How Germans have helped the OED — OxfordWords blog

This week we’re sharing an old post from OxfordWords about the involvement of German and Germans with one of the most famous institutions of the English language: the Oxford English Dictionary!


It is well known that the work that originally produced the Oxford English Dictionary was a great collective effort, drawing on contributions from people throughout the English-speaking world. It should also be no surprise that valuable contributions were also made by many scholars from outside that world. However, the specific debt which the Dictionary owes…

via How Germans have helped the OED — OxfordWords blog

Looking for participants….

This week a request for participants from Oxford’s Chair of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics, Prof. Henrike Lähnemann – if you’re in Oxford on 25 May 2017 and want to take part in some of the celebrations and events for Bonn Week, read on…

A portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1528)

I am looking for German speakers who would like to take part in a public reading of Martin Luther’s ‘Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen’ in German which is scheduled to take place on 25 May, 4-5:30pm, at the Taylor Institution Library, Oxford. This is to launch the first publication in a series of Reformation pamphlets in facsimile, transcription and new translations, provided in this case by Howard Jones (and with input from many of you). The reading will be recorded and made available together with the free, open access edition, in the Digital Library section of the Reformation 2017 blog of the Taylorian where currently there is already the facsimile and transcription available. Thanks to sponsorship from the German Embassy, we will be able to hand out free print copies to all readers and sell them otherwise at the launch for 2GBP (afterwards 5GBP); the download will be available free directly after the launch.

The launch is scheduled to coincide with Bonn Week, a celebration of 70 years of twinning with Bonn, so we hope to have a good mix of German and British audience. Further details to follow – for now I just need expressions of interest for reading; drop me an email to volunteer for a paragraph. It would be nice to have a cross-section of voices from young and old, men and women, German and English native speakers! The text is 7,000 words long = ca. 60 minutes reading time; if we could have 20 speakers, everybody would get one (longer or shorter) paragraph, between 2 and 4 minutes.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Henrike Lähnemann (email: henrike.lä

PS: You might have seen / heard the BBC series ‘Breaking Free – Martin Luther’s Revolution’; two episodes are now available from the website

Teddy Bear Austausch – A German Exchange with a difference!

At the Oxford German Network we work not only with secondary schools, but also with primary schools where German is taught.  One of our local schools has been making great use of some of the fantastic opportunities that the UK-German Connection provides for younger learners and their teachers.  The UK-German Connection is an organisation “dedicated to increasing contacts and understanding between young people in the UK and Germany”.  Why not take a look at their voyage kids website, aimed at primary pupils, or the voyage for older pupils.  But first, a tale of teddy bears and teacher travels…

SS Philip and James’ School, Oxford (often called Phil and Jim’s for short) has been developing a link with Brakenhoffschule, a primary school in Westerstede, near Bremen in northern Germany.

The link was made possible through projects organised by the UK-German Connection. The first of these was the ‘host a teacher’ initiative. Earlier in the year a teacher from Brakenhoffschule spent two weeks at Phil and Jim’s, helping with German teaching and finding out about the school. This was a fantastic opportunity for the school and of course the German teacher was able to take back a lot of new experiences to share with their own pupils. Since the visit the two schools have kept in contact and children in Year 5 have written penpal letters.

Alex, the German bear (left), meets the new resident bears at Phil and Jim’s

Recently the children in Year 3 had a very special visitor from Berlin, again as part of a UK-German Connection project. His name is Alex … and he is a Teddybear! His visit was part of the Bears Project, and involved Ben, an English Teddybear, visiting Phil and Jim’s partner school in Germany.  On the ‘Bears’ webpage you can find out lots more about how to participate, and see all of the British and German schools that the bears have already visited! It’s safe to safe to say that Ben received a very warm welcome in Germany, and the Brakenhoffschule pupils even prepared some welcome signs before his arrival – his visit is currently highlighted on the school’s homepage! (Scroll midway down…)

All the children and both teachers agreed that the visits were a big success, with the bears teaching the children more about their language and culture. The bears even have their own blog on the Voyage kids website!

Nicola Deboys, Oxford German Network

Wust – one letter away from ‘Wurst’ and ‘Wüste’

Back in Februrary, on the way to our Kneipenquiz at a local school, OGN Coordinator Nicola discovered that one of our Ambassadors, Chris, had spent his summer in a place she knew very well indeed – in Wust.  Where?  Wust.  (I’ll leave Chris to explain…)  Between us we have spent three summers in Wust and wanted to take the opportunity to introduce this wonderful little place to a wider audience, and hopefully persuade more students to make the journey Wust-wards. Over to Chris…

Nestled deep in the countryside of Saxony-Anhalt, Wust is a small village in the former East Germany. That description generally draws some pretty bemused looks, and you’re probably wondering what the attraction could be for your average 20-year-old student. Well, I’ve now spent two pretty incredible summers in Wust, and have every intention of going back for a third time –  this post hopefully will give some idea of what is so special about the place!

