Year of the Beer Day 37: Ambrosius Klosterbier

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Entry from 6 February, 2016

Our next beer on the beer tasting marathon takes us to the state of Baden-Wurttemberg and this Klosterbier, the Ambrosius. Considered a malt liquour because of its high alcohol and malt content, the Ambrosius beer is one of a half dozen types brewed by the Alpirsbacher Brewery, which was founded in 1877 by Johann Gottfried Glauner and is located in the Black Forest southwest of the city of Karlsruhe. Despite its reorganization in 1880 and again after World War II, the brewery has remained in the family ever since and employs 85 brewers. The Ambrosius is famous for two reasons: 1. It was named after a famous theologist and church reformer, Ambrosius Blarer, whose religious practices was famous in the southern part of Baden Wurttemberg and northern Switzerland, and 2. It is one of a handful of beers that uses Tettnanger hops, a special hops that is found in the Tettnanger region near Lake Constance and has a really mild but spicy taste when added in the brewing process. It especially showed when we taste-tested the beer.

Already based on its appearance, the beer had a clear, amber color with a persistent head. Its aroma was strong but somewhat sweet. It is unknown whether the hops had something to do with it or not, but there was a feeling that when drinking the beer, it would feature the secret ingredient, which would make it one of the top 10 highly recommended beers to drink while in Germany.

Sure enough, the hunches were correct, as the mild but spicy taste of tettnanger hops was recognized while drinking it. It had a combination of cinnamon and all-spice flavor, mixed with floral and earthen hops, thus making the beer rather herbal and spicy on one hand, but on the other hand, it left a mild taste. Part of that has to do with the addition of wheat malt and barley, whose concentration is more than the average pilsener.  The beer had an excellent craftsmanship and because of the secret ingredients, leaves a very long but warm  and mouthcoating after-taste, which makes it the beer to drink for special occasions, but also as a social drink.

Grade: 1,0/ A++   The Ambrosius is rare to find in Germany, and one can find it in an exclusive supermarket or beer outlet store. However, it is one beer one should try because it is tasty and it fits for any special occasion. Even without the main course, when drinking it with friends, you will not regret having tried the Tettnanger hops that is added into a strong, dark Klosterbier. You’ll not regret having tried it. 😀

FLFI 500 beer

Facts about Germany: German Bureaucracy

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OK everyone, let’s be honest for a couple seconds. What is the number one annoying habit in Germany that you would love to see eliminated?  After living in Germany for over 17 years, there is one that has been number one on my hit list and it is the B-word.

BUREAUCRACY!!!

Bureaucracy is the engine of German efficiency. It helps keep the country running and people out of trouble. It ensures that people reach their goals legally and with no incident. It also gives people a daily dose of Aspirin, courtesy of Bayer, because of the number of papers to fill out, the search for information in a computer filled with letters from a can of Spaghetti-Os soup, the excessive travelling needed for an apostille (with -th, by the way) needed for a wedding, and the countless stops at a small local unknown church to pray intensively for the nightmare to stop.

Despite all the articles written about German bureaucracy (most of which you’ll find at the end of this article), the one variant that will never be replaced is the system where you look at a government official in the eye, when she provides you with an Amtsdeutsch (governmental German) word that you, as a normal person, don’t know the simple German equivalent. Or when you watch people at the Zollamt (customs office) walk around like Borgs bitching about politics while waiting for a package from the US- searched with contents confiscated because of their illegality. Or when you receive a response to a complaint saying “Das ist ein Käse!” (equivalent to This is Bullshit!)

In other words, you cannot escape German bureacracy, period! No matter how the Chancellor reforms the system, you must prepare for the red-tape version of the decathelon and have your endurance tested, let alone your sanity.

I found seven types of bureaucracy that are typical of Germany. As you live longer in the country, it is most likely that you will encounter one type each, at least once; more if you are a student, businessperson or a person about to marry someone in Germany. There are no known remedies to get around them. You just need to be clever and witty, calm and cool, and diligent and strong as steel to get through them. In the end, despite the grey hairs and the bruised ego, you will be wiser and stronger than when you enter the first office you see, asking for a form. 😉

 

Carousel-Style: This style of buraeucracy comprises of a person who is sent around to every single office to take care of a form- a way of deferring him/her to authorities, most of whom are unwilling to process the person’s request. Sometimes it is referred to a slingshot if Office A sends a person through several agencies before ending up back at the same office a couple hours later. An example of this:

Darius wants to apply for a German as a Foreign Language Class at a university in Hanover. He asks Ms. Schmidt, only for her to send him to five different offices who refuse to process his request (beginning with Mrs. Jürgensen, then Ms. Schneider, Mr. Neste, Ms. Mulder and lastly Mr. Kahn) before the last person sends him back to Ms. Schmidt, who reluctantly processes his application. Wonderful sling-shot as seen in a Star Trek film above!

Mine-Style:  This type of bureaucracy runs along the lines of Wile E. Coyote being blown to pieces while pursuing the Road Runner. A person is ambituous in starting a business only to fall into several traps because of certain guidelines to be fulfilled, let alone fees and taxes to pay and additional forms to fill out along the way. Half of German start-up businesses as well as individual pursuits of degrees and career ladders end up failing because of the lack of awareness of the mines that are in the way, ready to blow up. That is the main reason why Germans are really cautious in any affairs on the business and personal level- they have been there at one point of their lives.

