Genre of the Week: Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp

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This genre of the week looks at a customary that celebrates the initiation of children becoming adults. In Germany, we have what is called Jugendweihe. First established in 1852 by Eduard Balzen, Jugendweihe is mainly a non-Christian event where a child is officially initiated into adulthood come the age of 14 years. Prior to that, the youth can participate in events that focus on history, culture, politics, work, sexuality and independent living, just to name a few. By the time a child reaches the age of 14, celebrations take place, marking the initiation into adulthood; some organized by the Humanist Association of Germany and the Association of Worker Welfare, others by the schools and families. The youth has a first-hand experience at what adult life is like. The only exception is of course, driving. That happens 5-8 years later- much later than the youth in the United States. There, having a driving license and a car at the age of 16 marks the beginning of the stage to adulthood, which ends by drinking legally, five years later.

I kid you not on this one, especially as I’m an American expat! 😉

Jugendweihe runs parallel to its Christian form, known as confirmation. For church-goers in the United States and in some pockets of Germany, confirmation also marks a stage going into adulthood. Yet with confirmation, regardless of which religion, it is the third and final stage in being united with Jesus Christ as well as being part of the religious denomination, after baptism and the first holy communion. It is the first of two graduation ceremonies in America’s schools, where the names are announced and the blessings and sacraments are given. The second is of course, high school graduation, where the diplomas are received and the graduates proceed to move into a new chapter in their lives.

While confirmation usually occurs at a fixed date by the churches of different denominations, Jugendweihe usually occurs at different times between March and June. The dates vary based on the projects and schedules issued by the schools, the aforementioned associations and lastly, the families of the child who is going through the initiation. Still, as a general rule, the age of 14 is the magic number signaling the departure of childhood into adulthood. It is the third most important phase in a child’s life after Zuckertüten Fest and the Graduation from Elementary School going into one of the three forms of high school in Germany.

A while back, I was asked by my students if there is an English equivalent to Jugendweihe. We do but in Christian terms but really, without a name. That is unless you listen to John Mellencamp. 😉

Jack and Diane was produced by the rock singer in 1982, and it focuses on the two main characters growing up in a rural community in America. While they develop differently going from boy and girl to a man and woman, they fight to stay young as long as they can, yet they soon realize that they are becoming adults and pursue their dreams together. The scenes in this video are typical of American culture during that time, yet you can find similar ones in Germany as well, with the discotheks, soccer, hanging out in shopping centers and even biking down trails and bikeways. In either case, this Genre of the Week looks at Jugendweihe from a musician’s point of view. One could go as far as proclaiming Jugendweihe as Jack and Diane Day in English! 😀

Still, I don’t think it would go down that well because of its age and the cultural differences. 😉

Or would it?

You decide as we dedicate this song to the 14-year olds that have celebrated or are about to celebrate Jack and Diane Day.  Enjoy! 😀

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Born in Seymour, Indiana in 1951, John Mellencamp has been coined as one of the 10 best singers/ musicians of all time in the US by many critics and colleagues. Jack and Diane made it to the top and stayed nr. 1 for four weeks in 1982. That and Hurt So Good came from the American Fool soundtrack, which is considered the best of his 23 albums he’s released since 1976. He still resides in Indiana but in Bloomington. You can find him online by clicking here as well as through World Cafe. An interview on how he’s opened up on music and arts with Forbes Magazine can be found here.

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In School in Germany: The SWOT Analysis, Nostalgia and Football

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You don’t know how old you really are unless you look at your birthday card and see the hits from the 70s, the time you were born! 😉

Youtube has become the hub when it comes to finding some interesting videos for you to see. There are millions of music videos, episodes of TV series, amateurs performing experiments, and even tour guides that people can find and watch to their amusement. This also includes documentaries on historic events, and even sporting events of the past that we rarely see on TV unless you subscribe to Netflix, Uber, Hulu, or cable channels provided by networks charging people high monthly rates.

