In School in Germany: The Culling of Quatsch in German

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How to eliminate trash from the German language in order to make it more sophisticated

A few weeks ago, you know, there was like a cool article from that whatchamacallit online thing, where writers, like put down something like 15 words that should, you know, be eliminated from the vocabulary, because they are, like very dailylike and not good for use in college. Do you know wha I’m sayin?

First reaction from the audience: “Mr. Smith, can you please repeat that? I don’t know what you are saying.” (Typical reaction from a dedicated student from Denmark learning English for her job.”

Again: Don’t ya know, there was like an article on taking out stuff from the language, you know, English. It was like we cannot use these words because they are, you know, babylike…..

Second reaction from the audience: Basketball star Elena Delle Donne shakes her head in disbelief and puts on her headset listening to some iTune music, getting mentally prepared for the next WNBA basketball game. Yet at the same time, a hysterical mother of three stands up and says this as a third reaction:

“If you say one more like, I’m gonna pound you! Do you know how many likes you’ve said in a MINUTE?!!”

You can imagine, how many responses came out regarding the article that was posted in the Files’ facebook pages as well as the pages in the circles dealing with Anglo-Saxon and German cultures: in the short paragraph above, identify the words that probably made it to the list made by the newspaper and in the group circles.

While English is becoming more diluted with slangs and other expressions, which is making the language less sophisticated in both the oral and written senses, the German language unfortunately is suffering from a similar fate.

Take a look at the example that a former colleague from a German Hochschule where I taught for two years  received from a student of civil engineering via e-mail:

Hi, ich hab mal ne frage zur presentation, wir sollen die ja schon 2 wochen vorher abgeben, was is aber wenn wir später noch was ändern wollen, ich glaub kaum das ich schon 2 wochen vorher die finale version der presentation hab und die 2 wochen lang für gut befinde und nichts mehr dran ändere, auserdem wollt ich wissen wann ich jez eigentlich meine presentation hab jez wies aussieht alles nach hinten verschoben und ich weis nich mehr wann meine dann ist…..

In English:

Hi! I have a question regarding my presentation. We should hand it in two weeks beforehand. However, what if we have to change something? We doubt our presentation will be done beforehand. In addition, I would like to know if it is possible to push my presentation date back and if so, when. (This is a shortened translation of the German text, by the way.)

This is from a native speaker of German. Do you trust him constructing the next bridge carrying a German Autobahn? Especially the one being planned at Rendsburg over the Baltic-North Sea Canal in the next two years?

If you are a German academic or an expatriate who has lived in Germany for more than ten years, like I have, you will see the mistakes in less than a second.  Sadly, more and more e-mails, papers, documents and even theses are containing words that do not belong in the German language if a person wants to write like Goethe or Schiller- words like: geil, doch, noch, was and –ne, as well as some Denglish words, such as liken, downloaden, fischen, etc. While one could communicate them orally (but please, sparingly), they do not belong on paper.

So what is there to do about the erosion of the German language? It is a surefire fact that we need to eliminate some stuff from the German language in order to make it pure again, just like with the English language. And while Germans have adopted many words from English that can be used, and vice versa, there are some words that just do not belong in the vocabulary, period.

If you were a German teacher, which words would you like to see your pupils NOT use- both orally as well as written? Here are the English words that many people have listed that should be at least capped for use:

Whatever, like, awesome, umm, stuff, thing, honestly, irregardless, would of (instead of would have), actually, viral, addicting, just, maybe, really, very, went, that, literally, and absolutely.

Und du? Welche deutsche Wörter möchtest du zum Verwenden begrenzen, außer was erwähnt wurden? Her mit deiner Liste in the Flensburg Files Comment page, sowie in den anderen Seiten und wir freuen uns auf den Vergleich zwischen den englischen und den deutschen Wörten!

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Germany at 25: Kindergarten

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This is the first of 25 installments on Germany at 25 years, as we celebrate the country’s 25 years of existence since Reunification. 

Kindergarten.

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was once of the opinion that in order to have a society of proper people with a creative state of mind and the ability to interact with each other, education has to start as early as possible so that the children do not become a generation of beasts without a proper form of education to survive in a modern society.  With the creation of orphanges in Neuhof, Yverdon les Baines and Stans (all in Switzerland), Pestalozzi encouraged his children how to be creative, while at the same time taught them how to interact with a society that was sophisticated and selective, through the use of letter, numbers and other creative forms of communication- the necessary tools needed to survive in this society.

While Pestalozzi died a poor man, his legacy was passed down to his disciples, among them Friedirch, William August Fröbel, a German educator from the state of Thuringia, who had created a Play and Activity Institute where through the usage of geometric materials (known as his Gifts), he encouraged his children to become creative in their own development, allowing them to create whatever they wanted and learn through their creative talents. In 1840, he coined the term Kindergarten, derived from the terms Kinder (children) and Garten (the place to create and grow). Since that time, the term Kindergarten has become the norm in both German as well as Anglo-Saxon culture, meaning an institution where children up to the age of seven attend on a daily basis to learn how to communicate with others and to be creative. But what is the difference between a German and an American kindergarten? And can each one learn from one another?

Looking at the American kindergarten, we can see the difference from a European’s perspective. Generally, Kindergarten is considered a grade (German: Klasse) and is part of the school system. As a rule, if you hear the words Grades K-12, that means 13 years of writing, math, reading and other forms of creative artwork, be it music, art, computers, etc. starting the at age of five or six. You have a full year in Kindergarten before taking that step and going into first grade, yet in many schools (and this is speaking from personal experience), you have half-days, meaning one group has morning Kindergarten from 8:00 until 11:30, another has afternoon Kindergarten from 12:30 until 3:00. How the groups are divided up depends on parental preferences and many times, the geographical standpoint. In my Kindergarten back home in rural Minnesota, the country kids had morning Kindergarten, the city kids had the afternoon portion. There were a few exceptions where kids  stayed the whole day.  During the time in Kindergarten, we learned the letters and numbers and started writing, yet we also did various forms of artwork, went on field trips to see the nature and lastly, learned to interact with others by sharing, being kind to one another and handling conflicts. While the landscape has changed over time, thanks to the high demands of testing and the Core Requirements, as well as the introduction of technology, the structure remains the same. Kindergarten is the last phase of the two-step process, where kids enter pre-school at the age of four or five for a year before entering Kindergarten. Prior to that, there is daycare although many parents stay home  with their children before putting them into pre-school.

