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Unlock Your German Potential with These Top Netflix Shows

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Do you want to speak good German?

You’ve got to live it.

As long as you stick to your self-study books and your classes, you’ll make consistent progress—at a snail’s pace. You need to really fuel your German learning with something else.

You need immersion. Basically, the more German you see and hear throughout the day, the more your mind is going to stay in German-acquisition mode and keep making new connections.

And when you’re constantly seeing new German around you, you have limitless opportunities to review what you covered during your actual study time.

One of the best ways to keep the German faucet flowing is by getting really sucked into a great movie or TV show. And since we’re writing this article in 2019, the biggest word in television is Netflix.

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Table of Contents

  1. Is Netflix in German Right for You?
  2. Ten Great Shows on German Netflix
  3. The Magic of Dubbing
  4. Taking Immersion to the Next Level with Audio Descriptions
  5. Conclusion


1. Is Netflix in German Right for You?

Best Ways to Learn

Before we start out with our list of German Netflix shows for language-learners, it’s good to take a quick reality check.

If you’re an absolute beginner in German, it may not make a ton of sense for you to spend lots of time watching German Netflix content. It’s absolutely something that you should do, and the sooner the better, but it’s not super motivating to sit through many hours of things you don’t understand.

Once you have a core vocabulary under your belt, along with the rudiments of German grammar, you’ll be good to go. You’ll notice words you know all the time, and that will make you want to keep watching for more.

And hey, if you can’t wait to get to the native content, all the more power to you. You’re not hurting yourself at all by either waiting or starting early. In fact, you’re doing the best thing for your language learning!

So, what German shows are on Netflix and which ones are worth your time as a language-learner?


2. Ten Great Shows on German Netflix

Genres

Yeah, in this article we’ll be talking German Netflix shows, not movies. Why’s that?

Well, when it comes to language-learning, shows are simply better than movies when it comes to really getting yourself immersed in the target language.

In a two-hour movie, there’s probably a solid thirty minutes of explosions, quiet reflection, or meaningful looks. And while those are certainly wonderful things to enjoy, they don’t have much German in them.

A show, on the other hand, will keep things moving along faster in its shorter runtime. That means more dialogue and more German for you to listen to. You’ll also get the benefit of hearing the same actors over multiple episodes, giving you more time to get used to somebody’s southern drawl or northern twang.

That said, here are our picks for the best German Netflix shows to learn German with!

1- Dark

When it comes to German Netflix, Dark has gotta be at the top of the list. Dark is so popular that it’s reaching audiences worldwide, even in markets like the USA where people strongly prefer to watch domestic TV. The second highly-awaited season arrived in summer 2019.

This was the very first Netflix original series produced in Germany, and by all accounts they knocked it out of the park. It’s about the mysteries that unfold in a small town when two children disappear without a trace. Aside from its excellent storytelling, it’s filmed with a minimalist and, well, dark aesthetic that sets it apart from lighter Netflix fare.

2- Tempel

Mark Tempel is an ex-fighter now working as a caregiver for the elderly. It’s hard to make ends meet, and he’s constantly on the verge of losing his home. If you were stuck in that situation, would you take the leap of faith to get back into the old game?

When organized crime starts calling, Mark has no choice. This six-episode German Netflix series was originally broadcast on Germany’s highly regarded ZDF television station, and a project to create an American version is already in the works. But why wait for the English version when you can improve your German right now?

3- Babylon Berlin

Weimar-era Germany is a relatively popular setting for some classic films, though in recent years there hasn’t been as much interest in that time period. But the German Netflix Babylon Berlin is a fabulous noir return to that unstable yet massively influential time in German history. We follow a police detective and a young typist new to the force as they investigate shadowy goings-on in 1929 Berlin.

For language learners, this is an excellent way to ease yourself into the German terms for some of the most important political events of the early twentieth century. That sort of history is what every German learns in school, but might not come as easily to you without an engaging story like this.

4- Türkisch für Anfänger

No, this isn’t a language program that I slipped into your recommendations. It’s an award-winning comedy-drama that remains well-loved in Germany and abroad, more than ten years after its final broadcast. It’s told from the perspective of a teenage girl whose mother suddenly falls for and marries a man of German descent, who himself has two children. As the families move in together, they must learn to live with people quite different from themselves.

It has all the elements you’d expect in this sort of sitcom: arguments, travel, mysterious new characters, and a lot of teen romance. Programs like this are perfectly ideal for getting used to the fast-paced talking style of young people, and over fifty-two episodes, you’ll get a ton of exposure to the way people describe everyday things. This is one of the best German Netflix series for those looking for a light, entertaining way to learn German with Netflix.

5- Mord mit Aussicht

In this satirical crime drama, we see a reversal of the fish-out-of-water scenario as investigator Sophie Haas from Cologne is sent to the middle-of-nowhere town of Hengasch, way out in the mountains. At first, it seems like her career aspirations are sunk—but there’s more lurking in the hills than she expected.

This is one of the most successful shows in German TV history, and over its 39-episode run, you too will be captivated by the wild cast of characters and the mostly idyllic setting. Since the setting is so small, language learners get to enjoy the repeated references to the same places and things, allowing for natural repetition of vocabulary without the slightest hint of boredom.

6- Dogs of Berlin

What can I say? Berlin is such a cultural locus for Germany that it’s impossible to avoid multiple Berlin-oriented shows here. After the murder of a superstar German-Turkish football player, two detectives discover that the list of suspects is as long as the streets of the city itself.

