Germany at the British Museum

The British Museum is hosting the exhibition Germany: memories of a nation from 16 October 2014 to 25 January 2015. This exciting new collection will use objects intrinsically linked to German history to examine the past 600 years in the context of the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 30-part BBC Radio 4 series written and presented by Neil MacGregor which started yesterday, Monday 29 September 2014. Series producer Paul Kobrak has written a blog post about his experience of putting together the series. Click here to read his post.


Poetry-Writing Competition in conjunction with ‘Germany – Memories of a Nation’ Exhibition

placardEach of the iconic objects in the exhibition “Germany – Memories of a Nation” opening at the British Museum this autumn tells a story. The competition organised by the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) in conjunction with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) invites secondary school students, undergraduates and members of the public to bring these stories to life by writing a ‘Dinggedicht’, or poem based on one of the exhibits.

Poems of not more than 250 words may be written in English or German, and will be judged on originality, insight and presentation. Prizes range from scholarships for a summer language course in Germany to a guided tour through the exhibition on the German artist Kurt Schwitters (Merzbarn Wall) at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle.

The closing date for receipt of entries is 14 November 2014. The winning entries in each category will be celebrated in a reading at the British Museum on 12 December 2014.

More about the ‘Dinggedicht’

Competition Website (terms and conditions, enter the competition)

For further information, contact Cecile Reese at the DAAD.

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Stefan Manz on BBC WM about Germany’s WC victory

This morning, BBC West Midlands’ Breakfast show host Pete Morgan invited ‘a happy German’, Dr Stefan Manz, Head of German here at Aston University, to comment on Germany’s win at the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil. His segment starts at 02:24:10 at this link on the BBC iPlayer.



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Uwe Schütte’s literary summer in Berlin


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Guest Blogger: German@Aston student Marcus Begley on the many things you get out of a Year Abroad

img_5871I remember looking around Aston University on an open day, hearing about the compulsory Third Year Abroad and being terrified at the idea of spending up to a whole year in a foreign country. Yet before I knew it, as I was squeezing piles of clothes into a suitcase far too small, this prospect had become very real.

The Year Abroad experience begins early in second year, almost a whole year before actually beginning it. The fact that there are several options of how to spend a Year Abroad means that you really can build a Year Abroad around you – I was given the option of studying at a university, working for a German company or teaching English in a German school. After a little research I opted for the latter – I wanted to ‘test the water’ in terms of teaching and see if it was something I would like to do as a career and coupled with, not only the pay, but also the hours worked, this seemed the best option for me. Next up was to select where I would like to be placed. I chose my preferred three ‘Bundesländer’ and I was fortunate to receive my first choice – Bavaria.

bayernFollowing completion of second year, things started to feel very real. With only a few months before I literally moved country for nine months, I was feeling apprehensive. Over the summer I began searching for accommodation whilst also keeping in close contact with the schools I was to work at. My Year Abroad began early in September 2013 and safe to say, I was very nervous as I left England knowing I wouldn’t be returning until Christmas. My immediate impressions of Germany were very positive. Despite being initially overwhelmed by the language, and my lack of ability in speaking it, the culture is very similar to England and the people were, in total contrast to the largely upheld stereotype, really quite friendly.

Within a few months I felt I was beginning to find my feet in this new country and I was enjoying my work in the school(s!). As a native English speaker, I proved to be pretty popular with teachers and students alike and this made me feel very welcome. I was very surprised at just how high the standard of English is in Germany, considering it’s learnt as a second language. Many young students had better second language skills than I did! One great thing about my role as a British Council English Teaching Assistant was the amount of free time I got. I was able to use this time well and spent almost every weekend visiting somewhere new, whether that be a German city or a neighbouring country. I began to appreciate just how many amazing places and attractions Germany has to offer, whilst also really enjoying constantly improving my knowledge of German culture, history and lifestyle. Christmas time brought with it the opportunity to sample ‘real’ German Christmas markets for the first time, and this was just one particular highlight for me.

As I returned to Germany following the Christmas break, I felt easier knowing where I was going and what to expect. The second half of my Year Abroad just flew by, but once again, I feel I really made the most of it. Although I spoke a lot of English during my Year Abroad (which could be perhaps considered a disadvantage of the role of a Teaching Assistant), in the final few months before coming home, I really began to notice an improvement in my German language. In any European country, because of the high standard of English, for native English speakers it becomes fairly easy to get by without speaking a word of that countrys’ language. I really had to make an effort to ensure I did indeed speak German at every available opportunity but also found that simple things like reading newspapers and listening to radio, activities which require a little more effort back home in England, were good ways of practising.

At the end of the Year Abroad, without sounding too clichéd, I really did feel I was returning to the UK, a different person. A more mature, grown up, wiser person. Whilst the Year Abroad isn’t always easy, isn’t always fun (in fact at times it can be very lonely and challenging), it offers something that can’t be matched. From my Year Abroad, I’ve learnt that there is a lot more to teaching than meets the eye and it’s unlikely that I will be becoming a teacher anytime soon, but I’ve also learnt so much about people and cultures – And perhaps most reassuringly, my love for Germany has grown.

