A German Olympiad ‘Werdegang’

One prizewinner in 2017’s ‘Deutsch(e) jenseits von Deutschland’, Beth Molyneux, first got involved with the Oxford German Olympiad right at its inception – and this year she was so enthused, she participated in every element of it that she possibly could! Beth was a joint winner in the ‘Migrating Communities’ essay category and a runner up in the Blog Post category. You can read her entries – and those of all the other winners – here.
In this blog post, she explains what got her involved in the first place and what she loves about the competition.

Prizes 2017The prize ceremony for the 2017 Oxford German Olympiad was the perfect culmination of what has been, for me and many other pupils around the country, an exciting, challenging and definitely worthwhile affair.

My involvement in the Olympiad started when I was in Year 8, with the theme Grimm Tales and featured me and my sister as Hansel and Gretel in a short film. At that time, I wasn’t aware of what the Olympiad was but certainly had fun making the video. It then wasn’t until sixth form when I was looking to extend my German outside of my A-level that this memory from year 8 came back to me along with the remembrance that there had been a sixth-former at our school who had helped us with our entry as well as submitting her own. Excited by this prospect, I gave ‘Oxford German Olympiad’ a quick Google and was pleased to find that it not only still existed but had been going strong for several years and, most importantly, entries were open for this year’s competition!

What I loved about the structure of the competition was how all the tasks tied into an overall theme but were so diverse, both within and across the age categories, which gave me a chance to explore aspects of German and Germany that I never would have before. The Olympiad provided me with a great opportunity to do some wider study of German culture and literature as well as the linguistic challenge of composing an essay in German, which was especially useful because I’m hoping to study German at university. I liked the sound of all the tasks in my age category and wanted to get as fully involved as possible so, instead of choosing between them, I decided to have a go at all three.

I started with the essay on Germany’s colonial history, which was probably the hardest task from a language point of view, as well as requiring the most research yet despite this I’d say it turned out to be my favourite task. After collecting the necessary initial research to find out what the story of Germany’s empire actually was, I thought it would be very easy for this kind of essay to turn out quite stale and technical but I wanted to make it come alive with a literary touch so I developed an extended metaphor, comparing Germany’s association with colonialism to an actor on a stage. This meant that I not only learned something new about Germany’s fascinating and unique history but was able to get creative and really have fun with what is a truly beautiful language. I think my enjoyment of this task showed in my entry and it definitely paid off, as this piece was joint winner in my age category.

Thomas_Mann_with_Albert_Einstein,_Princeton_1938
Thomas Mann with Albert Einstein in Princeton in 1938

For the second task, I researched the Austrian German dialect, struggling to fit all its quirks into just 400 words and for the third I chose to write about the author Thomas Mann, one of the many authors who left Germany as the Nazis came to power. He nevertheless fought hard for his beloved country jenseits von Deutschland, as you might say. This entry epitomised the competition for me because Mann is such a remarkable example of this year’s Olympiad title. My research into his life and work has gone beyond the competition as I’ve explored German Exilliteratur, even choosing it as the focus for my Extended Project Qualification in sixth form. Again, I had a chance to get creative with this task, choosing to narrate his history as a story, with dialogue and literary features, rather than as an essay, which was yet another discipline I would never have explored without the Olympiad.

As the deadline for round one entries drew near and I was giving those final touches to my three pieces, I happened to check the Olympiad website again and was delighted to find that this wasn’t the end – there was a round 2! The tasks in round 2 were even more diverse, giving incredible scope for creativity. Having read some Kafka before, I enjoyed being mind-boggled as I read his Die Sorge des Hausvaters and barely knew where to start with a response. Having this chance to respond creatively to Kafka’s work helped me to delve deeper into his intentions and the thought processes behind his work as well as considering the weighty existential questions his work evokes.