German Kindergartens are much different from their American counterparts, independent of the fact that there are two types that exist: state-owned and privately owned (counting Montessori and Waldorf). In any case, children can attend a Kindergarten from the age of two on, and stay until they enter school at the age of six or seven- a span of 4-5 years. There, the children can stay all day or even half-days while their parents are away, while at the same time, become creative using the materials and tools at their disposal. Some kindergartens offer the kiddie version of industrial arts, where they can build many things using wood. Others have paper, clay and other materials available for them to allow their imaginations run wild. My daughter’s kindergarten in central Germany has both and I (as a parent) along with the educators (German: Erzieher) were amazed at some of the items she has produced over the years.  Yet that is not all what the Kindergartens in Germany teach them. Many of them take their children on field trips to several places of natural and/or historic interest, many of them only require 15-20 minutes of walking in order to get to their destinations as they are only a short distance away. Even when all is in close vicinity of each other, these field trips allow the children to explore and learn new items they have never heard of before.

Also unique in a German Kindergarten (which you will most likely not see in an American one) is the opportunity to learn a foreign language at an early age. Through singing, learning new words, role plays and other items, children have an opportunity to learn both German and another foreign language (mainly English, but some offer French as the first language) at an early age.  As all German states require schools to introduce English in the first grade and French (or another foreign language) in the third grade, this type of bilingual education, albeit not in all Kindergartens, provides children with a headstart on their language training when they enter school. With globalization dominating the landscape, it is a must to learn your native language plus one other language as early as possible. At the conclusion of the time in Kindergarten, there is a closing celebration followed by the start of elementary school. But this celebration will be written later.

When comparing the German and American kindergartens, one can see the difference in terms of flexible offers and classes, the quality of education and availability of teachers and resources. While American Kindergartens maintain a strict guideline, are incorporated in the school structure and only offer 1-2 teachers for every 25 children, German Kindergartens are a single entity with as many as 4-6 educators for every 30 children- two per group- in a Kindergarten. More attention is paid to the development of the kids  in Germany. And even when they learn the numbers and alphabet in an American Kindergarten, the emphasis in a German Kindergarten is the importance of independence, respect and friendship, whereas the writing part, despite many kids learning it early even at home, usually starts in elementary school, especially as dualingual education has become the norm in much of the educational curriculum in Germany.

This leads to the question of whether we can learn from each other. The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Even though there are some different types of Kindergartens in Germany, and the number of private Kindergartens are increasing in the US as well, Kindergartens in the US would be better equipped if they allow the children to develop on their own and not be obsessed with writing and numbers at an early age. With the education system focused mainly on tests, kids are forced to write earlier than expected instead of being creative and exploring new things every day. And while some critics may say that bilingual education in the Kindergarten is too early and that the kids should first learn their native language first (at least in the oral sense), sometimes it does pay to learn to be at home with two languages given the high demand of English, Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish as the lingua franca nowadays. Therefore keeping all these factors in mind, one needs to find the right balance between learning and creating something for the good in a Kindergarten. After all, the kids of the next generation need to learn to work and have fun and not be focused on tests alone.

To sum up our view of Kindergartens, as the term has been in our vocabulary for 175 years, the institution has advanced over time as kids need to be prepared for the constant changes in the environment, yet the purpose remains the same: to teach kids to be creative and independent, respectful and talented, and lastly, as Pestalozzi stressed and Fröbel used in the establishment of the first Kindergarten in Germany, be civilized in a society where multi-culture and modernization are the norm, and the children has to adapt to live in it, but change it for their benefit. However, the Kindergarten is only the first stepping stones to the development of the children, teaching them the basics of interaction and creativity, and establishing a foundation to build off of when school starts. When the first steps are taken, it becomes easier in the long run.

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The Right of Choice

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The author’s take on universal marriage after the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Same-sex Marriage

Marriage: a unity between two people who share the same values and ideas, who respect each other and their shortcomings, who love and care for each other, who want to take a lifelong voyage together until death does them part. Up until Friday, marriage was supposed to be a union between a man and a woman. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, now the right to marry has been extended to between two women or two men. Every state in America now has to honor the right to administer the marriages regardless of whether the couple is hetero or homo.

This historic decision has split the country in half, between those who prefer to keep the tradition of a man and a woman being married and those who favor more freedom to marry someone they like, regardless of sex. While I consider myself hetero and prefer the traditional way, I do fully understand the feelings of others who are different than they are and are welcoming this decision with open arms. If we look back 100 years, one would see a marriage as being a process of tying the knot between a preacher’s daughter and an owner of a local merchantile. In other words, they were on a local level; it would be rare for a Minnesotan to marry someone from New York, or a Mississippian marrying a Washingtonian. And even more so an American marrying someone from Europe. Yet as the years roll on, so do we see an increase of Americans marrying foreigners, whites marrying blacks or hispanics, and Christians marrying Muslims. So why not see people of the same sex marry each other? They are the same as us heterosexuals. They love some good company, have to deal with the same issues as we do, regarding taxes, raising families, dealing with college expenses, and the like, and are as normal as we are.

