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German: massive input in Berlin

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Senior Member
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Studies: German

 Message 177 of 295
17 October 2014 at 8:36am | IP Logged 
Die Zeit has a series of daily short news videos on their site, which are really great for learning: Die Zeit videos.

They are perhaps a bit more advanced that Deutsche Welle, but the content is way more interesting.

Edited by patrickwilken on 17 October 2014 at 8:37am

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Senior Member
Joined 2832 days ago

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Studies: German

 Message 178 of 295
22 October 2014 at 1:01pm | IP Logged 
For those interested you can buy a copy of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis as an Interlinear text for $20. It actually looks pretty interesting, though perhaps a bit short to be really useful.

If anyone knows of any longer texts out there please let me know!
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Senior Member
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 179 of 295
24 October 2014 at 6:03pm | IP Logged 
I started today (what I hope) will be a daily writing exercise. As preparation I read over the last couple of days the short Essential German Grammar by
by Stern and Bleiler from 1961. Although it's more than 50 years old it covers pretty much all the grammar I want at this point.

This was the first time I have read a grammar in nearly two years, I was surprised how much everything made sense. I have definitely picked up a lot of implicit grammar over the past two year of reading and listening. I seem to have a pretty good grasp of verbs and tenses, but I haven't picked up the declinations for adjectives. I guess when I am reading my brain just glides over this. I created an Anki deck to day to drill these, just so I have them in my brain and don't have to look them up when I am writing. Hopefully the writing will make these fairly automatic over the next month.

I found some nice free exercises here to test your German grammar:

Edited by patrickwilken on 24 October 2014 at 6:13pm

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Senior Member
Joined 2832 days ago

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Studies: German

 Message 180 of 295
28 October 2014 at 9:14pm | IP Logged 
Just stumbled across an extension for Firefox that colorizes genders on webpages, hides articles to test learning, offers pop-up translations from various websources (e.g., Leo), and allows export to Anki for looked up words. I am not sure how well this works in practise, but it certainly looks worth checking out: Firelang.

Edited by patrickwilken on 28 October 2014 at 9:15pm

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Senior Member
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 181 of 295
31 October 2014 at 9:38am | IP Logged 
Interesting article in die Zeit on how English is has become the language of the Berlin cultural scene: che.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday playing around with the Firefox extension, Firelang, and have now set things up so that I can easily look up words I don't know and if I want save them to a file that I can import into Anki. The only problem is that the words don't include the gender/plural forms of words, which I will have to add later - they do however include the sentence the word comes from as an additional field, which is cool. I am not sure if I will make standalone sentence cards from these, or include the sentences in the test cards I make (or perhaps do both).

I found the article a pretty easy read - I knew about 98% of the words - but for other articles in die Zeit that deal more with politics my understanding can be a lot lower. It's actually surprising to me how variable my understanding of various parts of die Zeit is. I guess reading books just doesn't give you enough words for certain topics like politics, economics etc. I am hopeful that with Firelang and Anki I should fairly quickly get to a point where I can read die Zeit quite comfortably.

Edited by patrickwilken on 01 November 2014 at 10:49am

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Senior Member
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Studies: German

 Message 182 of 295
01 November 2014 at 12:12pm | IP Logged 
In October I read 930 pages and watched 52 movies.

I have now reached my 2014 goal of watching 300 films, and should reach my other goal of 10000 pages read for 2014 by early December.

My ability to watch movies continues to grow noticeably. I am finding it much easier to watch shows now, as can be demonstrated by the fact in October I watched the most movies in a month to date (52) and did so without much effort. It's not that I don't find some genres harder, but overall my understanding just seems much more fluent than before.

I watched three German films last month: the sublime Der Himmel über Berlin (1987) - Wim Wenders and Peter Hanke's masterpiece, released in English as "Wings of Desire", is a must see if you want to get a sense of the city immediately preceding the collapse of the DDR - interestingly a few of the scenes filmed near the Wall are a stone's throw from my house, and it is fascinating how the area appeared 25 years ago.

The second film, Herr Lehmann (2003) is a lighthearted view of the bohemian slacker lifestyle in Berlin immediately before reunification of the city - it's a bit shocking how similar the community there appears to what I experienced in Melbourne during the same time period. The main character, Christian Ulmen, has gone on to be a major force in the comedy scene here in Germany. Christoph Waltz has a small nice guest appearance near the end as an understanding psychiatrist - the somewhat casual clothes and style are really spot on for the German doctors I have dealt with - a far cry from the more formal manner of doctors I am seen in the US, UK or Australia. Herr Lehrmann is the first of a trilogy by Sven Regener, which look likes like a fairly straightforward and worthwhile read.