The poetry of HC Artmann was, if possible, yet more bizarre than Kafka and undoubtedly a piece of literature which, without the Olympiad, I would never have been introduced to. The biggest challenge I faced in the HC Artmann task wasn’t understanding the German he used (helpfully provided alongside the original dialect version) but interpreting the poetry itself. Baffled, I simply chose to reflect this uncertainty in my response, writing two poems in response to his Kindesentführer, based on different readings of the poem which I had taken. Only Artmann himself knows whether either of my interpretations are correct (if there is ever a correct interpretation of poetry) but the responses were enough to win the prize for this competition, generously made possible by HC Artmann’s widow Rosa Pock.

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Some winners get to blow their own trumpet at the ceremony!

Having submitted my grand total of five entries across Rounds 1 and 2 I felt not just immense satisfaction and pride at having accomplished this but also, most importantly, a passion for German literature, not initially kindled by this competition but certainly refreshed and burning brighter than ever because of it. I had dedicated a considerable amount of time to my entries and felt like I’d given a small piece of my heart and soul to the competition which was in a way its own reward. I probably didn’t realise how much the competition meant to me until I received the email with my results; I screamed so loudly that my parents came rushing upstairs thinking I had hurt myself! Besides the success itself was the exciting prospect of attending the award ceremony in Oxford at none other than the Bodleian library, an event which lived up to and surpassed expectations. I travelled down from Manchester with my Dad, the weather reflecting our mood in a sunny and more-than-usually beautiful Oxford and as we waited on the steps of the Weston Library, I realised the full scope of the competition as we saw students of all ages begin to gather. The event itself was incredibly well organised, managing to balance a comfortable and informal intimacy with the grandeur appropriate for a prize ceremony. Judges, organisers and participants alike were friendly, excited and welcoming. And the best part? With heavily book-based prizes, I left with yet more German literature to explore!

Beth Molyneux

Fancy having a go at the Olympiad yourself? The next competition is just around the corner! We’ll be announcing the theme for the Oxford German Olympiad 2018 later in September!

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Exploring German-language culture with the Olympiad…

Isobel Horsfall was a winner in this year’s Oxford German Olympiad ‘Deutsch(e) jenseits von Deutschland’ – and taking part took her to another land! Metaphorically speaking. You can read her entry here: Runner up Blog Post. This week, she describes how she went about writing her winning entry…

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A view of the Dolomites: ‘Hochgebirge mit Firn und See’ by Josef Krieger, ca. 1914.

Starting A-Level German in September,  I am guilty of never having visited a German speaking country. Therefore the task of researching somewhere that speaks German – ausserhalb Deutschland – appealed to me as a way for me to start exploring the deutschsprachige world from the comfort of my own bedroom.  A quick internet search revealed many options for the topic of my entry. However, I decided upon South Tyrol as it presented itself as an idyllic region, nestled in the Dolomites, that I had never even heard of.

As I began to write, I put some thought to what I actually enjoy reading. Thus, my entry morphed into a travel piece for South Tyrol, not because this is what competition necessarily asked for, but because I thought if I wrote something I would feasibly enjoy reading myself then maybe others would too.

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Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Ötztal Alps in 1991 (Image © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)

Through my fact-hunting I discovered many brilliant reasons to visit South Tyrol: from stunning scenery, to incredibly rich heritage, all the way back to 3300 BC (the era of Ice man Ötzi). The region has been disputed by various nations throughout history, resulting in the unique amalgamation of different cultures and languages there today; German, Italian and Ladin shared by the 500,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, my research re-raised a recurrent question to me of how much of our identity is connected to languages, especially in the ever-globalising world. Writing freischaffend also allowed me to be more creative than with my GCSE German, a chance I relished.

From conversations with other entrants at the ceremony, I can safely say we would all recommend the rewarding experience which facilitated using German in a refreshingly different way als im Klassenzimmer! The competition has also kindled my interest in exploring German-speaking regions soon, perhaps with a family holiday…

Isobel Horsfall

Das Mädchen schleppte sich… to the Oxford German Olympiad

This week, Sofia Justham Bello, talks about her love of German, onomatopoeia and how she approached entering the biggest event in the Oxford German Network diary: the Oxford German Olympiad. Click here to read her version of Hansel and Gretel.

