5 television shows to learn German

After warming up with our lists of five movies and five songs to learn German, it’s time to move on to the pinnacle of technology and culture: German television.

If things are moving too fast for you and you prefer to peruse our top 5 list of Moldovan radio broadcasts, we completely understand.

For those brave souls still reading, watching TV series in German will not only help you improve your listening skills, but you will also begin to recognize the huge array of accents, dialects and registers the German language has to offer. Not to mention how many new vocabulary words you will add to your lexicon. However, bear in mind that TV shows should be used as additional learning material and are not a replacement for exercise or social interaction.

Without further ado, here are 5 German TV shows that will inspire you to gulp that beer down:

1) Babylon Berlin (2017 -)

We’ll start with the critically acclaimed German period drama Babylon Berlin, created by screenwriters Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries and Henk Handloegten. Based on the best-selling novels by Volker Kutscher, the series follows detective Gereon Rath, who is transferred from Cologne to Berlin in 1929 to solve a criminal case focusing on a prostitution ring run by the Berlin mafia. Viewers can emotionally experience life during the Weimar Republic (the period after World War I until the rise of Nazi Germany), the epicenter of political and social change in the decadent Roaring Twenties.

Did you know? Babylon Berlin is the most expensive TV series filmed in Germany, with a price tag of over $40 million. That’s a lot of Deutschmarks.

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2) Ladykracher (2002 – 2013)

Broadcast between 2002 and 2013, the German sketch comedy show Ladykracher is not to be missed out. Starring Canadian-German comedian Anke Engelke (1965-), Ladykracher features sketches that shed light on the everyday life of a 21st-century woman, often featuring Engelke playing different characters.

Engelke is not only a successful comic, but she is also a TV presenter and has hosted several European Film Prize awards ceremonies as well as the Eurovision Song Contest.

Did you know? Anke Engelke provides the German voice of Marge in the German version of the TV series The Simpsons.

3) Unterwegs nach Atlantis, Ota Hofman (1982)

Unterwegs nach Atlantis (“The path to Atlantis”) is a fictional TV series created by Ota Hofman (1928-1989) and was an Austrian-German-Swiss-Czechoslovakian production intended for a teenage audience. The plot involves two teenagers from different centuries who go on time travel adventures together. You know, just teen stuff.

The series was inspired by the popular novels written by German actress and author Johanna von Koczian (1933-): Abenteuer in der Vollmondnacht (1977) and Der geheimnisvolle Graf (1979).

Did you know? During the shooting of the series, some of the actors only spoke Czech, and dialogue was later dubbed into German.

4) Tatort (1970 -)

At 8:15 pm on Sunday evenings in Germany, households tune in to the well-known jingle of the iconic TV series Tatort (literally translated as “Crime scene”). The show has been running continuously on German TV screens for over 50 years and is the longest-running TV show in Germany. But unlike other TV crime shows, its unique approach lies in the fact that the story doesn’t focus on one police team, but moves around German Länders, as well as other German-speaking countries, namely Switzerland and Austria. Each city has a set of Kommissare (investigators) that work together to solve a crime within a 90-minute episode.

When it comes to learning German, Tatort is very much a cultural phenomenon, as it offers viewers the opportunity to acquaint themselves with regional differences throughout German-speaking countries. As a matter of fact, even native speakers will occasionally have trouble grasping bits of dialogue here and there.

Did you know? There are more than 1,120 episodes to date – good luck binge-watching those.

5) Nesthäkchen (1983)

First aired in 1983, the German television series Nesthäkchen was directed by Gero Erhardt (1943-2021), and starred actor Christian Wolff (born 1938). Nesthäkchen revolves around a young girl growing up in a conservative doctor’s family in Berlin during the Wilhelmine Era. Something we can probably all relate to.

The films are based on the early volumes in a series of books called Nesthäkchen (1913-1925) by the Jewish author Else Ury (1877-1943), who was eventually murdered in Auschwitz.

Did you know? The term Nesthäkchen translates as “baby of the family”. This took a weird, dark turn, but at least you know how to say Nesthäkchen now.

Bonus: Derrick (1974 – 1998)

We couldn’t end this list without highlighting the beloved and infamous inspector Derrick

The cult series follows Chief Inspector Stephan Derrick and his partner Harry Klein in the city of Munich, endeavoring to solve cases. If you were expecting high-speed car chases or shoot-outs, you will be disappointed, as Derrick’s most valuable asset is his reasoning. The series focuses on the psychological study of murderers. Derrick’s trademark owlish glasses are often remembered from the show.

Did you know? 24 years and 281 episodes later, Inspector Derrick found 282 culprits, saw 344 corpses and only got out his gun 10 times.

If your German needs a refresh, you’ve come to the right place. Try our online German course Wunderbla today: 15 minutes every day with long-term results guaranteed. 

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