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Phew! The month of foreign language media only has ended. This past week was the most difficult because I found myself tempted by more English media than usual.

During my last hours of the challenge, I snacked on a movie in Hebrew and Arabic called The Attack, and before bed I read some of a children’s novel called Der Verzauberte Garten. For dessert, as I always do before going to sleep, I practiced some language flashcards.

Although the challenge is technically finished as of now, I’ll be happy to continue some of these habits. The German novel isn’t going to read itself, right? As I mentioned before, I’m starting a less intensive challenge in which I watch all the foreign films made available to me by my library. I’m still on A. (I’m not sure yet whether I’ll write about it here.) Of course, there’s also the Korean TV drama I’ve been watching forever.

Many activities left over from the challenge remained the same today. I did a short French lesson in the morning, watched Scrubs, and worked on The Novel. The only difference is I’m doing most of this in English. It feels better on my brain.

On to the post-challenge Q&A!

bannerbaseWas it ever surreal experiencing things in another language? Was it surreal experiencing things in English when the challenge was over?

For both questions, Yes and No.

Subtitles were a big help during the challenge, but sometimes I felt I didn’t need them. Since I’ve been getting to know Korean through television shows, I often forget I need to look at the subtitles at all. Especially for very simple dialogue, such as “Thank you” and “That’s right.” In a well-made drama, get so acquainted with the characters that dialogue seems unimportant. When watching a movie in Korean, however, I strained more to see the dialogue because I didn’t know the plot as well. One time, though, I didn’t need the subtitles when someone said, “감사합니다.” Needless to say, I felt smart.

It was more surreal watching The Attack because I currently know no words in Hebrew or Arabic (or Hindi, for the record). When a character said a simple “Yes,” it confounded me!

Basically, watching anything in another language sounds a lot like the following video. You know what they’re saying probably makes sense in some form, and eventually you forget about the words because you’ve been sucked into the drama that is human existence.

Since the challenge ended, I’ve had moments of awe when I realize, “You mean I can read this without straining to remember vocab?!”

I’d been listening to Scrubs in German all month, so this morning was a little weird. There was a moment in an episode today (auf Englisch) where JD shouted, “That’s my pudding, Omar!” in Turkish for the sake of the joke. I had to stop my DVD and ponder over my breakfast. “He spoke another language, right? I’m not having a language hangover, right?”

Did you ever find yourself thinking in another language?

A few times, yes.

Sometimes, when I was really tired, my brain babbled French sounds.

For a week or so, my thoughts began with German sentences. Some days, I expected to speak this language accidentally to a poor, unsuspecting person. To my dismay, it never happened. I’d like to continue confusing my inner monologue, though, so I’m going to continue taking in more German.

The day after I wrote about Wings of Desire, I had “Als das Kind Kind war…” in my head. Every time I looked at a children’s book, Bruno Ganz decided to follow me everywhere.

Did you get tired of any particular language or form of media?

I got really tired of French movies and serious movies, particularly the serious French movies. I don’t usually watch a lot of films, so maybe I simply burnt out on them. My preference tends to lean toward action and comedy anyway.

What did you learn from this challenge?

English is difficult to ignore. Even if you live in a country where people don’t commonly speak it, it could still pop up. It could be quoted for fun in a TV show, it could be used for advertisements, American movies may be available anywhere, and then there’s the internet. English is rampant on the internet.

Why did you cheat a little?

I’m addicted to Starcraft! *breaks down crying*

Did you learn anything specific about a culture?

Antardwand was perhaps the most eye-opening culturally. It’s about people who are forced into a marriage neither one desires, which, according to internet research on the film, may still happen in some parts of rural India. This was by far the saddest film I saw this whole challenge and I never want to see it again. On the plus side, it shows the visual beauty of India and its people much better than any Bollywood film I’ve ever seen.

Which were the best films of this challenge?

Here’s a list of all the movies I watched (alphabetical order) along with my picky 1-4 star rating (4 being supurb, 3 being good, 2 being meh, and 1 meaning I couldn’t even finish it) and the languages they were in:

**** Adam’s Apples (Adams Æbler) – Danish
*** Alias Betty – French
*** Amador – Spanish
** Amarcord – Italian
**** Amores Perros – Spanish
*** Amour – French
*** Antardwand – Hindi
* Apna Sapna Money Money – Hindi
*** Après Vous – French
*** The Assailant (Besouro) – Brazilian Portuguese
*** The Assault – French
*** The Attack – Hebrew and Arabic
** Augustine – French
*** The Host – Korean
**** Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) – German

Apologies to the Fellini fans. I just wasn’t into it.

You’ll notice most of the above are in European languages. (Only 5/15 of these movies weren’t from Europe.) I took every foreign film available at one of my libraries. Films in other languages may have been checked out at the time. It all depended on what was there the day I visited the library as well as where I was in the alphabet. (Right now, I’m on Au. Oy vey.)

