

40. Halbe Treppe (2002). A Dogma (or Dogma-like?) film set in the East German city of Frankfurt am Oder, by the director Andreas Dresen. Nice film, with very naturalistic acting. The bleakness of the urban environment is very well captured, but with enough light touches that things never become too oppressive. Liked the running gag with the Balkan music by the 17 Hippies. Winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 2002. 6/10.


34-39. Breaking Bad - Season 3 - 13 Episodes (2010). 9/10. Strangely I am starting to prefer the voice of Walt in the dubbed version more than the original. 8/10

28-33. Breaking Bad - Season 2 - 13 Episodes (2009). 8/10.

27. M (1931). x2. Fritz Lang's classic hunt for a child murderer by both the police and the Berlin criminal underclass (with a criminal leader who dresses like a Nazi). Fascinating early debate about free will and guilt near the end. Found the German difficult here at times, and watched it a second time with subtitles so I could really appreciate this really fine film. Amazing how good the use of sound is here, considering this is the first German talkie. 8/10.

26. Dreiviertelmond (2011). Interesting film about the unexpected relationship between an older taxi driver in Nuremberg, and a young Turkish girl. Parts of the film stretch the imagination as a young child is apparently abandoned/forgotten by authorities after her grandmother suffers a stroke, but overall I enjoyed the performances by the central characters. Directed by Christian Zübert, who's last major film was the 2001 stoner comedy Lammbock. 6/10.

21-25. True Blood - Season 4 - 11 Episodes. Decent dubbing; fun story to watch. 7/10

20. Solino (2002). Turkish/German director Fatih Akin's story of a Italian family that move as guest workers from the small town of Solino to the industrial mining town of Duisberg in 1964, and open the first Italian restaurant in town. There are apparently two versions of this film about: the first, Italian/German, has actors switching between languages where appropriate, the second dubbed entirely in German. I watched the bi-lingual (?) one, which clearly is better, but not very useful for the challenge, as it seemed to be mostly Italian, hence my score remains at 20. It was a good topic, but I found the execution a bit heavy handed. Apparently Duisberg was picked because the film scouts found many parts of the town that had not changed since the 1960s. 6/10.

17-20. South Park - Season 2 - 18 Episodes. I have watched bits of this series before, when it first came out, but this is the first time I have watched many of them. For TV series I am counting 90 minutes as one movie, and rounding down. 6/10


14-16. Breaking Bad - Season 1 - 7 Episodes (2008). The dubbing is not bad on this excellent series. Geil Kristall. The more I watch the easier it gets. I am starting to think that I just really need to watch a lot of TV and movies to learn German. I guess it's always good to play to your strengths.

13. Kurz und Schmertzlos (1998). Fatih Akin's first feature film. Quite different from the other's I have seen (Soul Kitchen; Im Juli). A sort of multicultural Mean Streets set in the immigrant community of Hamburg, which follows three friends (one Turkish, one Greek, one Serbian) who navigate the crime scene and get sucked in ever deeper. Some difficultly following the dialogue, but definitely worth watching. I keep a notebook next to me as a watch so I can write down phrases or words that I don't understand. I got quite a few good idioms out of this, like 'du bist ein kleiner hosenscheißer' (lit. you are a small boy who still shits in your pants - perhaps roughly translated as 'you are a pussy'), 'quatsch mit soße' (literally 'crap with sauce' - perhaps 'that's bullshit') and 'das ist so abgefahren' (literally 'this is so departed' but as an idiom 'this is so crazy'). This came out in the same year as Lola Rennt - which I like a lot - but this is definitely the superior film. Not sure why it was released
with the English title "Short, sharp, shock"; when the title would literally and more reasonably be translated as "Short and Painless". Recommended. 8/10.

12. Im Juli (2000). A romantic comedy, by Fatih Akin, with a very straight Moritz Bleibtreu traveling overland from Hamburg to Istanbul to meet his true love. Not bad, but a little too implausible for my liking. Still I always like a good road movie across Europe, and the Balkans look particularly nice in Summer. 6/10.


