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“Liebe Mauer” and debate: Are films effective language learning aids? Posted by 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.

PLOT OUTLINE

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.

Berlin Wall

Depiction of love at the time of the Berlin Wall. Photo by abhijeetrane on flickr.com under CC BY 2.0

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!

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About the Author:Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze. I'm half English and half German. I write here because I'm passionate about my languages and my roots. I also work as a translator & group fitness instructor.


Comments:

  1. Sally:

    I agree with you – watching films gives you a real thrill when you can understand some of the dialogue. I use them in class a lot as they also provide lost of opportunity for becoming familiar with the people and culture and helps develop that PASSION for language learning.

    • Constanze:

      @Sally Thanks for your comment, Sally! I agree with you! One more thing: I think people are also more likely to remember words and phrases they understand when watching a film BECAUSE they are so excited to have understood. These might be things they have struggled to remember before hearing them used in a film.

  2. Allan Mahnke:

    My teacher and advisor, a former professor in Leipzig, was a firm supporter of the wall. He always thought it was a good idea and helpful to Germany. (He would have been 102 this year.) While I shared some of his philosophical views, this was always completely beyond my comprehension. My own attitude was only reinforced when we finally visited Berlin and saw the reality of the situation. It may be possible that, for a time, the Wall was a good idea, but I have never been able to accept it fully. The removal of the Wall, selfishly for me, meant that we were finally able with no difficulty to visit my family’s home area north of Berlin. I am sure that many others have more heart-rending stories, but this was profoundly significant for us.

    • Constanze:

      @Allan Mahnke Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Allan. You always have something interesting to contribute, and it’s lovely to read!

  3. Amy:

    I do think films in a foreign language are helpful, specially if you have a certain knowledge of the language already, as you said. I’m always looking for good german films to watch. I’ll definitely try to watch the one you recommended!
    A few films I’ve also enjoyed watching have been “Goethe!” from 2010 and “Der ganz große Traum” from 2011. They’re quite good and easy to understand. x

    • Constanze:

      @Amy Hi Amy! Thanks for your comment! Let me know here what you think of the film when you watch it – either from an educational point of view or from an enjoyment point of view! Conni x