These are the TV shows I made some good headway in (alphabetical order and languages, no ratings):

Attack on Titan – Japanese
Big – Korean
Sailor Moon – Japanese
Scrubs – German dub

Now let me tell you something about my absolute favorite movies, Wings of Desire, Après Vous, and Adams Æbler. They have good balance between comedy, drama and general intrigue.

Everyone should see Après Vous for the lobster scene alone. Do it for the lobster! This movie had such wonderful situational and physical comedy that subtitles aren’t even needed.

Wings of Desire, as I wrote before, is part of me. You should take this film every ten years or so. Like medicine.

I neglected to write about Adams Æbler in earlier posts because I was, for the longest time, on the verge of a long rant. I. Loved. This. Movie. It looks like a situational comedy, and it kind of is; a neo-Nazi must serve parole at a parish only to join a priest in denial, a vengeful Middle Eastern, and an alcoholic klepto in shenanigans as violent as they are Biblical. This isn’t your American, feel-good Christian movie. This has lots of swearing, impure events, guns, and violence. It’s also one of the best representations on the difficulties and rewards of Christian love that now all my feels are returning and I need to stop writing about it. If you practice any sort of monotheistic religion, simply believe in God, or don’t believe in God at all, you’ll enjoy this movie. It’s hilarious, shocking, and thought-provoking. Just watch it.

What did you enjoy most in this challenge?

Big, a Korean television drama I was going to watch with or without this challenge, has been the most enjoyable. As of today, I’m only 75% of the way through it because I keep forgetting how intense these shows are. A lot of K-dramas I’ve encountered pack an entire series in a single season.

I highly recommend this show, even to people who aren’t accustomed to K-drama. It’s on Viki.com and Hulu.com. The Gong Yoo’s (male lead) acting has gotten so much better than I last saw him in Coffee Prince, and Lee Min Jung (female lead) is my new darling. Each of these actors are able to show and excellent mix of comedy and drama.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed packing on more German vocabulary. I can’t burn out on this language as easily as French. It’s really, really cool encountering this vocab in real life situations. The same day I added the word “überhaupt” to my flashcards for Der Verzuberte Garten, I found it in an online comment. The same day!

Much of my other vocab was found in Wings of Desire. I don’t know what’s more adorable than a child saying, “Ich glaub, er ist besoffen.” (I think he’s drunk.) “Drunk” was the word I’d learned. Hooray!

What did you dislike most in this challenge?

I’m a little burnt out on movies. Sooooo many movies.

I’m also disappointed at how little material I read in other languages. Next time, I’ll do better.

Also, never combine wine with Doritos. Don’t.

Did your own foreign language skills improve?

I want to believe my French is improving. (It’s not.)

My German listening improved! My speaking confidence, however, is still terrible. Speaking happens better with practice, not so much from watching movies.

What did you read?

Well, I didn’t get to read as much foreign language as I wanted. Most of the time, I was reading my novel. (Editing’s a bitch.) Books made for German learners was a treat because I have the basics down. It was good for my ego.

Otherwise, I splurged on lanuage learning blogs (listed as an exception in the intro post). Sooooooo many blogs. I’m tired of them.

While at work one day, I made a fantastic discovery.

Mr. Wuffles!Mr. Wuffles is a children’s picture book about a bored cat who finds intruders in his house. Most of the dialogue is in an unknown language. If you can read this book without thinking, “WTF? This is so stupid,” then I think you would enjoy doing your own version of this challenge.

What music did you hear?

Oh, right. Music. Music was the least-stressful part of the challenge because I have plenty of it. I’m also more accustomed to hearing a great variety. (Your author has been known to rock out to European Renaissance music in Latin.) After ranting about not finding anything hip in week 2, I came across a compilation of Italian pop/rock and a publication of lullabies from around the world. Those were the best finds.

Here a good representation of what I’ve heard and liked overall. (I had to squeeze Balkan Beat Box in here somehow!)

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/zJCBgUSs27w?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

You wrote that you wanted to see a change in how you perceived the world. Did this come true?

After watching all the drama movies lifted above, everything seems depressing. On the plus side, my own life seems happier in comparison.

One feature of any foreign drama that I noticed was silence. Silence has much more meaning when the best social cues available to you are visual, not spoken. When there were silent moments in my own life, the mundaneness was highlighted and I paused to find meaning. There was no meaning. I was, perhaps, only having a Truman Show moment.

Will you do this challenge again sometime?


I hope to do this again when I’m no longer living with my family. Their own television habits didn’t stop on account of me, and at times it was frustrating to hear English when I didn’t want to.

I could see doing this for shorter spurts, as well, like one or two weeks. Perhaps when I need to get a head start on editing. I loved the brain scrub this challenge gave me.

Do you recommend this challenge to others?