11. Soul Kitchen (2009) Sweet film, about the trials and tribulations of a Greek guy trying to run a restaurant in Hamburg. I really like Fatih Akin's films - it's very interesting to get a Turkish/migrant perspective on Germany, and plan to work through his other films for this challenge. I had difficulty following the language though. Might be worth re-watching when I have a bit more German under my belt. 7/10

10. Lammbock (2001) x2. Classic German stoner comedy. I really liked the chemistry between the lead actors Lucas Gregorowicz and Moritz Bleibtreu who run a pizza business, and who deliver dope on the side. It's very funny trying to understand the logic of stoner monologues in a language you are not comfortable in. I generally don't rewatch films, but I did with this one because Kristina hadn't seen it. I was amazed at how much more I understood the second time around, so perhaps I should rewatch films more often. 7/10

8-9. South Park Season 1, Episodes 1-13. Since each episode is only a little over 20 minutes I am going to count these as two long movies. I got these early on and at first did not understand very much, but as time has gone on it's been getting a lot better. Got to say these guys speak fast, but it's fun trying to keep up. Learning an interesting vocabulary too.

7. Dr. Who S1E01-S1E02.

6. Inception (2010) - One of my favourite films. A bit challenging to listen to, but I thought overall the dubbing was excellent. The only problem I had was with the Michael Caine character; the voice used just doesn't fit the actor I know. 9/10

5. Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance (2011). OK. This is a bit embarrassing. Nicholas Cage in a bad film set in Eastern Europe. Didn't understand much, but don't think knowing more dialogue would help the film much anyway. Chosen in part on the basis that films in which the action occurs visually are easier to understand, than where the action occurs in the language. I made the mistake of trying to watch Mad Men sometime ago and really was completely lost, whereas Lost was fine (predominant words: island, others, monster, run). 4/10

4. Sonnenallee (1999) - By the same director as Herr Lehmann (Leander Haußmann). Film set in a (semi-fictional) border crossing in East Berlin. The language was too difficult here for me to follow. Somewhat interesting, but not a film I would really want to go back too. I liked that they tried to show the East German side of things more positively, but it was too implausible in the end. 5/10

3. Herr Lehmann (2003)- Later film by Leander Haußmann, set in Kreuzberg shortly before the Wall fell. Great to see images from Berlin from the before the Wall fell, and especially Kreuzberg. I liked the film and would recommend it. When my German is a bit better I intend to read the book of the same title; which I have heard it's a lot better than the film. 6/10

2. Lola Rennt (1998) - Amazed at how much I could follow. This was the first film I watched where I started thinking I really could get by without subtitles. Definitely recommend it. 7/10

1. Bedways (2010) - German - with subtitles. Arty low-budget film about making an arty low-budget film about sex/relationships, mostly filmed in an alt-bau in Berlin. Think 9 Songs. I liked it, but it's probably not for everyone. Not kid friendly from the sex. 6/10

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 Message 3 of 295
25 August 2013 at 6:31pm | IP Logged 


13. Naokos Lächeln: Nur eine Liebesgeschichte. Haruki Murakami. 416 pp. Harder than HP, but after the first 200 pages relatively easily to read. Nice to read an adult book again. 9/10

12. Harry Potter und die Heiligtümer des Todes (Band 7). Joanne K. Rowling (Autor) Klaus Fritz (Übersetzer). 768 pp. Was able to read this in a week, almost completely without the use of a dictionary. Nice to finally finish the series, and to be able to move on to more adult literature. 7/10.

11. Harry Potter und der Halbblutprinz (Band 6) Joanne K. Rowling (Autor), Klaus Fritz (Übersetzer). (2005). 656 pp. First book I have read without a dictionary. 6/10

JULY 2013

10. Harry Potter und der Orden des Phönix (Buch 5). Joanne K. Rowling (Autor), Klaus Fritz (Übersetzer). (2009). 1024 pp. At about page 300 I stopped using a dictionary and was able to read the rest of the book extensively. It's a completely liberating feeling to finally be able to read without needing to look up words all the time. My reading has gone from about 30 pages/day to about 100 pages/day. My speech hasn't noticeably improved yet, but I hope as I read more I'll finally start speaking properly. Because of my conversation level I would still say I am B1 not B2 - even though reading-wise I am clearly approaching/in B2. The super-challenge suddenly seems quite attainable, whereas only a few weeks ago it seemed almost unreachable by the end of the year. 6/10

9. Harry Potter und der Feuerkelch (Buch 4). Joanne K. Rowling (Autor), Klaus Fritz (Übersetzer). (2005). 768 pp. 6/10

JUNE 2013

------------------Ein Jahr Deutsch------------------

8. Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Askaban (Buch 3). Joanne K. Rowling (Autor), Klaus Fritz (Übersetzer). (2007). 480 pp. I am at the point now where I can read HP quickly. I am torn between starting to read other books that might be a bit hard or test my vocabulary in other ways, and keeping with the series, both with the sense of accomplishment of having read them, but also so I can consolidate the vocabulary I have learnt. 6/10.

