What's going on in ... ? - German for beginners in 11 episodes

The Langugae

From the beginning only actors who had no particular pronunciation problems, who are thus easily comprehensible to a native speaker, were sought for speaking roles.

Normal speech patterns were retained: the actors speak at their natural speed and they do not use an artificial stage speech, but rather high German with a touch of the local accent.

In order to achieve a more authentic effect, we corrected the screenplay in many instances when actors preferred their own dialogue variations. It seemed stilted to Ms Hinz, for instance, to refer to Ulli as "Herr Ogiewa" (1st episode). She would never really address him with the formal personal pronoun "Sie" – (Mr). So we simply changed the screenplay and replaced "Herr Ogiewa" with "Ulli". The artificiality of the scene vanished at once and Ms Hinz was satisfied.
Another example: at the Federal Employment Office (1st episode) a strikingly groomed person asks Robert Tomasek for a light. Peter Krenz, the actor playing the character seeking a job, actually supposed to ask "Excuse me, could you perhaps give me a light?" This rather overly formal expression would not have been appropriate as it does not correspond to the type of language used by the social class of the actor, which is the same as the character he plays. In answer to the question how he would act in the corresponding situation, Peter put a cigarette between his lips and glancing to the side laconically uttered "light?" The scene was correspondingly filmed.

We attempted to harmonise authenticity with the didactic purpose. The series was credible to native speakers.

The two professional speakers, Eileen and Mike, offer a linguistic corrective, providing varying repetitions of the language material.

The Names

The names help to orient oneself among the confusing variety of people in the apartment building.

All those people mentioned by name have an important function. The more consciously one learns the names from the very beginning, the easier it becomes to interpret the signs in the series. The recognition of names requires the ability to listen closely and imitate the foreign phonetics. The ability is trained by learners trying to accurately recognize the articulation of the names. It is easier to get involved with the protagonists when the names are learned.

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