The third German film I watched was Fatih Akin's comedy Soul Kitchen (2009). The film revolves around the efforts of a son of Greek immigrants trying to keep his restaurant the "Soul Kitchen" afloat in Hamburg after a string of unlucky events. I strongly recommend checking out other films directed by Fatih Akin, who as a child to Turkish immigrants who grew up in Hamburg, gives a very interesting perspective to what it means to be German today.

The final film worth mentioning, A Most Wanted Man (2014), is not technically a German film, but it should be. Based on the John Le Carre's book of the same name, it stars the late great Philip Hoffman, as a German spy trying to track down a possible Islamic terrorist. The film was released in English, but I saw the dubbed German version, and the dubbing was excellent, and made most of the scenes, where German's are talking to each other, much more real. The grittiness of Hamburg is used to great effect in the film.

Not so much to report about reading. I don't have the same fluency with books as I do with films (presumably because of the greater vocabulary needed), but things are slowly getting easier. I picked up for a Euro the script for Woody Allen's Manhattan, which I enjoyed extensively reading over a couple of days. This is the first script I've read, and it was quite interesting reading lots of dialogue for a change. The Izzo krimi I found difficult - he uses a lot of Marseilles slang in the original (perhaps interesting for French learners), which I think may have been difficult to translate, or at least difficult for me to understand, but in addition his writing is quite poetic and non-linear which just makes things harder to follow. For something much easier I read the forth Sookie Stackhouse vampire book. This turned out to be dreadful romantic-fantasy-porn. I am surprised how much easier it is to read now, than at the end of last year (ten months ago), but this is the last of her books I will read. The Sternwanderer by Neil Gaiman was a great easy read.

This month I have getting more into reading non-books. I have been reading the paper version of die Zeit on the weekends, without a dictionary. Depending on the story this is easier or harder: when it comes to politics or economics I am missing a lot of words; but for other stories - like the recent story about the use of English in Berlin, or some of the blogs associated with the newspaper - my understanding is at least 98%. I am now reading online stories and using the Firelang extension for Firefox to look up words as I read, and then later export these into Anki.

I am still undecided how I want to construct these cards. They could be more detailed: So include both gender/plural forms of all words being tested, and have the words tested in both L1>L2 and L2>L1 directions; or I could keep things simple and only have L2>L1 without gender/plural form (so just the L2-word plus context sentence from the text, with a L1-word answer). The more detailed cards would certainly help to make the words learnt more active, but they are a bit more work to make, and more importantly will take a fair bit longer to learn. The advantage of the other cards, is that I can much more quickly (I'd estimate 2x-3x) passively learn a lot of new vocabulary which then would allow me to readily read the die Zeit and other papers without a dictionary. The downside to this approach is that at some point I will have to learn the gender/plural forms of the words - but perhaps that would be better to do later. This decision is also affected by the fact that a lot of these words are low frequency. I think it makes sense to learn the gender/plural forms of high frequency words as you go, but for low frequency words it might be better to wait until I have to actually use them (if ever) in real life, especially if this means that in three months (as opposed to twelve months) I can be reading the newspapers I want relatively fluently.

So that too is another change this month: For the first time in 18 months I have re-started using Anki. It will be interesting to see how long I keep it up. I quite like doing Anki cards, but it is definitely a time suckage away from, say, reading.

I have been listening to news broadcasts on Deutschland Funk, which is a really great way of hearing lots of very clear German. I find the language a bit hard to follow at times - much harder than movies - but hopefully as my vocabulary improves from die Zeit things will get a bit easier.

Finally, I've also finally started writing. I am attempting to write about 100-200 words at least five times per week, which my wife corrects. It's working quite well, though my writing speed seems very slow. I have read through Essential German Grammar (1961) by Stern and Bleiler. Although the book is more than fifty years old, it does a good job of covering most of the basic grammar points. I now working through the longer German: An Essential Grammar (2006 - apparently all grammars are essential) by Bruce Donaldson. I am adding grammar points to a separate Anki deck - not because I think the grammar will become automatic this way, but because I want to be able to access the knowledge of how certain grammar points work as I am writing without having to look them up in a book.

As I have discussed in another thread, it turns out that I have surprisingly large gaps in my grammar knowledge (no declination knowledge) despite all the reading/listening I have been doing. I am sure the writing will fix things fairly quickly (3-6 months), but it might be something other's reading this blog might want to consider if they also want to apply a massive input approach to learning.


