The Fokus Deutsch series consists of 36 fifteen-minute video episodes. A review episode follows every third episode. Each fifteen-minute episode features the following basic structure.
1. Preview: A preview of the mini-drama introduces the characters and sets up the context and the action of the mini-drama. Actual scenes from the mini-drama illustrate the preview and aid comprehension.
2. Introduction to the communicative expressions: Brief scenes from the mini-drama introduce expressions for saying hello or good-bye, requesting information, getting someone’s attention, and so forth to alert viewers to the contexts in which these expressions occur.
3. Mini-drama: The complete mini-drama runs approximately four to five minutes and illustrates the principal story line of the Fokus Deutsch video series. The story of Marion Koslowski in Level 1 gives way in Level 2 to a series of mini-dramas containing characters and situations that illustrate various aspects of life and culture in the German-speaking world.
4. Review and summary: Professor Di Donato reviews the characters and summarizes the plot in simple, straightforward German. The review contains basic structures and vocabulary, along with images of the corresponding scenes, to ensure viewer comprehension. The review of the mini-drama also serves as a model for extended discourse, as it uses several sentences to summarize content.
5. Text of communicative expressions: On-screen text appears with the communicative expressions in the context of the corresponding scene to facilitate the comprehension and acquisition processes.
A synopsis of the video episodes follows.
Video Level 1 (Episodes 1–12)
Episode 1: Professor Di Donato gives an overview of the Fokus Deutsch video course. He has brought Marion Koslowski to Boston to help him develop a German course. In the mini-drama, Marion’s father, an unemployed steelworker, desperately wants a new job.
Episode 2: Professor Di Donato introduces German-speaking guests who appear in the series to comment on the various cultural topics presented. In the mini-drama, Marion is upset to learn that her father is applying for a job that would force the family to move from Rheinhausen to Cologne.
Episode 3: In the mini-drama, Heinz Koslowski is offered the job in Cologne, signs his work contract and goes with his wife, Vera, to see their new apartment. Marion declares that she won’t move. Back in Boston, where she is working on Fokus Deutsch, Marion picks up a young woman named Sabine at the airport.
Review Episode (Wiederholung) 1 contains the uninterrupted mini-dramas from Episodes 1–3.
Episode 4: In the mini-drama, the Koslowskis move to Cologne. Marion stays behind. Also, in this episode, Marion explains the Abitur in detail, and a number of other speakers talk about their homes or apartments.
Episode 5: In the Boston studios, Marion presents the story of the Karneval. In the mini-drama, the Koslowskis help with preparations for the Karneval celebration. Other German speakers tell how they celebrate some of their favorite holidays and festivals.
Episode 6: In the mini-drama, Marion’s parents rush to St. Bertha’s hospital in Rheinhausen to visit Marion, who has had a motorcycle accident with her boyfriend Rüdiger. Changed circumstances cause a new decision: Marion will move to Cologne with her parents.
Review Episode 2 contains the uninterrupted mini-dramas from Episodes 4–6.
Episode 7: In the mini-drama, Marion and her mother are packing for a vacation trip to Rügen. Lars and Heinz Koslowski see them off at the train station.
Episode 8: In the mini-drama, Marion goes on a sailboat ride with Michael, the son of the Pension owner on Rügen. The two become stuck at sea when the wind dies down. Back in Boston, Marion ends the episode with two poems, both having to do with the water.
Episode 9: In Boston, Professor Di Donato and Marion discuss a resolution to the story. In the mini-drama, Marion and Michael are rescued. The guest speakers interrupt the mini-drama to give their opinion about Marion and the story. Back in the mini-drama, Michael and Marion say good-bye to one another.
Review Episode 3 contains the uninterrupted mini-dramas from Episodes 7–9.
Episode 10: In the mini-drama, Michael has written an article for his high school newspaper about an instructor’s unfair grading practices. The article causes Michael some trouble, and the principal arranges for Michael to speak to Herrn Bolten, the instructor. In Boston, Professor Di Donato and Marion reminisce about their school days. The German-speaking guests also talk about their school days.
Episode 11: In the mini-drama, when Michael and his girlfriend Silke meet to study for a test in math, she discovers a letter and some photos Michael has received from Marion. Silke storms off. Back in Boston, after reviewing the story, Marion and Professor Di Donato talk about school, favorite subjects, tests, and so forth. The guest speakers tell about their favorite subjects in school.
Episode 12: In Boston, Marion tells a fairy tale in which she reviews the story about Michael and herself. In the mini-drama, Michael convinces Silke that Marion doesn’t mean anything to him. The two reconcile.
Review Episode 4 contains the uninterrupted mini-dramas from Episodes 10–12.
Video Level 2 (Episodes 13–24)
Episode 13: The episode starts with a review of the mini-drama about Marion’s family from the very beginning. In Boston, Marion now wants the Fokus Deutsch series to concentrate on the world of work. She writes the story of Michael Händel as an apprentice in a shipping company in Hamburg. In the mini-drama, Michael goes to his new job. The guest speakers tell about the experiences of friends of theirs who have learned a trade.
