Drama, drama and more (Spanish) drama

Netflix Cook of Castamar

From my previous blog about how we tend to watch most of our television in English, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m pretty lazy to not watch shows in German. Because it’s a great way to learn. But as I said, it’s disconcerting to watch a show with an iconic actor (think Sean Connery), and have him open his mouth to spout out sentences of German rather than the rich Irish lilt we’re all used to. So I stick to my guns. I watch English shows in English and German shows in German. It makes sense.

But I understand the advantages of watching TV in German. Not only can it help me learn the language, I can easily do it while I’m on the exercise bike, for example, or sitting in the sauna. The only pre-requisite is that I can see the screen the understand the subtitles if I need them. So I looked beyond English and German… and I discovered something else – Spanish dramas. Ok, let’s be honest, it works with any foreign language. French, Italian, Russian… anytime there’s a show I want to watch that’s available in something other than English or German, I simply change the audio to German and watch it like that. Because I don’t need to learn French or Italian or Russian.

Now, when it comes to period dramas, I’ve come to the conclusion that no one quite makes them like the Spanish. Obviously I’m just getting fed whatever is available on Austrian Netflix, but from what I’ve heard, I’m not the only one watching them! And hey, this is not high-brow watching, but it is fun, and you need that when you’re watching in a different language.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

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Streaming and the German language

Netflix Dark

One of the huge advantages that streaming delivered was the ability for me to easily watch movies and series’ in English. Austrian television, unsurprisingly, is in German, and I don’t think I’ve actually watched more than five minutes of it since I moved here (also unsurprising). Even something originally created in English is dubbed with German voice over here. So if ‘Bad Boys’ is on TV, the voices are replaced with odd sounding German (odd to me, because that’s not the way Will Smith speaks!). And the funny thing is, because there aren’t as many German voiceover actors as actors (duh), after watching a few German-dubbed shows, you start to hear the same voices over and over.

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The ongoing struggle of formal/informal speech

german confusedOne of the great irritations of German, apart from having genders and weird pluralising and everything else that goes on… is formal speech. You could say it is a little similar to English… but only in a very subtle way. In English, it’s normal to refer to someone older than you as Mrs or Mr so-and-so… until there comes a time where they tell you it’s fine to call them by their first name. But come on, that’s simple!

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The hilarity of the angry-sounding German language

confusionGerman is an angry-sounding language. You know it, I know it. When Austrians get together over dinner they generally start speaking in their very loud, angry voices.

I remember the first few times I had dinner with my now in-laws… I would sit quietly, eating my dinner, sipping my wine, just trying to stay in the background because I certainly didn’t want to get involved in whatever it was they were so mad about. Their heated conversation would be sporadically punctuated with cackles of laughter and then the grim faces would return and they would start arguing again. Or so it seemed to me.

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Words that are actually longer in English

FairyThe German language is known for its long words. Without even going into the ridiculously long words (which to be honest nobody uses anymore anyway) try Entschuldigung instead of simply saying ‘sorry’ or Kniebeuge for ‘squat’. Though in all honesty, part of the problem is that the German words just don’t fit well in our English-speaking mouths – they come out all clumsy and end up sounding a lot longer than they do when spoken by a native speaker.

But there are exceptions. So I’ve made a list of 10 words that are actually shorter in German:

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Words I can’t Pronounce in German

squirrelThey say that after a certain age, a person loses the ability to pronounce certain parts of a foreign language. That means, unless you start learning a second language from when you’re a kid, you’re always going to sound like a foreigner and there will always be some words you just can’t get right. Here are ten of mine:

  1. Eichhörchen

The German word for ‘squirrel’ is basically impossible to pronounce. I could repeat it all day and it still wouldn’t come out right. However, it makes me feel a bit better that Austrians can’t pronounce the English ‘squirrel’ either.

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How lucky am I? I can practice German with my husband – well there’s a double-edged sword!

Living in Austria with an Austrian husband leads to people often asking me: “So do you speak German at home?” And if I said no, they say: “You should, it’s the best way to learn.”

And they would be right. We should. And speaking the language to a native is the best way to learn. But it is also a double-edged sword, especially when it involves a loved-one.

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Learning German – a brief but glorious awakening

Listening to Austrian dialectsA few weeks ago my company held a firm-wide meeting discussing our future growth direction. The content is not important, what is important is that the meeting was (obviously) completely in German.

And then the most surprising thing – I actually understood a lot of it!

Ok, the first part anyway – but that was a good hour!

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