English Roundtable at the Irish Pub

The Venue of the English Roundtable: Irish Pub on a cold foggy night. Photo taken in November 2011

Author’s Note: This is a throwback article taking us back to November 2011 and dealing with a topic on learning English and the English Roundtable. There are many advantages of having such a Stammtisch, many of which us English teachers don’t know about. This leads to a question to many expatriates and non-Natives wanting to learn English of whether your community in Germany has such a roundtable. If so, what is offered there and is it beneficial. If there is none, what are the reasons for NOT having one. Place your comments below but not before reading about my experiences of having one while in Erfurt as an English lecturer. 🙂

7:30pm and after a long day in the classroom, what wonderful opportunity does a teacher have but to meet with the most dedicated students at a beloved bar in town, to practice some English in terms of small talk and to hear about their private lives, both as students as well as people. The English Roundtable (in German it would be called the Englisch Stammtisch) at an Irish Pub, like the Dubliner just minutes from the old town was just the place gather just for that occasion.

I never understand why teachers never have such events for students. After all there are many advantages that bring students together to have small talk with the native speaker of English. First and foremost, there are not many opportunities to practice English except in the classroom, but that is rather pathetic if you only have the opportunity to do that for 90 minutes once a week. Contrary to the beliefs of those who think that it is not necessary, there are a select few who want extra lessons from someone who can be reached easily for help, but cannot because of- well lack of opportunity to do it due to time and other commitments.  Having a Roundtable like this also creates a bond among the students and with the teacher, guaranteeing them that whenever there is a problem, they can turn to each other for help. It makes a distinction between who is your real friend and who is not. It provides a student with a wide array of topics worth talking about, whether they are culturally related, in connection with current events, or anything that is on one’s mind and is worth talking about, which is food for thought for those who may be interested in this. And last but not least, it produces some events that are worth remembering, whether they are funny or embarrassing, and whether they are in connection with rituals started or anything that is just out of the ordinary.

It is a Tuesday night and I am drinking a pint of Snake Bite at the Irish Pub. The night was horrible as one feels like walking through pea stew while at the same time, freezing to a point where one could turn into an ice cube in minutes!. There is a soccer match going on between Barcelona and Pilsen with the former cutting the latter into pieces. But I could not think but the memories that I had with this place and how it reinforces the idea of having more of the English Roundtables in places where universities are numerous and English is needed, for many businesses communicate in this lingua franca language.  I remember the reunion with some of my former students, three of which gave me the nickname of “Headband” as I wore it to class and pronounced it like “Head bäääääännnddd!” as one mispronounced it as “Headbahnd.” Another three and I went on a Glühwein drinking spree at a Christmas market, trying every sort of the spiced wine with all kinds of flavors, such as pear liquor and tequila (the latter really packed a punch and gave me the hangover of the century the next morning), and then rooting for the home team in a basketball game. They lost a heartbreaker thanks to a last second basket, but it was fun to cheer them on while intoxicated. Then we had another heartbreaker of the game we all watched here at the Irish Pub, where we were crying over the Pittsburgh Steelers losing by only a few points to the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl- dressed up in Steelers jerseys and staying up until the wee hours of the next morning, despite having to write the exam the next day- and me having to administer it! Then we had the women waitresses serving us and many male students staring at them because of their looks, and me rolling my eyes and wondering when they will finally get it done and date one for Christ’s sake.

Each of us had their own purpose for coming to the English Roundtable- to get help with getting a job or internship in America, to ask for ways on how to convince a non-native speaker of English to teach English the proper way, to learn more about American culture and the differences between them and us (the Germans), or just to sit, relax, enjoy a Guiness and do some small talk in English. Mine was and still is to help the students learn and send them on their way, no matter what endeavor they are pursuing. I have my regular customers and those who come and go at their convenience, yet still each one leaves their mark when they leave the Roundtable, whether it is in spirit or in writing. For mine it is almost always the latter, as each time we meet, we would take a post card, sign our names on the back and write down the topics we discuss before stashing it into the drawers of the tables for the waitresses and guests to see and awe in amazement what we discussed.