A couple weeks ago, as events in the United States with Donald Trump as President was beginning to unfold (which has to do with my silence from writing columns), I stumbled across full-length American football games dating back to the 1970s, featuring commercials, commentary by sportscasters and the like. It just so happened that I spent my Sunday evening, absent from watching real football games and Tatort on TV, watching a 1977 playoffs game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams, in what was dubbed the Mud Bowl. That game was televised in full length, which included the pre-game, the commercials and the play-by-play. The Vikings won 14-7 in what was one of the sloppiest game in the history of the National Football League and would advance to the NFC Championship game, losing to the Dallas Cowboys in the end. This Vikings’ victory was revenge for an earlier loss in the season.

Here’s the entire game in full length:

 

When watching this game, I came up with a grand idea that might be useful in any classroom setting. Both in America as well as in Europe, we have a sense of nostalgia, where pieces of our past are kept and cherished, while others that disappeared for a long time are recovered for rememberance purposes. Be it an antique cup, a historic building or place of interest, a lost recording of a film, old 70s style clothing or even music, we all have a sense of nostalgia, which we sometimes go back to look at what was then in comparison with what is today- right now. And this media-laden exercise takes us back to the past so we can talk about certain events, what we used to have and should have back at any cost, and what which ones were better off being a fad of the past and not of the future. 😉

SWOT:

Created by Alfred Humphrey in the 1960s, the SWOT Analysis is based on a strategy used by companies and institutions to determine their health and better plan for the future. The letters stand for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat, each one looking at the capabilities that a person and/or institution have so that they can see them as assets and not as liabilities. 

This activity has a sense of SWOT in there but shaped somewhat differently than what was developed by Humphrey because it focuses on the past-present comparison instead of the present-future scenario.  For S, we would have the assets of the past that were of great value and wish we should have kept; For W, we would have the aspects that were only good for the past and cannot be compatible for the present or future. For the O, we would have the question of whether some aspects of the past could still be instilled in the present or future. And lastly, for the T, we would have anything either from the past that could pose a threat to the future or from the future that would have altered the past had it happened. 

So, use this SWOT analysis and watch this game from start to finish, including the pre- and postgame shows AND ESPECIALLY the commercials. If you use it for a class, you can divide the segments up and give one to a group to analyse.

When watching the game, keep the following aspects in mind:

  1. What were the surroundings? Most football games were played outdoors in the 1970s, and having an indoor stadium (or dome) was considered a luxury compared to today’s games.
  2. How did the people dress and how did they act, behave and communicate with each other and indirectly during those days?
  3. How was the game structured then in comparison to now? Here, some research may be needed to help you answer the question.
  4. How were the commercials marketed? The products featured? The product facts? Would they still be useful in the present?
  5. How were the products and TV show previews presented? 
  6. How was the graphics of the game, the TV shows, the commercials and previews shown?
  7. What controversies in the sportsworld existed during the time of the game. Again, some research may be needed to help support your arguments?
  8. What was the overall environment of the game in the past, compared to the present? 

You can use any full-length game to conduct this SWOT analysis and talk about what was good and should’ve been kept and what still exists today but in altered form. This focuses on not just American football, but soccer, boxing, basketball and even Wide World of Sports.  Most of the games can be found on youtube, just by typing in the key words plus full length. Keep in mind that some leagues, like the NFL, may have their own copyright laws and have pulled full-length classics from these platforms. But not to worry, there are enough full length games to watch and conduct this exercise.

It will take some research but in the end, you will have a chance to enhance your knowledge of English, while learning about the aspects of history, culture, business, media and technology, entertainment and marketing and even the sport itself.  😉

So sit back, have some popcorn and a good Löwenbrau in your hand and enjoy this classic, while using the SWOT to look at the what ifs and what nots. Enjoy!

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The Shunned: A guide to suffixes with -ion, -ial, and -ian

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The word “shun” is one of the worst words a person practicing Christianity can say when practicing their religious faith. To shun someone means to exclude him or her from a religion or club for actions considered a violation of the code of conduct. Martin Luther was shunned by the Catholic Church for his publication of his 95 Theses in 1517, questioning the Pope in Rome about the way people believe in Christ, the sale of Indulgences, and excluding people from the Church, giving the rights to read the Bible in Latin to the privileged ones. In other words, his accusation against the Church for its exclusion ended in his own excommunication.

Look at the last sentence closely: accusation, exclusion and excommunication. While the first word means to defer responsibility to the Church for its actions, the last two mean the same as shun. However, in grammatical terms, they all share one common denominator: they all ended in “-shun!”