I do recommend this challenge if you…

  • are learning one or two languages and want to make some improvement
  • can’t decide which language to learn and want to sample everything
  • think your life/country is boring and want to experience something different
  • have been told you need to be more sensitive to other cultures
  • are working on a big project and have trouble clearing your mind
  • like doing strange, themed reading challenges

How difficult was this challenge?

If you have a public library and the internet, it’s incredibly easy to find foreign language material. You simply have to WANT to experience it.

I would also like to give you two links from language learning blogs. In It’s Time To De-Bullshitize What Language Immersion Means, we read about how the concept of immersion isn’t so narrow or controlled as you want to believe. In The Not So Fun Side of Language Learning, we’re reminded of the effort it takes to learn anything, whether it’s fun or not.

What’s next for you?

What has two thumbs and a crap-ton of season premiers to catch up on? Bob Kelso.

My next challenges won’t actually be written about on this blog. Basically, I’ll be preparing for NaNoWriMo, participating in NaNoWriMo, and cleaning up all the shit I wrote during NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo.

Thanks for reading! If you make your own Foreign Language Only Month, tell me all about it!


While I’m riding the high of my last challenge, it’s time to proudly announce my next one: for one month (Monday, September 15th through Wednesday, October 15th), all the media I consume will be in a language other than English.

bannerbaseThe name of this challenge is Foreign Language Only Month (FLOM)!

Why are you doing this?
This is an elaborate excuse to listen to Balkan Beat Box and watch Korean dramas nonstop for a whole month. Just kidding. (Not actually kidding.)

What media does this challenge cover?
Music, television, movies, print literature, and anything online. If I read, watch, or listen to anything, it has to be in a language other than English.

No really, why are you doing this?
This challenge was inspired by advice on immersion from language learning message boards. When immersion is paired with vocabulary practice, it benefits your learning progress. Since I don’t currently have enough materials in German at my disposal, I figured, “Why not immerse myself in ALL languages?”


What are some exceptions you’re allowing?

  • Classical music and other instrumental pieces. Since they don’t have lyrics, their language is boundless.
  • Subtitles for languages I’m not familiar with. Anything that’s not in German or French, which I’m slowly learning, may be watched with English subtitles. If something is in German, I need to grow a pair and listen without a leash. If something is in French, it will require French subtitles becuase damn, y’all.
  • Language learning videos and audio books. Obviously, some of this will be in English for native English speakers trying to learn another language. I figure if I’m putting more effort into learning one of the foreign languages by which I’ll be surrounded, all the better.
  • Language learning apps in general. I’m addicted to Memrise. However, this month I won’t practice the flashcards/mems that have English material. Foreign language vocab only!

What’s your hypothesis for this silly experiment?
What I know will happen is that I’ll earn more respect for other cultures and languages.

What I’d LOVE to happen is to experience a change in how I perceive the world around me.

What I secretly wish will happen is I’ll be so confused by the bombardment of unfamiliar words that I’ll forget what language I speak natively and mutter a bunch of gobbledygook when addressed by others.

You need to convince me this is going to be a challenge.
You have a point there. We’ll have to find out together how easy or difficult this is.

In all honesty, I’m a little scared about the reading portion of the challenge. I have a condition known as NERD where, if I don’t read for several days in a row, I become physically ill.* Because I’m not fluent at all in German or French, finding materials at or slightly above my reading level will be a challenge in and of itself. Because of this, I probably won’t read much outside of subtitles.

Will you cheat?
The short answer: unintentionally. I work at a library, where I’m surrounded by media in English. Not a day goes by that I don’t read the jacket of some book I have to shelve. I will resist the temptation for this challenge. Also, because I’m working on three (seven?!) novels, I’ll continue doing that. My jobs simply require me to use English and there’s no way I could reasonably get around that. However, you’ll notice this challenge is for media I consume rather than produce. Ha-HA!

Otherwise, I have no excuse to cheat at home. Sure, a family member may watch television while I pass by the room, but I’m not usually inclined to sit down and watch with them.

What sorts of wonderful things will you be reading/watching/hearing/doing?
You’ll have to come back to find out. (wink wink) Each post will have some media goody for you.

Posting schedule:

(Sept 15th: First day of FLOM; no post)
Sept 16th: two-day update post
September 22nd: week 1 update post
September 29th: week 2 update post
October 6th: week 3 update post
October 13th: week 4 update post
(October 15th: last day of the challenge; no post)
October 16th: post-challenge impressions

Monday will be a good day to kick off this challenge because it’s the beginning of a work week. Of course I’ll be on WordPress (in English) to post about all of this throughout the challenge. I will attempt to stay off of other social media and fail miserably, because I some Norwegian media to catch up on. (winky wink wink)

This challenge starts in five days. See you in six!

* NERD is a lifelong condition and may be contagious. If you think you or a loved one may have NERD, consult a librarian immediately.

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