All things German

October 2, 2014

German flagI have just started listening to the excellent series by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, about Germany:  Memories of a Nation ahead of the exhibition of the same name that opens at the Museum on October 16th.  This should be compulsory listening for all teachers and students of German as he offers a fascinating insight into elements of German history over 600 years through artefacts and places associated with the German speaking world.  In the opening episode he points out how fragmented this is and how if Goethe had travelled in the 1770s from Strasbourg in the west to Königsberg in the east he could have passed, via a somewhat circuitous route, through 50 different German states!

Despite this fragmentation he talks about the number of memories common to those living in modern day Germany and how monuments such the Holocaust memorial serve as a reminder of the past.  As it happens  ‘Remember’ is the theme of this year’s national Poetry day. A Google search on ‘Erinnerung’ and ‘Gedicht’ throws up the following site with a large number of poems on the theme of remembering and memory.

The theme of ‘Remember’ is particularly apposite given this year’s anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, so perhaps taking a look at the Argonnerwaldlied might be worth doing to compare a German perspective of life on the front with that of the ‘war poets’ in English literature.  More specifically there is a collection of poems related to that period gathered together on this site, including a poem about the famous Christmas day truce, Die Kriegsweihnachtslegende by Ludwig Winder.  The Christmas truce is also the theme of a pack of resources put together by the British Council under the title Football remembers which includes ‘Truce’ vocabulary in four languages including French and German.  There are plenty of ideas for cross-curricular work and is worth checking out.




Water, water everywhere….

October 2, 2013


Water, water everywhere is the theme of this year’s National Poetry day, an annual “nationwide celebration of poetry for everyone everywhere”.  It falls on the first Thursday in October which this year just happens to coincide with Germany’s National day, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on October 3rd.

When I was learning German (many moons ago!) both my grandmothers, a maths and art teacher respectively, took great delight in showing me what German they knew by reciting a German poem – Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine.  I’m sure that the reason that they could remember it word perfect years after first coming across the poem was due to the repetition of sounds, rhymes and rhythms. They may even have heard and learnt the words set to music.  If so that too would have helped to fix the words in their mind.

The story of the Lorelei luring the fishermen to their death on the Rhine whilst combing her golden hair fits perfectly with the theme for this year’s National poetry day, so if you are tempted to give it a go here are a couple of videos that could be used to introduce it to students.  The first is a spoken version of the poem showing the text with the music of the song version in the background:

The second version the song version without text but is of a boat trip on the Rhine:

Of course is the weather is not so good on National Poetry day maybe a rain inspired poem might fit the bill rather better?

Having got into the theme of water poetry I had a look for French as well.

For younger and beginner learners of French how about this poem entitled La Mer by Paul Fort?  Paul Eluard’s poem Poisson is also quite accessible.  A wider collection of water themed or inspired poems can be found here as well as this anthology put together by a class  from Grenoble.  Finally I found some examples of water inspired poems written by French school children.

With the requirement for pupils to be exposed to  literary texts under the new national curriculum there’s no time like an occasion such as National Poetry Day to get started…