It is sometimes difficult to find out the rules involving suffixes for all words in the English language because even though they change the grammatical function of the words (derivation between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs), the rules of pronunciation and the meaning of the words after adding the suffixes are different, thus making it difficult to work with this topic.

 

There are some suffixes, like the “shunned ones-” the theme of this article, where one can look at the pattern behind the spelling of the words and how they are pronounced. This is the case here. The “shunned ones” feature words, whose suffix endings consist of the following:  -tion, -sion, -cation, -zation, -sation, -cial, -tial,  -tian, -cian,  and in a couple cases, -science.

Examples of such words are found below:

special, nation, technician, organization, realisation, and conscience

Note the endings marked in cursive.  With the exception of nation, all of the aforementioned comprises of a root word, plus a “shunned” suffix, whose pronuncialtion starts with an “sh-” sound. Hence the word shun.  😉  As a general rule, regardless of the number of syllables in each word with a shunned one, the stress is always at the second to the last syllable, as seen in the examples below:

special, technician, organization, communication, commercial

In German, because many words have similar meanings, especially with those with “-ion”, the stress is at the end of the word. However, as some words have -sierung- as equivalents, the “-sier-” portion is stressed, not the “-ung.”

Here are some exercises that will help you practice your pronunciations with the “shunned ones.” Enjoy! 😀

 

Exercise 1.  Practice pronouncing the following “shunned words” and determine the meanings in your own words, and (in some cases), your own native language. Notice the difference?

-cian/-tian:  physician, pediatrician, mathematician, logician, politician, electrician, mortician, optician,  magician, musician, Christian

Note: These endings indicate that they represent personal nouns.

 

-tion:  evolution, emancipation, citation, devotion, emotion, station, annexation, devastation, commotion, procrastination, affirmation, confirmation, explanation

-sion:  confusion, inclusion, exclusion, expulsion, introversion, conversion, inversion, diversion, division, recession, procession, percussion, concussion, collision, commission

Note: These endings indicate that they are nouns that represent events.

 

-zation:  utilization, organization, memorization, internationalization, localization, regionalization, urbanization, McDonaldization, rationalization

-cation: classification, clarification, gratification, personification, unification, implication, medication, fortification, identification, modofication, vacation

Note: These endings deal with nouns representing process. The German equivalents are mostly -sierung, but there are some that end with -barkeit.  A link to McDonaldization is highlighted. 

 

-cial: beneficial, special, social, crucial, official, judicial, psychosocial, facial, multiracial, spacial, financial, glacial, artificial, provincial.

-tial: confidential, spatial, celestial, preferential, presidential, essential, exponential, torrential, potential, residential, martial, differential.

Note: These endings function mainly as adjectives, although a few of them function as nouns. 

 

Exercise 2. Tongue Twisters:

The emancipation, regionalization, localization, annexation, proclamation, creation of a nation creates great communication.

The obsession of a procession makes a concussion caused by collision due to inclusion by the commission.

She was essential, she was special, she was residential, she was social, she was an official.

Vacation is the best medication against gratification of the mummification not mortification nor gasification nor petrification nor personification of the co-worker.

The unionization of an organization makes rationalization an Americanization through the categorization of the barbarianization of the generalization of the republicanization of this country.

How many physicians, pediatricians, mathematicians, logicians, politicians, electricians, morticians, opticians,  magicians, beauticians, and musicians do we need to make a good Christian?

Evolution makes pollution; revolution makes execution; prostitution makes prosecution; distribution makes resolution; dillusion makes institution.

Shunned means the exclusion, expulsion, excommunication, circumvention, polarization, isolation, decomission, rejection, elimination of a person from an institution because of a revolution, insubordination, insurrection and damnation of its organization.

 

And for the record, that was what happened to Martin Luther in 1517. But he lived to start the revolution that led to the establishment of the Lutheran Church. 😉

God bless that man. Amen!

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In School In Germany: Inventions

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Look at the picture above. In your opinion, what materials were used to create:

a. The lighting            b. The bridge            c. The church (in the background)?

 

Name an inventor you know and his/her invention.