Homosexuality was considered a crime a century ago, and attempts to convert people to become heterosexuals only garnered partial success. In fact, some success stories ended in tragedies as the patients took their own lives, as was seen with the hanging of Kirk Murphy in 2011. Yet attempts are still being made to force the ideals on homosexuals that it is a sin to by gay. While the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriages, some states, like Texas and Alabama are disobeying Washington’s orders and are denying marriage licenses to these people. Churches are still not allowing them to marry or be part of the congregation, and many people are taking to the newspapers and electronic media shouting down the decisions. My question to these people is this: Would you do this if you knew someone from a Catholic faith marrying a Muslim- a heterosexual couple for that matter? Or what about an Iranian marrying an American? A Native American marrying an Aborigine?  How would you define a marriage, BEYOND the concept of a man marrying a woman? Think about it.

From my perspective, I would like to comment something a friend of mine mentioned recently in a discussion on this topic, which hits the spot: institution of marriage is a union between two consenting adults who love and care for each other and want to legally bind themselves together as they journey through life. The choice of who to love, marry and start a journey together for as long as they live. It should be regardless of what religious, cultural and sexual preferences should be. Couples change many times in order to the right fit. Some choose to wait until they find the right one. Others find love in high school, lose it for 20+ years, then regain it. Then there are others who find each other and after 30+ years, still have a healthy marriage with loving children. But the bottom line is, as long as the couple is happy, they should have the right to marry and live a long and prosperous life. It should not have to be based on a long religious tradition which still exists but has to make room for other couples who may be different, but share the same values as we do. And with this, a comment to finish my soapbox comment, something I wish and hope others will have that same opinion, regardless of background and preference:

While I prefer to be different from the rest, I respect those whose views and feelings differ from mine, as long as they respect the opinions and decisions I have made that I’m living with. Through this understanding we can have a peaceful co-existance where we can talk about these issues and share our ideas.

It’s time to put down the differences and share, instead of slamming the door on certain people because they’re different. It’s long since due.

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In School in Germany: The Devil’s Advocate in the Classroom

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To start off this article, let’s play a bit of Truth or Dare, looking at the three scenarios below and daring you to do the following:

  1. You have your students find a newspaper article and write a brief summary to be presented in a social studies class. One of them finds an article on the recent shooting of nine African Americans in a South Carolina and the plans of the southern states to retire the Confederate flag. After presenting the summary, you as the teacher, in an attempt to spark a discussion in class, jump in to speak about the importance of the Confederate flag in American history and the need to keep it flying, unaware of the fact that half of your class consist of African Americans plus one of your pupils comes from a white supremist family…..
  1. You start off a debate about the question of wearing headscarves in the classroom of a predominantly Catholic school because of a debate in the Bavarian parliament about banning them in schools. This despite the fact that you have three Muslims and two Indians out of a total of 25 pupils in the classroom…..
  1. You and your class just finished reading the book and watching the film “The Perils of Being a Wallflower,” and start a question for discussion about the question of homosexuality, stating the benefits of being gay. The catch: Three of your pupils are homosexual, four pupils are opposed to homosexuality for religious reasons, five pupils find the topic too sensitive to talk about and keep mum, while the rest of the 20 pupils in your group…..

It is really hard to start a discussion about controversial topics, like the ones mentioned above. This especially holds true in a foreign language classroom, like English.  However, to play the Devil’s Advocate and state an argument in an attempt to start a discussion is like playing with matches. If you don’t strike it properly or near something flammable, and it produces a flame that you don’t want, you better hope you and your house are both properly insured. In other words, to start off a discussion by stating an opinion to the students in order to start a conversation could possibly result in you (as the teacher) coming under intense fire and later scrutiny by students, parents, and even the school principal.

It does not mean that you cannot play the Devil’s Advocate in the classroom. In fact, stating an opinion, be it your own or that taken from a source can provoke some form of discussion from the classroom, bringing out some ideas and thoughts from your fellow students and maybe even producing a few questions for further consideration. If you choose the right topic for the right audience, you may end up having one of the most productive sessions with your group. The right topics could include the ones mentioned above, the first of which is a current event that happened just recently. Current events would be the best brain food for such an activity. Yet a controversial topic based on a film or book, as mentioned in the third example would also be a good platform to take a side and spurn a discussion.

The caveats involved in being the Devil’s Advocate include these key elements:

1. The students: Your class will have a heterogeneous mixture of people coming from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds as well as those who have certain preferences.  You cannot introduce an activity like this without having gotten to know your group for a long period of time. And even then, you need to make a very careful judgement as to which topic you wish to provoke a discussion with, keeping the risk of a possible fall-out in mind. Therefore, as a teacher, I would wait a few months before even trying this activity out on them.

2. The environment: What is meant by environment is the school, the policies that are in place and the “unwritten” rules that you do not see on paper but that you have to be aware of. This ranges from the way teachers teach and discipline their students, to the apparel to be worn, to the mentality of both parties- meaning their views on topics deemed sensitive to the school. It is possible that there is a sense of inflexibility as to what topics should be talked about in the classroom. Sometimes conformity is the safest way to avoid confrontation, so choosing a topic and deciding whether the Devil’s Advocate is appropriate is one to be taken quite seriously.

3. The materials available for use: This is even trickier, especially if you are teaching in an American school, because of a wide array of ever-growing number of books and films that have made it to the Red List- namely those not to be used in the classroom. While it is sometimes necessary to use certain materials to cover a topic before trying to be the Devil’s Advocate, you as the teacher have to be careful as to using the materials that are approved by the school. Sometimes in order to play it safe, I go by the rule of  “When in doubt, check it out.” That means ask your colleagues if the materials you plan to use for this particular exercise is ok or not.

4. You as the teacher: There are two types of passion to be aware of while standing in front of the board presenting new topics. There is the passionate type, where the teacher loves to work with the topic and the students. Then there’s the passionate type where the teacher has an opinionated topic to enforce on the class. This is the danger of playin the Devil’s Advocate- one gets too carried away with the topic. This has been seen too many times in school and even at the university. When you force your ideas onto someone, you will certainly have a stampede on your hands when the majority opposes it forcefully. In my humble opinion, playing the Devil’s Advocate is not suitable for these types of teachers if they cannot keep their passionate opinions to themselves.

