“Liebe Mauer” and debate: Are films effective language learning aids? Posted by Constanze on Nov 14, 2014 in Current Events, History, Language, Television
Hallo! Wie geht’s? 🙂
Inspired by the recent events in Berlin, I’d like to recommend a German film I watched a while back. It is called Liebe Mauer.
Liebe Mauer (“Beloved Wall” in English) is set in Berlin in 1989, shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The story is about a woman called Franzi who moves to West Berlin to study. Her flat is on the top floor of a building right on the Grenze (border) of East and West Berlin – the only place she can afford. From her window she can see into the Wachturm (watchtower) where Sascha, an East German border guard is on duty.
Sascha has to complete 3 years’ duty for the Nationale Volksarmee (National People’s Army – the name for the armed forces of the DDR) in order to land a place studying Medizin (medicine) at university.
Sascha and Franzi meet one day and fall for one another, but since Sascha is a border guard and they live on opposite sides of the Mauer (wall) their relationship is difficult and risky. They have to find unconventional ways of communicating and seeing each other.
For instance: Under the rules at the time, East Germans were not permitted to leave the East, but West Germans could visit the East under strict border control. Franzi visits East Berlin regularly to meet Sascha, but there is a curfew, so she cannot stay overnight. To counteract this, Franzi swaps identities for one night with one of Sascha’s East German friends, Uschi, so she can stay with Sascha overnight in East Berlin. Meanwhile, Uschi stays in West Berlin, posing as Franzi.
But the relationship between Franzi and Sascha is eventually uncovered. Both the Stasi and the CIA are not happy about a West German woman and an East German border guard planning secret meetings, and they see it as the start of a revolt. So they try to sabotage it, telling Franzi and Sascha that they must spy on each other and report back to the authorities, and that if they don’t they will face imprisonment.
I won’t say any more, otherwise I’ll spoil the ending! But it’s a lovely film which I wanted to recommend for anyone interested in watching German films. Here are a few extra notes to help you if you want to watch this film.
NOTES FOR LEARNING
+ The title of the film- Liebe Mauer – is a play on words. It can mean ‘Dear Wall’ (like the start of a letter), ‘Beloved Wall’ (showing affection), and individually, the two words of the title mean ‘love’ and ‘wall’ – which are essentially what the film is about.
+ In terms of genre, this film is more of a romantic comedy than a historical drama about the Berlin Wall. You won’t come away with a wealth of information and facts. But it is extremely enjoyable to watch, and it gives you a sense of how the Wall affected people’s personal lives at the time.
+ I recommend turning on the German subtitles when you watch it, as then you have a visual aid to go along with the audio. Plus, there may be things you don’t understand when you hear them, but recognise when you read them (or vice versa), so you’ll have a better overall understanding of the dialogue. Besides that, the Berlin accent can be tricky (well, it was for me)!!
+ There is debate over how effective foreign language films are to improving language skills. Some say it is too passive an activity to learn from. Personally, I think it is dependent on how advanced you are in your language. Certainly if you are a beginner then you are unlikely to learn much from watching a film (aside from getting a feel of how the language sounds). However, if you are more advanced then it can be a real confidence boost to watch a foreign language film and find yourself understanding and recognising words and phrases. It’s not active learning, but to some degree it’s effective as a way of checking your progress. Plus, it’s fun!
If you’re learning German, do you find watching German films helpful? Why/why not? Do you think watching foreign language films improves language ability, or that it’s too passive?
And would you watch Liebe Mauer? Have you watched it?
I’ll leave you with the trailer! Tschüss!