Too late to start learning German? Think again…

You may think that once you’ve made a choice not to study a language at school, particularly for A Level, then that’s it: you’ve closed off that option for study at university. However, many university’s now offer the opportunity to study a language from scratch. In this blog post from Adventures on the Bookshelf, Hannah Hodges, a student at Oxford University, writes about her decision to take up the challenge…

Last week, we heard an overview of German at Oxford from Prof. Henrike Lähnemann. This week, Hannah Hodges, a current second-year undergraduate of French and German at St Peter’s College, tells us what motivated her to study German from scratch or ‘ab initio’. The popular YouTube videos “German compared to other languages” didn’t really help…

via Why I chose German ab initio — Adventures on the Bookshelf

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More Oxford German Olympiad opportunity ahead!

Those of you familiar with the Oxford German Olympiad will know that the main Olympiad event is accompanied by a small number of satellite competitions with a shorter deadline. Well, this year is no different – read on to find out about the competitions in this year’s Round 2!

1. German Performance Prize

The first of the Round 2 competitions is open to individuals or groups (of up to 4 students) of school pupils between Year 5 and Year 13 (i.e. ages 10-18 years). This competition is carried out in collaboration with the Creative Multilingualism ‘Multilingual Performance Project’. and will be judged by members of the Oxford German Network and the MPP. Your team could win £100!

To enter: Submit a video clip or write the script for a brief comedy sketch which involves an encounter between 1 or 2 English speakers and 1 or 2 German speakers. For full details of the competition and judging criteria, download the entry guidelines here.

2. Camden House ECR Book Proposal Prize

This competition is presented in association with Camden House. It is open to Postgraduate Students of German currently studying at a British or Irish university, or an Early Career Researcher who completed their doctoral degree at a British or Irish university no more than 3 years prior to the date of entry.

Camden House was founded in 1979 and has become a driving force in the publication of scholarly books on German and Austrian literature and culture for English-speaking readers. The imprint of the British/American publisher Boydell and Brewer is committed to fostering highquality research across the period spectrum from the Middle Ages to contemporary culture and presenting this in appealing books that are written in a clear and accessible style. This competition invites participants to write a book proposal on a topic in the field of German literature and/or film that will make a successful and important book and that fits the profile established by Camden House in German studies.

Prize: £200 and consideration for publication with Camden House.

The deadline for all tasks is 12 noon on 16th May 2018. The prizegiving ceremony will take place in Oxford on 19th June, and winning entrants will be invited to attend with a guest. Reasonable travel expenses will be covered. Winners will be notified by 25th May 2018.

Submit entries via the online form.

The winning entries from last year’s Round 2 competitions can be viewed here.

Questions or queries? Email the OGN Coordinator here. Good luck!

Friends and double acts: Dazu gehören immer noch zwei!

The deadline for the Oxford German Olympiad is drawing nigh! In fact, 16 March is the final date you can enter the competition. There’s just time for us to post one more friendship-themed blog post for your last-minute inspiration…

The ‘double-act’ or Komikerduo is a form of artistic partnership with its origins in comic theatre. Double-act often take the form of unlikely friends or contrasting types: two people with very different comic styles or physiques who play with and against each other for laughs. In general, the comedy emerges from the uneven nature of the relationship between the two figures, whether it is one of size and shape, intelligence, social background or character. It’s worth remembering, though, that even the figure that might be considered the “straight man” will still sometimes be the butt of the joke! At the end of the day, the relationship between the two in a double act might be a love-hate type of friendship, but ultimately they need each other in the double act.

German-language culture has a long tradition of comic double acts. They can be found in stage acts of the nineteenth century and in circus clown acts of the early twentieth century – and of course on the cabaret stage from 1910 onwards! A very popular form of the double act is the Doppelconférence, a kind of comic dialogue, full of puns, misunderstandings and miscomprehensions.

Two Austrian actors, Rudolf Walter and Josef Holub, are credited with appearing as early as 1914 as the first Komikerduo on the big screen as Cocl & Seff – a format which influenced Laurel and Hardy, among others. Unfortunately, many of their films have since been lost.

