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!

 

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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.

Think German: you already speak it

People often ask me “Do you think in German?” – a way perhaps to gauge how ‘fluent’ I really am. The Think German Network offers a new answer to this question. Its slogan is: think german: you already speak it. If this seems unlikely let me try to convince you, with the help of a very eminent supporter of all things German.

At the recent launch of the Think German Network, held in the Locarno Room at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London, the Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor opened by sharing some of the ways in which we all already think and speak German. He mentioned some everyday words and phrases which are, in fact, originally German. My personal favourites include: Schadenfreude; Doppelgänger; Wanderlust. Of course, over time every learner of German also encounters many intriguing words which have no real English counterpart: Kaffeeklatsch and Gemütlichkeit for starters.  Perhaps as you read this others are coming to mind…

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Members of the Oxford German Network at the Think German Network launch

Other speakers at the event included Dr Peter Ammon, German Ambassador to London, and Professor Katrin Kohl, Director of the Oxford German Network. Guests were then given a whistle-stop tour of the nine German Networks across the UK, and some of their recent successes and upcoming events. Oxford was represented by the OGN Coordinators and members of the Faculty (pictured), and the event provided a very grand forum to meet other guests ranging from Ambassadors and Attachés to representatives of German industry and cultural institutions.

With the launch of the Think German Network a new web portal is now live… Do take a look! And remember, think german: you already speak it.

                                                                                                         Nicola, OGN Coordinator