This tiny village just west of Berlin comes alive for four weeks in July and August, when it hosts the Sommerschule Wust. Every summer, hundreds of Germans (the Teilnehmer) flock to Wust, keen to learn English. The summer school is open to all, from eight-year olds to eighty-year olds, from absolute beginners to fluent English teachers. They come from all over, mainly from ‘die neuen Bundesländer’ but also from as far away as Düsseldorf and even the Ivory Coast!

Leafy, sleepy Wust, home of the Sommerschule Wust

And who teaches them? This pleasure falls to a team of teachers (Dozenten) drawn (mostly) from Oxford, Cambridge and Brown Universities. The Dozenten are a very mixed bunch, usually, but not always, language students, with a variety of skills and interests, covering everything from highland dancing to macro-economics.  There’s no Wust ‘type’, and everyone quickly forms lasting friendships. The Dozenten live with local families – a great opportunity to sample German cuisine (yes, there is more to it than potatoes and pork!) and to practise your German.

A typical day in Wust starts bright and early with Morgenappell at 08:45 before the first lesson starts at 09:00. Teilnehmer have three language classes every morning, each with a different Dozent. You’re free to teach whatever and however you like, as long as it gets the class speaking English! In the afternoon, we offer a variety of ‘workshops’ about different topics. There are some which run every year, such as ‘Road Trip Around the UK/USA’, Film, ‘Dancing with the Stars’, Choir, and Literature, but there is also plenty of room for new innovations, depending on your interests – hence Salsa, Scottish Politics, and Euclidean Geometry were also on offer in 2016.

The highlight of the day is usually the evening activities on the Sportplatz. Each evening has a theme – such as 4th July or ‘British Day’ – and there’s always sufficient opportunity to make a fool of yourself playing volleyball or learning ceilidh dancing, while eating more Wurst and drinking more beer than you thought humanly possible! Rehearsals for the bilingual theatre production also take place in the evening: the Summer School’s annual play is something of a community event in the local area. Both Teilnehmer and Dozenten take to the stage for what is always an incredible production.

Teilnehmer at the Sommerschule Wust gather at the Sportplatz to enjoy the evening activities

You may be wondering why such a small village hosts such a big event. It all came about as the result of the efforts of Maria von Katte, who is now something of a local celebrity. Frau von Katte gained her D.Phil (doctorate) at St Hugh’s College, Oxford in the 1960s, and, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, returned to her familial homeland, determined to help the local community adapt to life post-Wende. The first Summer School was planned as a small course for local teachers run by two professors and a handful of students. Yet interest proved so great that it quickly evolved into two three-week courses, each for 200 Teilnehmer, run by three Professors and 30 Dozenten! The organisers had no doubt that the Summer School would catch on, owing to its informal and innovative atmosphere.  Indeed, last year, Wust celebrated its 25th anniversary, and it looks set to continue for another 25 years in pretty much the same spirit. Not least because once you’ve been, few can resist the temptation of going back – some of the Teilnehmer have been coming almost every year since 1991!

So, to summarise – Wust: found in the middle of a Wüste, famous for its Wurst, and an experience I would heartily recommend. We’ll be recruiting once again from Oxford this year – keep an eye out for the adverts around February time!

 Chris Ellison, 3rd-year French and German, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford

[Although the text and all its imperfections are my own, I must give credit to two true ‘Wusties’ for their help: Scott Usatorres for his excellent photos and Michael Laver for the punny title.]

UK-German Connection Trip to Thüringen

The UK-German Connection is an organisation “dedicated to increasing contacts and understanding between young people in the UK and Germany”.  As part of its work there is a ‘calendar of opportunities’ throughout the year ranging from ‘Host a German Teacher’ to ‘Magical Christmas Trips’ and of course longer study trips to Germany.  Why not take a lot at the list of ‘German Pupil Courses’ here.  Ben Bonnici, an A-Level student studying German went on a UK-German Connection trip this summer – here he tells us more.

I found the UK-German Connection trip to Thüringen incredibly useful in helping me improve my German skills, as well as intriguing, as I discovered many interesting cultural quirks during my two week stay.

