The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.
Question #91337 posted on 05/22/2018 8:48 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Kannst du mit mir manchmal auf deutsch schreiben?

I'm trying to become more fluent in German. I took three years in college but haven't really used it.

Can you recommend some books/poems/music in German that are good? (I've got a playlist of translated Disney songs already)

-Danke!

A:

Liebe Voll Gerne,

Ich muss auch gelegenheiten finden, mein Deutsch zu üben.  Es ist mir peinlich, wie schlecht mein Deutsch geworden ist. Du kannst mir schreiben, wenn du willst. (I should also find opportunities to practice my German.  It's embarrassing how poor my German has gotten.  You are welcome to write me, if you want - 100hourboardbrutus (at) gmail (dot) com)

I served my mission in Germany.  While on my mission, I developed a theory regarding languages in Europe.  I noticed that for the most part, most major movies would be dubbed from English into the major European languages like German, French, or Russian, but would instead have subtitles for less commonly spoken languages like Dutch or Danish. I often found that people from Holland or Denmark spoke much better English than the French or Germans we spoke to.  I theorize that not dubbing movies leads to better English skills.  (*Note - this is not a scientific theory, but rather the observations of a 19 year kid.  There is no need to send me a bunch of corrections citing examples of movies that were, in fact, dubbed into Dutch and Danish.)

Regarding this theory, my advice to you would be to immerse yourself in as much German as you can, especially with things you may already be familiar with in English.  For the most part, if something is popular in English, it will probably have been dubbed or translated into German.  For example, when I came home from my mission, I re-read Harry Potter in German.  (If you're a BYU student, I know BYU has German editions of the series in the library.) Reading Das Buch Mormon is also a good start.

Unrelated story: When I came home from my mission BYU gave me like 12 or 16 credits for my German if I took an additional class on German culture or something (which I did).  At BYU it was going to be difficult to pick up a German minor, let alone a double major.  When I transferred to Ohio State I went into the German department and asked about a German minor.  They looked at my funny and couldn't understand why BYU had been so stingy with their credit (which I understand, since otherwise they would essentially be giving out minors to people who served a foreign mission).  Basically Ohio State told me I would need to take 3 classes for a minor, or 4 classes for a major.  That's the story of why I have a B.A. in German that seems out of place with my B.S. in Chemical Engineering.

The other big suggestion that I would have is to try watching the German news each day.  The main news each day is the 20 Uhr Tagesschau. The first class I took at Ohio State required us to watch it everyday for a semester and it really helped me pick up the German I didn't learn on my mission.  Think of how formal and different the English on the nightly news is compared to your everyday speech. Sometimes, I still watch the Tagesschau to get a different perspective on the world's news.

The last suggestion that I have is to find places to practice your German.  If you're still a student somewhere, I'm sure your school has a German club.  Another thing you may look for is if your city has a German sister city.  For example, Columbus' sister city is Dresden.  There were often events around town with lots of German speakers giving us opportunities to practice our German.  I would guess that other sister cities events would have similar opportunities.

But to finally answer your question, here is a list of poems, books, music, and movies you may find useful.

I answered a similar question regarding German poetry in Board Question #81892.  The link to Was Es Ist no longer works, but because I'm feeling super helpful (and because I'm awesome) it can be found here.

Books that I have personally read in German include:

  1. Die Wolke by Gudrun Pausewang - A slightly depressing story about a nuclear reactor meltdown.
  2. Nathan der Weise by Gotthold Lessing - A play about religious tolerance
  3. Die Tribute von Panem – Tödliche Spiele by Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
  4. Krabat by Otfried Preußler - A play about a demonic mill

I found Overdrive and my library to be a great source for materials in German. Amazon can also be good.

Music that I would recommend, besides Disney songs, is Die Prinzen, Die Ärzte, or Peter Fox. You can also try Die Toten Hosen, but the fact that I can't think of a song that I can link to from the board may give you an idea of their kind of music. To be honest, Die Ärzte aren't always the cleanest either, but they are probably my favorite German band. Die Prinzen are very benign. German Christmas songs you may like include Maria Durch Ein Dornwald Ging (this version is sung by Die Prinzen - see I told you they were pretty clean), Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen, Still, Still, Still, or my personal favorite O du Fröhliche. Additionally, here are a couple of other songs that I personally like that you may enjoy too: Mit 66 Jahren by Udo Juergens, Völlig Losgelöst by Peter Schilling (you've probably heard the English version of this), and '54, '74, '90, 2006 by Sportfruende Stiller.

Finally, I would try to watch as many German movies as I could.  Netflix is actually a pretty good resource. You can browse shows that either have a German audio track (netflix.com/browse/audio/de) or German subtitles (netflix.com/browse/subtitles/de.) A lot of the Netflix Original shows have the German audio as an option.  Other German movies (or movies you should try to watch in German) that I would recommend are:

  1. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) - I think this is rated R.
  2. Das Boot - I think this is also rated R
  3. Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run)- Also rated R
  4. Good Bye Lenin - Also rated R - I have a disturbingly high number of R rated movies on this list.
  5. Das Schreckliche Mädchen (The Nasty Girl) - Finally one not rated R.  This is a movie about a girl who uncovers her town's Nazi past.
  6. Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) - the source of the famous song Falling in Love Again (Can't Help It)
  7. Bella Martha (Mostly Martha) - The movie No Reservations starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart is based on this film.
  8. Findet Nemo (Finding Nemo) - I think this is way better in German, although to be fair, I'm not sure if I've ever seen it all the way through in English.
  9. Ein Königreich für ein Lama (The Emperor's New Groove) - This is hilarious in German.

At any rate, I sure hope this helps.  Please don't hate me.

- Brutus