To make it short and concise, being the Devil’s Advocate in order to start a conversation on a controversial topic is possible to do, but it takes a balance of a good student-teacher relationship, a good multi-cultural environment, a good but controversial topic to discuss, a good piece of literature and/or film (if necessary) and a good enough information about the school and its sets of guidelines- written and non-written, in order to pull it off. Even if you don’t play the Devil’s Advocate and state two different arguments to a controversial theme while allowing the students in groups to discuss among themselves, you are also running the risk of having some heated debates in the staff room.  The risks are high, but the risks are even higher if you don’t try this in your classroom.

Why?

Because school is a place for personal development, allowing students to grow beyond their limits. If we are obsessed with manual learning, testing them constantly, students will become robots as adults- programmed to do what was taught in school. We should allow the students to progress at their own pace, think for themselves and allow them to be creative in their own environment, challenge what is not right and what they think is in the right, and lastly, be themselves. Activities like these should serve as thought-provoking and challenging. Not to enforce one’s opinion on another.  To to close, I would like to ask the teachers when they should play the Devil’s Advocate in the classroom and which topic is suitable for this activity. If they have done this already, what were the results and why?

Any stories, place them here or in the Files’ facebook pages.

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Genre of the Week: America is not the greatest nation on the face of the Earth any more- The Newsroom

This entry looks at not only the genre of the week, but also a Frage für das Forum on the role of the United States as its world superpower. Or is it still?

Since moving to Germany in 1999, one of the hottest small talk topics that I’ve encountered both on the streets as well as in the classroom has been the US. And being an American expatriate from Minnesota, growing up right next to Iowa, I have not been afraid to talk about any issues the people bring up at the table, such as politics, social issues, history, culture, sports and even the people living there.  And growing up during the age of Reaganomics, Bushisms and Clintongate, I have seen America from both sides of the spectrum, watching it lead efforts to defeat communism and the former Soviet satellites open the gates to freedom, while at the same time, sow the seeds of terrorism with their lack of efforts in rebuilding Afghanistan, resulting in this day of infamy known as 11 September, 2001.

Yet still, many of us still speak of the glory days that either existed prior to 9/11 or in the eyes of many, still exist but in bits and pieces. I remember when President Obama won the Presidential elections in 2008, during my first year as lecturer of English at the University of Bayreuth, there was that feeling of a divide between those who wanted to cling on to the glory days of American exceptionalism, as demonstrated by George W. Bush, and those who were aware of the problems the US was facing at home and abroad. I can remember my dad’s question of which country was the greatest nation on the face of the Earth in terms of military and economics and his fury when I responded with “China.”  I didn’t say that without a good reason, by the way.

And this takes us to this genre of the week and in particular, this video clip from the TV show, “The Newsroom,” produced in 2012. In this scene, we have a forum where the professors are taking questions about America and its role in the world- and this in the thicket of a hefty debate. And while the first two were able to answer the question about America being the land of the free and prosperous, the third one, William McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels), who always responded with the fact that he was a fan of the New York Jets American football team, he rose to the occasion, tired of all the bickering that was going on around him, and said this about America….

Now if this is not a jaw-dropper, then what is? But it lead me into providing this question for the forum, as we’ve heard a lot about America’s ever-changing role, both on the home front as well as abroad:

How do you perceive America in your eyes today, whether you are an American living abroad or at home, whether you are a German or European, and whether you are a writer, teacher, politician or have another occupation?

Where do we see America going in 20 years?

What are some items that were common in the 80s and 90s that you would like to see again?

If we say that America is still the greatest today because of all our might that we have, how can we prove it?

These are questions that need to be answered as the country is at the crossroads in terms of their policies, societal issues at home and its relations with other countries. If we choose to ignore the problems we have, we choose to ignore ourselves, and with that, we choose to ignore the consequences of our actions.

Think about it.

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Emergency versus Inconvenience

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumbing#/media/File:Pipewrench.jpg

 

If there is word of advice to give to expatriates living on European soil, let alone any city slickers in the US or even college students living in apartments, when it comes to household problems, it is this:

There IS a difference between an emergency and an inconvenience.

A broken water main or a fire is definitely an emergency. A broken down refrigerator (despite its annoyance) is an inconvenience. A clogged sink in the kitchen however is technically an emergency, but not in the eyes of the plumber.

We learned this lesson the hardest way possible a couple days ago, when our kitchen sink suddenly had standing water and could not drain. Despite several attempts of forcing the water down, which included even taking apart the water pipe, cleaning it out and putting it back together, it was virtually impossible for the drain to work. Henceforth, we contacted the emergency housing services to summon a plumber to our house to fix the problem.

Now we have to keep in mind that the incident happened on a weekend where none of the plumbers are working EXCEPT in emergencies, and when there is an emergency, chances are that a household is charged extra for the work. This was the risk we had to take as the next possible place to wash the potatoes and clean the dishes would be the bathroom tub! Plus with a functioning dishwasher located next to the kitchen sink, having that run with a clogged kitchen drain would be a complete havarie!

Yet when the plumbers came, they had a unique way of nickel and diming the customers. First they asked if the other drains in the house had issues- namely the bathroom. Answer was no. Then came the reason for the question: 350 Euros for 15 minutes of work, and including the weekend pay and travel! Instead of the services being located nearby, they were located in Bavaria! So, this made sense!

Despite finding the cause of the clogged drain, which was in the wall and the rest I’ll leave out to avoid anyone reading this to throw up, we did learn a very valuable lesson which is asking ourselves, whether a problem like this needs to be solved right away or if it makes sense to find more “rather inconvenient” alternatives until help arrives. Normally “Handwerker” (people repairing household items) are supposed to inform their customers of the price before doing the work- and even more so on the telephone and not at the person’s house. But in today’s society, where such services rob customers of their money, it definitely pays to ask first before allowing the people to do their work to avoid any surprises.

