Using the psychology of the brain to learn German: In what is known as the Stroop effect, people take longer to identify the colour of a word when the colour of the print contradicts the word’s actual meaning. For instance, if you need to identify the print colour of the word purple below as red, you will experience some conflict. You cannot stop yourself from reading the word „purple“ and this slows you down when you want to answer „red“. Your performance of the non-automatic task is slowed down by your brain’s insistence that you do the automatic task.
This finding about how your brain works is worth remembering when you are watching a film in German with English subtitles. You cannot stop your brain from doing simple, automatic processing and force it instead to do complex, deliberate processing. So you can’t stop yourself from reading and processing the English automatically and giving it your attention, and this detracts from your ability to listen to and interpret the spoken German.
When you turn off the subtitles on a film (or watch a film that doesn’t have any) and take a figurative step into the dark, the lights come on. You hear German words and understand phrases that you never would have expected to hear or understand.
Of course, this involves getting right out of your comfort zone. Suddenly you’ll be listening to a foreign language with no aids to help you. But remember, even if you only understand a tenth of what you hear, you are still learning something. If you listen to a short film like the one below 2 or 3 times, you will pick up more each time.
To make the film below easier to understand, there is a summary of the vital vocabulary from the film, which will help you to understand what’s going on. There are lots of other clues too, in the way people talk with each other and what happens on the screen. As you watch and listen, your brain will be teasing all those strange words and phrases apart, which is ideal practice for your auditory understanding. You’ll be learning a lot more than if you were just sitting there reading English subtitles. For you, that is way too easy and dangerously automatic!
Task 2: Read through the vocabulary relating to the film (see below the embedded video). Guess or piece together what the film is about.
Task 3: Watch the film and listen for the new vocabulary you have learned. Can you identify the words and phrases in the list? Can you hear any words or phrases not mentioned in the list?