 

Goal-Line-Stance Style: Named after a defensive play in American football, this style of bureaucracy consists of a request of forwarding an application to an agency via its subordinates being not only rejected, but sent back to the person requesting him/her to do it on one’s own. It’s a way of telling the applicant that they are too lazy to walk the 100 meters to the point of destination and they would enjoy having the applicant to drive 30 kilometers to the subordinates to do the job. This happened to me once when I requested the international office of a German university to forward a request to the student services center, only for them to send the request back via mail, asking me to do it myself! This despite the fact that instead of wasting 2 extra days, the person at the office could have walked the 50 meters to the destination to drop off the letter. Talk about irony for an institute wanting to be student and family friendly, especially to foreign students! However, such stances are common in many cases, so please have a couple extra envelops, stamps and running shoes ready should you deal with this type and fail….

 

Hanging Chad/ Cliffhanger Style: Also known as the Härtefälle, this type of bureaucracy is one to avoid at all costs if you are pressed for time and need a form submitted within a day or two of the deadline, before your own “judgement day.”  Here, you submit the form to a worker, only for him/her to forward the request to the superiors, despite pleas to hurry. Why? The form must be approved before the deadline although there is a clause denying that request. This applies to students wanting to apply for a third attempt of an exam in a subject or changing a subject after failing an exam twice, risking the possibilities of getting expelled from college. This is standard practice at a German university, especially for students pursuing a teaching degree. It is like a cliffhanger because your future depends on whether a form you desperately need approved will be accepted or not. Apart from the Härtefälle at a German university, examples of such burearcracy can be found with visa forms, last minute requests to book hotels and some emergencies, like this story, just to name a few. The terminology is named after a dispute over which chads should be accepted in the voting ballot in Florida during the infamous 2000 US Presidential Elections.

 

Collapsing Bridge Style: Your plan to succeed is like crossing a bridge. You may never know when it collapses. This style of bureaucracy presents some surprises that keeps you from achieving your goal because there are some missing components needed to realize your goal that you either don’t know about or you want to try to circumvent- in both times, failing in the process! It can happen during any course of the process, whether it is through wedding planning, immigration or even during your studies, just to name a few.

Take for instance your first state exam for education. You register for the exam for English and History, take part of the former and complete the education portion, but have to change the latter to Social Studies. Despite having completed your semester of practical training, you need to complete another semester for Social Studies. While German law requires you to register for the subjects studied, you cannot continue taking the exam for English until the practical training in Social Studies is completed, thus pushing your finish time back a semester or two. Annoying if you want to finish and earn some cold hard cash teaching, but there is a reason for spending a couple hours looking at the Prüfungsordnung (Studies Guidelines in this case) before embarking on the painstaking task of getting that teaching license!

 

Jesus Christ Lizard Style- This type of bureaucracy is the exact opposite of the Collapsing Bridge style, only to imply that shortcuts and other incentives are provided to ensure that a form you are filling out or a process that is taking place is completed quicker and easier than expected. However, these shortcuts are not taken for granted and you must have proof that warrant a walk on water. For instance:

Cora applies for a Master’s Studies program in Anglistik-Amerikanistik at a university in Berlin and finds that she needs 60 credits of classes in liguistics, cultural studies, history, literature and political science- all of which have to be taken in sequential order in accordance to the Prüfungsordnung. Fortunately, she majored in Political Science and English and thanks to the credits accrued, the examiner’s office accredited her points and allowed her to start at a higher semester, taking upper level classes instead of the lower ones for anything dealing with English and Political Science.

However, this type of bureaucracy can occur if there are other circumstances that warrant it, such as the lines at the US border controls, where at all international airports, there is an express line for Americans and an ordinary line for the “other bunch.” This is just one of many examples of the style named literally after lizards walking on water, as seen in the film above.

Maze Style- This is perhaps the longest and most tortuous process a person can ever go through. Here, one has to go through every office and agency, filling out every paper and paying every fee in order to achieve your goal. Sometimes it requires trips covering hundreds of kilometers in order to obtain a single form. If you marry a German in Germany and are a non-German, prepare for a trip to Berlin for a couple of forms at your consulate, as well as a trip to the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office) for your three-year visa, which eventually turns into a permanent residency if you remain married after three years. It is more complicated when applying for a work visa or even an asylum because of proof that you have a job awaiting you or come from a war-torn region and pose no threat, because of the time needed for the forms of both to be approved.

 

What stories do you have involving bureaucracy in Germany? Share it here or on the Files’ facebook pages. In the meantime, check out the links involving German bureaucracy below and enjoy reading more about this unique feature and annoyance that will never go away:

http://www.dw.com/en/germans-and-bureaucracy/a-16446787

http://www.thelocal.de/20130814/51391

http://www.economist.com/node/2127649

🙂

 

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Facts about Germany: German Bureaucracy

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OK everyone, let’s be honest for a couple seconds. What is the number one annoying habit in Germany that you would love to see eliminated?  After living in Germany for over 17 years, there is one that has been number one on my hit list and it is the B-word.

BUREAUCRACY!!!

Bureaucracy is the engine of German efficiency. It helps keep the country running and people out of trouble. It ensures that people reach their goals legally and with no incident. It also gives people a daily dose of Aspirin, courtesy of Bayer, because of the number of papers to fill out, the search for information in a computer filled with letters from a can of Spaghetti-Os soup, the excessive travelling needed for an apostille (with -th, by the way) needed for a wedding, and the countless stops at a small local unknown church to pray intensively for the nightmare to stop.