MAY 2013

7. Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens (Buch 2). (1999). Joanne K. Rowling (Autor), Klaus Fritz (Übersetzer). 368 pp. Created 1000s cards for Anki from this book. By the end of this book my reading speed had noticeably increased. Themes are getting a little darker, hoping for something a bit darker still in the next book. My reading was interrupted by a 10 day trip to London, so I probably won't be able to finish another book this month. 6/10.

APRIL 2013

6. Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen (Buch 1). Joanne K. Rowling. (2005). 336 pp. This was the first book I felt I could have read without a dictionary. Definitely better than the movie. 7/10.

5. Die Tribute von Panem: Flammender Zorn (2011). Suzanne Collins. 432 pp. Still not reading fluently, but definitely improving. Particularly dark ending to the series. I am finding my reading is helping my understanding of movies. It will be interesting to see where I'll be in another five books. 7/10.

MARCH 2013

4. Die Tribute von Panem: Gefährliche Liebe (2010). Suzanne Collins. 431 pp. After a break, I came back to this and found I read it fairly easily. It definitely helps that it's written in the first person, and uses the present tense. The series is definitely getting darker; I wonder how it will end. 7/10.



3. Die Tribute von Panem: Tödliche Spiele (2010). Suzanne Collins. 417 pp. The first of the Hunger Games trilogy. 6/10


2. f**king Berlin (2008). Sonia Rossi. 292 pp. An Italian student's account of her five years working as a prostitute in Berlin. 6/10.


1. Berlin: Steinerne Stadt (2003). Jason Lutes. 213pp. Graphic Novel. The first in a trilogy - two published so far - that covers the period in Berlin between 1928-1933; this first novel covers the period between Sept. 1928 and ends with the 1 May 1929 massacre. As a long term lover of Berlin (I am in fact writing this on holiday from Berlin) it's very nice to actually be reading about the city in German. The story itself is engaging and covers a lot of different characters/points of view in the city. One difficulty I had initially was that some of the text is written in Berlin-idiom, not High German, which for a beginner was a little confusing until I realized what was going on.

Note: If e-book, page numbers refer to the paperback edition as reported by

Edited by patrickwilken on 25 August 2013 at 6:36pm

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 Message 4 of 295
25 August 2013 at 7:01pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
So my approach has been heavy input, with little or no output. At this point I would estimate my level is somewhere around B1 speaking/writing and B2 reading/listening. I am aiming to read about 1500-2000 pages per month, and see about 25 movies.

If you can read 1500 to 2000 pages per month, I'm going to guess that your reading comprehension is a very strong B2 or an outright C1. I did quite well on the DELF B2 reading section before I could handle that kind of volume comfortably. A page every 2 minutes with only a couple of unknown words is generally B2 and then some.

patrickwilken wrote:
I will see how far I get by the New Year and then assess whether I need to do more work on my output or just continue to plug away at the input.

My guess is that the output is there if you want it—your brain has a pretty good model of German at this point, and it could use that to decide whether your output sounded authentic. I was certainly able to activate very useful speech skills with weaker comprehension that you have now.

Of course, there's no need to rush. I'd be interested in seeing whether your speech skills spontaneously activate or not.
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 Message 5 of 295
25 August 2013 at 8:53pm | IP Logged 

Are you using audiobooks at all?

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 Message 6 of 295
25 August 2013 at 8:56pm | IP Logged 
Impressive list! I'm convinced your massive input method is the right way for eventually getting native-like language skills. Keep up the good work!
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 Message 7 of 295
25 August 2013 at 9:26pm | IP Logged 
montmorency wrote:

Are you using audiobooks at all?

There a few interesting audiobooks available for free through Do a google search for "audible
Gutschein" and you'll find what you need.

EDIT: You also can find a bunch of free stuff at These are
recorded by volunteers and dedicated to the public domain. The quality is much lower and varies significantly, but
the price is right.

