Tag Archives: german

Flying Robert


This film was created in Hillary Younglove’s puppet class at Sonoma Academy in 2011. This is the story of Flying Robert from the children’s book Struwwelpeter (1845) by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman. The song is by British cult trio Tiger Lillies . Tiger Lillies collaborated in the award-winning musical Shockheaded Peter, which is based on Struwwelpeter.

I checked the weather forecast before we left. Gusts of winds of up to 60 mph on exposed coastlines were expected. When we arrived in Littlehampton it was not only very very windy, but it rained quite heavily, too. So we briefly discussed the question that had crept into our minds: Shall we just turn around and drive back home and hide from that bad bad wind…and rain, or,  shall we stay? Once our thoughts-in-sync were out in the open we unanimously kicked them out of our heads. Never mind the rain or galeforce winds! We’re here to enjoy ourselves!

We got out of the car and checked into our studio holiday apartment opposite East Beach. From our windows, we had some fabulous sea views irrespective of the weather. And then the rain suddenly stopped and the grey sky turned blue and we decided to go for a walk along the beach.


Patient companion, “Gerdita, turn around, this is a safe distance to take a photo of you.”

Me-who-much-prefers-the-active-photographer-role-instead-of-being-the-object-of-interest-of-the-snapper, “Ahm, really? Do I really have to…?  I continued in my mind,   “…pose and smile the smile that for sure will as usual end up looking like a grin that makes me look just like the Cheshire Cat?” , and I replied, “All right then.” 

Because I decided to take an umbrella, which, I know, was pointless considering the forceful sea breezes,  I decided to pose as Flying Robert and almost turned into a Flying Gerda.


As I leant back into the wind the pure force of gust kept me from toppling over and I’m definitely not a lightweight.


Suddenly one of the stretchers of the umbrella broke and my imminent departure to faraway lands fell through. 

So, with me still on the island the two of us visited Chichester and Arundel the following day and we even managed to do another long coastal walk. Below are some photos from those days.

pier stormy sea2

When we arrived the beach and promenade were almost deserted. But suddenly, within minutes, blue sky!

glistening sea waves2

birds beach_hut

That same weekend the River Arun Waterfront Festival took place. The weather was fantastic and Littlehampton packed with people.

Lifeboat promenade2


Meeting a Scot – Old High German words in the English and Scottish dictionary – or, my first experience with etymology

scotsmanEver since my first encounter with a real Scotsman in a pub in Brighton at the age of 16, which marked the beginning of a 3-week language ‘holiday’, my parent’s desperate attempt to combat my failing marks in the yearly school reports, I love the Scottish accent. So, when my new-dad-for-the-next-three-weeks picked me up after my arrival, and before dropping me off at my new-home-for-the-next-three-weeks, we took a detour to his local pub. There, I met his Scottish friend. He’s a real Scotsman, he’s from Glasgow, new-dad-for-the-next-three-weeks shouted from the bar whilst ordering me an orange juice. So what, I thought, before the Scotsman started talking…to me. All of a sudden there were all those strange sounds and unintelligible words emerging from his lips with the speed of a rocket… Greatso what now, I thought, looking for help from my new-dad-for-the-next-three-weeks, who was still standing at the bar. I didn’t dare to look at the Scotsman, whose words and sheer speed of talking intrigued me. Needless to say, I didn’t understand any of what he’d said. 

5 years later and having lived in London for a year or so, I met another Glaswegian. Coincidently my second encounter took place in a pub, yet again. But his time I was better prepared. Having met people from all over the world I enjoyed listening to different accents and guessing where people came from. That particular evening I was sipping on a pint of lager which helped not only my speaking but listening skills, too.

armpitThis second Glaswegian would eventually become a close friend, who one day said something like Och, I’ve got an itchy oxter! You’ve got an itchy what? I asked. Oxter. Oxter, I repeated and asked, What’s that? It’s a word for armpit. And that was it.

Oxter marked the beginning of my interest in finding the roots of words and my general interest in language(s). Thank you oxter!

Funnily, oxter reminded me of oxl (Austrian dialectal pronunciation of its standard German equivalent Achsel (armpit), and that motivated me to look up oxter in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). There I discovered that oxter is not only referred to as a dialectal word in Scotland but also in Ireland and other northern parts of England. So, I began with my first ever etymological mini-research. Here are some of the findings.

