Viel zum Lächeln – Awards at the Oxford German Olympiad

After hundreds of entries from schools all across the UK, heated discussions amongst judges and the final seal of approval from head judge Professor Henrike Lähnemann, the Oxford German Olympiad 2016 finally came to a close on Thursday, 16 June with a prize-giving ceremony in Oxford.

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Rosie Goldsmith speaking at the Olympiad prize-giving

OGN was delighted that Rosie Goldsmith, award-winning journalist and freelance broadcaster for the arts and current affairs, was able to come and award the prizes to the winners of this year’s Oxford German Olympiad.  She is a champion of international literature and language-learning, and founded the European Literature Network in 2009. She has lived in many countries, including Germany.  As many of you will know, the theme of this year’s Olympiad was Deutscher Humor – nichts zum Lachen?  Accordingly, we set Rosie the somewhat daunting task of speaking on the topic of German humour.

Rosie retraced her experiences of visiting and living in Germany and her personal encounters with German humour, or indeed her search to find something that met her definition of ‘humour’.  By all accounts this was an often fruitless search, but with glimmers of wit shining through.  She recalled that with the fall of the Berlin Wall those in the West suddenly had access to a whole new wealth of jokes, those popular amongst citizens of East German, often political satires directed at leaders such as Honecker.  In later years she also came to appreciate the quality of German TV comedians.

As many Olympiad entrants will have found this year, what is funny in one language may not be particularly amusing at the end of the translation process – perhaps the grammar and vocab in the target language are too long-winded, perhaps some wordplay goes astray, or perhaps it is a question not just of translating words, but also of cultural transfer. Take a look at the winning entries in the category “Years 5/6 Illustrate a Funny Phrase” for some examples.

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Chatting with some of the prize-winners

Despite all these difficulties, Rosie is continuing on her quest to unlock the secrets of German humour, and is a fervent supporter of the arts.  She encouraged the prize-winners to keep exploring the mysteries of German, whether literature, language or just everyday life.  Hopefully the prizes, provided by our partners, the German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Penguin, and OUP, will help these budding Germanists do just that.

To see all the winning entries, as well as further photos of the event, visit the OGN website.

Of course, a blog post about German humour wouldn’t be complete without a punchline… in this case it’s more of a cliff-hanger… On 26 September 2017, European Day of Languages, we will announce the theme for the 2017 Oxford German Olympiad!

Nicola Deboys, Oxford German Network Coordinator

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