Despite all the articles written about German bureaucracy (most of which you’ll find at the end of this article), the one variant that will never be replaced is the system where you look at a government official in the eye, when she provides you with an Amtsdeutsch (governmental German) word that you, as a normal person, don’t know the simple German equivalent. Or when you watch people at the Zollamt (customs office) walk around like Borgs bitching about politics while waiting for a package from the US- searched with contents confiscated because of their illegality. Or when you receive a response to a complaint saying “Das ist ein Käse!” (equivalent to This is Bullshit!)

In other words, you cannot escape German bureacracy, period! No matter how the Chancellor reforms the system, you must prepare for the red-tape version of the decathelon and have your endurance tested, let alone your sanity.

I found seven types of bureaucracy that are typical of Germany. As you live longer in the country, it is most likely that you will encounter one type each, at least once; more if you are a student, businessperson or a person about to marry someone in Germany. There are no known remedies to get around them. You just need to be clever and witty, calm and cool, and diligent and strong as steel to get through them. In the end, despite the grey hairs and the bruised ego, you will be wiser and stronger than when you enter the first office you see, asking for a form. 😉

Carousel-Style: This style of buraeucracy comprises of a person who is sent around to every single office to take care of a form- a way of deferring him/her to authorities, most of whom are unwilling to process the person’s request. Sometimes it is referred to a slingshot if Office A sends a person through several agencies before ending up back at the same office a couple hours later. An example of this:

Darius wants to apply for a German as a Foreign Language Class at a university in Hanover. He asks Ms. Schmidt, only for her to send him to five different offices who refuse to process his request (beginning with Mrs. Jürgensen, then Ms. Schneider, Mr. Neste, Ms. Mulder and lastly Mr. Kahn) before the last person sends him back to Ms. Schmidt, who reluctantly processes his application. Wonderful sling-shot as seen in a Star Trek film above!

Mine-Style:  This type of bureaucracy runs along the lines of Wile E. Coyote being blown to pieces while pursuing the Road Runner. A person is ambituous in starting a business only to fall into several traps because of certain guidelines to be fulfilled, let alone fees and taxes to pay and additional forms to fill out along the way. Half of German start-up businesses as well as individual pursuits of degrees and career ladders end up failing because of the lack of awareness of the mines that are in the way, ready to blow up. That is the main reason why Germans are really cautious in any affairs on the business and personal level- they have been there at one point of their lives.

Goal-Line-Stance Style: Named after a defensive play in American football, this style of bureaucracy consists of a request of forwarding an application to an agency via its subordinates being not only rejected, but sent back to the person requesting him/her to do it on one’s own. It’s a way of telling the applicant that they are too lazy to walk the 100 meters to the point of destination and they would enjoy having the applicant to drive 30 kilometers to the subordinates to do the job. This happened to me once when I requested the international office of a German university to forward a request to the student services center, only for them to send the request back via mail, asking me to do it myself! This despite the fact that instead of wasting 2 extra days, the person at the office could have walked the 50 meters to the destination to drop off the letter. Talk about irony for an institute wanting to be student and family friendly, especially to foreign students! However, such stances are common in many cases, so please have a couple extra envelops, stamps and running shoes ready should you deal with this type and fail….

Hanging Chad/ Cliffhanger Style: Also known as the Härtefälle, this type of bureaucracy is one to avoid at all costs if you are pressed for time and need a form submitted within a day or two of the deadline, before your own “judgement day.”  Here, you submit the form to a worker, only for him/her to forward the request to the superiors, despite pleas to hurry. Why? The form must be approved before the deadline although there is a clause denying that request. This applies to students wanting to apply for a third attempt of an exam in a subject or changing a subject after failing an exam twice, risking the possibilities of getting expelled from college. This is standard practice at a German university, especially for students pursuing a teaching degree. It is like a cliffhanger because your future depends on whether a form you desperately need approved will be accepted or not. Apart from the Härtefälle at a German university, examples of such burearcracy can be found with visa forms, last minute requests to book hotels and some emergencies, like this story, just to name a few. The terminology is named after a dispute over which chads should be accepted in the voting ballot in Florida during the infamous 2000 US Presidential Elections.

Collapsing Bridge Style: Your plan to succeed is like crossing a bridge. You may never know when it collapses. This style of bureaucracy presents some surprises that keeps you from achieving your goal because there are some missing components needed to realize your goal that you either don’t know about or you want to try to circumvent- in both times, failing in the process! It can happen during any course of the process, whether it is through wedding planning, immigration or even during your studies, just to name a few.

Take for instance your first state exam for education. You register for the exam for English and History, take part of the former and complete the education portion, but have to change the latter to Social Studies. Despite having completed your semester of practical training, you need to complete another semester for Social Studies. While German law requires you to register for the subjects studied, you cannot continue taking the exam for English until the practical training in Social Studies is completed, thus pushing your finish time back a semester or two. Annoying if you want to finish and earn some cold hard cash teaching, but there is a reason for spending a couple hours looking at the Prüfungsordnung (Studies Guidelines in this case) before embarking on the painstaking task of getting that teaching license!