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Karl Valentin and Liesl Karstadt in Mysterien eines Frisiersalons (1932)

The long-running artistic partnership between Karl Valentin und Liesl Karlstadt began on the stage in cabaret performances from 1911, and later transferred into film. Their first short film Mysterien eines Frisiersalons (1932) was directed by Erich Engel and Bertolt Brecht. Click the picture above to watch it on YouTube.

More recent famous double acts include the collaboration between the caricaturist and comic Loriot and his dead-pan foil, the comic actress Evelyn Hamann – they appeared together in Loriot’s films (such as Ödipussi in 1988) and Hamann featured in a multitude of the sketches written by her partner in comedy, notably lisping her way towards a nervous breakdown while trying to pronounce the English combination ‘th’ as a continuity announcer – and the duo ‘Erkan und Stefan’, the fictional personalities of John Friedmann and Florian Simbeck, who brought exaggerated Turkish accents together with Bavarian dialect and English slang for comic effect (they owed some inspiration for their act to the British comic act Ali G).

Can you think of any other German-language double acts? Perhaps some of the literary friendships could be considered double acts – such as Max & Moritz – or are some double acts unintentional (like political double acts)?

The century of letters and friendship

A guest post this week: Dr Marie Isabel Matthews-Schlinzig explains the special place writing letters had for German-speakers in the eighteenth century…

Since ancient times, letter writing and friendship have been intimately connected in people’s imagination. For centuries, letters were even defined specifically as ‘a mutual conversation between absent friends’ (to quote from Erasmus’s treatise on letter writing, Opus de conscribendis epistolis, 1522). Correspondence between friends also came to be associated with a distinct epistolary type: the letter of friendship. Such letters were usually characterized by a familiar tone and a level of intimacy not found in other types of letters, e.g. official communication sent from a public institution to a citizen.

In German cultural and literary history, letters of friendship flourished particularly in the eighteenth century. In this period, which has been called both the ‘century of letters’ and the ‘century of friendship’, people began to celebrate personal friendships in new ways. Letters played a key role in creating and/or sustaining these friendships – sometimes over long distances and periods of time. The language correspondents used was often very sentimental: friends would, for instance, write at length about exchanging hugs and kisses to ensure each other of their mutual affection.

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Gleim’s Temple of Friendship (Photo: Ulrich)

One of the historical persons who exemplify this particular culture of friendship is the German author Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim (1719–1803). Not only was he a prolific (and published) letter writer; he also had a Freundschaftstempel (Temple of Friendship) in his house in Halberstadt. The Temple consisted of several rooms whose walls were covered with portraits of his friends (and can still be seen today in the Gleimhaus). Gleim also had a special writing chair made, which he would move around his temple in order to position himself in front of the portrait of the friend to whom he wanted to write a letter – or whose letter to himself he was about to open and read.

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Title page of Rode’s book (Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt)

Letters of friendship were not the preserve of adults. On the contrary: letters were among the first types of text children learnt about. Entering a correspondence was part of their education as it helped them practise a range of skills, including their spelling and grammar, handwriting, understanding of social conventions – and also their knowledge of foreign languages. We can see aspects of this practice reflected in what may be the earliest German book of fictional children’s correspondence – August Rode’s Briefwechsel einiger Kinder (1776). Among others, it includes the letters exchanged between a group of boys: Carl, Albert, Casimir, Heinrich, and Hamilton. They correspond about all kinds of topics, including their relatives, new experiences, and games played. Since Hamilton is writing in his native French – a language which all the other boys are learning – Carl also uses it in his replies.

Ultimately, Rode’s book is just one example of many which illustrate that friendship, letter writing, and learning go well hand in hand – and that is as true today as it was in the eighteenth century!

About the author:

Marie Isabel Matthews-Schlinzig is a freelance author, editor, scholar, and translator. Together with Caroline Socha, she runs the blog whatisaletter; their their most recent publication is the bilingual collection Was ist ein Brief? Aufsätze zu epistolarer Theorie und Kultur – What is a letter? Essays on epistolary theory and culture (2018).