My underlying motivation for taking part in the 2017 Oxford German Olympiad was my love for the German language. What particularly draws me towards German is its poetic nature and ability to combine individual words to form a larger word and meaning; for example, in my entry I used the word Menschenmenge (crowd) which can be broken down to Menge (an amount) of Menschen (people).

Prizes 2017Another reason that drew me towards entering the competition was the theme: “Deutsch jenseits von Deutschland”-German beyond Germany. This was intriguing as one could explore the role and power of German in any location, hence expressing the idea that language is not restricted to thrive in one place. In my opinion this theme is particularly encouraging and vital for our world today, as it reflects the need for different languages in our lives, increasing our ability to connect with people and understand each other’s cultures.

The category I took part in involved rewriting the story of “Hänsel und Gretel” in a different location. I chose to relocate them in modern day London, a multicultural city with an iconic landscape, which generates infinite possibilities for storytelling.

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Illustration from the 1903 edition of Ludwig Richter’s collection of fairytales

The timelessness of the Grimm tale was key to motivating me to write; personally, I find that Märchen offer a sense of comfort to the reader; despite their bizarre and often gory themes, one is fond of their nostalgic structure and magical familiarity. My story was similar to the original, but I altered small details to fit the setting, such as instead of following a white dove, the children follow a pigeon; and instead of stumbling across a life-size gingerbread house, my story ends with a cliffhanger that leaves them peering into a cake shop window.

Writing a short story in German was more of a challenge, and it took practice to write in the imperfect tense. However, it was fun to discover new verbs which I would have never encountered at school, such as when Gretel felt tired, and therefore dragged her feet along the street (Das süße Mädchen schleppte sich die Straße entlang – very onomatopoeic!).

I also found it fun to discover new idioms to illustrate the siblings’ resilience, such as Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund (“The Morning Riser has gold in their mouth”, i.e. the early bird gets the worm); such an idiom perhaps highlights the positivity and character the German language has, which is likely to have compelled so many people to take part in the Olympiad this year.

Sofia Justham Bello

Oxford German Olympians celebrate success!

Since the Olympiad celebrations in June, the Oxford German Network team has had a little break – hence the ‘Funkstille’ on our blog. But while we were away, we asked some of the successful participants in ‘Deutsch(e) jenseits von Deutschland’ to tell us about their experience of taking part in the competition. We start with the group that came runner-up for their interview with a German native speaker living in the UK: Ellie, Laila and Hannah.

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Prof. Henrike Lähnemann announces the winners at the prize-giving ceremony

Our trip to Oxford was amazing! We had such a great time – this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is something that definitely doesn’t happen often! Oxford University is so eye-catching, with the stone walls and the old wooden doors, and the resources that are available are super helpful. Oxford city is beautiful with lots of sightseeing to do and ancient buildings with stories behind them. When we got there we had a tour of the university, after that we went to the awards ceremony at the Bodleian Library which looked like the perfect place to study in. The next day we got ready for another exciting day ahead of us. We went on a river boat to see the pretty trees and nature around us, later in we went to the cinema to get out of the scorching heat!

Overall our trip to Oxford was very memorable and we would love to go back again sometime.

Ellie Tempest

Prizes 2017

The award ceremony was amazing! I would love to take part in another competition for the Oxford German Network. I liked doing the quiz about the Bodleian. I especially liked the rap video. My prize was an orange phone cleaner, an Oxford University postcard, Letters To A Young Poet [book], How a Ghastly Story Was Brought To light By A Common Or Garden Butchers Dog [book], Chess [book] and an Oxford German Network bookmark.

Laila Gowling

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Competitors wait to receive their prizes

Besides going to the University and the award ceremony, we found Oxford town great. Everything was so pretty and it had such a nice scenery. Also everyone that we met in Oxford was so kind and always there if we needed help. The cinema was great and so was the mini river cruise we had so much fun. Overall our time in Oxford was amazing and we would love to go back and we will definitely be entering the next lot of Competitions, in the hope of having this magical experience again.