Jesus Christ Lizard Style- This type of bureaucracy is the exact opposite of the Collapsing Bridge style, only to imply that shortcuts and other incentives are provided to ensure that a form you are filling out or a process that is taking place is completed quicker and easier than expected. However, these shortcuts are not taken for granted and you must have proof that warrant a walk on water. For instance:

Cora applies for a Master’s Studies program in Anglistik-Amerikanistik at a university in Berlin and finds that she needs 60 credits of classes in liguistics, cultural studies, history, literature and political science- all of which have to be taken in sequential order in accordance to the Prüfungsordnung. Fortunately, she majored in Political Science and English and thanks to the credits accrued, the examiner’s office accredited her points and allowed her to start at a higher semester, taking upper level classes instead of the lower ones for anything dealing with English and Political Science.

However, this type of bureaucracy can occur if there are other circumstances that warrant it, such as the lines at the US border controls, where at all international airports, there is an express line for Americans and an ordinary line for the “other bunch.” This is just one of many examples of the style named literally after lizards walking on water, as seen in the film above.

Maze Style- This is perhaps the longest and most tortuous process a person can ever go through. Here, one has to go through every office and agency, filling out every paper and paying every fee in order to achieve your goal. Sometimes it requires trips covering hundreds of kilometers in order to obtain a single form. If you marry a German in Germany and are a non-German, prepare for a trip to Berlin for a couple of forms at your consulate, as well as a trip to the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office) for your three-year visa, which eventually turns into a permanent residency if you remain married after three years. It is more complicated when applying for a work visa or even an asylum because of proof that you have a job awaiting you or come from a war-torn region and pose no threat, because of the time needed for the forms of both to be approved.

What stories do you have involving bureaucracy in Germany? Share it here or on the Files’ facebook pages. In the meantime, check out the links involving German bureaucracy below and enjoy reading more about this unique feature and annoyance that will never go away:

http://www.dw.com/en/germans-and-bureaucracy/a-16446787

http://www.thelocal.de/20130814/51391

http://www.economist.com/node/2127649

🙂

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Genre of the Week: Reunion, presented by Google

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The next genre of the week focuses on a key theme: Reunion.  Most of us have people whom we lost contact for many years (even decades), only to find them again through chance, sometimes through social networking and other contacts. The people we lose are our childhood friends, family members and colleagues. But sometimes we are in contact with people we had hurt in the past, only to be forgiven for the crimes and we eventually forget and start again. Sometimes we end up searching for the people we lose but want to know how they are, only to end up with a surprise of our own.

And this is where this commercial comes in. Produced by Google in 2013, the commercial goes by the logo “Partitions Divide Countries; Friendships find a Way.” Two childhood friends are separated by the infamous Partition of 1947 which created India and Pakistan. The event cost the lives of up to 1 million people through bloodshed, suicides and even exhaustion, much of which can be seen in the film Ghandi, filmed 35 years later. One of the friends resides in Delhi, the other in Lahore. After 60 years, the grand-daughter of the one in Delhi decides to reunite them with a few minutes of Google searching and a phone call. What happens next will bring any viewer and reader to tears…..

The commercial received mixed reviews with one side criticizing Google for its propaganda and marketing tactics. The main goal was to try and bring Pakistan and India together, which no thanks to the countless terror attacks and nuclear threats, has never happened. They have become disrespected neighbors which live together in “cold peace.”

Yet by the same token, this commercial serves as a reminder of how important friends and families are. Granted when we wanted to look for lost friends, we had to travel across the rough and dry terraine in order to find the person, like in this picture below:

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We still risk our lives to travel to the far ends of Earth to be with our lost friends, it just makes things easier nowadays, thanks to the technology that has been developed and advanced, not just through Google, but other forms. It worked with TV documentaries when Europe was split into two during the Cold War. It worked with letters and research when loved ones looked for ones missing in action during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. And someday, the use of technology like Google will not only help reunite loved ones affected by the Partition but also those affected by the ongoing conflicts in places, such as the Middle East.

As mentioned at the beginning, friends and families find a way to reconnect, no matter how big the challenge is and no matter how painful the past was to them.

 

FF new logo1

Genre of the Week: Heart of Stone (das kalte Herz)

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Imagine this scenario: You find a jewel in the middle of the forest, be it a gold pot, a silver rain drop, a magical carpet, a rabbit’s foot or what not, and it belongs to a Waldgeist ( a ghost of the forest). You touch it and it appears, granting you three wishes. What would your three wishes be?  What would be your reasons behind your wishes? What would it take for your wishes to come true and at what cost?

Sometimes people wish for things to come true because they want something better in life. Yet when these wishes come at a price- mainly sacrifices that are painful and regrettable. In this genre of the week, Heart of Stone (das Kalte Herz), written in 1827 by Wilhelm Hauff, the theme of the story is a person can make decisions and make wishes come true, but they have to live with the consequences, both positive but especially negatively.

The plot of the story is the protagonist, Peter Munk, who works at a coal-mining factory in the Black Forest that he inherited from his father, and is displeased with the working conditions. He then encounters a Waldgeist named Vers, a male glass figure, who grants him three wishes. His first two wishes are to have as much money as the richest man in town, Ezieckel, and to have a glass works. Yet his wishes come at a price, when he encounters an evil ghost of the forest after losing his money, and he does the unthinkable- pawning something very valuable and precious for money! :-O  Does he become happy with it? If not, does he get this precious item back and how?

There are many films that were produced based on this story. Two of which are presented here, but there is also a link to the latest that was produced a couple years ago. In either case, the story does bring some questions worth thinking about:

  • Is there something or someone you wanted very badly in life but you couldn’t get it? Imagine if there was a way, what would you do to get it and at what cost?
  • What are some things that you appreciate in life that you don’t want to let go, regardless of how?
  • What are somethings you would like to see better in your life and why?