This experience definitely reinforced a concept my cousin invented when his son, who’s a freshman in college, called him to say that he had a problem with a broken down refrigerator. His response was pure gold: “Son, that is not a problem. That is an inconvenience.”  This incident with the kitchen drain stressed this concept, and therefore, next time you have something similar to what we had, you should ask yourselves how bad the disaster is, whether it is worth contacting emergency services or waiting for a couple days until the repairman comes to fix it (and charge you a reasonable amount), and lastly, ask for the price before they come so you are not emptied of your wallet when they come. Seven times out of ten, your problems are most likely inconveniences and you can save up to 50% on repairs just by taking the inconvenient alternatives. You cannot avoid all disasters and other issues at home, but you can find a way to stem the problem.

 

Frage für das Forum: What household disaster did you have that required the assistance of a repairman? How was the service and did you feel ripped off regarding the price for repairs? What would have done differently?  Post your stories here or on the Files’ facebook page.

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Germany Quiz Nr. 5: The Answers to the Questions on Mecklenburg Pommerania

The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011

The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011

And now the answers to the Germany Quiz on Mecklenburg-Pommerania. There are many reasons why the state is so special to Germans. It is the state where many people growing up before and after 1990 went to for their vacation, both while growing up as well as while having families. For many foreigners and expatriates, it is a jewel where nature and history go hand in hand. Much of the state was not affected by World War II and the bombings that devastated much of Germany. And lastly, as you will see in the answer sheet to this quiz, there are many places to visit if you have not been there yet.  So without further ado, lets look at the reasons why we should visit the northeastern most state in the Bundesrepublik, shall we?

MATRIX:

MV Cities

1. What is the capital of Mecklenburg-Pommerania?      ANS: Schwerin

2. What is the largest city in Meck-Pomm?       ANS: Rostock

3. Which of the places in the matrix are islands?     ANS: Usedom and Rügen

4. Which of the places in the matrix is a lake?  ANS: Müritz

5. Name two cities whose respective universities are among the oldest in Europe.   ANS: Rostock and Greifswald   FAQ: The University of Rostock was founded in 1419, while the university in Greifswald was established 37 years later. 

5a. Which other cities have colleges?   ANS: Güstrow, Schwerin, Stralsund, Neubrandenburg and Wismar

6. Prior to 1945, Pommerania was considered one of the states belonging to first the Prussian kingdom and later the German Empire. The eastern half was given to Poland through the usage of the Oder-Neisse border implemented by the Soviets in 1946 and respected by Helmut Kohl in 1990 at the time of German Reunification. There are six former German cities that belong to the Polish part of  Pommerania. Which ones are they?

ANS: Stettin, Swinemünde, Pyritz, Bütow, Rummelsberg and Greifenberg

7. Which town (mythical, according to sources) sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea because of a major tide?

ANS: Vineta  (Note: A separate article is in the works…..)

8. The Störtebeker Festival, the largest and most popular open-air action festival in Germany, can be found on which island?

ANS: Rügen

9. The Ozeanum, a large maritime museum that also engages in marine reasearch, can be found in this city?

ANS: Stralsund

10. A museum, devoted to the works of Caspar David Friedrich, can be found in which city?  

ANS: Greifswald

11. Which two  towns on Usedom Island are known for its mass tourism? Hint: One are located close to the Polish border.

ANS: Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf. Ahlbeck is at the Polish Border and is known for its border shops. Wild card is Trassenheide, but it is located on the western end of the island. 

12. The _______________, Germany’s lone narrow-gauge railroad, can be found on this island?

ANS1: Rasender Roland   ANS2: Rügen

13. Which two places in Meck-Pomm can you experience the Slavic way of life? (Note: The Slavic tribes settled in the eastern part of Germany between the 9th and 12th Centuries before being driven away by Germanic tribes).

ANS: Arkona and Neustrelitz

14. Mecklenburg Pommerania is the only state in Germany (and one of only a handful of states left in the world) that has all three types of movable bridges left standing (Swing Bridge, Vertical Lift, and Bascule). Where are they located? (Hint: please click on the highlighted links to know more about what they are and what they look like)

ANS: 

The Peenebrücke in Wolgast, built in 2000 and nicknamed the Blue Wonder, is a single leaf bascule bridge that serves rail and road traffic between the main land and the island of Usedom. It replaced a draw bridge that was destroyed in World War II.

The Hubbrücke at Karnin was built in 1908 and featured a vertical lift main span and several through truss spans. The bridge was substantially damaged in World War II resulting in all but the vertical lift span to be removed by the 1960s. That remaining span still exists today and is considered a historic monument. Plans are in the making to revive the rail line which also goes to Usedom from Ducherow. This includes either restoring or replacing the bridge.

The Hubbrücke at Plaue is another vertical lift bridge that is in service. Built in 1916, this bridge, which features a deck plate girder span, can rise to 1.86 meters above the street, making it the highest functioning vertical lift bridge in the state. Prior to its construction in 1916, a double leaf bascule bridge once existed.

The Wieck Bridge in Greifswald, built in 1887, is one of the oldest functioning double leaf bascule bridges in Germany and the oldest in Mecklenburg Pommerania

Meiningen Swing Bridge, built in 1912, is located in Bresewitz. It is the lone functioning swing bridge in the state and features several Warren pony truss approach spans, a polygonal Warren through truss span and a swing span resembling a cantilever Warren through truss span.