Hannah Wicks

More to come next week…!

Deutsch(e) jenseits von Deutschland – the Winners!

The Oxford German Olympiad 2017 is officially closed and yesterday evening the winners were invited to attend a prize ceremony in Oxford. We’re delighted to announce all the winners here. And while you’re here, why not take a look at some of their work as well?

Peoples have always migrated and taken their languages and stories with them. Moreover, languages and cultures are almost never confined to one geographical area or one nation. This year, the Oxford German Olympiad explored German peoples, language and culture beyond the borders of Germany. We asked students across the UK to think about where German is spoken throughout the world in all its variants and how it got to all those places, as well as modern German-speaking migrants and the texts and opinions they take with them.

 

Oxford German Olympiad 2017 The Winners

Years 5 and 6 (age 9-11)

Draw a comic strip:

Winner: Seren Billington

Runner-up: Charity Clifford

Runner-up: Rianne Thomas

Highly Commended: Nile Studt

Highly Commended: Helen Li

 

 

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Design a menu:

Winner: Sydney Smith & Ellie Grimsey

Runner-up: Helen Li

Highly commended: Hester Perry

Commended: Anastasia Ellis, Olivia Hough, Liberty Caraher

 

 

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Illustrate your favourite German word:

Winner: Sophie Moss

Runner-up: Dinara Gill

Highly commended: Lydia Morgan

Highly commended: Aisha Akhtar

Commended: Joshua Mariott

Commended: Martha Block

 

 

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Years 7 to 9 (age 11-14):

Write a conversation between a Deutscher Schäferhund and a Bernhardiner

Winner: Aishwarya Shanmuganathan

Runner-up: Izzie Grout

Highly Commended: David Demetriou & Alfie Stocker

Commended: Emma Haythornthwaite

Commended: Charlotte Preston

Commended: Fifi Dunphy

Commended: Elizabeth Gliznutsa

 

 

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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit: Summarise or write about the adventures of Anna’s toy dog

Winner: Eleanor Voak (Pink Rabbit Winner)

Runner-up: Khadijah Rahman

Runner-up: Layla Barwell

Highly Commended: Helena Taylor

Commended: Xiaoli Biggs

Commended: Lara Koch & Elizabeth Appleford (Pink Rabbit Commended)

 

 

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Design a brochure  

Winner: Alina Gantner & Maria Maratovna Nazhmeddinova

Winner Dario Brincat

Runners-Up: Mahliha Taylor & Rosa Boyd

Highly Commended: Pamela Shahbakhti

Commended: Ngum Mofor

Commended: Abesha Balakumar & Ikra Kabir

 

 

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Years 10 and 11 (age 14-16):

Relocate the adventures of Hänsel und Gretel and write their story

sekhonsogo2017Winner: Simrit Sekhon

Runner-up: Loretta Bushell (Runner up Hansel and Gretel)

Runner-up: Sofia Justham Bello (Runner up 2 Hansel and Gretel)

Commended: George Phibbs (Commended Hansel and Gretel)

Commended: Sebastian Roberts (Commended 2 Hansel and Gretel)

 

Write a blog post or short article

Winner: Olivia Shelton (Winner Blog Post)

Runner-up: Isobel Horsfall (Runner up Blog Post)

Highly Commended: Jacob Melia, Daniel Mills, Alex Rowley (Highly Commended Blog Post)

Highly Commended: Alasdair Czaplewski (Highly Commended 2 Blog Post)

Commended: Pyotr Baskakov (Commended Blog Post)

 

Write a profile

baylisslogo2017Winner: Lucy Bayliss

Runner-up: Ekaterina Rahr-Bohr (Runner up Profile)

Highly Commended: Iris Bertrand (Highly Commended Profile)

Highly Commended: Jessica Ebner-Statt (Highly Commended 2 Profile)

Commended: Yao-Chih Kuo (Commended Profile)