Think about these questions and watch the film, let alone read the work and then decide what is important to you. Believe me, you will do yourself a big favor in the end. People can make choices, but in most cases, you cannot change what has been made. 🙂

 

PREVIEW OF LATEST FILM:

 

LINK TO THE FULL FILM:

http://www.tivi.de/mediathek/maerchen-989266/das-kalte-herz-2308798/

 

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The Böhmermann Affair: One Small Step For Jan, One Giant Leap for German Comedy

In connection with the recent scandal involving German comedy, German Law, European Relations, refugees, Turkish Law and our poor little soul Erdogan, the Turkish President, here’s a guest column worth thinking about. Was it really necessary to lift immunity against a comedian just for being funny, Lady Chancellor? 😉

In School in Germany: Bilingual Teaching in the Classroom: An Author’s Perspective

Teaching History in the English Language: Teacher’s Task

 

This is a throwback article dating back to 17 July, 2014 on bilingual education in German schools, this time from an author’s perspective.

This is a continuation of the series of Bilingual Teaching, the introduction of which can be viewed here.

Books closed. Exams completed. Chapter closed.  A sigh of relief for the pupils in the Gymnasium. Now moving onto the next chapter- but this time in your native tongues, please.

Having taught history in English, it is easy to tell who enjoyed learning in English and who was happy to see the camel be sent packing and speak German again. Yet to be that concrete and judgmental would not benefit anyone, even the teacher. In fact, since the US is too monolingual, this statement would be “too American,” for even my taste.

As mentioned in the introduction, bilingual modules were introduced slowly but surely beginning in 2009 in many parts of Germany. This includes Thuringia, which started teaching bilingual modules this school year.   The Gymnasium where I’m doing my practical training has had the module since the beginning of the school year, yet it had offered classes in English for upper grades years before the state passed the bill in 2009. There, courses in English, French, Spanish and other foreign languages have been offered in classes dealing with humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. History was one of the classes that has the module and has been completed. As I have indicated in my previous column entries, my theme deals with the USA in the 1920s and 30s and how it returned to isolation after World War I and watched the events unfold in Europe while it lived the lifestyle of the Roaring 20s. Apart from frontal teaching and providing materials and handouts, experiments were conducted to ensure that the students learn not only the history of the US but also improve on their foreign language skills, the concept better known as Content Language and Integrated Learning (CLIL), where foreign languages are introduced in the curriculum with the goal of students picking up skills in their respective areas of study. Such experiments included mini-presentations, using literature and video and mock debates, which best fits the subject of study in history.

And the results?

Looking at the results, one has to divide it into input (in terms of materials and teaching methods) and output (the reception of the audience). As there were no books available in the Gymnasium on history in the English language most of the activities had to be developed by the teacher himself, using the books at home (as well as one borrowed by another history teacher), as well as some creative ideas to garner the students’ attention. While Germany is conservative in many aspects, going by Konrad Adenauer’s “No Experiments” campaign, used in the 1957 elections for chancellorship, for bilingual teaching, it is important as a teacher to be creative and experiment with things, but make sure that the worksheets and activities to be presented to the students must be appropriate in terms of content and language (especially vocabulary). More important is that the students are able to retain the knowledge, which can be done orally, written, or both but at regular intervals. Highly recommended is a summary sheet with all the facts and vocabulary words for the class to learn and remember, especially when exams come up, and they will need them.

Apart from what I had mentioned earlier, in terms of Guessing Quizzes, The Mock Debate, Mini-Presentations and literature for analyzing, what was useful was using video and audio examples, like recordings of Roosevelt’s Fireside Speeches or the first radio broadcast in 1926. This way, students would have the opportunity to listen, analyze and interpret them in connection with the topic presented by the teacher.  Yet the preparation time is immense and it was not surprising that I, like many other teachers in the Gymnasium, had several late nighters in the row in order to produce the perfect task for the students in the coming session. While this is only a practical training semester (Praxissemester), and a future teacher can afford such experiments, it becomes even tougher when you are a full-time teacher. During an interview conducted with teachers, many of them feel that having worksheets and the book could cut down the time to prepare for classes effectively. The question is, how to order the right book without going broke? Many schools, especially in the eastern and northern parts of Germany cannot afford the luxury of ordering books for bilingual teaching, due to a lack of funding by the state. The problem has been ongoing for over 15 years now, and unless the German government and the private sector can step in to help, the budget will be thinner. This includes the availability of (interactive) technology, which is making strides in many countries, including the US, but Germany is lagging behind in many areas. Therefore we are left with being creative in producing our own worksheets and activities, in order for the bilingual class to work at all. From my experience, if there are no print materials available in the school,  get some from the internet and plan to prepare early, as one page of worksheet- produced from scratch- will take you an hour. A summary,  30-minutes per page.

