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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!


Three days ago, a movie called Amores Perros saved me from misery. Saturday found me with both a migraine and an eye infection, and my head was in such a state that it hurt to do anything but I knew I must resist another nap in order to feel better later. Amores Perros was my dinner buddy. It’s rated R, definitely not for the feeble-hearted, and charged with emotion.

The sign of a good show or movie is one that I’ll enjoy even while my head is trying to kill me. (Past enjoyments have been Pirates of the Caribbean, Argo, and the musical Wicked.) In the near future, I’d like to watch more films starring Emilio Echevarria because his character just sitting in a room were some of my favorite scenes.

bannerbaseIt’s hard to believe the first week of FLOM has passed so quickly because I know the next three will whiz by like nothing happened. So far, I’ve enjoyed some movies, improved my German, and haven’t at all yearned to read something in English. (I am, of course, lying my ass off.) By the end of this week, honestly, English is annoying.

I told you before there was no way I could escape passing by my family while they were watching TV. This is still true. Leaving the room has never felt so pressing, but there’s an odd lure to what they watch. The English makes its way into my brain much more easily (especially during commercials), and it’s bothersome. The words are like flies collecting in my brain; I don’t want them, but when they get in there they won’t leave. When commercials come up on Hulu, they ruin the Korean mellow I had going. Speaking between family members, however, doesn’t bother me. Speech is less forced than entertainment and commercials.

Spanish commercials, however, are very interesting to me. One night, I watched Telemundo and found the commercials to be more interesting than the action drama programming. They’re exactly the same. Same script, exact same commercial, except the voice-over happens to be in another language and the actors look more, how should I say, Hispanic? It’s surreal in a cool way. I even learned a phrase: más rápidas. (I had to look up the accent marks.)

I haven’t missed not being able to see the world news. Not even the Stewbert (Stewart/Colbert) hour Mondays through Thursdays. When I return from this challenge, though, I might have to make myself go insane with a comedy-news binge.

Confusing other languages with English has happened several times. At the library, passing words are near whispers, and the past week I’ve been confusing them for Spanish or German. My inner monologue has a German accent half the time, but that may be partially due to the fact that “Willkommen” from Cabaret has been stuck in my head since early September. (“Oh, Frenchie, would you stop zat?”)

Is it confession time yet? *

Yes, fine, I admit there was one (or two) time I got trapped on Facebook reading some posts and linked articles. The lesson: don’t go on Facebook. Ever. And I concluded Zerg levels of Starcraft aren’t exactly English. (Having “Spawn more Overlords!” shouted at you doesn’t count.) The good news, though, is that I haven’t picked up anything from the library while shelving. During breaks at work, I’ve done language flashcards and even started some exercises in a thick German language text.

The K-drama Big is still great. I learned the Korean word for “these/those” but promptly forgot it because I’m not quite actively learning the language. Only passively (through TV shows).

Although I don’t believe one can learn a language from watching shows and movies in one’s target language, it is a good reminder of the things you already know. During Amores Perros, I found out I do, indeed, remember the word for ‘milk’ in the line “Rum, agua, o leche?” You know what else? I just learned the Spanish word for ‘or’ right there. Right there! Awesome.

Since listening to some German learning audio, Scrubs has become a little more familiar in this new translation. By the third episode, I began to simply listen rather than watch, and was able to pick out some of my favorite jokes. I even learned a word from one such joke: ‘eklig’ means ‘disgusting.’ If I may quote the original without referencing the script:

Turk: The human body is so disgusting!

Patient: Hey!

Turk: Not yours, sir; yours is beautiful.

Don’t even bother looking for it in Youtube’s version of German subtitles; they aren’t quite right.

I’m going to post this particular episode here. Have some fun and look for the following quotes I’m proud to say I understand.

Nicht bewegen. = Don’t move. (around 10:30)

Was? Du liebst wer? = What? You love who? (around 10:45)

Du bist ein schlechter Mensch. = You’re a bad person. (last scene)

Don’t even try to understand Cox. If you thought Coxy spoke too quickly in the original, your brain might explode in German.

While I’m going Youtube happy, have a French dub and translation of “I See The Light” from Tangled. If the English version makes you cry, fetch a whole box of tissues for this one.

I’ll return with Week 2’s update next Monday. Meantime, I shouldn’t neglect fellow friends here on WordPress. They work hard on their posts, too. Later tonight, it’s time for a little Fellini film called Amarcord.

The week of German, Spanish, and Korean may soon morph into a sampling of something else.

* At first publication of this post, I neglected to mention how I’d been working on a novel. Doing so during this challenge gives me a more intimate connection with my fiction writing. I have also updated my little Once Upon A Time fan comic, but only with something I made before this challenge began because I have sweet obligations. So there.

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