One makes me wonder why there should not be more of these Roundtables. If it is because of family commitments, I balk at it as the argument is considered null and void; especially since I have a wife and daughter who do not mind me having one as long as I stay out of trouble (that’s what spouses and children are there for). If it is because of having enough English in class, let me tell you that one can never have enough of a foreign language as it takes time and efforts. If it is because of the fear of closer student-teacher relationships, firstly a Roundtable is a meeting place for all who are interested and there are better places to meet to get to know someone further. Besides, almost all teachers (say 99.5%) over here fall into the category of married with children or have a relationship, so there is no fear of being paranoid. All the excuses that are made against a Roundtable are considered politics and counterproductive to the goal of teaching students the importance of a foreign language and how it gets them from point A to point B. The organization may be difficult and not many students will come in the beginning. But as the semester goes along and the word gets around, more will come and in the end, it will be a double victory for the teacher- for collecting valuable experience to share with future employers and with the family and for making a difference in the lives of the students.  One should give it a shot and see how it blossoms into a really popular group for all students to attend.

As I finish my last drink, I decided to look ahead to the next Roundtable for me in Erfurt. It was too foggy for the students to go to the meeting and many were just too busy to come. But looking at the Christmas market, which is about to start in a couple weeks, I can tell that many will take advantage of the opportunity and come to the next Roundtable as we will have some wonderful experiences there, in English and over spiced wine. And while most of my students from last year have left for future endeavors, there are new students who will benefit from some additional English and laughter, meeting new people and learning a little bit every day. That is what a Roundtable should be.

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The Abandoned Building on the Island of Rügen

All photos courtesy of Doc Harding
All photos courtesy of Doc Harding

Normally the Files would not be focusing on abandoned relicts in Germany, for it is not in the domain. There are enough websites that focus on this topic, regardless of where. This includes Abandoned Iowa, which I’m subscribed to and focuses on abandoned buildings and bridges. Not surprising as I grew up in Iowa and have a love for historic bridges.

Yet this entry takes us to the island of Rügen in the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (in German: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) in northeastern Germany, and this building here. As I was doing research on information for the next Germany quiz on this rather sparsely populated state with lots of flora and fauna, one of the readers brought this item to my attention.

The island itself has a very beautiful setting, with steep chalk cliffs overlooking the Baltic Sea, acres of forest and wildlife habitat, and kilometers of beaches extending (30) kilometers. From Rostock, the state’s largest city, it is approximately 55) km. Yet the island has one eyesore, which is located at Prora. While McPomm (which is the abbreviated form of the state’s name) once belonged to East Germany and the communist state was famous for its construction of block apartments in every city and town with more than 3,000 inhabitants during its existence, the Prora building dates back to the age of the Third Reich, according to local sources.

11133971_10205164061275630_4556039508136287401_o

Located north of Binz, the Prora Building itself is five kilometers long and has five stories. Its architecture resembles that of the Third Reich and may have been the works of architect Albert Speer, who was in charge of most of the architecture in Germany during the regime of Adolf Hitler. Born in Mannheim in 1905, Speer’s rise to fame came when he was anointed by Hitler to be his architect in 1933. There he was in charge of the construction of modern buildings and redesigning districts in German cities whose aesthetic features were geometric with only design patterns and the symbol of National Socialism as the only decoration. Much of his architecture still exists in Germany today, despite attempts by locals in states like Bavaria (where Hitler began his rise to power in the 1920s), to eradicate the buildings because of their associations with the Third Reich. Speer later became in charge of the artillery division but towards the end of the war, confronted Hitler because of his irrational decision-making in response to Germany losing the war.

Because his role was almost solely an architect and he had very little to do with Hitler’s genocidal machine designed to kill “non-Aryans,” Speer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, in comparison to most of his Nazi colleagues receiving the death penalty. After his release from prison in Spandau, Speer maintained his residence for most of his life in Heidelberg, writing three still controversial novels about his life in the Third Reich and donating most of his royalties to Jewish charities. Shortly before his release in 1966, his son Albert Jr. established an architectural firm in Frankfurt (Main), whose geometrical modern architecture follows a similar pattern of his father’s, minus the decorative features.