In my group there were 12 people from all over the UK, including Northern Ireland! We flew to Frankfurt Airport and then drove the remainder of the journey to a small town called Friedrichroda. The town was beautiful, surrounded by verdure and mountains. I stayed with a lovely host family for the duration of the trip, and they were fantastic in the way they completely immersed me in their regional culture. I ate countless types of sausages over the two weeks, but my favourite kind was the Thüringen Bratwurst (which tasted even better with a dash of Senf!).

UK-German Connection enthusiasts in Friedrichsroda!

Every day, I took the bus in to school with my Gastschwester and attended a few hours of German grammar lessons with the group of 10 from the UK. After the morning session, we would then sit in on lessons with our hosts, and it could be any subject. It was quite amusing sitting in on an English lesson, and interesting to see how they taught the language. In the afternoons after eating our packed lunches, that usually consisted of Schwarzbrot sandwiches with all kinds of meat, the UK group would then go on some kind of outing, whether it be visiting a castle, or going to a local primary school to teach English to the children there! My favourite outing was the Erlebnis Bergwerk Merkers, a visit to a salt mine 800m underground, where we got driven around in the endless labyrinth of mining tunnels.

Meeting one of the locals in Thüringen

Due to the constant exposure to the language, I found that by the end of the first week, I had started thinking in German, which unsettled me at first, but was also quite amazing. By the end of the second week, my German had improved a lot and I really felt like I had a much deeper understanding and appreciation of both the language and the culture of Germany.

I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is currently learning German and would like to further improve their linguistic skills, whilst having a lot of fun and making friends in the process.

Ben Bonnici, Magdalen College School, Oxford

Still searching? How to find that elusive first German flatshare

So it’s time for your year abroad or you’re moving abroad for your first job. The thought of trying to find somewhere to live in a foreign country – and then also having to grapple with that country’s bureaucracy can be pretty daunting, especially if you’re having to do it on your own. Knowing that you can’t open a bank account or do anything else involving a contract for services until you have registered a local address with the Einwohnermeldeamt or Bürgeramt (citizens’ registration office) only adds to the pressure. So, following on from Francesca’s post earlier this summer, we (OGN Coordinators Madeleine and Nicola!) have got some tips for making the process easier and at least more predictable, if not actually completely stress-free. The experience of finding somewhere to live will vary from place to place and your options will depend on your own situation. So we aren’t going to be able to cover every eventuality or permutation, but we hope these hints and pieces of advice will provide some good general starting points for your search!

  1. Getting started – when and where to look, and what to look for

Now, of course, you may already know people in your destination country, or know people who know people – that’s great! Spread the news of your upcoming move, let them know that you are looking for somewhere to live so that they can ask around as well. Even in the age of the internet – or perhaps most especially in the age of the internet – word of mouth is a valuable tool.

If you’re a student, then the most obvious thing to look at is university accommodation. The Studentenwerk (also more inclusively known as Studierendenwerk) in a university town provides a range of rooms at cheap prices for students, as well as meals, kitchens, laundry, and socialising facilities. As soon as you know that you’ve been accepted by a university, check the incoming international student and staff pages of its website for contact details and the application process.

Nicola View WG Abroad
The view from Nicola’s WG room on her year abroad

However, you might prefer a flatshare (Wohngemeinschaft or ‘WG’) or even living on your own, although of course the latter option will be more expensive. This might go without saying, but it is infinitely easier to persuade somebody of your cleanliness, friendliness, reliability, and general viability as a potential housemate or tenant in person. You may well find that any enquiries you make via email while still in your home country fall on deaf ears. Nevertheless, it is advisable to start your search early – if only because it will give you a reasonable idea of what is available, where, and for how much.  Try also to balance the desire to have everything organised in advance with having somewhere you’ll be comfortable living for a year – having found a year abroad WG online, OGN Coordinator Nicola had a beautiful fully furnished room, but  this came with a whole string of flatmates during the year, including a very large dog called “Kaiser”….

Online listings are plentiful, so here are some sites that we’ve found most useful:

For general searches:

Mitwohnzentralen and Mietwohnzentralen offer a free search service for long and short-term lets of furnished rentals to a range of tenant types, including families and businesses.

For flatshares:

Demand in some cities (e.g. Munich, Stuttgart, Vienna) is exceptionally high, so be prepared to send a lot of enquiries and not get very many responses in return. Decide what requirements you have (location, rent range, amenities in the area, etc.), but be prepared to be flexible.

Do also check listings in local newspapers (many will also have an online presence). Many will simply contain listings already advertised on the main online search sites, but are worth checking nonetheless.