Commended: Sophie Noble (Commended 2 Profile)

 

Years 12 and 13 (age 16-18):

Migrating Communities

Winner: Simone Jackson (Winner Migrating Communities)

Runner-up: Beth Molyneux (Runner up Migrating Communities)

Highly Commended: Isabel Yurdakul (Highly Commended Migrating Communities)

Highly Commended: George Ruskin (Highly Commended 2 Migrating Communities)

Commended: Lidija Beric (Commended Migrating Communities)

Commended: Amy Lewis Commended 2 Migrating Communities)

 

Dialect Essay

Winner: Mariella Clarke (Winner Dialect Essay)

Runner-up: Franziska Alting (Runner up Dialect Essay)

Highly Commended: Maia Jarvis (Highly Commended Dialect Essay)

Highly Commended: Emma McDowell (Highly Commended 2 Dialect Essay

 

Colonial History Essay

Winner: Helena de Guise (Winner Colonial History)

Winner: Beth Molyneux (Winner 2 Colonial History)

Runner up: Lilian Tosner (Highly Commended Colonial History)

Runner up: Eden Magid (Runner Up 2 Colonial History)

Highly Commended: Hugo Gallagher-Boyden (Highly Commended Colonial History)

Highly Commended: Phuong Bui (Highly Commended Colonial History)

Special Prize for pupils outside the UK: Maurice Zoa & Bruno Ndougou

 

Open Competition for Groups or Classes (4+ participants)

Write and perform a rap about the German language

Winner: Samantha Martin, Veronica Kravchenko, Laura Newey, Faye Metcalfe

Runner-up: Pierre Meyer, Nicholas Poat, Travis Richards, Thomas Barnes (Deutsch Rap – Transcript)

Highly Commended: Jodie Gollop, George Bayliss, Nicholas Speed, William Coupe

 

Create a web page or website on the theme ‘Deutsche jenseits von Deutschland

Winner: Propa Anwar, Lidija Beric, Rayya Shareef, Precious Quaye

Runner-up: Miles Begley, Rupert Hill, Reuben Bye, Lucas Cope

 

Interview a German-native speaker living in the UK and create a podcast

Winner: Leonora Selita, Sofia Denno, Laura Bell, Amaani Khan, Rosie Young

Runner-up: Safron Salhan, Setinder Manic, Nikita Talwaria

Runner-up: Hannah Wicks, Laila Gowling, Grace Adamson, Ellie Tempest

 

A new OGN competition is launched – it’s going to be a classic!

The Oxford German Network is delighted to announce the launch of a new essay competition for 16-18 year olds in the UK: ‘A German Classic’. The piece of classic German literature celebrated this year is Goethe’s Faust, Part I. To find out all about entering the competition, visit the OGN website here, where you’ll also be able to download a wealth of podcasts and other study resources to help you. The competition prize has been generously donated by Jonathan Gaisman, QC, whose first encounters with German as a schoolboy left him with a lifelong enthusiasm for German literature. In this week’s blog, he tells us how this passion came about.

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Faust und Erdgeist, a sketch by Goethe

My first German teacher, a perceptive man called Roy Giles, wrote in my initial term’s report: “He will do well at this language, because he likes the noise it makes.” And so I did: aged just 14, I was immediately delighted by the disembodied voice on the audio-visual tape, which was how my acquaintance with the German language began: “Hören Sie zu, ohne zu wiederholen”. The cadences of this unremarkable sentence, bidding one to listen without repeating, still enchant me today. The story on the tape told of the prosaic doings of a German businessman attending an industrial fair. He was called Herr Köhler. Presumably this was a joke, though one unlikely to appeal much to schoolboys. But what caught my attention was the dramatic plosive – unlike anything in English – available to those willing to launch into the sentence “Plötzlich klingelt das Telefon”. That this sentence, like its companions, was of an almost Ionescan banality deprives it of none of its nostalgic appeal: I was already reaching for the handle of the door.