And with that, we go back to Prora and the building complex, which has been sitting empty and intact but in a desolate state. Records show that Speer had been involved in a decree to relocate the Jews from their quarters to different areas, and this building may have been the place for placing them there. Yet by the same token, it would also have been a place to house the troops, especially as Germany had a strong Navy at that time. Record will not be able to show that for when World War II commenced in 1939, construction on the building stopped and remained in its original form all the way up to the present. We will never know whether Speer had anything to do with it, who was in charge of building this complex nor what it was used for.

Or will we?

Any ideas regarding the logic behind building this complex that is now considered an eyesore to many people, please place your thoughts and info in the comment section. If you wish to share photos of it, go ahead and do so. Sometimes a visit to the complex helps spurn a few ideas behind the history of this building, let alone a few ideas of what to do with the complex.

Many thanks to Doc Harding for the photos that are posted. Rügen is a highly recommended place to visit. 

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The Abandoned Building on the Island of Rügen

All photos courtesy of Doc Harding
All photos courtesy of Doc Harding

 

Normally the Files would not be focusing on abandoned relicts in Germany, for it is not in the domain. There are enough websites that focus on this topic, regardless of where. This includes Abandoned Iowa, which I’m subscribed to and focuses on abandoned buildings and bridges. Not surprising as I grew up in Iowa and have a love for historic bridges.

Yet this entry takes us to the island of Rügen in the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (in German: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) in northeastern Germany, and this building here. As I was doing research on information for the next Germany quiz on this rather sparsely populated state with lots of flora and fauna, one of the readers brought this item to my attention.

The island itself has a very beautiful setting, with steep chalk cliffs overlooking the Baltic Sea, acres of forest and wildlife habitat, and kilometers of beaches extending (30) kilometers. From Rostock, the state’s largest city, it is approximately 55) km. Yet the island has one eyesore, which is located at Prora. While McPomm (which is the abbreviated form of the state’s name) once belonged to East Germany and the communist state was famous for its construction of block apartments in every city and town with more than 3,000 inhabitants during its existence, the Prora building dates back to the age of the Third Reich, according to local sources.

11133971_10205164061275630_4556039508136287401_o

 

Located north of Binz, the Prora Building itself is five kilometers long and has five stories. Its architecture resembles that of the Third Reich and may have been the works of architect Albert Speer, who was in charge of most of the architecture in Germany during the regime of Adolf Hitler. Born in Mannheim in 1905, Speer’s rise to fame came when he was anointed by Hitler to be his architect in 1933. There he was in charge of the construction of modern buildings and redesigning districts in German cities whose aesthetic features were geometric with only design patterns and the symbol of National Socialism as the only decoration. Much of his architecture still exists in Germany today, despite attempts by locals in states like Bavaria (where Hitler began his rise to power in the 1920s), to eradicate the buildings because of their associations with the Third Reich. Speer later became in charge of the artillery division but towards the end of the war, confronted Hitler because of his irrational decision-making in response to Germany losing the war.

Because his role was almost solely an architect and he had very little to do with Hitler’s genocidal machine designed to kill “non-Aryans,” Speer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, in comparison to most of his Nazi colleagues receiving the death penalty. After his release from prison in Spandau, Speer maintained his residence for most of his life in Heidelberg, writing three still controversial novels about his life in the Third Reich and donating most of his royalties to Jewish charities. Shortly before his release in 1966, his son Albert Jr. established an architectural firm in Frankfurt (Main), whose geometrical modern architecture follows a similar pattern of his father’s, minus the decorative features.

And with that, we go back to Prora and the building complex, which has been sitting empty and intact but in a desolate state. Records show that Speer had been involved in a decree to relocate the Jews from their quarters to different areas, and this building may have been the place for placing them there. Yet by the same token, it would also have been a place to house the troops, especially as Germany had a strong Navy at that time. Record will not be able to show that for when World War II commenced in 1939, construction on the building stopped and remained in its original form all the way up to the present. We will never know whether Speer had anything to do with it, who was in charge of building this complex nor what it was used for.

Or will we?

Any ideas regarding the logic behind building this complex that is now considered an eyesore to many people, please place your thoughts and info in the comment section. If you wish to share photos of it, go ahead and do so. Sometimes a visit to the complex helps spurn a few ideas behind the history of this building, let alone a few ideas of what to do with the complex.

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