Episode 14: In the mini-drama, Michel’s boss takes him onto a ship at Hamburg harbor. When the ship suddenly begins to leave the port for America, Michael cannot get off. Eventually the situation is solved.
Episode 15: In Boston, Professor Di Donato invites Marion to dinner. Over coffee they discuss birthday customs in Germany. In the mini-drama, Herr Schäfer cooks for his birthday party. But the meal finally gets ruined because everybody in the family has secretly added salt and spices. In the end, Michael suggests having some fast food at a snackbar instead.
Review Episode 5 contains the uninterrupted mini-dramas from Episodes 13–15.
Episode 16: Talking to Sabine in a gym in Boston, Marion laments that she has agreed to work this weekend, while Professor Di Donato, sitting on the balcony of the Goethe-Institut, tells the viewers what he likes to do on the weekend. The guest speakers also share their weekend habits. The mini-drama shows the Schäfer family’s weekend routine. On a Sunday afternoon jog, Uwe Cornelius tells his friend Dieter Schäfer, that his firm may transfer him to Thuringia. Back in the Goethe-Institut, Marion and the professor discuss the fact that before the German reunification in 1989, Thuringia was part of the German Democratic Republic. They talk about the events around the reunification and the difficulties that are still associated with it.
Episode 17: The mini-drama focuses on the Cornelius family and how they deal with a possible move to Thuringia. Back in Boston, Marion tells Sabine that she is trying to write a family drama with a deeper message.
Episode 18: Sabine accompanies Marion to the Goethe-Institut for the first time. Marion wants to tell Professor Di Donato that she is really Susanne Dyrchs, an actress, but Sabine dissuades her from it. In the mini-drama there is lots of discussion about the move to Thuringia in the Cornelius’s home and at Uwe’s workplace. Finally the Corneliuses decide that Uwe will go to Thuringia during the week and spent the weekends in Hamburg. The guest speakers comment on what they do in their free time.
Review Episode 6 contains the uninterrupted mini-dramas from Episodes 16–18.
Episode 19: In Boston, Marion writes a story about a student at the university. In the mini-drama, Klara, a new student at the University of Munich, cannot register for a practicum she needs. Marcus, a fellow student offers her his space in the course, but Klara fails to get his last name. Then Klara is invited to have dinner at the dormitory with some fellow students. The cook turns out to be Markus, also known as “Il Professore Spaghetti”.
Episode 20: In the mini-drama, Markus takes Klara home to visit his mother. Having arrived a little early, they drive to the nearby forest first, where they suddenly spot someone throwing trash into the woods. Klara leaves a message on the windshield of the polluter’s car. Back at Marion’s Boston apartment, Marion and Sabine get ready to go out and experience some American night life.
Episode 21: Marion is annoyed to find out that she is too young to be admitted to a Boston disco, but she decides to use the experience in her next story. In the mini-drama, Laura persuades her cousin, Thomas, to accompany her to a concert in a disco. Thomas is not let in because the clothes he is wearing are “out”. Purchasing new clothing doesn’t solve the problem, however. He is once again denied entrance. Back in Boston, Professor Di Donato asks Marion how old she is. Marion cryptically replies that “Marion” is 18, but she is 19. Professor Di Donato is left in a state of confusion.
Review Episode 7 contains the uninterrupted mini-dramas from Episodes 19–21.
Episode 22: Susanne Dyrchs (“Marion”) and her sister, Sabine, are visiting the Busch Reisinger Museum in Boston. Looking at a painting by Franz Marc, Susanne has an idea for the mini-drama. In the mini-drama, Evelyn and Heiner Stumpf buy a painting at the flea market. They take it to a restorer who believes that the picture is a valuable painting by August Macke, but they eventually learn that only the picture’s frame is worth something. Back at the museum Professor Di Donato enters the hall. Susanne introduces her sister Sabine to him. He explains that he knew who “Marion” was all the time, but has let Susanne go on playing Marion because he believed the viewers could learn more that way.
Episode 23: In this mini-drama, Heiner Sander, a young man on paternity leave, has problems juggling the duties of caring for his baby and meeting his other obligations.
Episode 24: Professor Di Donato and Susanne take official leave from “Marion” and present the story of Inez, an au pair hired by Roswitha and Heiner Sander. In the mini-drama, Inez arrives in Berlin, and begins her integration into the family and the German culture. Roswitha and Heiner allow her to invite classmates from the Goethe-Institut to a Mexican dinner at their home.
Review Episode 8 contains the uninterrupted mini-dramas from Episodes 22–24.
Video Level 3 (Episodes 25–36)
Episode 25: Professor Di Donato, Susanne, and German-speaking guests discuss their lives and personal histories. In Eine Familiengeschichte, 91-year-old Meta Heyn relates the family history to her granddaughter, Sybille, while looking through a photo album. In Lebensstile, Peter and Sabine Schenk explain why they are married, while Nora Bausch gives her views on living as a single person in Germany.