Four years later, by the time I left school, I had passed well and truly through. In those days, studying a modern language involved intensive study of literature. We studied Prinz Friedrich von Homburg and other writings of Kleist, carefully read Maria Stuart, and more than dabbled in the shallows of Faust part I.  A personal enthusiasm bordering on obsession led me to commit large slabs of Faust to memory, and they are still there. Giles had introduced us to recordings of Gründgens‘ performance of Mephistopheles in Faust; another teacher, Mark Phillips, earned my particular  gratitude by playing me Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin.  And so the way was opened though literature to poetry, to Lieder, to Wagner and to the extraordinary contribution of the German language to the life of the arts from the 18th century on.

German literature and culture had thus passed into my bloodstream, and become part of my imagination and mental being. So it was inevitable that I would take modern languages to university, where I was lucky enough to be tutored by a third fine teacher, Francis Lamport, at Worcester College, Oxford. Sadly, before long, but not before adding authors such as Büchner, Grillparzer, Kafka and Mann to my acquaintance, I abandoned the outer form of German studies, and dwindled into a lawyer. But the fire within was alight, and it burns still. The few years between the ages of 14 and 18 when I studied German represent the dominant intellectual influence in my education, and the one for which I am most grateful.

The simple aim of this prize is to enable other students to set out on the same journey which has enriched my way of seeing the world, to discover the inspiration of the German literary canon, and to avow the great truth uttered by Karl der Groβe himself: “The man who has another language has another soul”.

Jonathan Gaisman QC

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Faust spricht mit dem Erdgeist (1969), Margret Hofheinz-Döring (copyright Brigitte Mauch)

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

A record-breaking Oxford German Olympiad!

Judging of the Oxford German Olympiad 2017 has now been completed and all those who took part will soon be informed of their result. It’s been a particularly exciting year for the Oxford German Network team because this year’s Olympiad has proved to be the biggest ever!

Pennsylvania_German_Sticker.svg2017 marks the 5th anniversary of what has become the biggest event in OGN’s calendar. The Oxford German Olympiad is an annual themed competition for learners of German aged between 9 years and 18 years old and living in the UK. The tasks are designed to challenge learners of all levels to get creative with their German language skills and expand their knowledge of the culture, history and literature of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This year the theme was Deutsch(e) jenseits von Deutschland – German(s) beyond Germany.

In its first year in 2013 – when the theme was ‘Grimm Tales’ – 496 pupils aged between 11 and 18 years old took part. In 2016 (Deutscher Humor – Nichts zum Lachen?) saw 350 young German learners aged 9 to 18 years old compete to show off their German language skills and cultural knowledge. This year, nearly 550 entries were submitted by over 750 pupils aged between 9 and 18 years old from 97 schools in every part of the United Kingdom – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were all represented. That includes nearly 50 schools that entered pupils for the very first time, making 2017 definitely the biggest year of the Olympiad in all respects!

The Olympiad tasks are judged by a hard-working team of German experts from the Oxford German Network team (past and present) and members of the Oxford University German Sub-faculty, who take a break from reading undergraduate essays every year to read… German posters, brochures, fairystories, interviews and imagined dialogues, rewritten literary classics, comic strips, and watch sketches, raps, songs and animations. The variety is almost endless!

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Judging is completed in several stages and the ultimate decision over the winning entries is presided over by the Chair of the Judging Committee – in previous years this has been the professors who have been the Taylor Chair of German and the Chair of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics. This year, Professor Henrike Lähnemann once again took up the helm of the Judging Committee.

The competition is too large for the judges to be able to give individual feedback on entries and every year judging proves to be a tough task, but this year the committee were particularly impressed by the creativity of the entries. As one judge said, “what I found most striking was how evident it was when pupils were having fun”, commenting that in the tasks they had judged “it was great to see a very wide range of entries”, while another member of the Judging Committee admired the “really playful responses” to the set tasks and noted that several had showed strong evidence of considerable background research. All the judges noted that – in addition to sticking to the rubric of the competition tasks – the entries that did particularly well and most impressed them were those that showed reflectivity, linguistic accuracy and ambition, and creative thinking with language and with the format of the task, whether that was storytelling, interviewing, creating a comic strip or writing an essay.