Oxter, can be used as both a noun – the armpit or underside/inside of the upper arm – but also a verb. The OED gives the following example from 1793 to illustrate the latter, The Priest he was oxter’d, the Clerk he was carried. A more recent example is taken from a Glasgow Broadsheet in 2000, … the stewardess in question had taken severely to drink….. She had to be oxtered out of the city-centre-style bar while the night was extremely young. (Online Dictionary of the Scots Language). The meaning of oxtered in both examples is the same, that is, being supported by the arm or taken under the arm.

As most of the quotations found in the OED are by Scottish authors we can see the regional usage of that word. The next step, therefore, was to look a little further into the origin of that word and I discovered that oxter actually originates from the Old English oxta or ohsta. Furthermore, I could trace a reference to the Old High German word ohsna and the Dutch oksel (Oxford English Dictionary, 1961), which is surprisingly similar to the above mentioned Austrian Dialect word oxl.

Ohsna and oksel probably arrived to the British Isles round about the 5th century when Germanic tribes invaded England and as the result of the many different Germanic languages Old English finally developed with an “internal dialectal variation between the north and south of England” (Leith, 2007, p.41), the consequence of various settlements of different tribes. Thus oxter probably ended up in the northern parts of England and Scotland.

I then wanted to find out if the usage of oxter is indeed a regional one and asked four friends of mine the same question: “What does oxter mean?”.

G K, 46, Glasgow:

G: It’s the armpit!

Me: Would you also use it to describe an action, as a verb?

G: No

J T, 58, Leeds:

J: Don’t know. Something to do with an ox?

H J, 39, London:

H: Not sure.

H B, 27, London:

H: Armpit. My grandmother and dad use the word.

Me: Would you use it?

H: No, it’s old-fashioned! None of my friends use it.

This minuscule, and for me exciting, investigation shows how certain words have crept into the English/Scottish  dictionary many many years ago and are still in use today. It also shows restricted or limited usage of certain dialect words are limited depending on (a) certain region(s), which often also reflects historic events. Hopefully oxter and oxtered continue to find their way into some literature in order to keep them alive.


Melvyn Bragg in The Adventure of English, DVD 1, Chapter 1, Episode 2, 2006 the Open University.

Dictionary of the Scots Language online http://www.dsl.ac.uk/ (last accessed 9thApril 2014)

Leith, D. (2007) “The origins of English” in D. Graddol, D. Leith, J. Swann, M. Rhys and J. Gillen (eds) Changing English, London, Routledge/The Open University, p. 40-41

Oxford English Dictionary (1961), Oxford University Press

Oxford English Dictionary online at http://dictionary.oed.com (last accessed 7th April 2014)


I managed to press – oh…hold on… no…I meant SLIDE the green and moving telephone on the screen of my NEW mobile phone – not that I HAD to get it, but had I not I would have lost  £13.50 sitting in the phone fund that my mobile phone provider decided to scrap at the end of November, and so, after hurrying inside one of their shops during the short break between two lessons I walked outside with a CLEVER phone – and answered J’s call.

I was startled when instead of her usual cheerful Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. JB calling GB, JB calling GB. Do you read me? Do…you…read… me? and therefore loosing out on my automatic reply I can read you very well, JB, over, I heard this . When asked, she told me that the song came from her white and round fluffy fella (that is, a singing snowman). After insisting to press the button again (I don’t get serenaded to that often) that cheerful tune just stayed in my mind for days and then I thought about cheerful German Christmas Carols. As a result of all this (in case you were wondering what I’m rabbiting on about) I decided to play two Weihnachtslieder (see links below) at the end of my last few lessons before Christmas – working a bit with the vocabulary and practicing our listening skills (it was a German lesson after all).

Why don’t you try to sing along with your friends, family and/or pets on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or right this minute  (the clips are great for karaoke). It’s fun, releases stress (really) and you get to practice your German.

Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann

Kling Glöckchen klingelingeling

Here are some tips on how to listen to a German song and get the most out of it:

1.Listen to the song without looking at the text, concentrating on the German words.  Do this at least 2-3 times!
2.Then, play the song again and follow the song by reading the text.
3. Here’s the English translation.

Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann

Tomorrow Santa’s coming,
Coming with his gifts.
Colourful lights and silver decoration,
Child in crib and sheep and bull
shaggy bear and panther cuddly toy
I’d like to have.

Bring us, dear Santa
Bring also tomorrow, bring
Shaggy bear and panther,
Steed and donkey, sheep and bull
Nothing but nice things!

But you know our every wish,
You know our hearts.
Children, father and mama
Even grandpa
We’ll all, all be there
Painfully awaiting your arrival.