As far as the students were concerned, the results were mixed. There was a wide correlation between those having basic knowledge of English, those having sufficient enough knowledge of English to start a conversation and those who are fluent and have excellent knowledge of English, which makes finding the medium rather difficult. Yet once found, the next step was garnering their attention and involving them. Apart from the fact that the target group were 9th graders, many of whom are going through or have finished “growing up,” the key problem found in the group was being intimidated by the fact that the teacher was a native speaker of English, and even more so from America, which means they had to be acquainted with an American accent instead of the British one that they were used to hearing before. But as mentioned in a previous article, the trend a shifting towards an international form of English, where American and British English were being divulged into one with no accent and words from different regions.    In either case, after a pair of sessions, many of them became more forthcoming with communication and learning vocabulary, which was done through chalk and board and pronunciation (the latter was important to ensure that they are spoken correctly).  In some cases, when only a fraction of the group is not forthcoming with English, one could call on them to speak in a given situation. Yet many of them fell back to German to better explain their answers and opinions, a clause that exists in the curriculum provided by the state, but can also hinder their attempts to better themselves in a foreign language, like English.  Despite being active in discussions and learning new subjects through various methods, one of the factors that makes bilingual teaching ineffective, if looking at it from the student’s perspective, is the time factor. Two sessions of bilingual History in English a week with 45 minutes per session may be a lot for students, but not enough to better understand the subject material and reflect on the importance of the theme with the subject, like History.  This holds true if a teacher plans a session only to find that half of the session was covered due to external factors. Therefore, when planning your sessions in another language, look at your students and their language knowledge. Test their knowledge in the first session before planning your curriculum. Choose wisely when working with a subject like this one I did. Do not be afraid to experiment as long as your students are able to follow. But make sure your time is divided in a way that you complete your task, but the students can profit from it, especially when working within the confines of time.

From the teacher’s perspective after experimenting with bilingual teaching (History in English), one can summarize that it is possible to teaching subjects in a foreign language if and only if one follows the guidelines:

  1. Know your group and their language level
  2. Know the time you have for the module as well as per session
  3. Know what materials you need to make in connection with the given topic
  4. Know that it is ok to experiment if no materials are available in the school and you need to develop some
  5. Know that the students will need to adapt to the language, regardless if you are a native speaker or not
  6. Know that some students, who either lack the knowledge or are shy, need a push from you and some help with vocabulary in order for them to improve their foreign language skills
  7. Know that the students will be happy to have a summary at the end of the topic so that they have something as reference.

As there is an expectation that there are no books and other materials available, you need to know that time and efforts are needed, preferably before beginning the topic as it will enable you to make the adjustments along the way. And lastly, if you are teaching a subject in a foreign language for the first time, don’t be afraid to leave a copy of your materials for your colleagues for future use. You will do them a big favor.

Now that the teacher’s aspect has been spoken, we’ll have a look at what the other teacher colleagues and students have to say, as a questionnaire and an interview was carried out in connection with the topic. More on that later in the series on bilingual teaching in the German school.

In School in Germany: Bilingual Teaching from the School’s perspective: An interview

Author’s Note: This article is the throwback to one that was produced in connection with the series on schooling in Germany. This time, we look back at and re-stress the importance of bilingual education in German schools, based on the experience of teachers having done this, as mentioned here in this interview dated 23 July, 2014.

In the last entry on bilingual teaching  in Germany, the author discussed the benefits and drawbacks of teaching a subject in a foreign language from his own experience, as well as tips for teachers willing to and planning on teaching a bilingual class in the future. To summarize briefly, bilingual teaching can be beneficial if teachers are willing to devote the extra time needed to prepare the materials and teaching methods for each session and if students are able and willing to communicate and learn the vocabulary in a foreign language. It does not mean that it is not doable, for a subject in a foreign language has its advantages, which includes looking at aspects from another point of view and implementing the language in other fields to encourage learning through Context Language and Integrated Learning (CLIL). It just means that one needs to be creative with lesson-planning, working with the restrictions of time per session (each one has 45 minutes unless it is a block session as mentioned here), and the language competence on the part of the students.

But what about from the view of the other teachers who taught the bilingual module: what do they think of bilingual teaching in the school?  This question was one of two that I and two other colleagues at the Gymnasium (where I’m doing my Praxissemester), and one from another Gymnasium 25 kilometers away, pursued in a project we did for the university on bilingual teaching in the English language. This consisted of observing the bilingual classes in English, such as History, Geography and Music, both as a teacher (like I did in history), as well as an observer. Then the interview was conducted with the teachers to gain an insight on what they think of teaching a subject in a different language- namely in English instead of their native German language.

The interview comprised of ten questions, featuring three closed (multiple choice), one hybrid and six open-ended questions. The open-ended questions were categorized and ranked based on how often the answers came about in one way or another.  Seven teachers from the two Gymnasien participated in the interview- five from my Gymnasium and two from the other Gymnasium where my colleague did hers. Of which, four teachers were interviewed directly, whereas the remaining three completed the interview questions in writing for time and logistic reasons. None of the participants were native speakers of English, but came from the fields of history(1), sports(1), geography (1), foreign languages(1)  natural science (1) and music (2).

After tallying the data and categorizing the answers, we came to the following results, which will be summarized briefly here.

1. College Degree, Further Qualifications and Interest

While bilingual education in the English language is best suited for those whose Lehramt degree includes the lingua franca, only five of those asked actually received a degree in English; the other two did not but took additional classes to improve their English skills  for the class.  As a supplemental question, despite bilingual modules being obligatory, all but two of those asked volunteered to teach the class in English with most viewing bilingual teaching as either for the purpose of interest in learning the language and the culture of Anglo-Saxon countries or a chance to improve on their career chances, or both.

