Linguistic Keys: Unlocking Today’s German World.

Last time we looked at how language skills can help us understand the past by giving us access to German-language philosophers, sports stars and figures from music history. This time, we’ll use our linguistic keyring to open up the German world of today. But before we get going, it is worth looking at one difference between unlocking the past and unlocking the present.

Using German to access the past involves engaging with source material of some kind: things like books, videos and music. Ultimately, these are materials that are stored in some kind of archive or library, whether that be the Hamburg University Library, the State Library of Victoria, YouTube or Spotify.

Of course, we can access materials from the present in these places too. But what makes content from the present so exciting is that its creators and audience are here with us now. This means we don’t have to be passive receivers or consumers of culture. Instead, if we choose, we can become active participants in a real-life exchange with other people — a truly rewarding experience. Let’s keep this in mind as we take a look at how German can unlock otherwise inaccessible parts of today’s world.

Okay, it’s time to take one of those shiny modern keys from the linguistic keyring and see what we can open up.


Diving into today’s online German-speaking world

 When cinema was invented, movie makers sprang up all over the world. It was the same with TV. It comes as no surprise then, that with today’s media, it’s exactly the same. There are YouTubers all over Austria, Germany and Switzerland (the number of YouTubers from Lichtenstein and South Tyrol seems a little more limited). German language skills allow you to unlock a whole new world of online content. If you’re trying to limit how much time you spend online, this could sound like a disaster. But if not, welcome to the goldmine! Each culture has its own take on entertainment so if you love experiencing other cultures, this is one way to do it.

We’re going straight to YouTube to check out two popular creators. First up, Malwanne. You don’t need a high level of German to enjoy her channel. She’s a road tester of products, most of which have something to do with food. I know—you don’t want to spend your time watching ads. But that’s not all she does; she also makes videos where she cooks random dishes from 50s packet puddings to unusual seafood pizzas, just to see how they taste. As you’d expect, the whole thing is quite comedic. The only subtitles available are German and they are auto-generated—in other words, totally unreliable—so you’ll need your linguistic keyring.

Another interesting YouTube channel is ‘psychologeek,’ an entertaining and accessible channel on all things psychology, presented by psychologist Pia Kabitzsch. She has videos on a seriously wide range of topics; social psychology, learning disabilities, mental health and relationships, all of which are covered in relatively short, snappy videos, with plenty of useful animation. Sure, you could probably find an equivalent channel in English but it is useful to get a different cultural perspective on psychology. Again, German language skills are essential if you want to enjoy Pia’s channel.

One of the best aspects of watching German-language YouTube videos, is that you also have the option of engaging with each channel’s community. This will require you to practice your German skills, including writing and possible speaking, which improves them in the process.


Arts & Entertainment: German style

 As we saw last time, German language skills will open up a world of cinema, music, art and sport. With movies and TV, if you’re following the actual words being spoken and not the translation, you can can get a stronger appreciation for the quality of acting on display (for better or worse). This creates an extra layer of enjoyment and immersion. And there’s a lot to choose from online. The Austrian-German Netflix series Freud, along with the German series Dark and Babylon Berlin showcase the talents of top writers, directors and of course, actors from across the Sprachraum.

 YouTube also has German-language interviews given by artists such as Apparat, who created the theme music for Dark. These provide insights into his approach to production and writing that aren’t necessarily available elsewhere. Turning to the fine arts, acclaimed figurative painter Jonas Burgert gives both German and English interviews. Art lovers who speak both languages will gain a far greater insight into how he creates his colourful works.

Fußball fans will find endless German-language interviews with players such as Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer. Tennis junkies can watch interviews with Angie Kerber and Dominic Thiem, while Formula 1 fans can enjoy hearing Toto Wolff, Sebastien Vettel and son of Michael, Mick Schumacher speak their minds in their native German.


Getting involved

 Your linguistic keyring allows you to access today’s German-speaking world. Of course, in reality, the world of German speakers overlaps and interacts with our own. The online environment allows us to communicate instantly with German speakers who share our passions, such as art, music, cinema and sport. Speaking German with them gives us a deeper level of access to their perspectives but also allows us to share ours. Our linguistic keyring also helps us to better understand the world we currently inhabit, one that is being shaped and reshaped both locally and across borders by people speaking a wide range of languages.

So that’s it for the present. Next, we’ll choose the strangest and most advanced keys on our linguistic