As the investigation goes further, the two cops learn that there may be much more at stake than just this case—failure to bring the killer to justice could set the city ablaze. As a German Netflix TV series police drama, this show will expose you to all the vocabulary and language usage that comes with official investigations, in addition to the slang and more…threatening phrases used by the underworld.

7- Skylines

Are you interested in the music business? Then Skylines is the right series for you. This Netflix original series tells the story of a fictional German hip hop record label called “Skylines Records” and its connections to the criminal underworld of Frankfurt am Main.

This series gives a good insight into the German hip hop culture, which is booming right now. The main character is based on a living artist Haftbefehl who’s Frankfurt anthem 069 is used as the title song of the series. The series is kept as authentic as possible, which is why all of the songs used in the series were written by real musicians. It’s also why there are many characters portrayed by people well known to the German rap audience.

Even though the series was cancelled by Netflix just after its first season, it was well received by critics and viewers.

8- Morgen hör ich auf

The parallels between this series and the American show Breaking Bad are tough to ignore. A family father turns to career-related crime in order to pay off debts and ends up way in over his head. And yet this series holds its own thanks to a much more upbeat style and premise.

In five episodes, we see how Jochen Lehmann goes from despairing at his account balance, to side-eyeing the industrial printers he works with, to successfully counterfeiting fifty-Euro notes, to attracting the attention of the criminal underworld…and dealing with what comes next, one step at a time. Although the level of violence might be higher than you expect in an easy German Netflix series that’s fundamentally comedic, it’s mostly slapstick stuff that’s played for laughs.

9- Ku’damm 56

The very beginning of the German economic wonder of the 1950s coincided with a massive explosion in popular culture and opportunities specifically aimed at teenagers. And so when three daughters are all at marriageable age and still living with their mother, there’s the potential for a massive conflict between generations. Why should they follow the rules of their parents when they can make a new path for themselves?

This miniseries is relatively unknown in the English-speaking world, but it became so popular that in 2018 it was renewed as Ku’damm 59 (though that one isn’t on Netflix yet). Its name is sort of an inside reference—the Kurfürstendamm is arguably the most famous avenue in Berlin, though because not many people know the local contraction of Ku’damm, it was marketed in the rest of Europe as “Berlin 56.”

10- Bad Banks

Rounding out the list, we have another German Netflix thriller that has kept viewers glued to their screens for six seasons. In particular, it’s been lauded for its realistic and suspenseful writing that avoids cliches and subverts the expectations of even hardcore thriller devotees.

When you think of banking and white-collar corporations, you probably don’t think there’s much excitement there. They’re strict and often limit possibilities for women in particular. But as a woman with ambitions, Jana has got to make hard choices and put everything at risk. If you were in a position to leak secrets about the country’s most powerful financiers, would you do it?


3. The Magic of Dubbing

Improve Pronunciation

Different countries around the world have different preferences for watching foreign media. Some prefer voice artists, some prefer subtitles, and some prefer a single voice reading out the script. Clearly, some of these are better for learners than others.

Lucky for you, Germany is actually famous for its love of dubbed films and series, and by extension, they’re famous for their dubbing quality as well.

So pretty much every single one of the German Netflix Originals, plus a ton of kids’ shows, have German audio tracks available. Even if they were originally just meant for the English-speaking market!

Now, one thing to consider here is that dubs tend to be spoken faster than the original audio. That makes plenty of sense when you think about it—just look at how long some of those German words get, and you’ll understand!

But on the other hand, dubs may actually be easier to understand for two reasons.

First, the audio tracks were obviously recorded in perfect studio conditions, so you won’t have to deal with actors facing away from the mic or weird background noise disrupting your listening.

Second, the fact that the script was originally written for another audience means that it sort of “internationalizes” in translation. Too-specific cultural references get smoothed over, and the storyline itself is likely to be easier to follow if it came from your native culture to begin with.

There’s one more thing, though, that can go way beyond dubbing for those who want to learn German on Netflix.


4. Taking Immersion to the Next Level with Audio Descriptions

Audio descriptions are the things you always see on the Netflix menu when you open up the audio and subtitles menu. Chances are, you’ve never felt the need to turn them on. But here’s why you should.

An audio description is a separate voice track that fills in the silence between dialogue lines by describing what’s going on in the scene. This is amazing if you’re vision-impaired.

And if you’re not, it’s still extremely useful for learning. Suddenly there are no moments of dead air. You’re always getting a perfectly natural German description of what’s going on in the scene.

This also exposes you to all the tiny, specific verbs and nouns that you might not otherwise get exposed to very much. “She zips up her jacket” is a really common thing to see on TV, but not something you hear people outright say too often.

By the way, the German audio description track is only available for certain things (more than 100 shows and movies at the time of writing), and only appears if your Netflix interface language is set to German. Don’t worry if you’re on a shared account—other profiles won’t be affected when you use Netflix auf Deutsch.


5. Conclusion

When you study German or any other foreign language, it’s a question of time.

The formal linguistics field is called language acquisition for a reason—it’s something that happens to you over time, not all at once. It’s never terribly necessary to spend an enormous amount of effort on one particular aspect.

This is especially true with German, which shares enough roots with English that you can relatively quickly reach a point where simply watching and listening to German is enough for you to acquire it pretty well.

Balance your German watching time with your German studying time, and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying these and other good German Netflix series without even noticing what language they’re in.

We hope you enjoyed our German Netflix series list and that you’re ready to start watching your favorite! You should also have a better idea of how to watch German Netflix to learn the language more effectively.

Before you go, let us know in the comments which of these top German Netflix shows you want to watch first, or if we missed any good ones. We look forward to hearing from you!

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