  1. Temporary accommodation

It isn’t always possible to find somewhere to live before you’ve arrived in your destination country. If it looks like you’re going to find yourself without a home when you arrive, plan ahead and set up temporary accommodation for yourself so you have a place to lay your head while you hit the internet and the streets hard in your ongoing search. OGN Coordinator Madeleine spent six weeks in places varying from a hostel dorm to an Airbnb sublet before she found a flat to move into when she recently moved to Germany. Or maybe you’re only going to be in the country for a relatively short period anyway. Fortunately, there are plenty of inexpensive options for finding temporary accommodation in addition to the usual youth hostels, youth hotels, and couchsurfing.

  • Student dormitories may hire out rooms during vacation periods for short lets. Check university pages and the Studentenwerke.
  • Kolpinghäuser. There are a few hundred of these organisations spread throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Originally set up by the Catholic Church to cater for the needs of apprentices, they are open to all regardless of religious or political affiliation. In addition to providing support and accommodation to young trainees and apprentices, many also offer short-term accommodation at reasonable prices to all comers.
  • Airbnb is now widely used in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and can offer options for stays of a few nights to a few months. Airbnb lists subletting options (Zwischenmiete), and many similar Zwischenmiete listings can be found on the other flat-hunt sites, as well. One of the benefits here is that many of the additional costs of renting (heating, electricity, etc.), will be covered in the fee for your stay.
  1. (Online) safety first!

Although most adverts will be from genuine landlords and tenants, online accommodation search sites are a perfect hunting ground for scam artists, many of whom are operating outside Germany, so be vigilant at all times. Good accommodation search sites do monitor for hoaxes, but may not be able to react fast enough to remove suspect adverts.

If an offer seems too good to be true, then you’ll probably be best advised to give it a wide berth. Poor German or English in their written communication is often a good indication of a scam, but is by no means a certain identifier.

Under no circumstances comply with any requests to pay money as a deposit or rent through a third party or if you are not given bank details (e.g. scams frequently use Western Union and similar money transfer services). Make sure you have met your landlord, viewed the room or flat (or asked a trusted friend to do this on your behalf) and signed a valid contract before you hand over any money. The reverse is equally true: landlords in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland generally won’t make contracts with people they haven’t met and whom they know nothing about. So although you should never give out any personal information (the same naturally applies to any copies of your passport and your bank information), being able to name an institution or official person to whom they can turn for more information or a reference may be useful.

Hoax landlords often claim to live abroad and that it is impossible for them to come to the country of their property (Madeleine saw a lot of versions of this story – frequently using almost identical phrasing and layout, the difference between them was often only in the quality of the English or German!). Note that genuine landlords living abroad would usually have an official agent working on their behalf. So keys should not be sent in the post to you, but should be given to you in person by the agent on behalf of the landlord.

Madeleine Brook & Nicola Deboys, OGN Coordinators

Psst… More tips to come next week – stay tuned!

Schüleraustausch – from the dreaming spires to the Bavarian Alps

Oxford High and Magdalen College School have a long-running exchange with Gymnasium Fürstenried in Munich.  Every year the girls from OHS join with the boys from MCS to welcome the German pupils, before heading out to Munich.  For this blog entry two OHS pupils tell us about their experiences of the exchange earlier this spring – from film studios to football stadiums, castles to car factories!

The away leg – Munich bound!

On Friday, we flew out to Munich from Heathrow. We were all really excited to come to Germany, and our exchange partners were all very happy to see us. It was great to see my exchange partner again, as we got on very well.

Aerial Marienplatz
The view of Marienplatz from the Peterskirche

We spent the weekend with our exchange families. I went around Munich on Saturday with some of my exchange partner’s friends and their exchanges. It was really interesting to see around Munich, as it is a beautiful city. We went up the St. Peter’s Church tower and got a really good view of the city. On Sunday, my exchange partner and her family took me into the Alps, which were really scenic.

On Monday we went to the school to have lessons for the morning. It was quite strange to have lessons in German, but I managed to understand some of what was going on. In the afternoon we were all allowed to go around Munich with our friends, before having a guided tour of the city. We saw many interesting things, including beer halls!

A Bavarian Schlosspark
Beautiful parks around the palaces

On Tuesday we all went to visit Burghausen Castle- our exchange partners came with us. It is the longest castle in Germany, and felt more like a village than a castle. We had a tour, and enjoyed having a look around. After that, we took a boat trip to the Palace of Herrenchiemsee, which was the former residence of king Ludwig II of Bavaria. This was very interesting, and it was very elaborately decorated.