Episode 26: Jugend in Bewegung shows how youths in Germany from the 1950s to the present have had to fight for the liberty to choose different lifestyles. Susanne talks about her political views and the interests of her friends. German speakers comment on the political interests of youths today. In Drei Jugendporträts, three young people talk about their lives, why they chose their particular career paths, and what their expectations are.
Episode 27: Professor Di Donato, Susanne, and guest speakers talk about what a typical school day is like. In Geschichte eines Gymnasiums, we learn about the long history of the Gymnasium in Bremen. In Der Schulalltag, we follow Karolin through a typical day at her school, near Frankfurt.
Review Episode 9 contains Eine Familiengeschichte (A Family History), Drei Jugendporträts (Three Youths), and Der Schulalltag (A Typical School Day).
Episode 28: Geschichte einer Universität offers a look at the founding and the history of the University of Heidelberg, revealing a number of changes over the centuries. In Ein Student aus Kamerun, we see Guy writing a letter to his brother in Cameroon, describing his experiences at a university in Germany. Guest speakers address the issue of studying at a university and relate their experiences. Sabine discusses the issue of foreign students and describes her daily routine at the university.
Episode 29: Wirtschaft im Wandel looks back at Germany’s changing economy from the postwar period of the 1950s to today. Guest speakers introduce the retrospective and talk about the professions they have chosen. Other comments address more generally how people in different German-speaking countries choose a profession. Hilfe für Arbeitslose focuses on Monika Schneider, an employment officer, who helps people find jobs that suit their qualifications. Examples are followed by comments on the employment situation in Germany and Europe in general.
Episode 30: In Die Frauenbewegung, Julia, who works in a feminist bookstore, introduces a retrospective on the women’s movement in Germany. Interspersed are comments by guest speakers presenting their views on women’s rights and discussing discrimination they have encountered. In Im Auftrag der Frauen Christa Pieper, a social service worker, helps women settle issues or problems in the workplace. Different understandings of women’s roles become apparent in a conversation between the guest speakers, Grace and Gürkan.
Review Episode 10 contains Geschichte einer Universität (History of a University), Ein Student aus Kamerun (A Student from Cameroon), and Hilfe für Arbeitslose (Help for the Unemployed)
Episode 31: Professor Di Donato and guest speakers talk about what they like to do in their leisure time. Ein grünes Hobby concentrates on the Germans’ love for gardening and tells the story of the Schrebergärten, first planted outside cities in the 19th century when residential areas became overcrowded. Weiterbilden in der Freizeit presents a perspective of leisure learning at the Volkshochschule (community college).
Episode 32: Professor Di Donato and guest speakers talk about the importance of vacations and what people like to do on vacation. Urlaub: Gestern und heute explores the history of vacations in Germany in the last one hundred years. In Abenteuerurlaub, we watch Birgit experience the thrills of canyoning, which she has chosen as an activity for an adventure vacation.
Episode 33: Ein Kurort presents an historical view of the spa culture and the concept of the Kur (spa therapy) in Germany. Guest speakers give their views on the Kur tradition and on staying fit in general. In Ein Arztbesuch, we follow Sven Schüler to his general practitioner. Guest speakers from different German-speaking countries talk about the health care systems there.
Review Episode 11 contains Weiterbilden in der Freizeit (Leisure Learning), Urlaub: Gestern und heute (Vacation: Yesterday and Today), and Abenteuerurlaub (Adventure Vacation).
Episode 34: In Typisch Deutsch?, Erguen Cervik, a Turk living in Germany, narrates his view of the country and what he thinks are typical characteristics of Germany and its people. Vom Sauerkraut zur Pizza follows the history of food in Germany, where immigrants have introduced many new foods. Guest speakers comment on the phenomenon of multiculturalism and how it is being received in German-speaking countries.
Episode 35: Professor Di Donato and the German-speaking guests present their views on the environment. In Auf Kosten der Umwelt, we see how Germany’s industry after World War II grew rapidly and, consequently, how the landscape became polluted. Umweltschutz zu Hause presents Bärbel Barmbek who lives near Hamburg. She demonstrates how her family’s house is a model of energy efficiency and environmental protection.
Episode 36: In Theater für Jugendliche, viewers visit the Grips theater, a children’s theater in Berlin that is featuring a musical called “Linie 1” about a young woman and her experience in the big city. 100 Jahre deutscher Film presents a history of film, from its beginning nearly one hundred years ago to the present. Excerpts from a variety of German films through the years attest to the ingenuity of German filmmakers. Guest speakers comment on the types of films they like and why they like them, as well as on what types of cultural events they enjoy.
Review Episode 12 contains Typisch Deutsch? (Typically German?), Vom Sauerkraut zur Pizza (From Sauerkraut to Pizza), and Umweltschutz zu Hause (Environmental Protection at Home).