Kling Glöckchen klingelingeling

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Let me in, you kids!
So cold is the winter!
Open the doors for me!
Don’t let me freeze!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Girls, listen, and boys,
Open up the room for me!
I bring you many gifts,
You should enjoy them!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!

Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!
Brightly glow the candles,
Open your hearts to me,
I want to live there happily,
Devout child, how blessed!
Ring, little bell, ringalingaling!
Ring, little bell, ring!

Schadenfreude? Nein…Schottenfreude! German words for the human condition

Am down to my last packet of handkerchiefs even though I bought a packet of 10 the other day. Just in case, I thought then. But yesterday I began to rip them out of their packet in lighting speed to stop the endless flow from my nose. Today I am trapped in my bed with regular intervals of sleeping, wakening, shivering, sneezing, drenching my grandmother’s white embroidered handkerchief with eucalyptus oil and placing it over my meanwhile very delicate red nose in order to sooth some annoying sinus pain and help my breathing. Luckily, I found a packet of paracetamol, and so keep swallowing  one 500mg pill in regular intervals in the hope of killing the typical cold-and-flu-associated-aches-and-pains.

Having been awake for over an hour I am now sitting up in my bed with 3 large pillows supporting my back. Just moments before I decided to re-read the excerpt from Ben Schott’s Schottenfreude (New York Times, 11th October 2013), (thanks to my Tues lunchtime students, who emailed me the link!!) which demonstrates the beauty and playfulness of the German language with its ability to create words. New words by joining nouns together, for example (known as compound nouns), such as Fitnessstudio, which results in three of the same letters in a row (Fitness + Studio) or Schneeeule or Schnee-Eule (Schnee + Eule = snowy owl)

Ben Schott’s beautiful little book is a humorous delight for language and word lovers. However, Schottenfreude contains not just some beautifully constructed and poetic words, but the reader is at the same time entertained by their often amusing English definitions and background information.

Product Details

My favourite word at the moment is Herbstlaubtrittvergnügen, because I just love pronouncing it but also because of its meaning. That is, Herbst (autumn) is my favourite season and I love to see the leaves of the trees (Laub) changing colours before they fall to the ground. And I enjoy walking through foliage (treten = to kick, to thread on, to step) and all the little pleasures in life, such as kicking autumn leaves.

A slightly longer word mentioned in Schottenfreude (I counted 8 words) is Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss – new vehicle smell.

And now, before I fall into Sonntagsleerung (Sunday afternoon depression) I better take another paracetamol, listen to a some soothing music and dream up new words.

Here you can find an extract of the book, which gives you an idea of the it’s format. It also has a bonus audio recording of some of the words and their meanings.

Autumn Blues or Autumn Joy?

Hurray! Hurray! First signs of autumn are showing. Earlier sunsets. Pleasantly refreshing rainy days. Even more so are the nights. Trees delight with colourful displays in parks and alongside roads. Smells of lit wood burning stoves. Hurray! Hurray!  Autumn, favourite season of the year, announces itself.

For me that means no more feeling guilty of staying in bed longer or staying at home at weekends; reading all the books and watching all the DVDs which were acquired during the last few months and were with no further thought left unopened on the shelves in the living room. It also means experimenting with new recipes. A fan of sweet potatoes, for example, I started trying different kinds of Sweet Potato soups, stews and spreads – roasted and mashed up ones were well-practiced around this time last year. Another ingredient is Polenta. Having been in Transylvania this summer together with my parents to visit Dracula’s castle (sooo predictable) but more so to visit the villages, towns and cities of my Transylvanian Saxons ancestors, I re-discovered  Palukes or polenta. I remember scoffing freshly prepared hot Palukes, adding a bit of ice cold milk to it, whilst sitting next to my grandmother in the living room watching a thriller in the cold winter months. That hot Palukes would warm you up nicely, just like porridge does.

Anyway. In addition I decided to use my guilt-free-spare-time,to tidy up, ahm, files. Not the ones on my desk, which are piled up half way to the ceiling, or the ones under desk, which are actually piled right up to the bottom of the desk or the ones left on the window sill or next to my bed…no, those ones are next on my list. But first, I’ll start organizing the ones carelessly dumped on the desktop or USB sticks or in some  doesn’t-make-sense-to-me-now folders AND sub folders…arghhhhh!

desk full with books and filesPhew! It wasn’t so bad after all. After having spent all Wednesday afternoon and early evening reorganizing and deleting files I now have my German language lesson files nicely organized in perfectly presentable grammar folders and sub folders, sorted into discussion, listening, reading (subgroup: newspaper, books), pairwork, group work folders … yes, the list goes on a bit longer, but I spare you with all the details.