15. Which town in Meck-Pomm once had the longest multiple span bridge in Germany, with 20+ spans? (Today, only eight of these spans exist along the River Elbe)

ANS: Dömitz.  The Dömitz Bridge spanned the Elbe River and was once owned by the German Railways. Five of the spans were either damaged or destroyed in World War II.  During the Cold War, in an attempt to halt any attempts of escaping to the west, the East German government tore down their half of the remaining spans leaving the western half under jurisdiction of Lower Saxony, which preserved it as a historical monument. The remains of the bridge is now privately owned. 

16. One of the major attractions that is a must-see is one of the largest submarines ever built in Germany. This exhibit and museum is located in this city?

ANS: Sassnitz

17. The Mecklenburg Festival, which is devoted to classic music, can be found in this city?

ANS: Schwerin (as its main location), yet other concerts take place in churches and castles throughout the state.

18. The Swedish Festival, which commemorates the conquest of the Swedes in the 1700s, can be found in which city?

ANS: Wismar.  

FAQ: The city was taken by the Swedish kingdom twice: 1632 and held until 1648 and through the war with the Danish Kingdom in 1712. The kingdom held control of the city until 1903, when it was returned to the German empire. 

19.  The widest beach in Germany (measured as 3 km from the sea to land) can be found in the area of this city? Hint: You can see the teapot lighthouse as well as one of the oldest active lighthouses along the Baltic Sea in Germany.

ANS: Rostock- specifically in Warnemünde.

20. You can enjoy a fish sandwich and cheer for your favorite soccer Bundesliga team in this city?  (Also identify name of the soccer team).  ANS: Rostock and the team: FC Hansa Rostock

Zinnowitz.

Herringsdorf.

MIX:

1. How many castles does Mecklenburg-Pommerania have? Can you name at least three of them? 

ANS: You won’t believe this but: nearly 2000 castles, palaces and manors exist in the state. There are too many to name, but one can find palaces in Rostock, Wismar, Schwerin, Greifswald, Neustrelitz, Neubrandenburg and the Island of Rügen

2. Schwerin is located in the area known as the Seven Seas. True or False?

ANS: True. Seven lakes can be found in and around Schwerin, three of which surround Schwerin Castle, a popular tourist attraction and the place where the state government carries out their daily duties.

3. Which cities in Meck-Pomm have zoos and other animal parks and can you name at least one of them?

ANS: There are plenty of possibilities to visit the animals at zoos in Stralsund (3x), Schwerin, Neustrelitz, Rostock and Wismar.

4. Rote Grütze is the German version of Jello and is the main desert in Meck-Pomm. True or False?  

ANS: False.

FAQ:Jello is an American form of gelatin that is wobbly when made. You don’t find that in Rote Grütze as it features fruit pudding (that is NOT wobbly) coated in vanilla creme. 

5. The main delicacy in Meck-Pomm is fish.  True or False?   ANS: If someone says FALSE, then he doesn’t know the state. 😉   FISH is the flagship of the state’s delicacy- regardless of type and how they are fried, smoked, or cooked. Answer is TRUE!

6. The main fruit in the state, with which you can make juice or marmalade is….

a. Strawberry    b. Sandorn      c. Peach       d. Wildberries       e. Gooseberry      

CAN YOU SPEAK PLATTDEUTSCH?  Guess which word is Plattdeutsch, the local language of Meck-Pomm and other parts of northern Germany. An English equivalent is provided.   NOTE: Answers are in bold and italicized print

1. Frau (EN: Lady/Woman)

a. Fräulein            b. Fru                c. Frilein          d. Free

2. Zeit (EN: Time)

a. Tied                  b. tiid                c. tea               d. tut

3. Haus (EN: House)

a. Houd                b. Hiess          c. Huus              d. Hoose

4. Freund (-in) (EN: Partner)

a. Uhiesscher      b. Macker       c. Freon           d. Froin

To close things off with this quiz, I would like to finish the quiz with a song sung in low German (Plattdeutsch) entitled Mein Heimat. Sung near Warnemünde near Rostock, the a group of sailors provide you with an example of how Platdeutsch is spoken. You can find the lyrics here. Enjoy! :-)

Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.

Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.

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Tribute to John Nash and the Game Theory

This genre of the week starts off with a quote: Sometimes the brightest minds happen to be the craziest, and even the craziest people are the ones that make the difference in our society. The genre also is a tribute to a fallen warrior, whose economic theory developed in college, reshaped the way we handle our affairs on the political, social and economic front.

John Forbes Nash, Jr. was a world-renowned mathmetician, economist and professor, whose theory of equilibrium, developed in 1950 and serving as a counterpart to the works written by Antoine Augustin Cournot in 1838, earned him international fame. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, the Neumann Theory Prize in 1978 and the Abel Prize this year. In a nutshell, the theory states:

A Nash equilibrium exists if and only if  no player in a game or negotiation can do better by unilaterally changing his or her strategy. That means if the player does not change his strategy because his competitors have their stretagies etched in stone, then there is an equilibrium, for it implies that the strategies serve as the best response. If the player does change the strategy in an attempt to gain an advantage, then there is no equilibrium. This theory, as seen in the video, is based on the question: “Knowing the strategies of the other players, and treating the strategies of the other players as set in stone, can I benefit by changing my strategy?”

This scene comes from the film A Beautiful Mind, based on the book written by Silvia Nasar in 1998 and produced as a film by Universal Pictures in 2001, starring Russell Crowe. Both the book as well as the film focused on two key themes that dominated Nash’s life. One was the Game Theory, which he developed further after it was published in 1950, while holding teaching positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Rand Corporation and lastly, Princeton University.