What you are going to watch is a presentation by journalist Steve Johnson about the origins of inventions. There are some questions and other activities that follow. 🙂

  1. What musical instrument was made out of bones?    a. French horn  b. flute    c. violin

 

  1. Inventions are made because of the need to s_________e (verb), but others are made for the purpose of f_______ (noun).

 

  1. What was the origin of the computer? (Think carefully!)

 

  1. What was the origin of the typewriter? What was it first called?

 

  1. The Music that Plays Itself was an invention by three brothers in ___________, but in reality, it is known as _______________.  How does this work?

 

  1. That device was replaced with a robotic flute player by Jacques de Vaucanson. True or False?

 

  1. Punch cards were invented by Babbage and was made with papyrus.  True or False?

 

  1. Music is one of the key founding aspects that has played a substantial role in inventing other devices. Do you agree or disagree?

 

  1. Origin exercise:  Look at the following devices and objects below. Trace its origin as far back as you can, using the arguments presented by Steve Johnson.

a. Computer      b. tuba       c. basketball (both game and ball)     d. bicycle       e. paper               f. Smartphone    g. insurance      h. school/education      i. coffee cup      j. clock

 

  1. Future exercise: What inventions do you think will come next? Look at what you have and brainstorm some ideas?

 

Author’s Note: This video and exercise is suitable for all classes, including foreign language classes as a way of broadening one’s imaginary thoughts and foster ideas and communications. Other activities by teachers and educators can be supplemented to this one. Any ideas of how you furthered this exercise are welcomed. Just add them here or on the Files’ facebook page so that others can have a look at and use for their classes. 🙂

 

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The Electoral Vote in the US: How it Works.

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The US Presidential Elections is one of the most complicated forms of democratic elections in the western world. Since the signing of the US Constitution, which led to the country’s establishment in 1787, the President is elected based on a system that fosters equality among states, known as the Electoral Vote. There, the voters elect their president through a set of electoral votes, a process that is much different than the popular vote, which is the more universally chosen approach to electing the leader of a country. Even the election of the political parties to rule the country- either solo or with a coalition- a practice that has been used to elect their chancellor in Germany since 1949, is considered a popular vote as the people vote for which party should rule the country.

However, people in the United States are pushing for the abolishment of the electoral vote and replacing it with a popular vote system for several reasons. Two of which include its antiquity and the change in demographics. Originally designed to favor smaller states, the shift in population towards metropolises along the coastal regions and the Great Lakes Region has made the system quite ineffective, especially when dealing with swing states- states that alternate votes between a Republican and a Democrat pending on voter preference. Furthermore, with a candidate winning the electoral vote but not the popular vote, the system seems to be unfairly favoring regions with a minority population that are sometimes ill-informed of how the system works.

This was the case with the latest elections in 2016, when Donald Trump won solely by electoral vote but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, as seen in the map below. Even interesting is the fact that even though the elections in November have passed, there is one more hurdle for Mr. Trump to jump through, which is to occur in December, according to law.

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Results of the 2016 US Presidential Elections based on the Electoral Vote. Source: JFG via Wikipedia

Confusing isn’t it?  🙂

The Electoral College is a complicated system which is best served with a quiz. Have a look at the following questions below- all of which are true and false- and decide what you think. Click on the results once you have completed the quiz and if you are still not so sure about it, check out the links below.  You’ll be surprised at how the system works. This quiz is for all involved- from people learning about American culture and politics to those who deny the fact that there is no other process other than the Presidential Elections. There are enough people in both camps to go around. 😉

In either case, enjoy and feel free to use it in your class or in any discussion to learn more about this unique system America has to elect its leader of the country.

 

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Link:  Electoral College via wiki;  Electoral Voters

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Genre of the Week: Scrappers

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Every professional was once a beginner. We all start off with simple jobs as a starting point, teaching us the basics of responsibility, pursuit of success and self-reliance. We find a sense of purpose, choose where we want to go, and find ways to do that. It is more of a question of which path to go and what circumstances we face in our lives.  In Germany, we have two different career paths. We have textbook style, where people are expected to spend 6-10 years of their lives in college before getting a certificate to do a profession, such as doctor, teacher, lawyer, law enforcement officer and other white collar jobs. Then we have the Quereinsteiger, consisting of people who learned a trade then after a few years, decide to trade it in for another career that is either high in demand, appealing or both. That means, a physist or chemist could work at Bayer or BASF for five years before deciding to use his/her expertise to become a science teacher in school. Given the high demand of people in these fields, it is not a surprise, that schools would rather have an Albert Einstein in the classroom than someone who just got out of college, right? 😉