Forget the Oscars – it’s all about the Bears

The Berlinale – or Berlin International Film Festival – was founded in 1951 and is one of the world’s largest film festivals. And it’s 68th edition opens TODAY! The blog Mit Vergnügen Berlin gives us a sneak peak at the films that have been nominated for those coveted Golden and Silver Bear trophies (‘Goldener Bär’ and ‘Silberner Bär’). Which film would get your vote? Read on…

Am 15. Februar ist es wieder soweit: Zum mittlerweile 68. Mal macht die Berlinale die deutsche Hauptstadt für zehn Tage zum Mittelpunkt der Filmindustrie. Das komplette Programm wurde vor wenigen Tagen veröffentlicht. Für all diejenigen unter euch, die noch unschlüssig sind, welchen der Filme sie sich anschauen wollen, haben wir 11 Highlights herausgepickt, die sich…

via 11 Berlinale-Filme, die du nicht verpassen darfst — Mit Vergnügen Berlin

Wer bin ich – who am I?!

This week, regular guest blogger and guru of the OGN newsletter ‘Joining up German teaching in the UK’ Heike Krüsemann brings us an update from the Creative Multilingualism project, which is part of the Open World Research Initiative and recently held its second conference…

Wer bin ich – who am I?!

Well, only you can answer that! Our identities are shaped in highly individual ways – and if you have more than one language, probably even more so! Academics, teachers, students, artists, poets and other interested parties came together in early February at Reading University’s Institute of Education to exchange ideas on creative multilingual identities. The conference was part of the Creative Multilingualism programme, spearheaded by the OGN’s director and language enthusiast, Professor Katrin Kohl.

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Katrin Kohl opens the conference

The first day kicked off with some splendidly varied presentations by early career researchers on topics such as translation, translanguaging (yes, that’s a word), language learning, and bilingual poetry and art. Of course, I flew the flag for German with some examples of how teenage German learners use metaphors – see what I did there??

A lively panel and audience then debated whether Modern Languages in the UK needs a new identity. Is it one thing – is it many things? Should the question be more like:

‘Wer bin ich, und wenn ja, wie viele?’

Someone should write a book about that – oh, hang on, they already have!

On the second day, we heard about nature’s many languages, and how linguistic and biological diversity complement each other perfectly in the area of conservation. Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele gave a highly enlightening talk about diversity, linguistic and otherwise: culture cannot exist without it. Society needs people who don’t fit into the usual pattern.

Amerah Saleh and Bohdan Piasecki, ‘Free Radicals’ from the Beatfreeks Collective moved the audience to tears for all the right reasons with their multilingual poetry in Arabic, Polish and English. Typical comment: “You ripped my heart out and put it together again”. Powerful stuff.

In two workshops, delegates explored the roles different languages have on the lives of multilingual speakers, and heard about Language Futures an initiative for primary and secondary schools to develop languages beyond the classroom.

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Rinkoo Barpaga has everyone enthralled!

Then Rinkoo Barpaga took the stage and had us all enthralled. Rinkoo is an amazing storyteller and comedian. He is deaf and used sign language and an interpreter to communicate with the audience. We learnt about Rinkoo’s documentary ‘Double Discrimination’ about the variations in sign languages, racism, discrimination and different deaf  Black people’s use of urban sign languages.

Finally, Professor Terry Lamb chaired a panel on community languages in schools. A lot of good work goes on here already which sadly does not receive much publicity, but it’s crucial that teacher education should support multilingual classrooms in the UK.

An inspiring two days passed by in a multilingual flash. If you feel you’re struggling to construct your multilingual identity, relax: anything goes! Just ask yourself this:

Wer bin ich – und warum nicht?

If you’d like to follow up on the conference contributions, have a look on the Creative Multilingualism page.

Heike Krüsemann is a post-doctoral researcher on the Creativity in Language Learning Strand of Creative Multilingualism. To sign up for Heike’s OGN newsletter ‘Joining up German teaching in the UK’ – top tips, events and resources from the world of German teaching, click here. Take a look at Heike’s latest blog post on how the image of Germans in the UK press affects pupil motivation to study German!