11.07.13-mjs_ft_study-abroad-3_23945506_586_366_80_s_c1The Third Year Abroad is something that Aston prides itself upon, especially in the language department. Yet it is only after doing a Year Abroad, having these wonderful experiences, developing and learning the way I have done, that I understand why the Year Abroad receives so much focus and emphasis. I’ve learnt that it is a vital part of a degree, and not just for language students. Obviously the development of language skills is a massive part of the Year Abroad for a language student and it is common knowledge that the best way to learn a language is to spend time in a country that speaks it as you are constantly surrounded by it and immersed in the culture of the language. But the independence, the confidence, the personal development and new skills that one learns through spending time abroad cannot be underestimated. Not only that, but the Year Abroad offers the chance to appreciate not only another culture, but equally, your own culture, in a way that is impossible without spending time surrounded by another.

Adventures of German a placement student

Our placement student Marcus is currently working as a British Council teaching assistant in Regensburg, Germany, and has been blogging about his experiences in the southern wilds of Germany for the past year. His latest post lists “50 things we’ve learned about the Germans” and covers a wide range of topics, from bikes to yoghurt, from Glühwein to Lederhosen. Here’s a taste of his post, to read more, simply follow the link at the bottom:

50 things we’ve learnt about the Germans

So after spending over 9 months here in Germany we feel qualified to share a few observations that we’ve made about Germans. Whilst Germany is really very similar to England, there are lots of cultural differences that struck us as noteworthy. We managed to narrow these differences down to 50 observations and below are a list of things we have noticed during our time here – things that we find good, bad, maybe just strange. We (Lois and I) hope you enjoy this post. (Obviously this post shouldn’t be taken too seriously and is a light hearted look at certain parts of German society and different behaviours. Some of these observations are sweeping generalisations and unfair stereotypes and we understand this – please don’t be offended!)

1.       Germans love ‘kaffee und kuchen’

‘Kaffee und kuchen’ or ‘Coffee and cake’ is an important part of the day for many Germans. No matter what day of the week, if you walk past a German café you are sure to see some people enjoying this traditional German pastime. Moreover, it is often the case that people enjoy ‘kaffee und kuchen’ several times a week, if not every day! We’re aware coffee and cake is also popular in the UK, but here you can’t walk down a high-street without passing several signs advertising this popular German afternoon affair. (We’ve come to understand why this is so popular – German cake is delicious!)

To find out more, click here!

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Celebrating W.G. Sebald at Literaturhaus Stuttgart

Uwe_sebaldRenowned German author and academic W.G. Sebald  would have celebrated his 70th birthday this week. To mark the occasion, Uwe Schütte, Reader in German at Aston, was invited to Literaturhaus Stuttgart to read from and speak about an aspect of Sebald’s work which is less familiar to most readers than his prose writing: his poems, created over more than four decades and mostly published posthumously.

To find out more about this event, click here.

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Annual German Pub Quiz 2014

On the 10th of March, it was once again time for the Ánnual German Pub Quiz, the friendly competition between German students and staff from Aston University and the University of Birmingham who were both invited to participate in this test of knowledge about Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

This year, the quiz was hosted by the University of Birmingham. As in previous years, the questions were presented in English and German and provided excellent entertainment for everyone present.The questions ranged from history and music to politics and geography and much, much more. The friendly atmosphere, the nice location and the cheerful companions ensured a lovely evening, and we are already looking forward to next year’s quiz!

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Here’s one of the tasks that quizzers were asked to complete this year:

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German Film of the Week: The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher)

2007_the_counterfeiters_007The most recent German language Academy Award Winner (2008) has everything you would expect: an excellent cast, a gripping storyline – and lots of Nazis. Based on historical facts, Die Fälscher is Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky’s account of Nazi Germany’s attempt to defeat the Allies economically by flooding the money market with forged British pound notes, which were produced by expert counterfeiters held in a concentration camp and under constant threat of execution.

The film is accessible to Aston students on Blackboard under LSS Undergraduate Information > German > German films to watch online > German Film of Week > week 24


Comments can be posted on our facebook page or on Twitter @GermanAtAston

Viel Vergnügen!


German Film of the Week: Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven)

vmwm5987The destinies of six characters are bound together by fate in this gripping and moving feature from acclaimed Turkish-German director Fatih Akin. The story begins as widower Ali seeks out companionship with the prostitute Yeter, setting in motion a chain of events that will link three families across different cultures, countries and generations. Skilfully constructed and brilliantly played by an outstanding cast, The Edge of Heaven (2007) is an ambitious and compelling tale of tragedy, betrayal, persecution and redemption.

The film is accessible to Aston students on Blackboard under LSS Undergraduate Information > German > German films to watch online > German Film of Week > week 23


Comments can be posted on our facebook page or on Twitter @GermanAtAston

Viel Vergnügen!