Yet the second aspect dealt with a very dark part of life, which doctors and scientists are still researching on in hopes to find treatment and even a cure: schizophrenia. He was first diagnosed with the disease in 1959, he spent the next decade in and out of hospitals, going through treatments before leaving the hospital to live a quiet life with the love of his life, Alicia. He had been married to her prior to being diagnosed, later divorced, but in the end, remarried in 2001, going through the worst of times before starting a long recovery that resulted in his schizophrenia being controlled and not interfering with his normal life. In the end, as depicted in the book and film,  Nash returned to his career as a teacher and mathmetician. While there were some discreptancies in the film, especially with regards to the scene with the use of medication to treat schizophrenia, Nash mentioned that he never took medication except during his stay in the hospital. It was only after he was released from the hospital for good in 1970 that he never took medication again. Although not noted in the film or book, he and Alicia eventually became advocates of mental health, especially after their son was diagnosed with the same disease. Over the years, they travelled around New Jersey and the region, talking to government officials and health care agencies to promote mental health care and help those affected by mental illness to carry on their normal lives instead of being institutionalized.

Nash’s life can be summed up into one sentence: He was the man whose rational thinking, mathematical genius and creative talents led him to conquering the power of oligarchy, delusion and ignorance. He had been locked up both literally and in his head, but found a way to escape, leaving a mark for people in both the fields of economics and social sciences on one hand, but also medicine on the other, to read about, research further on, and continue on with his work. For those who have yet to read the book or see the film, it is highly recommended, for they both cover the aforementioned fields in detail, while looking at and paying tribute to the man who will forever be one of the faces of math and science.

John Nash and his wife of 60 years, Alicia, were killed in an automobile accident on 23rd May. They had originally returned from Oslo, where he had received the Abel Prize and were heading home in a taxi when the accident happened. Neither of them wore a seatbelt and were thrown from the car. John (aged 86) and Alicia (aged 82) leave behind their son, John Jr. The passing was untimely, and they will be missed by those who knew him, from those in West Windsor Township, to those at Princeton, to Russell Crowe (who paid tribute to him upon hearing the tragedy) and the millions of others who considered Nash a hero.

Including the author, whose Genre of the Week, A Beautiful Mind, includes a homage to the man who left a mark for others to follow, despite going through the darkness of life before coming out into the light.

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Flensburg: 23 May, 1945

German Naval Academy in Flensburg: Once part of the last Nazi stronghold in 1945

German Naval Academy in Flensburg: Once part of the last Nazi stronghold in 1945

Flensburg: 23 May, 1945. The war in the European theater was officially over. Hitler and Goebbels, along with many of his followers were dead. After signing the agreement of unconditional surrender of the German armies in northwestern Europe to British Field General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery near Hamburg on May 4th and Nazi Colonel General Alfred Jodl agreed to unconditional surrender to US General Dwight Eisenhower three days later at Rheims (France), millions of Europeans celebrated V-E Day, as Nazi Germany became no more.

Or was it?

On this day, 70 years ago, the last pocket of the Nazi government surrendered to British forces stationed in Flensburg, Germany. Jack Churcher had installed his post in the southern part of the city center at Norderhofendem 1, and British troops had taken control of the northernmost city in Germany. In comparison to other cities, Flensburg sustained minimal damage, and much of the city’s population was well-fed and dressed. They were for the most part aware that the war was coming to an end, and according to historian, Gerhard Paul in an interview with the SHZ Newspaper Group, “It was a matter of time before this absurd came to an end.” With the British troops entering Flensburg, the Nazi era had come to an end.

All except for the suburb of Mürwik, located on the eastern end of the harbor.

There, a small area in the suburb, extending for six kilometers and including the Naval Academy, was still under de facto Nazi control. Admiral Karl Dönitz had assumed power as the German president after Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels committed suicide on 30 April- 1 May, 1945.  Realizing that the war was lost, he and his remaining government officials fled the oncoming Soviet troops to Flensburg to set up a government there. The goal was to get as many fleeing German troops out of Berlin and out of reach of the Soviet troops and eventually broker terms of surrender to the western allies of the US, Britain and France. Originally they wanted to defend what was left of Nazi Germany, but they lacked the manpower and the ammunition for the efforts. After securing the agreements, it was a matter of time before the enclavement would be revealed, and the rest of the Nazi regime would surrender. Yet how they held out for so long until this date, the 23rd remains a mystery. Yet, as seen in the film produced by Pathé, soldiers of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, were in for a surprise when they found out not only how many people were holed up in Mürwik but who held out until the very end:

This leads to two main questions that are worth discussing:

  1. Why did Dönitz and his government wait for so long until they were discovered by British troops and were arrested? Could they not have surrendered to Churcher?

  2. As Dönitz claimed to have power in Germany, even after the agreements were signed and the war ended, would it not have made sense to declare 23 May as V-E Day and the end of Nazi Germany instead of May 8th?

Perhaps these questions will be speculated for a long time and may never be answered, but for Albert Speer, the architect of Hitler’s who received 20 years of prison time, “Flensburg was considered only the stage for the Third Reich, but nothing more than that.”  But why the town of Flensburg, of all the places Dönitz could have chosen? Was it an escape route for him and his people to flee the country through Denmark and the seas? Were there that many people sympathizing with the Third Reich, even though numbers indicate much lower support? Was it because of the navy, the rum, the beer? We may never know….

Today, Flensburg is a thriving city with many multi-cultural aspects. It still has the largest number of Danish people living there, along with many from other countries, even some from the US, Britain and Russia. The Naval Academy is still in business, and the city prides itself with its handball team, rum, beer, and other northern delecacies. But this 70-year old scar still remains, even if the city survived almost entirely unscathed by the war.  Time always has a way of healing, yet memories still remain, even on this day, when Dönitz and his men were arrested for their crimes, of holding the city (and in particular, one of the suburbs) hostage despite the war being over, and were brought to justice. This, in my eyes, was the real end of the European theater of World War II, and with that, a chapter in history we must never repeat again, period.

 

Note: Check out this documentary on the Flensburg Fiasco in German, as reported by SHZ, here. It was the last of the series written on the 70th anniversary of the End of World War II. A guide to earlier articles you find on the SHZ web, here.

