How German culture can improve your German
Linguistic experts have for several years now emphasised that the study of the cultural contexts of a language are not peripheral topics that can be considered as a supporting sideshow to the main event of language learning. Recent research emphasises the centrality of studying and understanding a culture when learning a language: language students cannot truly master their target language until they have also mastered the cultural contexts in which this language occurs. So how can the study of German culture enhance, deepen and complete your understanding of the German language?
On a basic level German culture can add interest to your study. It can be fascinating to learn about German literature, architecture, food, television or film. More than this, however, many cultural forms allow you to see first-hand the language in action. You will understand not just what to say but in which context, manner and timing. This is something you can, of course, gain by spending time in Germany but often this option is only available to us for a limited time. If you want to integrate German cultural appreciation with your German language study here are some starting points.
Use anything to hand
Forget your textbook for a minute and open your eyes to the German language world around you. Go on, be eclectic: the more different source materials you use the better understanding you will gain.
German film was crucially important in the Weimar Republic in the development of film. Classics such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Robert Wiene’s Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari and F.W Murnau’s Nosfeartu are classics but contemporary German film still delights critics and audiences alike. Try Lola Rennt for its frenetic pace or the more measured pace of New German Cinema directors such as Schlöndorff, Herzog, Wenders, and Fassbinder.
Austro-German composers read like a Who’s Who of classical music with Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Haydn, Schubert, Händel, Schumann, Liszt, Johann Strauss II, Bruckner, Mahler, Telemann, Richard Strauss, Schoenberg, Orff, and Stockhausen. In a different vein German electronic music and Krautrock have garnered cult followings across the globe.
From fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm to modernist masterpieces by Kafka and Brecht German literature offers the student of language many points of entry. Why not try reading Thomas Mann’s novella Der Tod in Venedig or some of Rilke’s haunting poetry?
Immerse yourself in German culture
It does not have to be highbrow culture the more German cultural artefacts you explore the better you will understand the language. So get exploring. Your cultural immersion will help you experience how German language is written and spoken and deepen your appreciation of the subtleties of the language. Whether you are taking one of the intensive German courses London offers, or one of the many evening German lessons London schools provide, you can immerse yourself in German culture as if you were in Berlin from the comfort of your own armchair. Glückliche Lernen!