2. Preparation and Teaching Bilingual Classes

As a general rule, one spends twice as much time learning a subject in a foreign language than it is in his native tongue. There was no exception to the rule with regards to preparing for a bilingual class in the English language. When asked how much time it took to prepare the module in comparison to the regular classes, all seven respondants mentioned that it took much longer than normal to prepare for a class in the foreign language. Factors influencing this included what had been mentioned in the previous article: lack of education materials already published, resulting in finding alternatives to teaching the subject to the students. This included using audio/visual aid in the form of films, YouTube videos and the internet to enhance listening skills and foster discussion, as well as creating self-made materials, such as worksheets and other activities to enhance vocabulary and reading skills. Two of the respondants even required students to do presentations in English.  This promoted the variance of the teaching styles used in class- namely frontal teaching, individual and group work and demonstrations, which encouraged students to learn more on their own than having the teachers present their topic in frontal form, which is the most traditional, but sometimes one of the most boring, if students are not encouraged to participate in the discussions.

3. Results

This question requires some clarity in itself. Both schools offer foreign language classes that students are required to take in order to graduate. Prior to the introduction of the module by the state in 2009, they were the only two that offered bilingual classes in English and other languages, a tradition that has been around for almost 50 years and is still strong to this day. Like on the university level, students focus on skills pertaining to reading, listening, writing, grammar, oral communication, presentation and real-life situations, all of whom are tested regularily. An article on the different tests and their degree of difficulties students face will be presented in the Files soon.  These skills are implemented in the different subjects through the bilingual module with another one being developed- the ability to acquire specific vocabulary from certain subjects- a process known as Content Language and Integrated Learning (CLIL).

The question about the results for the teachers to answer featured an overall ranking of whether and how students improved their skills through the bilingual module and the grading scale in terms of the above-mentioned skills, minus presentations and real-life situations. On the scale of one to six (one being outstanding and six being worse), the overall grade average for both schools was between 2,9 and 3- equivalent to the grade of C in American standards. While grammar skills were rarely covered in the bilingual module, according to the interviews, the reading and listening skills were the strongest, while the writing skills were the weakest. Communication in English varied from group to group, making it difficult to determine how well the speaking skills were in comparision with the rest. In either case, despite having several outlyers on each end, the performance of the students in the bilingual module is the same as in a foreign language class, according to the accounts stated by the interviewees. This leads to the question of how to improve the curriculum in terms of quality so that the students and teachers can benefit more from it than what has been practiced so far after the first year of initiating the modules.

4. Suggestions for Improvement 

The final observations of the English bilingual modules can be found in the question of whether it makes sense to continue with the scheme and if so, what improvements could be made. While it is clear that the module program was introduced in Thuringia, and many schools are introducing them into their curriculum, if imagined that the program is not compulsory but only optional, all but one of the six respondents replied with yes, with one being omitted for technical reasons. Reasons for continuing with the bilingual educational module in the classroom include the opportunity to improve communication in English, learn new vocabulary, be flexible with teaching methods and materials, and combine the English language and the subject into one.

Yet in its current shape and form, vast improvements need to be made, according to all seven respondents. The majority (five) of the seven respondents would like to see some more English classes being offered to them so they can improve their language and communication skills before entering the classroom to teach the subject in the English language. This coincides with the observations made by the author while sitting in the classroom on several occasions and helping them improve on some aspects of the language outside of class. While some classes are available through external institutions, like the Volkshochschule (Institute of Continuing Education), more funding for programs to encourage teachers to enhance their language skills are needed in order for the bilingual module to work. The same applies to CLIL training to determine how the subject matter should be taught in the foreign language and what teaching methods are suitable for use in the classroom.  Not far behind in the suggestions include more materials that coincide with the curriculum, including worksheets and books, something that was observed from the author himself after teaching history in the English language. While teachers have the ability to be creative and produce their own worksheets, many are of the opinion that in the foreign language, more preparation time is needed for that, something that was mentioned in the interview by a couple respondents.

5. Fazit

After a year of teaching the module, the teachers of both schools find the bilingual classes in the English language to be worth the time and investment, for despite the fact that their handicap is not being a native speaker of English and having some difficulties in communicating in the language, thus causing some misunderstanding between the teacher and the students at times, they see the module as a win-win situation. Students in their opinion can obtain the vocabulary and other skills needed from their respective fields and implement them in future classes, or even for the exams they need to take in the 10th grade year. For them, they see the bilingual module as an opportunity for them to gather some experience and confidence in the communication in English. Yet, more support is needed in order for them to become even more successful and the students to profit from their teaching in a foreign language. This is something that was observed from my personal experience teaching the module, communicating as a native speaker of  English.  This leads to the question of whether the students have the same opinion about this as the teachers do. This will be presented in the next installment.  However……

6. Suggestion and support needed….

Thuringia is not the only state that offers the bilingual modules in a foreign language. Many states in Germany have already introduced bilingual education in their school curriculum, either as a whole (like in North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria) or through individual schools- both private or public.  How are the subjects taught bilingually? Do you have any modules or are the classes offered in English for the whole school year? What teachers do you have for bilingual education in the school: are they native speakers, Lehramt students, etc.? And what suggestions do you have for improving the bilingual curriculum if your school has tried the bilingual curriculum for the first time, as was the case in Thuringia?

Leave your comments here or on the pages entitled The Flensburg Files or Germany! You can also contact the author of the Files, using the contact details under About the Files. Your opinions do matter for the teachers who are planning on teaching bilingual classes in a foreign language in the future.

