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Learn Language Watching TV With These 5 Best German Series!
A look at some fantastic German streaming series that can help you immerse yourself in the language.
Here’s a little secret about picking up a new language: you learn through the people and stories you love. Really. Have you ever wondered why so many of us from the non-English speaking world speak English well enough to… well, write for an English-language fandom magazine, for example? We learned it by immersing ourselves in English stories and following the lives of English artists, musicians, and storytellers. And English natives can do the same!
But be honest. What do you imagine with the words “German-language television”? Is it a documentary about Oktoberfest 🍻? Does it have a picturesque backdrop of the Alps? Or are you thinking of German stereotypes (i.e., Nazis in uniforms barking orders, guys in Lederhosen playing the accordion, Arnold Schwarzenegger telling us, “it’s not a toomor”)? I get it. This is how German-speaking (or sounding) characters have been depicted on American television for decades, hasn’t it? But over the last few years, a wave of German-language series and films have been crossing the pond thanks to streaming services. Many of them are total hits! Think Netflix’s mystery-sci-fi show Dark. Or the recent award favorite All Quiet On the Western Front. So turn on the subtitles, leave those leather pants and suspenders in the closet, and enjoy some great German storytelling… and maybe even learn a bit of German along the way!
How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) (Netflix)
Could there be a more enticing title than this one? If you are into half-hour comedies with heart, you will love this series. Inspired by a true story (which Netflix turned into a documentary, as well, of course), this coming-of-age series follows a nerdy teenager and his best friend who realize they can make a lot of money selling ecstasy pills on the dark web. What starts off as a small side business to impress his ex-girlfriend quickly becomes a dangerous full-time job.
When I first watched this show, it felt so fresh and surprisingly different from what I expected. It is fast-paced, packed with humor, and the writers sure know how to establish connections between the audience and the main characters. Give it a chance, and I’m convinced you’ll be hooked!
What new vocabulary could you pick up here? You’ll hear plenty of modern German spoken by teenagers, including slang, cursing, and lots of Internet tech jargon.
If you like historical dramas and adventures set in the good old (and when I say old, I mean very old) days, then this show is for you. Think HBO’s Rome or History Channel’s Vikings. This thrilling historical drama is set in 9 A.D. and focuses on the epic battle in Teutoburg Forest between the Germanic tribes and the Romans. Prepare yourself for lots of betrayal, blood, and… barbarism. It tends to get a little cheesy at times but in the best possible way. Barbarians has two seasons so far, and I am hoping there will be another.
One of the things that excited me most about this show is the use of Latin. Yes, the Romans in this show (played mostly by an Italian cast, which is cool) are all speaking flawless Latin, and it sounds so good! It’s amazing how the actors take a dead language and make it feel so alive, as though it is still being spoken today. You have to check it out. The production value is phenomenal, the story is fun, and yes, you might even learn a thing or two!
What new vocabulary might you pick up? Aside from the Latin, you’ll hear all kinds of ancient tribal war strategies. They might not be the most useful terms to take on your next trip to Germany, but you’ll surely get some laughs from the locals.
Babylon Berlin (Netflix)
Just the music and costumes alone are enough to make this a must-watch show. Then add to that an edge-of-your-seat, Hitchcock-style crime noir, and you get one of the coolest shows of the past 5 years. Babylon Berlin takes place in… you guessed it… Berlin! It’s also set against the glamorous but chaotic late Golden Twenties, so expect a fair share of burlesque, cigarettes, and feather boas (do I really need to keep selling you on this one?).
The mystery unfolds slowly, revealing a string of much bigger conspiracies across its multiple seasons. It also has some pretty heart-stopping (and heart-wrenching 💔) moments.
A fun fact: This show is based on a series of literary thrillers written by German author Volker Kutscher, and it very accurately depicts the period in Germany leading up to World War II. If you’re both a history nerd and a lover of good crime stories, you might want to pick up the novels as well!
What new vocabulary does this series provide? It’s a detective story, so you might find yourself using investigative terms to piece together clues at the scene of the crime.
Deutschland 83/86/89 (Amazon Prime)
Deutschland 83 (the first season) was the first German TV series to air on a US network–the Sundance Channel–which is pretty cool. The story is centered on a young man living in East Germany when it was still the communist-controlled GDR. He is sent to West Germany as an undercover spy for the foreign intelligence agency of the Stasi (the Ministry of State Security in East Germany). There are three seasons. The first is set in 1983, the second in 1986, and the final season in 1989–which means the series ends during the year the Wall came down and Germany was reunited. It’s a great thriller series with so much interesting social commentary.
Spoiler alert (not really ;)): The soundtrack of the show is full of amazing 80s pop music 🎶!
What new vocabulary should you find yourself mumbling to yourself? Expect espionage and politics and all the dramatic jargon that comes with it.
Tribes of Europa (Netflix)
This series is set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Europe in which countries are fractured into microstates and where hundreds of small tribes fight for survival every day. I guess it is kind of a science-fiction version of the series Barbarians!
The three main characters are siblings who have been separated and must fight their own battles in different parts of the world. And then there is a mysterious cube found by the youngest sibling, which turns out to be… quite mysterious. Ha! You’ll have to watch to find out why!
So far, there is no word on a second season. It would be a shame if it weren’t, as the ratings are pretty high.
What new vocabulary does this show offer? You are likely to pick up some science fiction terms that might come in handy at some point in the future. 😉
One thing is certain, though: we will get lots more high-quality content from the German-speaking world. Netflix has doubled its local content budget in the German market to $571 million, so we will not likely be disappointed. For example, The Empress, a historical drama series on Netflix about Austria‘s last empress Sissi, is the most successful German Netflix original since Barbarians and was just renewed for season 2.
Have you watched any of these shows? What did you think? Are you learning a language and using TV and movies to help? You can share your thoughts on these and other non-English language shows on our Discord server! Search our TV Forums channel for discussions on these German language shows—or any of your favorites! Not a Remarkist member? Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Become a Remarkist early adopter and grab your unique @membername. Install our app from here, and be one of the earliest to collect our KRNL token while earning rates are high, including up to 650 KRNL to get you started. KRNL fuels Remarkist’s fandom economy of events and collectibles.
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