 

Symbol of divided friendship – the Berlin Wall

Monday, 5 February 2018 marked the point at which the time the Berlin Wall no longer existed equalled the time that it had stood. As a potent symbol of division where there should be friendship, no trip to Berlin is complete without visiting some of the remains of the ‘Mauer’. Susan Reed at the British Library wrote a post for the European Studies Blog, showcasing a number of the Library’s holdings to trace the history of the Berlin Wall. Read on below…

5 February 2018 marks a curious anniversary: the date on which the Berlin Wall has been down for as long it stood. There were 10,315 days between 13 August 1961, when the first breezeblock-and-barbed-wire barriers appeared, and 9 November 1989 when crossing-points were opened and hundreds of East Berliners headed…

via 10,315 x 2: the days of and after the Berlin Wall — European studies blog

Two Chairs – A Creative Writing Competition

If you’re itching to give your creative writing skills a go, look no further – we’ve got a competition for you! Organised by the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Warwick, entries to the competition can be submitted in English or German. For more, read on…

This creative writing competition is open to everyone. It asks you to consider the pictures of the two stone chairs above. The chairs make up the ‘Hafez-Goethe Monument‘ in Weimar, Germany. This commemorate the work of the German poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), whose collection of poems the West-Eastern Divan (1819) not only imagined a dialogue between the Christian European and Islamic worlds, but also sought to break down of rigid cultural divisions between them. The chairs, though, were left empty by the sculptors in 2001. They do not only represent Goethe and his Muslim counterpart, but allow anyone to occupy them, or even to ‘swap’ chairs and see the world from the ‘other’ perspective.

LandscapeMontage-2

Artists and commentators alike continue to be drawn to the monument and respond to it with their own creative works. The two chairs are separate, solid structures, implying two distinct individuals, cultures, or perspectives – and yet they are both cut from the same piece of stone. The key idea seems to be that we can be connected to people of other cultures, mixing and intertwining with them, without losing our own identity.

In entering, you don’t have to write literally about Goethe and the monument. Try, instead, to run with the key idea. What do the chairs say to you? What personal experiences of encountering or crossing different cultures can you draw upon to inspire you?

Some basic points to note are:

  • You can write in English or in German;
  • Your piece can be a poem, short story or piece of prose no more than 1000 words in length;
  • The entry categories will be under 18s and over 18s, with a piece in English and in German picked from each (four winners in total); prizes will be £250 each.
  • The competition launches on Monday 25 September 2017. The final date for entries is 2 March 2018, 5pm.
  • Entires should be sent electronically (see particulars) to Dr Carly Hegenbarth: C.Hegenbarth@warwick.ac.uk

More detailed particulars, including conditions of entry,and more details about the themes and what judges are looking for, can be downloaded on the project website: warwick.ac.uk/twochairswriting 

We encourage you, please, to read these carefully before you begin, to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment!

Competition entrants and winners will also be invited to attend a prize giving ceremony and live performance at the amazing Holywell Music Rooms, Oxford, on Wed 9th May 2018 (please save the date!) and the winners in each category will attend writing workshops with our panel of renowned judges.

We will certainly undertake to pay economy-level UK travel costs for the four winners, and hope to be able to offer further financial assistance to allow unwaged and school entrants to attend in greater numbers. More details on this will follow.

Good luck – and we look forward to your entries!

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Competition Organiser, Dr James Hodkinson.

Eines Freundes Freund zu sein – Friendship & The Oxford German Olympiad

This year’s Oxford German Olympiad celebrates friendship in all its forms: between people, nations and cultures. So in the next few posts we’ll be taking a look at what ‘friendship’ encompasses, especially in the German-speaking context – you might even get a few ideas for your entry to the Olympiad! This week, we focus on political friendships…

‘Wem der große Wurf gelungen, eines Freundes Freund zu sein’

(Who the noble prize achieveth, good friend of a friend to be)

These lines are taken from Friedrich Schiller’s An die Freude/Ode to Joy, a very famous poem about friendship that was later set to music by Beethoven – and it was chosen as the Anthem of Europe in 1972. It expresses powerful ideas about the common humanity of all mankind, based on the Enlightenment philosophy of the time. According to the poem, shared experience unites people all over the world, including those separated by different languages, traditions and social classes. While this speaks to the basis of friendship between peoples and nations, John le Carré, a former German teacher and passionate advocate for the German language and German culture, has described learning a foreign language as ‘an act of friendship’ that can be performed by each of us. At an individual level, learning another person’s language means learning to communicate with them, listen to them and learn from them – and this can foster mutual understanding at the level of cultures, communities and societies.