The author would like to thank the participants for your useful input in the interview, as well as three assistants for helping out in the interview and questionnaires. You have been a great help. 

Genre of the Week: Deutsch

Pride: A source of inspiration. A look at the past to prepare for the future. A look at one’s personal self and what has been successful and what has yet to be conquered. But while a little pride is needed in order to earn self-respect, too much pride can be dangerous to onesself and others.

Each of us are proud of our home country because of its heritage, history and culture that can impress others around us, but also envy others. Sometimes people ask me why America is so proud of itsself. The answer I usually give is simple: Because we are people who love to give and help out. The US led efforts in rebuilding West Germany after World War II ended and assisted in reconstructing Europe, not just for the purpose of containing Communism but for the purpose of helping the war victims rebuild their shattered lives. Believe it or not, America’s efforts contributed a great deal to reuniting Germany in 1990.

And this takes us to the Genre of the Week, which will create discussions in the classroom as well as at the dinner table. Released on ZDF Neo a week ago, this rather profanity-laden video shows us the good, bad and ugly sides of Germany, pending on how a person looks at it. It is good because Germany is being shown as a country learning to take pride, let alone the lead in European politics in many aspects. It is bad because the voice shows irony behind what is mentioned and it sometimes depicts Germans and their culture as arrogant. And the ugly side has to do with the politics, showing people several reminders of what can happen if they vote for the wrong person to take office. In either case, one should watch the video below and think about how Germany has progressed in comparison with other countries. From an American expat’s point of view, it seems that the roles between America and Germany has switched over the past 25 years, with Germany taking the lead and America lagging behind. The question is whether others are of that opinion and the reason behind it.

Have a look at the music video and think about the following questions:

 

What are some aspects that you are proud of?

What aspects are you not proud of and would like to see changed?

In your opinion, how has Germany changed in comparison with America since 1990? Think of not only the political standpoint, but also in terms of culture, sports, history/heritage and mentality, just to name a few.

What are some items that make a person or country proud? 

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Keeping Momentum and the Blog Clean.

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Author’s Note: Most recently, I presented my blog for the Intercultural Blogger Conference in Leipzig, where over 35 people, many from different countries and interests in creating a blog themselves attended. One of the eight different presenters I met was Stewart Tunnicliff, known by many as the Lingo Guy, who has three blogs that are devoted to writing and blogging. While he presented the technical aspects of blogging at the conference, this guest column features ways to keep the online column going- and interesting to the readers. Here’s his reasons why, and please do check out his sites if you want tips on how to create and write a good blog.  🙂

 

Keeping momentum going and a consistency in quality of content and smooth running remain the bane of most bloggers, myself included. Recently I did a presentation on the technical aspects of blogging. Here I would like to rerun some of those cogs that keep the machine running and elaborate on content too.

 

Trends come and go and bloggers either listen to the cyber chit-chat or stick to their guns. I used to keep my ear to the ground, but these days I want to keep to principles but be consistent in design and content.

 

Therefore I have in the back of my mind my requirements for my blogs function and specs for the template I use but also stick to three basic principles –

 

Keep the design clean and the navigation easy for the user.

 

Categorise content thematically.

 

Pique interest with visuals.

 

The last is important to get and keep the attention of the user/ viewer, but can be problematic technically. The burden on the server and the loading time are often affected by a need for images. This is why I use a compressor and a cache loader. The plug-ins I use on Word Press are Smush it and Comet Cache.

 

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/

 

https://wordpress.org/plugins/comet-cache/

 

Viewers and users will move away from the blog quickly, therefore a personal or story element keeps avid readers returning to your blog. My first ever blogging was for a magazine called so social, and theLingoGuy blog is my go to for telling my story or even helping me with my skill of staying creative in my writing.

 

A biography is a given these days, but also a picture portrait as opposed to an avatar tends to be the norm. This lead me to theLingoGuy branding for my goodopenenglish blog, and to choosing the categorised themes with a personal connection. To date Never in my classroom and Geek or Nerd? How absurd! are the most popular traffic wise and give me a chance to pontificate on my passions of teaching and education, and technical or other geeky stuff. My facebook page for theLingoGuy competes with my blog for traffic, but I tend to share short snippets of interest there rather than the longer article blogs.

 

This attitude I have developed with all my blogs, except I use instagram for my art and am even considering phasing out the Stew Tun’s Art facebook page. After all managing all these outlets is time consuming. This is I feel still a good way to personalise marketing and tell stories. This is why I also have guest bloggers for goodopenenglish and members writing for the non-profit site Leipzig Writers. I think it is a good way, like the Flensburg Files does, to collaborate and for the reader to experience a different voice.

 

During the intercultural bloggers cafe I was able to hear Jason’s voice alongside others. Although not every blogger does this I think it is a good chance to create new visitors and collaborators. The Flensburg Files reminds me thematically and with that added personal touch of the video channel Germany v America that seems to have gone quiet recently 😦 .

 

Motivation is a big factor in blogging, and from the event I was able to spin off a prezi workshop. This is something that bloggers should consider. How to use the blog as a platform for their other passions as they do feed off each other. And just a quick comparison of the blogs I run can indicate how mine flit between all three.

 

Hope you drop by my sites and I look forward to many more collaborations.

 

Stew’s sites:

theLingoGuy blog – http://www.goodopenenglish.com

Stew Tun’s Art – http://www.stewtun.com

Non-profit writers blog – http://www.leipzig-writers.de

 

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