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Germany Quiz Nr. 5: What to Know about Mecklenburg-Pommerania (Germ.: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)

The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011

The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011

Mecklenburg-Pommerania- a hidden jewel in Germany. Many people consider the northeasternmost state, which borders Poland to the east, Brandenburg to the south as well as Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein to the west, to be desolate, with many dying villages, abandoned industries, and fewer but older people. It is understandable for thanks to the pre-1990 industry disappearing combined with the constant emigration of people ages 30 and younger, the state, with 1.6 million inhabitants, has the sparsest population per square kilometer (69 inhabitants per square kilometer) and the second lowest population in all of Germany. This does not count the three German City-States of Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin.

But Mecklenburg-Pommerania does have one shining light, which attracts people to this region more than in other regions along the Baltic and North Seas. Apart from its shipping, tourism is the primary industry for the state, as the state has led the country in terms of visits and lodging. In 2012, the state set a record for the number of tourists in the season, which starts in April and ends in October, counting the shoulder months.  What makes Meck-Pomm so attractive is for starters:

  1. The state has three national parks, making it the state with the most number in Germany.

  2. Two of the cities, Stralsund and Wismar, are World Heritage Sites

  3. Two of the largest islands in Germany are in this state.

  4. The state has the longest coastal area of all of Germany, with over 2000 km of coast line.

  5. Thanks to the glaciers, Meck-Pomm has one of the flattest landscapes in Germany with hills and cliff areas located in Rügen and in the vicinity of Rostock.

There are many other factors that make Meck-Pomm a popular attraction for tourists and therefore, the Files has a rather unique Germany Quiz, designed to give you an incentive to visit the places to be mentioned below. The quiz consists of the Matrix portion, where you can choose one or more cities to answer the questions. Here, you might want to consider looking at the cities and other places first before answering the questions to not only avoid any frustration but provide you with some ideas of where to go for your next vacation. The second and third parts are much shorter, with the latter dealing with Plattdeutsch, Lower German that is spoken in Meck-Pomm.

As the quiz is long and somewhat challenging, you should allow yourself some time to answer the questions. Therefore the answers will come on the 31st of May in the Files. This will allow plenty of time to test your knowledge with your friends and family.

So without further ado, let’s plan your trip to Meck-Pomm, shall we?  :-)

MATRIX:

MV Cities

1. What is the capital of Mecklenburg-Pommerania?

2. What is the largest city in Meck-Pomm?

3. Which of the places in the matrix are islands?

4. Which of the places in the matrix is a lake?

5. Name two cities whose respective universities are among the oldest in Europe.

5a. Which other cities have colleges?

6. Prior to 1945, Pommerania was considered one of the states belonging to first the Prussian kingdom and later the German Empire. The eastern half was given to Poland through the usage of the Oder-Neisse border implemented by the Soviets in 1946 and respected by Helmut Kohl in 1990 at the time of German Reunification. There are six former German cities that belong to the Polish part of  Pommerania. Which ones are they?

7. Which town (mythical, according to sources) sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea because of a major tide?

8. The Störtebeker Festival, the largest and most popular open-air action festival in Germany, can be found on which island?

9. The Ozeanum, a large maritime museum that also engages in marine reasearch, can be found in this city?

10. A museum, devoted to the works of Caspar David Friedrich, can be found in which city?

11. Which two  towns on Usedom Island are known for its mass tourism? Hint: One are located close to the Polish border.

12. The _______________, Germany’s lone narrow-gauge railroad, can be found on this island?

13. Which two places in Meck-Pomm can you experience the Slavic way of life? (Note: The Slavic tribes settled in the eastern part of Germany between the 9th and 12th Centuries before being driven away by Germanic tribes).

14. Mecklenburg Pommerania is the only state in Germany (and one of only a handful of states left in the world) that has all three types of movable bridges left standing (Swing Bridge, Vertical Lift, and Bascule). Where are they located? (Hint: please click on the highlighted links to know more about what they are and what they look like)

15. Which town in Meck-Pomm once had the longest multiple span bridge in Germany, with 20+ spans? (Today, only eight of these spans exist along the River Elbe)

16. One of the major attractions that is a must-see is one of the largest submarines ever built in Germany. This exhibit and museum is located in this city?

17. The Mecklenburg Festival, which is devoted to classic music, can be found in this city?

18. The Swedish Festival, which commemorates the conquest of the Swedes in the 1700s, can be found in which city?

19.  The widest beach in Germany (measured as 3 km from the sea to land) can be found in the area of this city? Hint: You can see the teapot lighthouse as well as one of the oldest active lighthouses along the Baltic Sea in Germany.

20. You can enjoy a fish sandwich and cheer for your favorite soccer Bundesliga team in this city?  (Also identify name of the soccer team).

Zinnowitz.

Herringsdorf.

MIX:

1. How many castles does Mecklenburg-Pommerania have? Can you name at least three of them? 

2. Schwerin is located in the area known as the Seven Seas. True or False?

3. Which cities in Meck-Pomm have zoos and other animal parks and can you name at least one of them?

4. Rote Grütze is the German version of Jello and is the main desert in Meck-Pomm. True or False?

5. The main delicacy in Meck-Pomm is fish.  True or False?

6. The main fruit in the state, with which you can make juice or marmalade is….

a. Strawberry    b. Sandorn      c. Peach       d. Wildberries       e. Gooseberry

CAN YOU SPEAK PLATTDEUTSCH?  Guess which word is Plattdeutsch, the local language of Meck-Pomm and other parts of northern Germany. An English equivalent is provided.

1. Frau (EN: Lady/Woman)

a. Fräulein            b. Fru                c. Frilein          d. Free

2. Zeit (EN: Time)

a. Tied                  b. tiid                c. tea               d. tut

3. Haus (EN: House)

a. Houd                b. Hiess          c. Hus              d. Hoose

4. Freund (-in) (EN: Partner)

a. Uhiesscher      b. Macker       c. Freon           d. Froin

Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.

Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.

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