Edited by geoffw on 25 August 2013 at 9:29pm

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 Message 8 of 295
25 August 2013 at 10:06pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
patrickwilken wrote:
So my approach has been heavy input, with little or no output. At this point I would estimate my level is somewhere around B1 speaking/writing and B2 reading/listening. I am aiming to read about 1500-2000 pages per month, and see about 25 movies.

If you can read 1500 to 2000 pages per month, I'm going to guess that your reading comprehension is a very strong B2 or an outright C1. I did quite well on the DELF B2 reading section before I could handle that kind of volume comfortably. A page every 2 minutes with only a couple of unknown words is generally B2 and then some.

Thank you.

I would love to believe my reading was at C1, but I am pretty sure it isn't yet. Harry Potter etc are great for getting a grounding for the language, but they obviously lack a lot of vocabulary. I was semi-surprised to learn the word for currency today, from another book I am reading. There are a lot of basic words that I don't know yet, but perhaps with another 5000-10000 pages I'll get significantly closer.

Still I was pleased to see Paul Nelson - one of the critics of Steve Krashen - refer to HP as a highly advanced language text. :) So if that's the criteria I am doing OK as I could read the last three books less than a month without a dictionary.

I can't emphasis how good it is to use the Kindle with pop-up dictionary. It just makes reading so much easier. While I can do HP without a dictionary - Murakami was much harder and the dictionary really made the process quick and painless. By the time I got past the first 200 pages I could read much more easily, and the Kindle allowed me to get there within a few days.

One problem I am finding is getting good ebooks for the Kindle. I like scifi, but it turns out the market for scifi here in Germany is pretty weak. Our local library has one pathetic set of shelves for scifi, in contrast to about 20-30 shelves for crime novels. On top of that book publishers here are pretty heavy handed with ebooks, to the point that ebooks are often more expensive that the hardbacks. There are some books available, but far less than I would have thought (Iain Banks who I like has only six or so books translated; Peter Carey (not scifi writer but a Booker winner) has only two; Greg Egan has no ebook translations). Until recently I had assumed all the big name scifi writers, or Booker/Pulitzer winners would has a matter of course make it into Germany, but actually that looks pretty rare. Of course the reverse is probably also true. Still there is plenty of material to read - though I'll probably end up having to read crime novels pretty soon (I'm eying Nesbo - who seems pretty well loved). Game of Thrones is also available and is tempting, but it's I think it would lack the sort of vocabulary I am craving.

emk wrote:

patrickwilken wrote:
I will see how far I get by the New Year and then assess whether I need to do more work on my output or just continue to plug away at the input.

My guess is that the output is there if you want it—your brain has a pretty good model of German at this point, and it could use that to decide whether your output sounded authentic. I was certainly able to activate very useful speech skills with weaker comprehension that you have now.

Of course, there's no need to rush. I'd be interested in seeing whether your speech skills spontaneously activate or not.

I can certainly speak now. I do with my wife sometimes, we'll drift in and out of German, though this is relatively recently in the last 2-3 months. I can certainly communicate pretty much anything I want to with her in German, but that's a pretty low bar as she simply knows me too well. I can also communicate with others, and given they are a little generous/flexible can get across what I need. I could probably at this point go to the local Kneipe (dive bar - rough translation). The problem is that I really am not that grammatical yet in my output. I am sure that will come but I think I'll need to do a lot more before I get there. At the moment I am doing a sort of high level babbling. :)

I am also curious how easily my speech skills will activate. It's not a very pure experiment, but it would be enough to convince me that input is the way to go. I should know in the next six months.

montmorency wrote:
Are you using audiobooks at all?

No. I think they are a great idea in principle, but I don't think I need them in practice. German pronunciation is pretty regular, and I am relying on movies/tv to give me enough input (I am watching about 2 hours per day). I also have a certain ear for German having lived here previously.

I know my internal German voice is not the same as a native yet, but it's close enough that I feel I should be able to fine-tune it when I start speaking.

I much prefer reading as I can go at my own pace and stop and look up words as needed. Perhaps when my German is significantly better I'll simultaneously start reading and listening to audiobooks to tune up my ear, but at this point it would slow down my reading too much.

If I was learning a language that was more difficult for me to pronounce (e.g., Polish, Russian, Mandarin) I would certainly consider them now.

Edited by patrickwilken on 25 August 2013 at 10:14pm

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