44. Sternwanderer. Neil Gaiman. 222 Seiten. Ebook. 8/10.

43. Der Vampir, der mich liebte. Charlaine Harris. 337 Seiten. Ebook. 5/10 #4 Sookie Stackhouse book. Easy read, but boring.

42. Total Cheops (La trilogie Fabio Montale #1). Jean-Claude Izzo. 250 Seiten. Ebook. Enjoyable, but a little confusing - I think my German needs to be a bit stronger to get all the nuances here. I am leaving the two other books in the trilogy until a bit later. 7/10.

41. Manhattan: Drehbuch (1981). Woody Allen. 130 Seiten. Taschenbuch. 7/10.


632. Chico & Rita (2010). Mubi. 6/10.

627-631. Lost Girl (2010). Season 1, 13 Episodes. Maxdome. 5/10.

626. Geheimnisse des Universums (2011). Season 6, Episodes 1-3. 6/10.

625. Maleficent (2014). 2€. Maxdome. 6/10.

624. Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2004). Maxdome. 7/10.

623. 8MM (1999). Maxdome. 8/10.

622. A Most Wanted Man (2014). Kino. The late great Phillip Hoffman's last role as a German spy tracking down Islamic terrorists in Hamburg. 8/10.

621. Minority Report (1999). 3€. Maxdome. 7/10.

618-620. Ugly Americans (2011). Series 1 - 14 Episodes. 6/10.

617, Underworld: Awakening (2012). Maxdome. 6/10.

616. King of New York - König zwischen Tag und Nacht (1990). Maxdome. 8/10.

615. The Time Machine (1960). 3€. Maxdome. 5/10.

606-614. Lost - Season 1 - First 14 Episodes. Couldn't finish this; have no real interest in rewatching the series. 7/10.

605. Burn After Reading (2008). Maxdome. 8/10.

604. The Tailor of Panama (2001). Maxdome. 4/10.

603. Der Himmel über Berlin (1987). Maxdome. 10/10.

602. The Final Countdown (1979). Maxdome. 3/10.

601. Der Himmel über Berlin (1987). 3€. Maxdome. 10/10.

600. Red Sonja (1985). Maxdome. 2/10.

599. Logan's Run (1976). 3€. Maxdome. 6/10.

598. TATORT - 12.10.2014: Im Schmerz geboren. 6/10.

597. Soul Kitchen (2009). Maxdome. This was the #11 film I watched, and I remember no understanding lots of dialogue; now I had no problem. 8/10

596. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). 3€. Maxdome. 5/10.

595. Earthsea (2004). Maxdome. 5/10.

594. Edge of Tomorrow (2014). 3d and final time with K. Maxdome. 8/10.

593. Dead Man (1995). Maxdome. 9/10.

592. Edge of Tomorrow (2014). 2nd time. Maxdome. 8/10.

591. Underworld: Evolution (2006). Maxdome. 7/10.

590. Edge of Tomorrow (2014). 4€. Maxdome. 8/10.

589. Blood Ties (2013). 4€. Maxdome. 7/10.

588. Duplicity (2009). 3€. Maxdome. 7/10.

587. RED (2010). Maxdome. 7/10.

586. The Thing from Another World (1951). Maxdome. 3/10.

585. Underworld (2003). Maxdome. 7/10.

584. Herr Lehmann (2003). Videoladen. 8/10.

583. Basic Instinct (1992). Maxdome. 8/10.

582. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). Maxdome. Used the 2-day rental to watch it again - a bit better on second viewing. 7/10.

581. Blood Simple (1984). Maxdome. 8/10.

580. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). 5€. Maxdome. 6/10.

579. Total Recall (2012). Maxdome. 7/10.

Edited by patrickwilken on 01 November 2014 at 12:28pm

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 Message 183 of 295
06 November 2014 at 12:09am | IP Logged 
My apologies for being out of touch this year.

Good to see the progress you are making!

What's the plan for 2015?
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Senior Member
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 184 of 295
06 November 2014 at 8:12pm | IP Logged 
Just stumbled across this extension for Firefox that allows you to read Epub format Ebooks on Firefox: Epubreader.

The advantage of this is you can then tag words you don't know using the Firelang extension and fairly seamlessly import the German, English translation, and context sentence into Anki.

I think I'll keep mostly reading with the Kindle, but it's nice to have the option to study books more intensely when needed.

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