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Statue of Marx and Engels in the Marx-Engels Forum in Berlin

History is full of examples of famous friendships and collaborations – between men, women and across genders – which have shaped culture, literature, politics and science. One of the most famous in the history of German culture is the collaboration between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who got to know each other in Paris in 1842 and subsequently  became lifelong friends who collaborated on important works, such as The Communist Manifesto (1847), which have formed the basis for much political thought in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Friendships are also common in other areas of public life, whether genuine or not: the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl was famously close friends with French President François Mitterand during the 1980s, and the two were jointly awarded a Charlemagne Prize in 1988 for promoting Franco-German friendship, thereby echoing the peace efforts that took place after the First World War. Kohl, of course, was also a key political figure in the unification of the two Germanies – the GDR (German Democratic Republic) in the east and the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) in the west – in 1990, an event that is celebrated every year in October. More recently, Angela Merkel and Barack Obama have discussed their close working relationship. Although this has also had its ups and downs, at the end of Obama’s presidency, Merkel could describe Obama as her ‘partner and friend’.

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Obama and Merkel – a close working relationship in international politics

Of course, the UK and the German-speaking countries haven’t always been friends – relations between Britain and Germany in the twentieth century were marked by the two World Wars (1914-18 and 1939-45). Hostile sentiments on both sides have lingered on the in the post-war years, and many British people continued to hold xenophobic anti-German views that, for many years, found particular expression in sporting events.

Nevertheless, long held bitterness resulting from the wars has also been countered by movements that have built on political peace to foster symbolic friendships. The most extensive of these is the movement of town-twinning (Partnerstädte in German). It has long been one of the clearest expressions of international friendship, particularly after the experiences of the Second World War. After the Second World War, the cities of Coventry and Dresden established formal links as a way of promoting peace and reconciliation following the devastation both suffered during the conflict. The city of Reading celebrated 70 years of association with Düsseldorf in 2017. Oxford’s own link with Bonn is also one of those created during this early wave of Anglo-German twinning arrangements and each town marks the connection every few years with a programme of celebratory events. Nowadays, most UK towns and cities have a twin town in France and Germany, at least – and many in other places like the USA, Russia or even China.

Entries to the Oxford German Olympiad 2018 will close at 12 noon on 16 March 2018. You can view the full entry guidelines and competition categories here and submit your entry online here. Next week, we’ll take a look at literary friendships…

 

 

Printing the town – Raubdruck in Leeds

Perusing social media (as you do), OGN discovered that a British nursery had posted about ‘Raubdruckerin’. A ‘Raubdruck‘ is an illicit copy of a work (like a text or a painting) – and the Berlin-based ‘Raubdruckerin‘ describes herself as a ‘pirate printer’. We were intrigued and asked the manager at Best Childcare Nursery in Leeds to tell us more…

At Best Childcare Nursery we aim to ensure that our children learn and develop through unique play experiences that fascinate and enthuse them. Our play experiences are designed to support each individual child’s unique fascinations. Recently our children have been fascinated to explore cause and effect. We have also explored a range of prints and patterns through using our ‘loose parts’ collection in our art studio. As a staff team we like to research new and exciting ways to support our children’s fascinations – which is how we came across ‘Raubdruckerin’!

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Carefully preparing a manhole cover in Chapeltown for printing

‚Raubdruckerin‘ is an “experimental printmaking project that uses urban structures like manhole covers, grids, technical objects and other surfaces of the urban landscape to create unique graphical patterns on streetwear basics, fabrics and paper”. After researching this we thought this would be a fantastic project for our children to explore.

So we went out as a small group into our local community of Chapeltown in Leeds in search of some urban structures so we could create our very own prints. The children used washable powder paints to paint on the urban structure, then pressed paper on top which created our very own print. We ensured we washed our paint away with soap and water so that we didn’t leave a trace. The children were mesmorised by the print that was left on the paper! We are even trying to get our parents involved in trying this experience with their child out in their own communities!

Have you tried creating your own ‘Raubdruck’ from the urban structures in your area? We’d love to hear from  you and see your creative results – just send us an email (ogn@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk) or post in the comments below or on our Facebook page (and don’t forget to wash away any traces of paint from the objects that you print!).