But looking at it more seriously, Germany’s job market is one of the strictest, even most inflexible markets in the industrialized world. People are pre-programmed during school, herding them to Realschule, Gymnasium or Hauptschule -all of them high schools, but all of them with different styles of training in the direction of technician, academic or industrial worker, respectively. Non-academics get apprenticeships and traineeships after graduation, which can last 2-3 years pending on the professions they pursue, while academics can expect to shave 6-10 years off of their lives in college. Both paths have no guarantees of successfully landing a job after one is finished with the upper-level education. For those wishing to do another profession, especially expatriates coming to Germany to start a new life, expect to take two years of training to get a proper education in an occupation, regardless of which field you wish to work in.

Unless you hit the jackpot with companies willing to hire “scrappers.” What exactly is a scrapper? This terminology recently popped up in a TED-talk held by Regina Hartley, Human Resources Manager at the delivery company UPS. When hearing the word scrapper, what exactly comes to mind?  What could scrappers bring to the company that people with high qualifications cannot bring?  What differs a scrapper from a silver spoon?  And would you hire a scrapper or a silver spoon for a position in a company where a person can earn over 50,000 Euros a year? What are the requirements needed to hire that person from your perespective?

These were the questions I recently asked a group of students in an English business course, as we watched this clip and discussed this in class. The answers varied from saying yes, we would like to have scrappers to no we want silver spoons to even some depends (mostly on qualifications).

What about you? If you had a choice between a scrapper or a silver spoon, which person would you choose? Watch this Genre of the Week lecture by Ms. Hartley, make a list of the characteristics of both and the benefits each one brings, and talk about it with your students and colleagues. You’ll be amazed at the different answers you will receive. This is useful in any setting and for people of all ages and professions.

 

 

And by the way, just for the record, before starting my career as an English teacher and journalist, I too was a scrapper. I received neither degrees but studied a much different field instead of those of a teaching degree or a journalist. Before obtaining a Bachelor’s and a Master’s, I had worked as a groundskeeper at a golf course, sang for food and fame, translated and corrected countless documents, worked as a dishwasher and even did social work at an Indian reservation in New Mexico during my pursuit of the degrees. Still, my creative talents, combined with ambition, humor, story-telling skills and my knacking for the best photo (day or night), got me convinced that what I’m doing best fits.

Many colleagues I’ve met in the years living in Germany are also scrappers, having had multiple hands-on experiences in other fields in foreign countries, including China, Japan, Ireland, Czech Republic, Iraq and Afghanistan, just to name a few. Like me, they would not mind repeating it again if asked whether they would do things differently.

That should tell you something. Degrees are sometimes just degrees, your real experiences and performance as a person is what counts, especially in today’s world…

Something to think about….

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The Use of Time Markers in English Part III: Future Tenses B

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Sticking to Pastor Tom, the German Church and some holidays, while picking up from Part A, we will now have a look at the time markers that differentiate among the five known future tenses plus the conditional would. While time markers are well known for the past and present verb tenses, many people think that time markers are rare in future tense, and if they exist, then only for all of them. One size fits all. Uniformity is everything.

Linguists, Teachers and those who are of that mentality may want to rethink this notion for a bit. As you can see in Parts One and Two, even the usage of time markers can make a difference within the given time forms. That means, time markers can separate the meanings between present simple and present continuous, as well as between present perfect and past perfect.

