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How do you switch from thinking in English to German?

That is the hardest part for me. I understand a lot of German words, and I am also quite familiar with the grammar, but when I want to say something in German, I keep thinking of English words, and it's just impossible to switch to German. What do i do? Has anyone tried watching movies or TV shows in German (and did it help?). Also, please recommend a good German TV show that I could watch for a while (already watched DARK), so something with more than 10 episodes. Thanks!

February 22, 2018



It takes lots of listening and immersion. My native language is Hungarian. I learned German in the schoolyard in Austria. Then my family moved to Montreal and I had to learn English and French. Again, I learned by playing with other children. At first I didn't understand anything but by three months there was a beginning of catching the sounds. Eventually something in my brain switched to the language I was hearing and I started to think in that language to make responses. I think the key was that there were no German / English / Frnech as a second (3rd, 4th) language classes for immigrants. We had to learn the way that babies learn, by listening and then speaking, before reading and writing.

For a few years after college I had a job teaching French I and German II in a high school in the U,S. with and enlightened language program that had NO reading and writing in the first year class. My first year French class was called "Ecouter et Parler" and I didn't speak any English from day 1. The German students came to me already having a good ear for the language and we started to read and write simple sentences.

In Duo I would recommend that you listen to the audio multiple times and repeat what you hear without a thought to meaning. Then add a keyboard in the language you are learning and use the microphone to dictate your impression of the audio over and over until you get a phrase or sentence that you can check for accuracy. If you imitated correctly you will get a green bar and a ding, even if you miss an accent mark. Try it!


I think it's strongly related to actually speaking in that language. Try to construct phrases to express your thoughts (and talk to people), then your brain will get used to them and "replay" them in some occasions. I switch to English often, even if my vocabulary is maybe not the best, but also in Spanish, which I was never able to speak fluently, some phrases are burnt into my mind. One of them is "¿Donde está mi teléfono?" - even if it should be "móvil", but this sentence pops into my mind every time I'm searching for my phone..... But if you listen to native speakers at the same time, you will also pick up correct phrases and patterns.


actually say "teléfono" is right, here in Argentina. It's normal that in latin america there are a lot of words from the english like "computadora" "shampoo" "corner" (in football)...


Excellent question. I am struggling with it as well. A web page mentioned that German is goal oriented in its thinking (www.thegermanz.com/zu-nach-in-most-efficient-preposition-german). That is starting to help me. In German, so much content is packed at the end of the sentence (separable prefixes, verbs in the infinitives, past participles, etc). I'm trying to train myself to think towards the goal of the sentence, to wait for the clause to complete itself (reach its goal) before immediately translating it word-by-word in my head.


I really recommend watching Babylon Berlin. Season 1 and season 2 are on netflix. i learned a lot of words and phrases just from watching that show and it is a thrilling series so you'll enjoy it


also it does help to watch shows or videos. It can help "immerse" you into the language especially if you never hear it at home

  • 1498

Yes, watching shows/movies works, I have done it with English and German (not a native in either of those obviously). In my experience somewhere around 100 hours of material (TV shows in my case) I started to get in there and after 200 and more hours I could say that I was pretty much fluent in listening. Using the language actively is a different story but of course this helps a lot. Speaking is the hardest part and requires a lot of practice but "thinking" in the language actually comes pretty easy after immersing yourself like this.

I recommend anything that you like, at first it's great to watch something that you know from your own language. For example I have seen the whole TV show Friends (around 85 hours) in 3 languages now :-)


200 hours of Netflix binge watching? I think I can handle that. Truthfully, it was helpful to hear that number. I get too impatient. Jetzt! Jetzet! Ich will jetzt verstehen!

  • 1498

Yah, I should note that I didn't stop at those 200 hours, and it's also just an estimate (although probably pretty accurate one). Now that I can understand I can actually learn advanced grammar by listening (sure I have to willingly concentrate on it) instead of studying grammar books. Happy learning.


If you like crime shows, try Tatort


Someone else said Babylon Berlin which is on Netflix, and I want to second it.

Another one is "You are Wanted", which is on Amazon's streaming service.

If you want something simpler, try watching Extr@ - it's for learners. You can find the episodes on Youtube. Make sure you search for the German version though, because they made it in a few different languages.


I haven't seen a good tv show from Germany in ages. Back in the day there was "Hinter Gittern", which I found to be quite entertaining. I was, however, only thirteen years old at that time... It's basically a primetime soap about a women's prison and there are about 400 episodes. Amazon DE carries the entire show for a little bit less than 200 €, but you might wanna check season 1.1 for 9 €, first. It can also be found on the premium section of TVnow.de (2,99€/month), but it's not listed as one of the globally available titles.

As far as thinking goes: Try thinking in German all the time. Try speaking to yourself inside your own mind.

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