Whilst tidying up, I came across the OU (Open University) folder from 2007-10. Scanning through some of the essays I have written, a few also in German during the Level 3 German module, I noticed just how similar some topics were back then to my current studies now. I enjoyed re-reading some of the shorter essays and perhaps will upload one or two, whose topics (dialects – cultural heritage or speech barrier?), are close to my heart.

Gosh, it seems that list to fill my guilt-free-spare-time is getting longer. And Saturday morning is already over. So I better rush off. Will visit B&Q and IKEA for some DIY double glazing kit and some felt underlay to get my little house ready for the really cold winter months (I have just read that).

So you’d like to improve your German?

A great and fun way to practice any language is via interactive activities/stories and audios, which allow you wherever you are – at home, on the train, at work (during your break time), at the local library, on the toilet 🙂 …-  to get a quick daily fix of German, even if you only have 5 minutes! And I can assure you, it is worth your while.

A fantastic site for self study is the Learn German section of the  Deutsche Welle. There you will find activities and mini series suitable for your level (beginner (A1), elementary (A2), intermediary (B1 B2), advanced (C1, C2). You can also take a short placement test to check which level is right for you. For more information about the different levels or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages click here

Courses you can choose from:

The A1 audio course “Mission Europe” – learn German (or French or Polish!) with action packed crime stories; the A1 – A2 Audiotrainer, allows you to expand your vocabulary by different topics and to improve your pronunciation; tip: download the podcast on to your smart-phone or i-pod! the A1 – B1 audio course “Deutsch – warum nicht?“, has 104 lessons with dialogues and exercises. The A1-B1: Interaktiv – is an online innovative course for independent learners. And if you like to brush up your business German try the Audio course “Marktplatz” (B2), which contains 26 episodes! And finally to listen to daily German news click here .

I wish you lots of fun with learning German!

Cinema Workshops

Really enjoyed meeting my fellow students at Goldsmiths on Wednesday!! We are a real international group, i.e. students from China, Japan, USA, Jamaica, Greece, British, one Austrian 🙂  With such an exciting mix we will surely “live/experience”  the MA’s title, Culture, Language and Identity to the full.

When I got home  that evening I decided to add some more films to my German cinema workshops repetoire. After a bit of digging I’ve decided to prepare some activities around “Auf der anderen Seite” (The edge of Heaven). I absolutely enjoyed watching this movie, which is by Fatih Akin, the same director of “Gegen die Wand” (Head On). “Auf der anderen Seite”, winner of best screenplay at Cannes Film Festival, and The European Film Awards, both is 2007, tells the destinies of six characters, who are bound together by fate. It is a powerful and moving story linking three families across different cultures, countries and generations.


Theatre at the Goethe Institut, 5th October, London

Getting ready for my first day at Goldsmiths this Wednesday. Although it’s “just” an induction evening (with wine and cheese!!) of my first module of Language, Culture and Identity I’m realy looking forward to meeting my fellow students and tutors.

So, I thought on this rainy Sunday afternoon, let’s have a look what Goethe Institut has on offer in October, and I came accross this event:

Jugendtheatertournee 2012

“Über die Grenze ist es nur ein Schritt” – Theatre for young people

Friday 5 October 2012; 10:30 & 14:30
Goethe-Institut London – Auditorium
in German
Tickets: £3
Box Office Tel: +44 20 7596 4000

© Oliver Fantitsch

Michael Müller’s “Über die Grenze ist es nur ein Schritt” (It’s Just a Step across the Border) is a tragic yet comic German play for young people. It draws attention to issues such as migration and the search for identity. Two young actors and the author stage the play which tells the story of an African youngster who has been living in Germany for five years. However, when it emerges that he and his family are living in the country illegally, the situation threatens to get out of control.

The performance introduces young people to the topic of migration and its related issues. The scope of the subject matter makes the play suitable not only for young people aged 14 to 18, but also for adults. It explores themes relevant to young people, such as identity, dreams and the search for self – issues which are just as relevant and important in the UK as they are in Germany and beyond.

Teachers and their students are cordially invited to come and watch the performance of “Über die Grenze ist es nur ein Schritt” in German on 5 October, 2012 in the auditorium at the Goethe-Institut London. After the one hour play you are welcome to join in a discussion with the playwright and the two young actors. Students can use this opportunity to ask questions and comment on the performance.

Teaching Resources for the classroom use are available here:
Download SymbolTeaching Resources (pdf, 4 MB – in German)

I’ve put that date in my diary and hope that some of my young adult students have time to come along to see this promising play!