While there are five different types of future tenses, each type has its own set of time markers. While the preposition of time (at, in and on), next (week, month, year, etc.,) and tomorrow are used for all five forms, plus the conditional would, here are some time markers that make each future type distinctive:

PRESENT SIMPLE:

always, mostly, mainly, often, never, sometime(s),  (un-)usually, normally, traditionally,  certain days, weeks, months and years, each/every (day, week, month, year,….), daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, annually, bi-annually and regularly, there is/are

PRESENT CONTINUOUS:

(right) now, today, this (week, year, decade, evening, morning, afternoon, etc.), in a second/bit/while/moment, soon, within a given time

WILL:

(right) now, right/straight away, tonight, tomorrow, this morning/evening, in the coming days/week, for the next (…..), next (week), by morning/tonight, later, as soon as possible, (very) soon, for now/awhile, There will be, before, after, afterwards, in advance, prior to

GOING TO:

tonight, tomorrow, this morning/evening, in the coming days/week, for the next (…..), next (week), later, (very) soon, after, afterwards, sometime, someday

WILL BE + VERB-ING:

tonight, tomorrow, this evening/morning/afternoon, next (….), in a (minutes/hour), within a given time, until then/a given time, before, after

PRESENT PERFECT AS FUTURE TENSE:

by (given time), by next (week, month, etc.), by/at that time, by then, during that time, while, before (….)

WOULD AS CONDITIONAL:

If……then, Should…….then, in advance

There is some overlap among the five future tenses, but when looking at them carefully, one will see the fine print as to when and how time markers are used as well as determining what future tenses are used based on these words. One needs to pay attention to the context and how the future tense is used. The lone exception is the use of would, as it is used in Conditional II. While Conditional I features the if+ present- then will+ future, Conditional II uses would in the sense of a scenario that can happen if the bridge is crossed. Here are a couple examples to help you:

Conditional I:  If you invite me to sing at your wedding, I will come. 

Conditional II: If you invited me, I would come.

In I, a promise is made, whereas in II, it deals with a situation that either didn’t happen or may not take place.

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Now for the activities-

Exercise 1.  Identify the time markers and the future verb tenses in the sentences below. Please note that there may be more than one time marker in each sentence.

  1. Erntedankfest, the German version of Thanksgiving, takes place every year on the first Sunday in October.
  2. Like in Coburg, Furth and Pulheim, Aue will have its own celebration on that day.
  3. There will be many people who are going to the event in three weeks.
  4. Unfortunately for Pastor Tom, he will have settled down in Buxtehude by then.
  5. Many farmers are bringing their harvested goods to the event on this day.
  6. Most of them will display their goods on the church’s alter for the service.
  7. A parade will be taking place after the service.
  8. Where is Pastor Tom going to celebrate Erntedankfest on this day? He will celebrate it with friends in Africa.
  9. It would be a shame to miss it, but if someone told him in advance, he would make it.
  10. But Pastor Tom is definitely celebrating the American version of Erntedankfest in the States this upcoming November.

Exercise 2. Unscramble the words to make a sentence using the correct future tense. Please note that there is a time marker in each of the group of scrambled words. Some words, including prepositions and articles may be needed.

  1. Germany/unlike/American/Thanksgiving/on the fourth Thursday/is held/November/every year.
  2. Gather/home/millions of families/for the weekend/ to eat Turkey and other foods.
  3. Pastor Tom and his family/ New York/ go/ Macy’s Thanksgiving parade
  4. He/ guest pastor/St. Patrick’s Cathedral/at/be/on/Sunday
  5. His wife/Black Friday/look forward/where/in front of/ line up/ department stores/thousands of people/ at 4:00am/ to get the best deal on Christmas gifts
  6. Her children/be/in bed/sleeping/by the time/leave/she/for Macy’s.
  7. There are/open/churches/no/stores/on Thursdays.
  8. Pastor Tom/ why/understand/doesn’t/all places/be closed/day/on/that.
  9. He/Pastor Flamingo Frank/this Sunday morning/about/concept/talk, who has signed the contract/ about/ Bamberg/fly/to/first basketball game/on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving/play.
  10. Many people/Cathedral/flock/to listen/sermon/Thanksgiving/Germany/and/America/about

Exercise 3. What do you think his sermon would look like? How would you view Thanksgiving in both Germany and America from his standpoint? Click on the links and write a sermon about it, with 50% being with future tenses and the rest with any other verb tense to your liking. Keep it simple and within a limit of 5 minutes so that the teacher and the audience can listen to it and help you with the content and grammar.

Exercise 4. In the two pictures as well as the one below, there is a statue of a family having just finished their harvest. It’s a fountain in a small town in Saxony. Can you guess where it is located and what the name of the statue is?

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