OGE-logo-land-ounSo the Oxford German Network Team and the Olympiad Judging Committee hope you – whether student or teacher – enjoyed taking part in the Oxford German Olympiad this year as much we all did reading and watching all your entries. Warm congratulations to all the winners, runners up, and everyone who participated!

Now… keep your eyes peeled for announcements about the Oxford German Olympiad 2018!

 

Deutsch(e) jenseits von Deutschland – German(s) beyond Germany

The Oxford German Network recently launched its annual national competition: the Oxford German Olympiad 2017! Now in its fifth year, this year’s theme is ‘Deutsch(e) jenseits von Deutschland – German(s) beyond Germany’. The OGN Team put their heads together to suggest some of the questions and topics you might like to think about when you enter the competition…

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A Pennsylvania Dutch badge design

Peoples have always migrated and taken their languages and stories with them. Moreover, languages and cultures are almost never confined to one geographical area or one nation. Of course, the English language provides a good example of this – but so does German! German and German dialects are spoken not just by those living in Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland… and parts of the USA, and German culture has found its way into all sorts of unexpected places. So this year, the Oxford German Olympiad explores German peoples, language and culture beyond the borders of Germany. There’s a lot out there to provide food for thought!

Historically, Germany didn’t even come into existence until 1871 and Austria didn’t exist as a defined republican state until 1919. They’re both very young in terms of ‘nation states’. So what does that mean for what we might consider ‘German’? Would travelling back in time open up a world in which all of ‘German’ existed only ‘beyond Germany’?

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A shop sign in Liechtenstein. In Swiss German ‘Hoi’ means ‘Hi’ – ‘Hoi zäme’ is for greeting more than one person.

Like English, German is the official language in more than one country. Do people in Austria speak ‘German’ or ‘Austrian’? And what about Switzerland? Officially divided into German, French and Italian speaking areas – the German you’ll encounter here is again very different and even varies with each Kanton! Did you know that German is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg?

Like Britain, France, Spain or Portugal, Germany became a colonial power, but only in the late nineteenth century under Kaiser Wilhelm II. It was a latecomer seeking a “place in the sun” – “einen Platz an der Sonne”. There are still traces of that heritage, e.g. in Africa, where the German Empire settled colonies in areas that are now parts of Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ghana, and other modern African countries.

Can you think of any famous German migrants in the UK? You could start with looking into the ancestors of the Royal Family or the ancient Rothschild financial dynasty… A wave of migration to other parts of the world was caused by National Socialism in the 1930s and early 1940s, but Germans also moved across Europe and across oceans for religious and economic reasons from the sixteenth century onwards. Religious reforming communities, like the Mennonites and the Amish, which have Dutch and Swiss origins in the sixteenth century and still maintain some of their linguistic heritage (e.g. ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’) to this day, can be found in parts of the USA, South America and elsewhere.

People migrate for many reasons: they may follow a friend or partner, work for an international company, seek an education abroad or just want to try living somewhere else. How many people in the UK do you know who originate from a German-speaking country?

Of course, texts also migrate – above all through translation – and can be adopted and adapted by other cultures. Think of the international cultural influence of Goethe’s Faust or the many well-known fairytales collected, adapted and published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the nineteenth century. Pick a piece of German you find interesting – a song, a poem, a news article or part of a story – and try translating it. It’s fun! You’ll find words that are almost the same, and words that are challenging. Are any untranslatable?

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Rumpelstiltskin ‘spinning’ a tale, from an edition of Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm, translated by Lucy Crane and illustrated by Walter Crane, 1886.

You’ll find lots more inspiration and interesting ideas on the Oxford German Network’s competition pages, as well as all the competition tasks and guidelines. The deadline for entries is 12 noon, Friday 17 March 2017 (note that submission is online only). If you have any queries you can email the OGN Coordinators at ogn@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.