Inside the Allianzarena!


On Wednesday, after another morning of lessons in German, we got to go to the Allianzarena, home to the famous football team Bayern Munich. We had a tour of the stadium and even had a go at scoring some goals ourselves.

Thursday was one of our busiest days. In the morning we had a workshop with our German exchange partners, where we created posters about the various differences between Munich and Oxford. Then, we took a trip to Bavaria Film Studios, which were very interesting. We saw many film sets, including the submarine used for the film Das Boot, and some of us had a go at being on screen ourselves. After that we visited the Olympia centre, which had been constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics, and there were some great opportunities for group photos there.

Friday was our last day in Germany, and in the morning we visited BMW world. We had a tour, which was really interesting and gave us an insight into how cars were manufactured, and we got to look at the various cars and even sit inside them. Afterwards, we returned to the school for lunch before saying goodbye to our partners and boarding the coach to the airport. It was sad to leave Germany, as we all had a fantastic time!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and I felt that my understanding of the German language had improved greatly. I would definitely recommend the exchange to anyone studying German.

Louisa, Oxford High.

The home leg – Welcome to Oxford!

On the 11th of March our German exchanges arrived in Oxford. After a slightly delayed flight we met the German group in the canteen for tea and cake before taking our partners home for the weekend. Over the weekend we got to know our exchanges – all of whom were lovely and spoke very good English. We entertained them, taking our partners to the main Oxford attractions such as the Carfax Tower, Martyrs’ Memorial and Radcliffe Camera. Some of the group even took their German exchanges further afield to London and Blenheim Palace to give them an experience of British culture.

On Monday we had some lessons with our exchanges and we had the opportunity to introduce them to our school friends and teachers. In our German lesson we welcomed the German group by singing “Any dream will do” in English (this year’s school musical is ‘Joseph’) followed by a German song called “Fliegerlied” later in the week. On Monday evening we all went bowling which was really fun and rather competitive! For the rest of the week our exchange partners went on trips to visit different areas of England including Stratford, London and Bath. On Friday morning we had our last few lessons with our exchanges and then at lunchtime, after a group photo, we waved farewell to the German group as they headed to the airport.

All of us got on really well with our exchanges and we are looking forward to visiting them in Munich.
Issie, Oxford High.

From the spires of Oxford to the sights and sounds of Southern Germany

Taking part in a German exchange is a fantastic way to experience everyday life in one of the German-speaking countries, and of course to put the language skills learnt in the classroom into practice. Mukahang Limbu (pictured), a Year 10 pupil studying German at Oxford Spires Academy tells us more about the school’s exchange with the Herman-Staudinger-Gymnasium in Erlenbach near Aschaffenburg, Germany.

Mukahang in Erlenbach!

In October Miss Constantine and Mr Fanchi took nine students from Years 10 and 11 to stay with German families by themselves and make friends with their German exchange partners. It was a very valuable experience for the students as they were able not only to improve their German dramatically, but also immerse themselves into the family life of their exchange partners and rely on themselves completely. As a result these students came back to England one head taller and rightly so.

The group visited the town close by – Aschaffenburg – where they learnt about the history of the place and they took part in lots of activities like bowling, pool, cooking and having a meal out together. Each family arranged individual activities with the students so that every one of them has a different story to tell. They also visited the school and took part in lessons. The exchange took place over 4 days, which as it turns out, was much too short, as all students wanted to stay longer. Maybe next year we can extend the exchange! We are already really looking forward to having the German students stay with us in June 2016.

Aschaffenburg market square
The most rewarding aspect for me would have to be, that I was able to use my own previous knowledge of the language to communicate and forge new relationships; this gave me a chance to not only utilise what I have already learned, in real-life situations, but also allowed me to expand my ability, by learning from our student exchange partners. You cannot hope to learn a language, without applying it in practice! To truly learn a language, a person must experience the culture and diversity that comes with the ‘foreign tongue’, and only when that happens, is a person’s ears truly open to all the flavour of the sounds, the frequency of the tones, and the richness in the dialogue, which as a result causes us to learn and understand more than before, because the more we hear, the more we get accustomed to the riffs and tunes, and so the less ‘foreign’ the language becomes!

Charlie Parker, also in Year 10, said: ‘The German exchange was fun and very interesting. I had great fun learning what they do on a daily basis compared to us in England. I would recommend it to everyone and I wish we could have been there longer.’

                                                                                            Mukahang Limbu, Year 10

Oxford Spires Academy